The first "blender" pump that can mix ethanol and gasoline began operating earlier this month near Galva, and ethanol promoters say more are on the way. Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, says several businesses have plans for the pumps.

Shaw says they expect pumps to be opened in Olds and Rock Rapids sometime soon, and there are nearly one dozen different gas stations that have a blender pump on order to be installed if the weather cooperates. Regular vehicles can now run on a 10-percent ethanol/gas mixture, and flex fuel vehicles can run on an E-85 mix — both which can be mixed at the pump, along with other blends. Shaw says the blender pumps should get more use as standards for blended fuel change.

Shaw says they’re confident that the E-P-A will up the maximum amount of ethanol allowed in regular vehicles from E-10, to E-13 or E-15, or even E-20. He says if you’re a retailer that has a blender pump, then you can simply make a change at the pump as soon as the increased ethanol mix is allowed. Shaw says they’re encouraging retailers that’re replacing pumps or building new stations to install blender pumps.

He says the blender pump costs a little more, but right now you have to put in a dedicate tank for E-85, and you don’t have to put in dedicated storage tanks for higher ethanol mixes with the blender pump, as it mixes fuels from the current tanks. And he says there are state grants to help offset the costs. Shaw says tax incentives for the higher blend fuels will make them more attractive to motorists.

Shaw says flex fuel owners do get lower mileage with E-85, and they might consider using an E-30 or E-50 blend more economical, depending on driving habits. He says that type of flexibility at the pump is great. Shaw says he’d prefer that flex fuel drivers use E-85, but says if they choose the other ethanol blends that still helps the ethanol industry too.