Ethanol blends offer economic alternative to gasoline

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
You have help coming for the oil money being lifted from your pocket-really corny help.

If you are one of the fortunate persons who owns one of the six million flexible fuel vehicles on the road in this new era of $3.00 gasoline, you already could be saving 30 to 60 cents average price at the pump burning E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol alcohol and 15 percent gasoline.

The figures are according to averages given by Robert White, alternative fuels director with the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Sorghum Growers Association at Garnett.

Unfortunately, even if you drive an FFV, there is no E-85 available at the pump yet in Marion County or the surrounding area. The KCGA lists first Kansas stations to carry E-85 at Great Bend, Topeka, Maize, Garnett and Hays. Plus that, there are E-85 pumps in the general Kansas City metropolitan area.

You do have the option of saving an average two cents a gallon by burning E-10, a blend of 10 percent alcohol and 90 percent gasoline. And you don’t have to own an FFV to do that. White said E-10 is usable in any vehicle.

Plus that, he said you already are receiving an economic benefit from ethanol in fuel mixes because it has helped stabilize the price of fuel.

The only way it could have helped you more might have been if you lived in Brazil where 40 percent of the vehicles burn 100 percent ethanol while the remainder burn 22 percent ethanol and 78 percent gasoline. Of course, what you start out with in your pocket in nations other than the United States could be a different story.

Gas station owners can help you out by looking into installing E-85 pumps at their stations. To date, many of them have not done so because it probably would require the high expense of installing another tank. White said there is grant money to help stations now to the point where the costs are very low to nonexistent.

He can help station owners or you in knowing about FFVs if you call KCGA at 1-800-489-2676.

The trend in Kansas and the nation seems favorable to bringing E-85 to you soon. White pointed out that the U.S. ethanol industry is the fastest growing energy industry in the world.

In addition, Kansas, including the cooperatives and farm producers in this area, is in the forefront of production with seven alcohol producing facilities now with capacity for annually producing 170 million gallons of ethanol from 65 million bushels of grain. The plants are located at Garnett, Atchison, Colwich, Russell, Campus, Garden City and Leoti.

There are new ethanol plants being planned at Pratt and Phillipsburg.

The newest plant, East Kansas Agri-Energy at Garnett, illustrates the kind of investment and economic growth the ethanol industry is bringing to the state, White said. It opened in June at a cost of $46.5 million raised from 575 businesses and individuals. It will use 13 million bushels of corn and milo to produce 35 million gallons of ethanol and 115,000 tons of dried distillers’ grain annually.

TEAM marketing and local cooperative officials confirm that much of the milo grown in this area goes to the Abengoa Bio-Energy plant at Colwich where it is converted into some of 25 million gallons of fuel alcohol produced there annually. Ethanol from this source is returned to the county as fuel through the refinery at McPherson adding even more to nearby jobs and benefits.

White said there is steadily growing interest in producing ethanol from grain using other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The Abengoa plant already uses methane gas from Brooks Landfill at Wichita for its energy source.

As time goes on, White said, production and economies continue to grow both in making ethanol and in burning it in newer FFVs. He explained that where once a BTU of other energy was required to produce a BTU of energy from fuel ethanol with the real profits in the distillers grain byproduct, techniques are improving to get a BTU gain.

By the same token, newer FFVs perform at fuel mileages and performances with no noticeable difference in whether the fuel used is gasoline, E-10 or E-85.

Unleaded gasoline in Kansas is set at 87 octane, White said, with the E-10 at 88.5 to 89 octane. E-85 is rated at 105 octane, he said.

White predicted ethanol will continue to displace more and more of the nation’s gasoline needs with refineries “demand driven” to supply it as clean air standards continue, and more vehicles are produced to handle E-85. There even is a push to add ethanol to diesel to help burn particulate matter before it’s exhausted.

White said tougher clean air standards in California and the Northeast started the trend to use FFVs with federal and state tax credits to help.

If you buy an FFV in Kansas, you can get a further benefit from the state by saving your sales tax receipt, and the receipts for your first 500 gallons of E-85 burned, to turn them all in for a $750 tax credit according to KCGA.

White reiterated all vehicles can use E-10, but only FFVs should use E-85 for best efficiency. Older vehicles may not have fuel lines of correct materials to handle E-85, he said.

While newer vehicles that aren’t FFVs may not be hurt by using E-85, they may not use it to full efficiency. He confirmed reports that since ethanol contains more oxygen than gasoline, on non-FFVs, the oxygen sensor may direct the vehicle to adjust fuel flow because it believes there is too much oxygen resulting in inefficient use. The engine trouble light on the dash may come on.

If you do drive an FFV, you may be more environmentally responsible when it comes to vehicle emissions too. KCGA says using E-85 reduces harmful hydrocarbon and benzene emissions, and also can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted.

The latest listings of FFVs you can burn E-85 in include, from Chrysler, the 2006 Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Ram pickup and Dodge Durango.

Chrysler FFVs from 2004-2005 include the Dodge Ram pickup 1500 series, the Dodge Stratus Sedan, the Chrysler Sebring, and the Caravan and Grand Caravan mini-vans.

Some of the same vehicles before 2004 were FFVs, but you should check with a dealer. The same is true with other brands where technicians can read the eighth digit of the VIN to tell if it is an FFV.

FFVs for 2006 from Ford include the Crown Victoria, the F150 pickup, Taurus fleet vehicles, the 4.0 Explorer Sport, the 4.0 Explorer 4-door, and the 3.0 Taurus sedan. Before this various models of Taurus, Explorers and Rangers back to 1995 were FFVs.

FFVs for 2006 from GMC include the 5.3 L Vortec engine Avalanche, the 5.3 Silverado and Sierra pickups, the 5.3 Silverado/Sierra pickups plus Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon vehicles of that size, the Impla, and the Monte Carlo.

Before this back to 2001 various GMC vehicles were included including some S-10 and Sonoma GMC pickups.

From 2001 to 2005, Mercury made Mountaineer and Sable FFVs.

Nissan made Titan trucks. Isuzu and Mazda made FFV trucks prior to 2002.

Mercedes-Benz has made the 2003-04 3.2L C320 Sport Sedan and Wagon.

White said his group is available to help gasoline retailers convert tanks to E-85. It is important, he said, for retailers to get existing sludge and water out of tanks because ethanol will separate, and cut it out for possible contamination anyway, just as it did in first use in older vehicles where grime suddenly cut loose clogged fuel filters.

It is worth the price, he said, to use the ethanol fuel itself to help clean a tank, and then pump it out for recycling.

If all this isn’t enough to make you want to use ethanol, he said, consider that you won’t have to buy any other product to prevent wintertime gas line freeze. Ethanol will draw the moisture out without freezing itself to prevent the problem.

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