State officials may have to rethink their use of 85 percent ethanol fuel as pump prices rise. “E-85” — fuel that’s 85 percent corn-based ethanol — cost about 45 cents more per gallon than the regular 10 percent ethanol blend. Dale Schroeder, administrator of the state’s fleet of vehicles, says 450 state-owned cars can run on E-85. Schroeder says E-85 used to be about the same or a little less than the 10-percent ethanol blend, but in the past year, the price of E-85 has risen above the price of gasoline. To make matters worse, Schroeder admits when cars burn E-85 gas they get slightly fewer miles to the gallon. This can put a financial strain on state agencies struggling with tight budgets and higher gas prices. Schroeder says state agencies do have the authority to purchase 10-percent ethanol blend that’s available at most gas stations rather than the more expense and less available E-85. At least one state lawmakers is advising state administrators to buy the cheaper ethanol. Steve Kettering, a republican from Lake View, chairs the Senate Transportation Budget Committee. Kettering, who is a banker, says from a fiscal perspective, it just makes sense to burn the cheaper fuel despite the goal of promoting use of the 85 percent blend of ethanol. Iowa law does force state agencies to buy cars that can burn E-85 fuel, and Kettering says there’s no need to change it as he says when E-85 is cheaper, the benefits to the economy and environment outweight the slight reduction in fuel efficiency.
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