It's cheaper and environmentally friendly, but is E-85 better for your wallet?

By Scott Reynolds - bio | email     
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - How would you like to fill up for $2.69 a gallon right now? Plenty of drivers were getting their fuel for that price Wednesday. It was not some special promotion or drastic price drop. They are E-85 and as WAVE 3's Scott Reynolds reports, more stations are selling the blend in Kentuckiana.

It is a badge of honor for those who drive Flex Fuel vehicles. They burn E-85 - 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline. It burns much cleaner than gas and now it's easier to find. The Thornton's station on Fern Valley Road just off I-65 is now part of the e-85 corridor from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.

"It was just somewhat disappointing not to be able to find E-85 fuel though and now that I've noticed Thornton's has it. It has helped me tremendously economically wise on the vehicle," said Vicki Ward, a Flex Fuel user.

But just how much does it really save to use E-85? When you burn it, you get 15 to 20 percent fewer miles to the gallon. Take 20 percent of the current price of $3.40 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline, 68 cents, and you get $2.72, which is almost the same as the E-85 price.

But E-85 does burn much cleaner than gas, and, unlike oil, the well doesn't run dry.

"Obviously the greatest benefit is that it's renewable. We can make more right here at home, right here in Kentucky for that matter. We have an ethanol plant in western Kentucky that produces 40 million gallons of ethanol a year," said Melissa Howell of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition.

Industry experts hope that soon E-85 won't take a dent out of the world's food system.

"In the future, you will see ethanol produced from various asundry feed stocks. But right now, it is corn based," Howell said.

Time Magazine recently reported that prime forestland in third world countries is getting cut down so farmers can plant soybeans. The article also said the use of food products like corn and soybeans could be leading to shortages and price increases leading to riots and death in some countries. But when engineers can produce it from switchgrass, algae or other products, it could really put a dent in the need for fossil fuels.

E-85 burns very clean and might save you some money if the gap between E-85 and gas is wide enough.