Weather Forecast


Pump up the ethanol: ND blended fuel sales up 97 percent

Press Photo by April Baumgarten Drivers are filling up their cars with ethanol-blended fuels, shown above Friday at the Cenex Convenience Store on Museum Drive in Dickinson. Lower prices and initiatives to get people to use the fuels increased sales by 97 percent last year, officials said.

More people in North Dakota are filling their cars with ethanol-blended fuel, officials said Friday, which has increased sales by 97 percent.

"With the way that fuel prices are increasing, it's nice to allow the customer to have a choice of less expensive fuels," said Tom Lilja, North Dakota Corn Council executive director. "It surely shows that ethanol fuels are competitive and consumers will choose them if they are available to them at the pump."

More than 1.3 million gallons of ethanol-blended fuels were sold last year, almost 650,000 gallons more than in 2010, according to a press release from the North Dakota Tax Department

North Dakota is also the national leader in blender pumps with 221 pumps in 44 communities across the state, according to the release.

Flex fuel vehicles, which can be filled with E-85, have increased by 50 percent since 2009, according to the release.

The Cenex Convenience Store on Museum Drive in Dickinson is the only gas station with E-85 in the city. This is a fuel with 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, Cenex store manager Lisa Schmidt said. The fuel has become popular at the station.

"When you are looking at super unleaded, which is almost 70 cents more a gallon ... that's a huge difference," she said.

While ethanol-blended fuels are less expensive, it is not for all vehicles.

"I think it's garbage. It's mainly for newer vehicles," said Casey Vernon, a mechanic for Jeff's Towing Sinclair. "It's not good to put it in older vehicles. It's better to stick with unleaded or super unleaded."

Drivers should check their vehicle manual to see if it is safe to use ethanol-blended fuels.

The numbers reflect the success of the North Dakota Blender Pump initiative passed by state legislators in 2009, Lilja said. More than 50 locations participated in the state-wide program.

The increase also shows that consumers are supportive of renewable fuels and how innovative North Dakota technology is, state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

"The flex fuel pumps have been a hit," he said. "I know the rest of the nation has been watching what we are doing and has been very interested and wondering how (we) came up with this concept."

There are five ethanol plants in the state, which use 60 percent of the corn produced in North Dakota, Lilja said. He added it helps keeps ethanol products in the state, which is also good for state corn producers.

"It's good for our economy when corn can be processed into a by-product consumers are using," he said.