By Tim Rudnicki, Esq.
Whether you are taking a road trip, running errands around town or driving the kids to after school sports, most likely it’s biofuels that are helping you get to your destination. When you fuel up with “regular,” at least one in 10 gallons is clean, renewable ethanol. If you are among the growing number of drivers who are finding “E15" at your local retail station, at least 1.5 gallons in 10 is high octane ethanol.
Why should you care if you are buying biofuels? In short, biofuels, such as ethanol, help to hold down the overall price of fuel, save you money at the pump and put all of us on the path toward a sustainable energy future. If it weren’t for biofuels, gasoline prices would be from $1 to $1.69 more per gallon. That’s because biofuels are pushing down demand for the more expensive, $108 per barrel, petroleum. The piece found in this newsletter, “RFS Kept Gas Prices Down,” by Philip K. Verleger, Jr., gives us a broad perspective on the role of biofuels and how they help our household budgets.
As for additional savings, have you noticed the difference in price for E15, or E85, compared to regular gasoline? If you drive a 2001 or newer vehicle, you can use E15. For those who drive a Flex Fuel Vehicle (check for the badge on the back of your vehicle, statement on the gas cap or details in your owner’s manual to find out if you have such a vehicle), you can use E85 (that means up to 8.5 gallons in 10 is renewable ethanol). A few days ago I paid 20 cents less per gallon for E15 compared to regular. Even though I was buying a higher octane fuel for our turbocharged car, I paid less! And at a nearby E85 dispenser, drivers of Flex Fuel Vehicles were waiting in lines to fill up at 87 cents less than regular.
Biofuels are about more than holding down prices and saving drivers money at the pump, they are about providing all of us with a renewable energy source for today as well as tomorrow. Consider this: Today’s 21st century biofuels come from the solar energy stored in renewable ingredients grown right here in Minnesota.
The full scientific analysis is a bit beyond the scope of this piece, but here is a high level view of what makes biofuels a sustainable and renewable energy source. Thanks to photosynthesis, plants use solar energy, soil nutrients, water and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to grow during the spring, summer and fall seasons. For instance, entire corn plants, the starch in kernels of corn or grasses, all can regenerate. Next, the biofuel producers in Minnesota use natural processes, similar to those used in making beer, to unlock the solar energy stored in the renewable ingredients and thereby give us ethanol.
Much has changed over the years when it comes to making the biofuels that power our vehicles. With low input farming practices used throughout Minnesota, farmers can grow more food and renewable ingredients on fewer acres. Minnesota based biofuel producers use high efficiency boilers, recycle water and reuse heat to make a renewable fuel that is truly green.
In addition to getting more energy out than what goes in to make ethanol, the total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions (all the inputs to grow renewable ingredients and actually make ethanol) are 44% to 57% less than petroleum. So every time you increase the amount of ethanol you are using, for example using E15 instead of regular, to get from place to place, you are helping to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Check out “Why Are We Producing Biofuels?” (in this newsletter) for an expanded view on harnessing the sun’s energy.
It’s rather amazing when one stops to ponder what biofuels are and what they do for us. In a society where we have been conditioned to think the only energy is that which comes from drilling, it is refreshing to know we, as Minnesotans, have the potential to grow our way into an even more sustainable energy solution. I invite you to study the many scientific reports on our website to learn more about renewable ingredients and how biofuels are made here in Minnesota. Biofuels move us from place to place, save us money and provide a renewable energy source for today and tomorrow.