Waiting for Ethanol in Colorado

Reading the blogs, you’d think that ethanol (i.e. plant based alcohol, often from corn) as a fuel for vehicles was sweeping the nation.  Its devotees routinely discuss their successes.  But, in Colorado, ethanol is a trend that hasn’t yet taken hold. Corn growers, who see ethanol as salvation in the face of looming loss of unpopular federal farm subsidies, are well aware of its potential.  Few others are, and few others use ethanol.  While almost 7% of vehicles in Colorado are capable of running on the E85 blend of ethanol and gasoline most commonly available, finding it, and finding it at a reasonable price, is another story.

Fewer than a dozen in Colorado have E85 pumps, according to the Colorado Corn Growers Association.

And the pump price of E85 varies widely and can be higher than regular unleaded.

At an Acorn Food Store in Brush, for instance, a gallon of E85 sold for $3.05 on Friday, and a gallon of regular was $2.95.

[Mark] Mang, who filled his Tahoe with E85 at Silco Conoco on South Broadway and Alameda Avenue Friday, paid $1.99 per gallon. A gallon of regular at the same station would have cost him $2.99. . . . .

“The pumps that are selling for $1.99 have connections with suppliers who can supply at a favorable price and still make money,” said Mark Sponsler, director of agronomic services for the Colorado Corn Growers Association. “The ones that aren’t either are not as well positioned or just don’t choose to market it at that price.”

Ethanol supply is tight right now, but new ethanol plants are being built throughout the country, including one planned in Colorado. Over the past year, two new plants went on line in Colorado in Sterling and Windsor. Coors Brewing Co. was already producing a small amount of ethanol from spent grain.

As some context for those dozen E85 providing gas stations, “There are currently approximately 2350 retail gas stations . . . in Colorado.”  Your odds of randomly encountering a gas station that provides ethanol in Colorado are roughly one in 200.  You are about six times as likely to win something when you play Lotto in Colorado, an opportunity you can find at almost every gas station in Colorado.

Cross Posted at Wash Park Prophet.

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Andrew Oh-Willeke

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