You asked: Where is E85?
Editor's note: The following is an Echo Press feature called, "You Asked." Readers are invited to send the newspaper a simple question and we'll try to get to the bottom of it. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
E85 gasoline: cheaper, better for the environment and utilizes local resources. So, one Echo Press reader asked, why does only one gas station in Alexandria offer this seemingly auspicious resource?
E85, short for "ethanol fuel blend of up to 85 percent denatured ethanol fuel and gasoline or other hydrocarbons," is made using ethanol from corn. Thus, local resources can be exploited, whereas regular gasoline generally requires the transport of overseas materials.
Other advantages include the reduction of engine heat and tailpipe emissions and a highly effective octane rating.
This fuel is not as infallible as meets the eye, though. Price per gallon may be cheaper, but that doesn't always correlate to price per gallon: E85 has 33 percent less energy content than pure gasoline, meaning more needs to be used in order for the car to work.
Usage is more limited, as well. Only drivers of flexible-fuel-vehicles (FFVs) can use E85.
As far as price goes, E85 can come out about even with unleaded gas, even though E85 is generally around 30 percent cheaper. This is due to the reduced mileage. FFVs manufactured after 2002 have higher efficiency, and therefore, can drive more cost-effectively.
The higher consumption of corn raises world food prices, and in the end may not even lower carbon emissions: the petroleum and natural gas used in raising corn and refining it into ethanol emit carbon.
The Cenex station on Broadway is Alexandria's only provider of E85 gas. Lane Kalina, the general manager at Cenex, believes the lack of suppliers can be attributed to the fact that "there's not a big demand for it."
Cenex pumps approximately 10,000 gallons of E85 per month, "which is very minimal," said Kalina.
Kalina believes the advantages of E85 are that it is a renewable resource and its components are grown here.
When the price of regular gasoline was in the $4 neighborhood, he said, "We were selling around 20,000 gallons per month...People didn't want to pay more to support places overseas." Sales of E85 have dropped along with the price of regular gasoline.
And don't expect to see more E85 pumps around town: Kalina doesn't foresee a rise in the usage of E85 gasoline, but rather, the invention and improvement of more efficient vehicles, like electric cars.