There has been a lot of discussion lately about the use of ethanol in our fuel supply. There are positives and negatives that support both sides of the argument. There are rumors that the Environmental Protection Agency may reduce the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with fossil fuels in the very near future. If this would happen, the effects will be dramatic. The question remains, though, how effective is the use of ethanol in our fuels?

Since I am originally from Iowa, my father’s family has farmed the same land for 98 years, and I moved back home from Dallas, Texas to Ledyard, Iowa within the last two years, this question has always intrigued me. We can listen to so-called experts who want to sway your opinion one way or the other. Or we can run our own test to see how things actually work.

Recently, I bought my first flex-fuel car, a 2013 Ford Taurus Limited. It’s a very comfortable car for my family. With its red color, my grandson, Gabriel, calls it “Pa’s Race Car.” Unfortunately for him and fortunately for local law enforcement, I’m not the hot rodding type. After 26 years of living in the big city, you learn that you want to preserve your fuel costs as much as possible. When you drive 50 miles round trip on a daily basis to work in rush hour traffic, you become cognizant of your fuel efficiency.

There are a couple of reasons why I am taking on this ethanol challenge. First of all, working for a Ford dealership, you want to help others who are interested in the Ford brand. You want to let them know how well the different fuels may work in their vehicles. Another reason is to bring awareness to the renewable fuels that are being created and the economic impact that it brings. Convenience is also a factor with this test since we have a gas station here in Bancroft, Iowa that sells ethanol-based fuel in several different mixtures. They sell the regular E-10 fuel and E-15 fuel, which can be used in almost any gas-burning vehicle. Then they also have an E-50 blend and the more well-known E-85 fuel, which can only be used in certain vehicles.

As of 11/13/13, the price of these fuels are as follows:

Regular unleaded (E-10): $2.949

E-15: $2.889

E-50: $2.539

E-85: $2.499

This unscientific test will attempt to use all of the different levels to see which one is the most cost-efficient. I am just one person, using one car to get an idea of the costs and ramifications of using different fuels. We will also look into the cost efficiency of the fuels if regular unleaded is hypothetically at another price, i.e. $4.00 per gallon. Let’s hope that we don’t get there any time soon, but we also have to be realistic since we have seen it in the past.

What the ultimate goal of this test? Do I want to become an ambassador to the ethanol industry? Do I want to destroy the ethanol industry and the benefactors of its success? Knowledge instead of speculation is the ultimate goal. I will try to provide you with numbers that may affect how you drive in the future. You may just drop to see if I have anything witty to say. Since this is on our website (, you may snoop around to see what vehicles that we have available for sale. You may try to see if I’m a maniac behind the wheel setting land speed records along the way.

I have driven my car with E-10, E-50 and E-85 so far, but I haven’t really kept a log of any results. I have seen a marked difference between the fuel levels, but now it’s time to track and calculate the efficiency and costs. I will start this test at the end of business today when I top off my car with E-50. Stay tuned to see what happens…


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