E85 use jumps as gas prices soar

I’m a free market guy at heart, so when it comes to ethanol I’ve questioned the the benefits of E85 compared to its economic and environmental costs.

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There’s no doubt, though, that when the price gap widens between gasoline and ethanol, people use more ethanol. That’s especially true with the 85 percent ethanol fuel E85, where its price advantage to gas has jumped by a third since December.

Data from the state Commerce Department show E85 consumption jumping at the start of the year as the price gap with gas began to widen (click on the chart for a larger view)

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In December, the average price difference between gas and E85 ran about 48 cents a gallon, according to data from the website E85prices.com. On Wednesday, the price difference hit 64 cents a gallon.

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I’m still skeptical ethanol can survive without government subsidies. But for now it’s a deal for consumers who are able to use it.

  • http://cleanairchoice.org Bob Moffitt

    Yes, E85 sales are booming in Minnesota. In fact, this year we saw the best March sales since the Dept. of Commerce began tracking E85 sales in Minnesota: 1.8 million gallons.

    So far this year, E85 users have prevented more than 18,000 tons of emissions from entering the air. Sales of mid-level ethanol blends also reached record levels.

    Seventy of the 360+ E85 retailers in Minnesota have “blender pumps” that can offer mid-level ethanol blends such as E20, E30 or E50 in addition to high blend E85. Note that all of these fuels are for flex fuel vehicles only.

    There are 225,000 flex fuel vehicles registered in Minnesota.

    Bob Moffitt

    Communications Director

    Clean Fuel & Vehicle Technologies program,

    American Lung Association in Minnesota

  • Tony

    Unfortunately, I need at least a 20% discount on the price to offset the 20% worse mileage I get with E85. Of course, at least it isn’t winter, so the truck won’t stall out if I use it.

  • http://www.cleanairchoice.org Bob Moffitt

    The final 2011 sales figures for E85 and gasoline are in from the Commerce Department.

    While gasoline consumption in Minnesota dipped to its lowest point in a decade in 2011, sales of E85 fuel in Minnesota finished the year strong.

    Owners of flex fuel vehicles, which can use either ethanol-based E85 or regular unleaded, bought an estimated 19.8 million gallons E85 in 2011, according to figures released by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. That would place 2011 as the 3rd best year for E85 sales, after the pre-recession records of 22.5 million gallons sold in 2008 and 21.4 million gallons sold in 2007.

    Minnesota drivers consumed 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline in 2011, down from 2.5 billion in 2010 and the state’s 10-year peak of gasoline consumption, 2.6 million gallons, reached in 2004.

    Sales of mid-level ethanol fuels were also up in 2011, with an estimated 2 million gallons sold at 71 flex fuel pumps (also known as blender pumps) statewide, up from the estimated 1.8 million gallons sold in 2010. Like E85, these mid-level blends should only be used in flex fuel vehicles designed to use high-ethanol fuels as well as gasoline.