Roaring Fork Valley ethanol fuel sales up a bit over last year |

Roaring Fork Valley ethanol fuel sales up a bit over last year

Pete FowlerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Ethanol fuel sales at the only pump in the Roaring Fork Valley to sell the alternative fuel have increased over last year, but not by huge leaps and bounds, the stations owner said.The Basalt Center Fuel station in downtown Basalt is the only place in the valley that sells ethanol fuel or E-85. Its called E-85 because its 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.Owner Bruce Ross said that E-85 sales represented about eight percent of total sales last year after the center began selling E-85 in March. E-85 sales made up about 12 percent of sales last month at 6,000 gallons. Additional figures werent immediately available.Our sales are up in gallons from last year. Ross said. But its hard to tell if the increase is due to normal growth or growth in the interest in ethanol.Ross said E-85 sales grew with some initial publicity, settled down a bit and then grew steadily.Its a growing thing, but it grows fairly slowly, Ross said. And the reason it grows slowly is the number of cars that can take the fuel.Ross said the General Motors brands seem to be the biggest E-85 supporters but many foreign manufacturers dont support the flex fuel cars that can run on E-85.Im given to understand that it costs an awful lot of money to certify an engine to meet EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards as a flex fuel engine, he said.Ross said he took over at the store in October 2006 and it took five months of clearing regulatory hurdles before he was able to sell E-85. Selling the ethanol fuel mixture was one of the main reasons he wanted the Basalt Center Fuel.We thought it was a really good thing that needed to be in the valley, he said. I thought it was important. I thought that this valley would support it being the kind of place that we are. To the extent that people who can use it do use it, I think I was right.Ross supports ethanol fuel for the same reasons his customers seem to. The ethanol in the E-85 mixture is a renewable fuel that increases the mixtures octane level and improves emissions. Using it cuts down on gasoline consumption and could help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.E-85 is almost a dollar per gallon cheaper than regular gasoline and cars that use it generally have a 20 to 35 percent reduction in mileage per gallon. It sells at $3.39 compared to $4.29 for regular gasoline at Basalt Center Fuel. But Ross said the high octane levels of E-85 also clean out engines better and create an internal benefit that may not be readily apparent.Ross said hybrid technology that utilizes a combination of a gasoline engine and a battery powered engine doesnt have an effect on the sale of E-85 because the gasoline engine in hybrid vehicles could be designed to use E-85 instead of regular gasoline.Why in the world do these car companies who are making hybrid cars dont make the same little tiny engine thats in them E-85 compatible? he said. I dont think there are any out there that are doing it.The next closest places from Glenwood Springs to purchase E-85 are in Grand Junction and Evergreen, according to a list maintained by the Department of Energy. But Megan Castle of the Governors Energy Office said there is now an E-85 station in Rifle and one in Idaho Springs. She said an E-85 pump is planned for Montrose and a second one will open up in Grand Junction.The Governors Energy Office estimates there are 30 models of vehicles that can run on E-85 and around 7 million flex fuel vehicles currently in use.Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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