Ethanol Now More Than Unleaded

Wednesday, December 3rd 2008, 9:44 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, News On 6

GLENPOOL, OK -- The average price of a gallon of gas in the Tulsa area is $1.52 a gallon. At some stations, unleaded is now cheaper than E85 ethanol blend.

That has some wondering which fuel is a bigger bargain.

E85 now costs nearly 40 cents more a gallon than unleaded. That's a huge price shift from only a few months ago, and it has some drivers steering clear of the alternative fuel.

Ron Mauch has a 'flex fuel' vehicle that can run on E85, the ethanol-based fuel. He says he tried it for a while when it was 50 to 60 cents a gallon cheaper than unleaded, but he quickly switched back.

"No, the difference in the gas mileage, difference in price didn't offset it, so I went back to the regular unleaded," said Mauch.           

When a station in Glenpool first installed E85, they say they were getting questions about it because it was so much cheaper than regular gas. Now the opposite is happening, as people are starting to complain, asking why it's so much more expensive than regular unleaded.

Employees say the station was recently bought by a new ownership group, which in turn raised the price of E85.

In Owasso, at the only other station in the Tulsa metropolitan area that sells the fuel, it's going for $1.42 a gallon. That's still slightly cheaper than unleaded.

"It really has lost its advantage, and you're not hearing that much about it anymore," said Dewey Bartlett of Keener Oil and Gas.

Bartlett says there are many side-effects to the recent plunge in crude prices. One of them may be less enthusiasm for alternative fuels.

"But at the end of the day, prices really determine what we utilize, whether we're buying apples or gasoline," said Bartlett.

It's that simple for Ron Mauch, who says he will continue to avoid the E85 pump.           

"What's the point of getting the E85 when of course the unleaded is so much cheaper now," said Mauch.

E85 supporters say there are many reasons to still buy the fuel. They say it contributes to energy independence and national security.