Most Iowans are seeing new choices in fuel at their local gas stations. Many pumps will now have ethanol stickers above two handles instead of just one. Due to a national change in how gasolines are being refined, some premium blends will now contain corn-based ethanol. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, says it’s been a quiet, yet monumental, change. “Premium gasoline without ethanol is very expensive and so by blending that 10% ethanol into the premium, they can lower that cost,” Shaw says. “Consumers are really going to have some options. To me, that’s a good thing. Let consumers pick the product and the price point they want, but it is different than what we’ve seen for 30 years.”
The change has taken place over the past week or so in Iowa and depending on the service station’s supplier, the premium blends may now contain ethanol. Shaw says you’ll need to pay attention when you grab the gas pump handle. “Most Iowans are going to chose an 87 octane E-10, so you’ve gotta’ look for the 87 sticker now with the ethanol sticker combined, that’s going to be your cheaper gas,” Shaw says, “and I think you’re really going to see the sales of the non-ethanol go way down.”
In recent years, about 80 to 83-percent of all gasoline sold in Iowa has been an ethanol blend. Shaw predicts that number will rocket to 95-percent once this change-over is complete. “There’s two ways it can be a boon for ethanol,” Shaw says. “Number one, we probably will see more people go to that E-10 blend, but also, as the E-zero sales, the non-ethanol sales go down, retailers will have to really look hard at whether or not to keep selling that fuel or to put E-15 in that tank. E-15, which is approved for all 2001 and newer vehicles, is going to be even cheaper than E-10.”
Iowa is the nation’s number-one producer of ethanol with 41 plants in operation and three cellulosic ethanol plants under construction. Triple-A-Iowa says the statewide average price for gas is $3.42 a gallon, two cents below the national average. Iowa’s current average price is down ten-cents from a month ago and down 40-cents from a year ago.