QUESTION: Why are there no public refueling locations in the Longview/Tyler area that sell E85 ethanol blend?

Most cars and light trucks sold today are so-called flex fuel vehicles (FFV) capable of using this less expensive domestically produced fuel. Yet I could not find a single location between Shreveport and Dallas.

ANSWER: This is, of course, a complex issue.

First, E85 is a fuel blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, which the flex fuel vehicles you mentioned can use, as well as regular gasoline. And you’re right, E85 fueling options are limited and appear concentrated in larger metropolitan areas. The Renewable Fuels Association operates the website www.E85prices.com, which has a map that shows there are 4,429 stations offering E85 in 2,462 cities throughout the country. In Texas, there are 232 stations selling E85 in 108 cities. The association also says about one in 10 vehicles on the road today are flex fuel vehicles.

While I don’t have information pertaining specifically to East Texas, I can tell you, generally speaking, the issue of the availability of E85 fueling stations comes down to the same thing that makes so much of the world go around: money.

I spoke to representatives of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute and the Texas Food and Fuel Association, who explained that selling E85 gasoline requires an investment in equipment on the part of a gas station that decides to sell it. Scott Fisher, senior vice president of policy and public affairs for the Texas Food and Fuel Association, said that while ethanol has some good and bad qualities, if it makes contact with certain kinds of materials, “it just simply eats them away.”

“Because of that, it cannot be distributed the same way gasoline is distributed,” he said, explaining that it can’t be distributed through the same pipelines as gasoline because it would corrode the pipeline.

Ethanol fuels are typically blended at the fuel terminal. Also, E85 fuel would probably require its own storage tanks at a gas station, he said. Then, the gas station also would have to have an above-ground fuel dispenser that is compatible with E85 fuel. All of that can mean an investment of tens of thousands of dollars to sell E85 fuel.

Jessie Stolark, with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, also explained that most of the retailers have contracts with the “big five” oil companies, and those contracts are typically “very restrictive” in terms of what fuels a gas station can sell. Fuel blends such as E85 typically are found at independently owned, smaller companies, she said.

Q: Is Joe Terrell still on KLTV?

A: It seems some of y’all missed this when I responded back in May so I wanted to let y’all know that you haven’t seen him as much lately because he got a promotion. Terrell was named news director. That means he’s working hard behind the scenes. When I asked him about it earlier this year, he said he hadn’t been able to be on the air as often as he would have liked.

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