Fill up with ethanol to boost demand

Fill up with ethanol to boost demand By Guest Commentary Using ethanol as an additive or substitute for gasoline has been a worthy yet elusive goal for decades, but today it really has the potential to reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil.

Roughly 25 percent of new American vehicles can use an 85 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline. And the percentage of new vehicles being able to use it will keep growing in the future. Since the first 1970s Arab oil embargo, we've talked about using domestic sources for car and truck fuels.

But the reality was that we didn't have the capacity then to produce enough ethanol to make a difference.

Yet the rapid construction of ethanol plants in recent years has boosted the production capacity dramatically. South Dakota had just two plants a decade ago, but now has 10 plants.

Moreover, the newest plants are a lot bigger than the earlier ones. The two South Dakota plants in 1994 (Scotland and Aberdeen) could produce only 10 million gallons each per year. The newest plant at Aurora can produce 100 million gallons by itself.

So now we need to start using it.

Most of us have made the switch to a 10 percent blend and discovered no difference in performance, although we usually notice the savings of a couple cents per gallon.

We need to encourage those who own vehicles that can use the 85 percent blend to use it.

Boosting demand for the high-percentage blend will cause more retailers to carry it, which will make it accessible to more people, which will spur further demand.

We're confident the nationwide production can continue its rapid production growth to meet the demand.

We now have the opportunity to do that, and we should start right away.

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