With the ever-present gas situation we thought we would take a look at one of the alternative fuel sources that is being introduced. You may be surprised that your vehicle may even be able to use a different fuel source than you thought.

A popular alternative that is increasing in availability across the country is the use of ethanol-blended fuels. Ethanol is a domestic-made renewable fuel source that is mostly made from corn. It can also be produced from wheat, potatoes, barley, and sugar cane. Some believe that it will help reduce our dependency on foreign oil, which is the cause of many recent debates. Ethanol is environment friendly as it reduces harmful emissions into the air.

Currently, there is a blend called E85, since it is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Not everyone can use this blend in his or her vehicles though. Only flexible-fuel vehicles can use the E85 blend. If you have recently bought a new vehicle it may be a flex fuel vehicle and you did not even know it. You will want to read your owner’s manual before you think about using E85.

Less than 1% of gas stations have E85 available. Many stations that have E85 available are in the Midwest (Minnesota has the most) where a lot of the ethanol is produced. This number is increasing as E85’s lower price has gained consumer’s interest.

There is also a 10% ethanol blend that is available and can be used in more vehicles. You will still want to check your owner’s manual to find out the required fuel for your vehicle.

Ethanol blends of fuel also improve the performance of your vehicle by raising its octane rating. Some of the downside to ethanol is that it uses a lot of energy to produce. You would need a considerably large amount of resources to produce enough fuel for us to be independent. It also burns faster than other fuels. This means filling up more frequently, and some worry if production can keep up with demand.

Car manufacturers may gripe because of the extra costs to produce flex-fuel vehicles. These extra costs will be added to the sticker price of the vehicle. The cost however is minimal and should not have any dramatic effect on vehicle prices.

Even though ethanol is not the end all answer to our gas problems, it is a good start in the right direction for finding ways for us to reduce our dependence on foreign oils and control the madness of escalating prices.

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