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Corn In Your Tank

By: Sam Dick - Email
By: Sam Dick - Email

The election victory by Barack Obama last week could have a big impact on the cars and trucks we buy in the future, and the kind of gas we purchase at the pumps. President-Elect Obama wants to sharply increase the amount of gas in the U.S. blended with ethanol made from corn. He also wants all U.S. made cars in four years be "flex-fuel," which means capable of running on 85% ethanol.

Pull up to gas pumps at a travel center on Iron Works Pike in Fayette County and it's easy to miss the little sticker that says "E10."

E10 means its 90% gas and 10% Ethanol. But what does that mean to you, and your car?

The odds are very good that if you fill up in Kentucky, the gas you're buying contains ethanol, which is an alcohol fuel made from grains like corn. Critics of ethanol blended gas complain it delivers poorer gas mileage because it has less energy than pure gasoline. U.K. expert on ethanol Alison Davis says there is a slight drop-off in gas mileage.

Some stations advertise or alert drivers to ethanol in their gas, but many others do not. Kentucky is one of a dozen or so states that does not require any labels or signs telling drivers they're pumping gas blended with ethanol.

All cars and trucks made in the U.S. since 1982 are supposed to be able to take E10.

The Kentucky Corn Growers Association says gas with ethanol is about 25 to 30-cents cheaper per gallon. A week ago, we found gas at Wal-Mart in Hamburg for $2.09 a gallon, a low price at the time, and a label on the pump said, "May contain up to 10% ethanol."

The University of Kentucky is running ninety of its cars on E85...that's 85% ethanol, and just 15% gas. But the vehicles must have the flex-fuel option, meaning they can run on regular gas or the high ethanol mix.

Right now E85 is only available at a few public pumps across the state, but E10 is everywhere. The corn growers association estimates 75% of the gas in Kentucky contains ethanol. Much of the ethanol comes from a plant in Hopkinsville. The corn used to make it is field corn, not the corn you buy at the store. Some question if more corn is used to make more ethanol...it'll drive food prices up.

With a new administration pushing even more ethanol in gas, you'll likely be putting it your tank whether you like it or not.


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