On Ethanol, Energy . . . and Dark Parking Lots

The Kansas Corn Car Loves Ethanol!

By Sue Schulte, Director of Communications

On Monday, I drove the Kansas Corn Car to Holcomb to speak at an FFA district banquet—what a great group of young people! After the program, I was energized and inspired, and headed to Garden City to my hotel. On my way, I stopped at the U Pump It Country Corners station in Garden City for fuel. The station features ethanol blender pumps that offer E20, E30, E50 and E85 fuels for flexible fuel vehicles. The price of regular unleaded was $3.66, but I paid just $2.99 for E85. It felt good to purchase fuel for less than $3 a gallon!

It is true that you lose some fuel mileage when using E85 in a flex fuel vehicle, but I have found that the lower price of E85 normally pays for the loss in mileage. I did the math, taking into account the lower fuel price and the decreased mileage, and I easily drove more miles per dollar on E85 than regular unleaded. It normally works out that way with the Corn Car, a Chevy Impala. What makes a bigger difference to me is that I know that at least 85 percent of my fuel dollar is staying in the U.S. and not going to the Middle East.

The Corn Car is pretty visible, and I am accustomed to answering questions about corn and ethanol while driving it. That’s what makes the Corn Car so great, right? When I pulled into the hotel in Garden City a little before 10 p.m. Monday night, a man in the rather dark parking lot hollered at me, “Flex fuel? You’ve gotta be joking!” I responded, “It’s no joke, I just filled up for $2.99.” He proceeded to tell me some myths about ethanol, and I told him were erroneous. Then he said, “I’m not into politics and I hate ethanol!” Judging from the beer cans that littered the parking lot and the slur in his voice, I quickly deduced that this man didn’t hate all ethanol, just the stuff he couldn’t drink. Believe me, I had a lot of things I wanted to say to him, but arguing with a drunk man in a dark, deserted parking lot didn’t seem like a good idea. I scooted into the safety of the hotel lobby.

Things I wanted to say to the parking lot drunk:
• “You hate ethanol? I hate sending my fuel dollars to the Middle East!”
• “Do you think there are no politics involved in importing billions of dollars worth of foreign oil into the United States? And what about the billions of consumer dollars we send out of our country to OPEC every year?”
• “I’ll get more miles per dollar with E85 than I will with regular unleaded.”
• I can’t lie, E85 smells better than regular gas, oh, and it’s less polluting too!

Later, safely tucked away in my hotel room, I thought about my brief conversation with the parking lot drunk. I have run into my fair share of people who say they hate ethanol, and it’s a real hatred. I don’t get it, or maybe they don’t get it. Ethanol does get some subsidies, but look at the billions of taxpayer dollars that go to the oil industry, directly through subsidies and indirectly through protecting foreign sources of oil. No one ever says, “If imported oil is viable, why can’t it survive without government support?”

Ethanol is mostly produced in small communities throughout the U.S., especially in the heart of the nation. When you buy ethanol, that part of your fuel dollar stays in the U.S., and possibly in your own community. It’s the only fuel that substantially offsets the amount of foreign oil we use to power our vehicles. It makes up about 10 percent of our nation’s fuel for gas-powered vehicles. The current fuel price spikes are being blamed on low oil supplies. What would happen to gas prices if ethanol production stopped and ten percent of our fuel disappeared?

Farmers rely on all kinds of energy to produce their crops—ethanol, gasoline, diesel, natural gas and more. I don’t know any farmers who are against oil or other types of energy. We need them all and we need them to be abundant and affordable. And I think a majority of people wish more of our energy was produced here, and not imported from many countries that are either unstable, hostile to the U.S. or both. In parts of Kansas, we’re proud of the oil and natural gas being pumped from deposits beneath fields where our farmers grow corn and other crops. Some of that corn or sorghum may be used to make ethanol. Now that’s an energy farm!

Instead of fighting between ourselves over ethanol, a domestic fuel that works, maybe we should simply support all the energy we can produce here. Domestic energy provides jobs and economic growth, something our country certainly needs today.

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One response to this post.

  1. Love the blog, Sue! Especially the drunk guy story. 🙂 Isn’t it frustrating when people dont have a good excuse for “hating” ethanol?!

    Reply

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