Nebraska Aids in Pumping Up E85 Use

Ethanol Board assists in forming new flex-fuel vehicle club.

Published on: Aug 26, 2008

The Nebraska Ethanol Board has helped an East Coast ethanol advocate form a new club for drivers of flexible-fuel vehicles.

Burl Haigwood this summer founded the Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America, membership in which are drivers who "want to reduce foreign oil imports and increase domestic sources of energy such as ethanol."

FFV vehicles can run on any combination of ethanol and gasoline up to 85% ethanol, according to Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. "There are currently more than 66,000 FFVs and 44 E85 pumps in Nebraska," he says.

Haigwood, president of the club, also was assisted in the club formation by Ethanol Across America. He has been involved in the alternative fuels industry for 30 years and spoke at a Nebraska workshop this spring.

"When you consider the environmental costs of greenhouse gasses, the health care costs of pollution and the personal and financial costs of protecting oil resources in the Persian Gulf, the true price of gasoline is much greater than what Americans pay at the pump and far beyond what the country can afford," Haigwood says.

Sneller says that E85 can save consumers up to $1 per gallon in some locations when the ethanol is locally produced and marketed.

Nationally, more than 7 million FFVs are on the roads. General Motors Corp., an auto industry leader in E85 promotion, has announced that for 2009 it will have 18 flex-fuel capable models available and the auto maker has committed to making 50% of its production flex-fuel capable by 2012, "providing the infrastructure is progressing."

Despite gains in E85 use and awareness, the availability nationally of E85 and blender pumps remains a problem. "It's not keeping pace with demand for the blended fuel," Sneller says.

Transportation woes also are a roadblock, especially in delivering ethanol to northeastern states where little alternative fuels are produced. "There's a lot of interest on the part of retailers, but it's difficult to get large volumes of ethanol there."

Additionally, Sneller says that Underwriters Laboratories Inc. is dragging its feet in certifying the complete E85 fuel dispensing package. That makes some retailers, concerned about insurance coverage, reluctant to make higher blends available.

"All the components, nozzles, hoses and meters, for instance, are all individually approved and have been used for more than 30 years with no concerns of wear."

Finally, many FFV owners are not aware their vehicles are designed as such and don't look for E85 pumps.

A list of pump locations is available on the Nebraska Ethanol Board Web site at www.ne-ethanol.org/e85/stations.htm.