E85 often gives drivers more bang for their buck than regular gasoline

E85 prices

When E85 is priced at least 22 percent less than regular unleaded, you get more energy bang for your buck.

If you fill up with E85 (a blend of 85 percent homegrown ethanol and 15 percent regular gasoline), you’re often getting more bang for your buck. Specifically, when the fuel is priced correctly by retailers, drivers who fill up with E85 get more Btu per dollar than regular unleaded (which only contains 10 percent ethanol).

First, what’s a Btu? A Btu (or British Thermal Unit) is a unit of energy traditionally used to measure power.

Second, let’s look at a scenario to demonstrate how E85 gives drivers more Btu bang for their buck — even when you factor in ethanol’s lower energy content compared to gasoline — when retailers price the fuel correctly:

  • At the Marshall-Cretin Minnoco station in St. Paul the other day, E85 was priced at $1.79 per gallon compared to $2.49 for regular unleaded. That’s about a 28 percent savings when you fill up with E85.
  • Regular unleaded contains 112,114 Btu/gallon. E85 contains 88,258 Btu/gallon.
  • At $1.79 per gallon of E85, you’re getting 49,059 Btu for every dollar spent.
  • At $2.49 per gallon for regular unleaded, you’re getting 44,863 Btu for every dollar you spend.
  • That amounts to about 4,200 more Btu per dollar for E85 compared to regular unleaded, even though E85 contains about 22 percent less energy by volume than regular gasoline.

Third, let’s explain how pricing factors into all of this. Ethanol is less expensive than gasoline. It’s energy content is also lower. However, as outlined in the above example, E85 is still a more economical option than regular unleaded, if it’s priced correctly.

In other words, any time E85 is priced at least 22 percent less than regular unleaded you’re getting more Btu bang for your buck, even when factoring in ethanol’s lower energy content. Currently, e85prices.com lists the average spread between E85 and regular unleaded in Minnesota at about 27 percent.

It’s important for retailers to understand the price/energy content relationship with ethanol so they can price E85 accordingly. When retailers mark up E85 prices simply to try and take advantage of ethanol’s lower wholesale price compared to gasoline, the strategy often backfires. Retailers who keep the price gap between E85 and regular unleaded at 22 percent or higher frequently see an uptick in sales.

Fourth, let’s once again emphasize the fact that ethanol’s future remains bright despite the recent trend of lower gas prices.

Saving money at the pump isn’t the sole reason to fill up with E85. Ethanol also burns cleaner than regular gasoline and is the most affordable option for meeting the octane needs of today’s (and tomorrow’s) engines.

Ethanol is a homegrown fuel, made from corn grown right here in Minnesota and processed at one of our state’s 21 ethanol plants. By using ethanol, you’re supporting our local economy, not a Big Oil company who rakes in billions of dollars in government subsidies and relies on environmentally destructive methods to extract its product.

Finally, if you want more information on ethanol, including where to find higher ethanol blends in Minnesota, go to www.mnfuels.org.

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