By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gas prices continue to rise in the Midwest.

We’ve seen well over $4 a gallon in some parts of the state. It has many drivers looking at alternative options, including ethanol.

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Last month, President Biden announced expanded sales of E-15, a mix of 85% gas with 15% ethanol.

Another growing season is underway at Brian Thalmann’s farm near Plato, and he’s hoping for good fortune ahead- especially when it comes to corn.

“We are producing food and fuel from the same kernel of grain,” said Thalmann.

Thalmann believes E15, also known as Unleaded 88, can alleviate rising gas prices. It’s EPA approved for passenger vehicles 2001 and newer, as well as flex-fuel vehicles.

“It’s a 15% blend of ethanol and generally sells anywhere from 5 to 40 cents a gallon cheaper than the regular-graded gas,” said Thalmann. “The mileage difference is very minor. The cost savings far outweigh any differences in mileage.”

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About 420 gas stations in the state –  that’s about 20% of gas stations in Minnesota – now offer E15. And that number continues to grow.

In the past, E15 could not be sold from June 1st to September 15th because of pollution concerns during the summer months. But the EPA waived that ban, saying the fuel doesn’t have significant on-the-ground air quality impacts.

“The life cycle of ethanol and biodiesel has gotten a lot cleaner, a lot greener,” said Thom Petersen, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

Petersen said Minnesota is the epicenter for E15, and producing it has gotten more environmentally-friendly over the past 20 years.

“We are not using as much water. We are not using as much energy to produce each gallon,” said Petersen. “There’s a lot of talk about electric vehicles but we are going to have combustion engines for a long time.”

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association wants to stress that producing more ethanol does not take away from the food supply.

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They said starch is taken out of the corn for fuel and all of the protein is left for livestock feed and food.

John Lauritsen