Bruce Peterson: New flex-fuel pumps allow us to breathe easier, save money

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Bruce Peterson

It's not easy to get people to agree on things these days. Our political climate, combined with the constant din of social media and 24-hour cable news channels, provide ample opportunity for confrontation, and little time to have an actual conversation.

However, I think there's one thing most everyone can agree on: We all want to breathe cleaner air and save a few bucks when we put fuel in our vehicles. I am proud to say that Minnesota's corn farmers are helping to make both of those things happen.

Over the last two years, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association has been part of a broad coalition that has made investments to install flex-fuel pumps at Minnesota stations.

More than 40 fuel stations now contain about 120 flex-fuel pumps capable of dispensing a combination of regular unleaded, E15 (a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline approved for use in all vehicles made in 2001 or newer), E30 or E85 (for flex-fuel vehicles only).

Earlier this month, we received word that the Fueling Ethanol Choice in Minnesota coalition soon will be able to fund 620 new flex-fuel pumps in Minnesota thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


In addition to MCGA, the coalition includes the American Lung Association in Minnesota, Minnesota ethanol plants, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Biofuels Association. Funds from these organizations will be combined with the USDA grant to install the new flex-fuel pumps and further cement Minnesota as a national leader in homegrown biofuels.

Why is MCGA investing in flex-fuel infrastructure? Obviously, more flex-fuel pumps means greater access to ethanol fuels and better markets for Minnesota-grown corn. But our reasons go well beyond strengthening the corn market.

Flex-fuel pumps provide drivers with a cleaner-burning choice at the pump. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing a gallon of gasoline with a gallon of ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 60 percent.

When the Twin Cities region was in non-attainment status with EPA due to poor air quality in the mid-1990s, we turned to ethanol to help clean our air. It worked. Today, corn farmers remain committed to ethanol and are making the necessary investments in infrastructure and research to use ethanol in the fight to curb global warming and preserve our planet for future generations.

Typically, ethanol also is less expensive than gasoline. On average, a gallon of ethanol costs about 50 cents less than a gallon of gasoline. You usually can fill up with E15 for 10 to 20 cents less than regular unleaded, or E85 for as much as $1 less per gallon.

The owner of a new vehicle today can expect to pay over $600 less for fuel over the vehicle's lifetime because of ethanol-blended gasoline.

For far too long, the oil industry has been successful in blocking the installation of flex-fuel infrastructure in order to maintain its monopoly on our fuel tanks and our wallets. Minnesota corn farmers never have been intimidated by Big Oil's deep pockets and political power. We're going to keep working on behalf of all consumers for market access for homegrown biofuels.

Cleaner-burning and less expensive choices at the pump are becoming more of a reality for Minnesotans. We've still got a long battle ahead, but rest assured, Minnesota's corn farmers will keep fighting.

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