The future is now

The future is now

By Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl, President and Vice President Illinois Renewable Energy Association

In 1928, Henry Ford said, “The fuel of the future is gong to come from almost anything. There is fuel in every part of vegetable matter that can be fermented.” He preferred fuel from biodegradable materials to that made from petroleum products. He even developed a car that ran on ethanol made from hemp.

For Rockford, the future is now at 4545 Sandy Hollow Road. Sandy 66, a Phillips 66 station, offers E85, a fuel mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

According to Mike Schultz, sales manager for Rockford Oil, E85 has been around for about five years, and some fuel mixes have contained 10 percent ethanol for 20 years. When asked why people should want to use ethanol, he responded: “Ethanol would be used to help promote a cleaner environment, and because it is a renewable product, we’d be using less of our world resources.” Rockford Oil owns nine Phillips 66 stations in the area for which they blend the fuel, and has tanks throughout the region from Lena to Monroe, Muscatine, and Pekin.

Sandy 66 is the only station in Rockford with E85. The pump is set apart from the other standard fuel pumps and is not easy to locate immediately. When asked why, Schultz responded that it’s to protect unwary customers with non-flexible fuel autos. “It’s a necessity. We can’t have anybody using it. We know our customers. If it’s someone new, we ask them.” Using the wrong fuel can damage the engine.

While owners of flexible fuel vehicles can use either standard gasoline mixtures or E85, drivers of non-flex fuel cars are limited to standard.

The price of E85 fluctuates less than that of standard fuel, but its “price never goes higher than the mid grade.” Last week in Rockford, the prices of the two were exactly the same.

Schultz feels the public should be made more aware of the benefits of ethanol. It is produced from a regionally grown, renewable, biodegradable product that could decrease our reliance on foreign oil while cleaning the atmosphere.

Illinois is a major ethanol-producing state.

Ethanol has been promoted for fleets of federal and state vehicles, but few of these exist in the Rockford area. The police department and the park district’s fleets don’t use E85. Some Rockford Mass Transit buses have used up to 20 percent soy diesel.

Although there are not yet many flex fuel cars in the area, Sandy 66 plans to continue offering E85 to those equipped.

Customers generally pay more for flexible fuel autos. But the extra cost is more than balanced in the long run by increased fuel mileage of the flex cars. As more are produced, the costs will continue to decline.

Dawn Rolander, station manager, provided a list of flexible fuel cars that can run on E85. Right now, there are more than 20. The first E85 car was Ford Taurus, produced in 1995. Daimler Chrysler, General Motors, and Mazda have now joined their ranks. By 2002, 2.8 million flex fuel cars were in use in the U.S.; most were in fleets.

Coming next: Want to find your own flexible fuel car? Where they are.

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