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Farmers burn more of what they grow with E85.

Around Danvers, Minn., John Carruth is known as a standup guy. Honest and hard working, a pillar of the community who has built a 4,000-acre farming operation that is now run by his three sons. Over his 71 years, he's been on more local, state and national boards than he can remember.

But when it comes to promoting and using ethanol and the new E85 blend, Carruth has been known to engage in a bit of subterfuge.

"My wife Elaine doesn't know it, but she's running on E85 in her LeSabre," says Carruth. "We've got a couple of flex-fuel vehicles and I use it about half and half in my Ford Ranger pickup that isn't equipped for it, and it works just fine."

E85--"E" stands for ethanol and "85" for 85 percent content--is a blended fuel made from domestically produced corn. Extensive testing has shown that its performance is similar to that of gasoline, and its price is usually well below unleaded regular. Octane ratings for E85 are between 100 and 105.

Joel James, assistant manager at Glacial Plains Cooperative, Benson, Minn., where Carruth buys his fuel, is also enthusiastic about the growth and future of E85. "We pumped our first gallon of E85 in January 2000," James says. "Even before we put the pumps in Appleton (Minn.) this year, we were pushing 200 customers.

"It's the flex-fuel vehicles we're going after. One big potential is government and post office vehicles. There are some company motor pools that can use it and, of course, farmers." The potential customer base grows every year as auto makers produce more flex-fuel vehicles. "There are a lot of people driving flex-fuel cars that don't know it," James adds.

A big incentive for local cooperatives that opt to offer E85 is minimal infrastructure change. "Basically we installed a new tank in Benson," James says. "It's double-walled and in Appleton we're using an existing, below-ground tank. And there's some signage that has to change when you offer E85."

Ethanol-gasoline blends also change with the seasons, says James. More gasoline is in the mix during winter to help with starting. But E85 can be transported in existing tank trucks with some minor precautions throughout the year.

"I really like promoting E85," James adds. "It's good for the farmers and the environment, and I'm really proud of the co-op system for taking the lead in this. I'd much rather have the price of corn go up than the price of foreign oil."

"As farmers, we know how to grow corn," adds Carruth. "I was just over looking at some of our irrigated corn and it's going to run 200-plus. The only problem we have with ethanol is knowing how to market it. And we're doing a lot better at that."

Mark S. Johnson, Managing Editor,

CHS-Land O'Lakes
COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Business - Cooperative Service
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Title Annotation:Special Section: Co-ops and Biofuels
Author:Johnson, Mark S.
Publication:Rural Cooperatives
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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