Monday, June 08, 2009

E85 returns to my Cheyenne minivan

Driving down Lincolnway in Cheyenne last week, I spied an E85 sign. "Whoa, minivan," I said, whipping a U-turn and coming to rest at the ethanol pumps at Smoker Friendly Gas and Cigarette Shop. I was surprised to see an E85 pump after a long dry spell for my flex-fuel Dodge Caravan.

Some of the first blogging I did was about my search for an alternative to regular unleaded. Alternative fuels were all the rage back in 2005-2006. Corn seemed to be the answer to importing oil from desert sheikdoms and the newly liberated land of Mesopotamia. The Corner Stop station in Cheyenne opened a couple ethanol pumps and that's where I filled up. No war for oil, I would say to nobody in particular. And then I would pump my Nebraska-grown corn-based fuel, not realizing that it had its own drawbacks. But it made me feel good, which is an American right and privilege. It was cheaper than gasoline, too, by about 20 cents.

But then reality came crashing in. The prices went up, and then Corner Stop ceased carrying E85. I looked high and low for flex-fuel stations. There was (and is) one up in Buford along I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie. But it's a good 30 miles away any benefit I would get from gasing up there would be lost in the 60-mile round trip. During travels in Colorado to Fort Collins and Greeley I saw E85 pumps but, again, unless they were on my way, it made little sense to make those stops a destination.

The E85 prices at Smoker Friendly were a lot lower than gas -- $1.90 per gallon to $2.33. I topped off the tank and felt pretty good paying with most of a $20 bill. If I was a smoker, I would have enough change to buy a couple cigarettes, but nowhere near an entire pack. Did you know that you can fill a minivan with E85 for a lot less than it costs to buy a carton of cigs? Glad I quit smoking 25 years ago.

When I went inside to pay, I asked the proprietor how long she'd been stocking E85. About six months, she said. I told her that I'd been loooking all over for it and and guessed that hers was the only store in town that stocked it. That's kind of the idea, she said with a smile, adding that she sells quite a bit but didn't know how much exactly.

Meanwhile, I save about 40 cents per gallon and get to feel superior -- for a brief while -- over my gasoline-loving brethren and sistren.

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