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Consumer education is key to ethanol effort

Ethanol has been in the limelight lately, thanks to President Bush's State of the Union address and commitments from auto manufacturers. Despite the recent press ethanol has been getting, though, consumers have a lot to learn about the fuel.

According to Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), a survey conducted in December showed that 70% of consumers didn't know what ethanol was, or if they did, they wouldn't consider putting it in their vehicle.

Slunecka says while the commitment by car companies to making and promoting vehicles capable of running on ethanol blends of up to 85% is great news for the industry, consumers need to understand those vehicles can run on normal gasoline if E85 is not available.

There is also concern about the price of E85 currently being higher than gasoline, which is mainly due, he says, to large quantities of ethanol being purchased by major oil refiners as a replacement for MTBE in big metropolitan areas.

"Ethanol is in very high demand across the country. When demand is high, supplies run tight and prices generally rise and currently E85 in most areas is priced above where we would like to see it especially in time of adoption," Slunecka says.

However, he says, consumers should also take into consideration ethanol's benefits to the environment, the economy and domestic security. "Consumers need to be purchasing ethanol more on its value and less on its price," he says.

Slunecka encourages consumers to buy flex-fuel vehicles even if E85 is not available in their area because it is definitely shaping up to be the fuel of the future.

"This is a chicken and egg type of conversation. You've got the ability to purchase the chicken today, and the ethanol industry will bring you that egg as soon as we possibly can."

In the meantime, Slunecka says, 10% ethanol fuel, also known as E10, is more readily available and can be used by most any American made vehicle on the road. He suggests asking local gas stations if they carry E10 fuel and requesting it if they do not.

Ethanol has been in the limelight lately, thanks to President Bush's State of the Union address and commitments from auto manufacturers. Despite the recent press ethanol has been getting, though, consumers have a lot to learn about the fuel.

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