E85 Still Not Worth It

With gas prices around $3.50/gallon even here in North Dakota (usually we’re a bit cheaper on gas than the rest of the nation) I was tempted to stop in and fill up with the ethanol fuel blend E85 (my Yukon is a flex fuel vehicle) when I saw that it was being sold at $2.89/gallon.
Before I did, however, I went back and reviewed an article I wrote last year about using E85 in my dad’s GMC Yukon, which is the same year and model of vehicle that I drive:

The Yukon has a 31 gallon tank. Driving until the gas gauge was pointing directly at “E” the miles per gallon calculator indicated that [my dad] had gotten 19.1 miles to the gallon using 87 octane which he purchased for $3.09/gallon. That works out to about 6.18 miles for every one dollar of purchased gasoline.
Next he filled up with E-85, which cost him $2.45/gallon. He again drove until the gas gauge was pointing directly at “E” and according to the gas gauge calculator (which he’d reset upon re-filling the tank) he had gotten 13.1 miles to the gallon. That works out to about 5.34 miles for every one dollar of purchased E-85 fuel.

At that time there was a $0.64/gallon price differential between the regular 85 octane gasoline and E85. Using the ethanol blend cost my dad a little less than one mile of mileage per dollar of fuel purchased. Meaning that using E85 one would actually have to spend more on fuel, even at the starkly cheaper price, to travel the same distance.
Right now the price differential between E85 and regular 85 octane fuel is $0.61/gallon, so going with the ethanol blend still isn’t worth it. Especially when one considers that the only reason E85 is so much cheaper than the regular fuel is because our tax dollars are being used to both subsidize its production and buy down its price at the pump. Of course, I have to pay those tax dollars whether I use E85 or not, so maybe it’s a moot point, but still. Even with all these politicians trying to cram ethanol fuels down my throat, and even with gas prices sky-high, I’m still better off buying regular gasoline.
The only thing that could help the ethanol situation is for our government to drop its $0.54/gallon tariff on imported ethanol from places like Brazil. That would make E85 fuel a lot cheaper at the pump, perhaps even making it a truly cheaper alternative to gasoline, but it isn’t going to happen any time soon. Because all this rhetoric from politicians about “renewable energy” and “ending our dependence on middle eastern oil” isn’t really about those things as its about making big agriculture and big biofuel companies really, really rich.

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