FORT WAYNE – Even David Howell, a Middletown corn farmer, hesitates when deciding whether to fuel up with E-85 or regular unleaded.
The per-gallon price is lower for E-85, a blend of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol, a grain alcohol made from crops such as corn. But using E-85 also reduces the number of miles a vehicle can travel per gallon, which more than offsets the savings, Howell said Thursday.
Government officials are partnering with industry in an effort to make that choice a little easier.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture official Thursday visited General Motors Co.s Allen County assembly plant to promote a grant and guaranteed loan program for retailers installing pumps that offer blended fuel.
Vehicles with flex-fuel engines can run on fuel blends, including ratios of 20 percent, 30 percent and 50 percent ethanol-to-gasoline. Vehicle makers print recommended blends in the owners manual, a GM official said.
Blending gasoline and ethanol allows consumers to strike a balance between savings at the pump and fuel economy, according to the USDA and the Indiana Soybean Alliance officials, who attended the event. Increasing ethanol use helps Americans reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase the market for farmers crops.
Judith Canales, administrator of the USDAs Rural Development Business and Cooperative Programs, praised GMs flex-fuel vehicles, including the very attractive Chevy Silverado.
I happen to be a Texan, and we know about trucks, she said.
Almost 10 million flex-fuel vehicles are now on the road, with about 1 million more added each year, Canales said.
GM has manufactured more than 5.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road in the U.S., according to Mary Beth Stanek, GMs director of federal environmental and energy regulatory affairs.
The USDAs goal is to add 10,000 blender pumps nationwide over the next five years, Canales said. The country now has about 200. The only Indiana blender pump is in Portland, about 65 miles south of Fort Wayne.