Ethanol blend E-85 available in Austin

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 31, 2000

The next time you fill up your gas tank, you may notice that another selection is available to you.

Monday, July 31, 2000

The next time you fill up your gas tank, you may notice that another selection is available to you.

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Approximately 35 gas stations in Minnesota are now carrying E-85 gasoline, including Severson’s Conoco on Fourth Street NW.

E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is designed to run in specially made "flexible fuel" vehicles, which may use any blend of E-85 and/or gasoline; Ford manufactures some of these vehicles.

While this fuel is available at a number of stations in Minnesota – one of the testing sites, with Denver and Chicago being the others – Tom Severson, of Severson Oil, said that many individuals are not even aware that they own a vehicle that would take it.

Individuals at the pumps at Conoco said that they were unaware the station even had a pump; Conoco currently has one E-85 pump, which is also the only one in town.

Loren Reining, a motorist from Kenning, Neb., who was traveling through town, said that while he doesn’t own a vehicle that takes the new fuel, he would be happy to use it if able.

"I come from a farm background and it sounds like a good way to support the farm," Reining said.

If they were, they’d be happy about the benefits received by using it; Severson explained that in the vehicles in which E-85 is used, the fuel is about a nickel cheaper per gallon.

This is because the government subsidizes the tax.

Vehicles that take E-85 gasoline include two Ford models – 1995-1999 Taurus and 1999/2000 Ranger pickups – both with three liter engines.

Steve Peryer, service advisor at Mel Saxton Ford, said that those are the only two vehicles to currently support this fuel; they have to be specially made.

He thinks the availability may begin to expand, however.

"Ford will be improving fuel mileage in production vehicles as they years progress," Peryer said.

Other models equipped for E-85 include 1998-2000 Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler minivans, as well as 2000 GMC Sonoma pickups and 2000 Chevrolet 2.2-L S-10 pickups; Ford will offer this on its 2001 4.0-L Explorer and GM will offer it on SUVs by 2002.

It is currently unclear whether or not this gasoline will be available elsewhere in the United States, as it’s still undergoing testing.

Severson said the decision to use E-85 was an easy one for him to make.

"We decided to put it in because we like to be on the cutting edge," he said. "We offer the ultimate of what the consumer will need."

Motorists who use this fuel will find it beneficial in a number of ways, according to Severson.

Aside from being cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline, it is also better for the environment.

"It changes the emissions," Severson said. "It’s cleaner burning."

He explained that ethanol is in 10 percent of all gasoline in Minnesota, as part of the oxygenated fuel.

Regular gasoline, however, is still the ultimate in biodegradability; gas will separate from water, but as Severson explained, E-85 will not.

"Gasoline is still the ultimate in efficiency," Severson said. "Without the tax subsidy E-85 wouldn’t be a good choice."

While it relieves some of the pressure put on foreign oil and poses less risk to oceans and waterways, Severson was unsure if many people know it’s available.

As a result, it’s not economical to Severson Oil at this point; they need to sell more.

"We’re pretty unique," Severson said. "There is a fairly strong commitment to the city and the environment on our part."