Southside Station on U.S. Highway 40 next to the U.S. Forest Service offices is thought to be the first gas station in Steamboat Springs to sell E85 ethanol. The Shell branded station also offers biodiesel.

Photo by Tom Ross

Southside Station on U.S. Highway 40 next to the U.S. Forest Service offices is thought to be the first gas station in Steamboat Springs to sell E85 ethanol. The Shell branded station also offers biodiesel.

Ethanol debuts at Southside Station

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— When a representative of the Mustang Roundup convention called the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association last week to find out whether E85 ethanol fuel was available in Steamboat, the answer was "yes." It would have been a different answer just a week earlier.

Southside Station, a Shell brand gas station and convenience store on U.S. Highway 40, began pumping E85 and B20 biodiesel June 13.

"We've sold some of both, and we've had lots of inquiries," station manager Kim Murrah said.

Southside Station's E85 was priced at $3.61 a gallon Monday, 50 cents lower than unleaded gasoline at many area stations. The biodiesel was priced at $5.26 a gallon, which does not represent a savings.

The classic 1960s pony cars that were here for the Mustang Roundup may not have been flex-fueled vehicles that are compatible with ethanol, but the pickups that hauled them over Rabbit Ears Pass in trailers may have been. And many more vacationers planning to come to Steamboat this summer may take advantage.

Lyn Halliday, whose company Environmental Solutions Unlimited consults with the Chamber's Sustainable Steamboat Business Program, says the demand is there.

"There are quite a few (Steamboat) businesses I work with who are interested in using E85," Halliday said. "People ask me about it all the time."

Halliday said corn-based ethanol may not represent the ideal alternative fuel, but the industry still is developing.

"I think all and all, the more diverse sources we have of clean, renewable fuels is a good thing," she said.

Southside Station owner Denise Peterson said she thinks her business is the only one in Northwest Colorado to pump E85.

A search of the U.S. Department of Energy's database shows no E85 pumps within 85 miles of Steamboat and pinpoints the closest pumps in Basalt, Fort Collins and Laramie, Wyo.

Petro West Distributors (formerly Weston Oil) on 13th Street formerly sold biodiesel, but discontinued the product.

Peterson said she is aware that the Biofuels Coalition of Gov. Bill Ritter's Energy Office is working to increase the availability of biofuels across the state.

Peterson's husband, Steve, just fueled up his pickup with biodiesel for a quick business trip to Wolcott and was pleased with the results.

"He didn't notice any change in performance," Peterson said.

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced domestically for use in diesel engines. It is derived from natural oils such as vegetable oil and can be blended in varying concentrations with traditional petroleum-based diesel.

Comments

handyman 5 years, 10 months ago

outsider - I've done the acetone thing, too. It didn't double my mileage, but I did get a few more mpg. In the research that I've done on it, it's supposed to help keep the engine cleaner in the long run. Hey mechanics out there, have you had any experience with this? I'd like some input.

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Dukebets 5 years, 10 months ago

The only reason people would consider using E85 is for the savings per gallon. That is the only reason consumers put the regular 85 octane crap in their tanks.

Maximum performance on any vehicle, new or old, requires an octane rating no less than 87. In fact, many 2008 vehicles state in the owners' manual that 86+ Octane is required. Several states in the Midwest don't even offer gasoline under 87 octane.

I would bet that Colorado has more vehicles with 'service engine' lights on than any other state. The main reason is the 85 octane offered at the pumps. Ethanol will jack your vehicle up just the same, but that's another argument.

If you think I blowin' smoke, try running a tank of premium. I guarantee you'll notice the difference. If your 'check engine' light is on, have the O2 sensor replaced and run premium fuel.

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RoxyDad 5 years, 10 months ago

Dukebets

Over the years I have read a few articles in the car magazines of Car and Driver and Road and Track where they compared the Octane levels of Gas relative to how your auto functions.

Every time they did the test they came to this conclusion: You can use the cheaper gas (lower Octane) with generally no problems. Many of the engines have computers that can adjust to different octanes and run perfectly well.

The exceptions are the very high performance cars such as the Corvette and Ferrari etc that do need high octane fuel.

I have had many cars over the years. Currently I have a 1999 Ford F150 and a 2006 5 BMW and 2007 3 BMW and a 2007 X3. All run on the lowest Octane and all run great. My truck has 119,000.00 miles as of last week.

I am NOT a authority on this, I am just providing my 2 cents. I suggest you try it yourself and find out if the lower octane works for you. It works fine for me.

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snowysteamboat 5 years, 10 months ago

In no way a supporter of Ethanol, I just wanted to provide some justification for 85.

In the Rocky Mountain (high altitude) states, 85 octane is the minimum octane and 91 is the maximum octane available in fuel. The reason for this is that in higher-altitude areas, a typical combustion engine draws in less air per cycle due to the reduced density of the atmosphere. This directly translates to reduced absolute compression in the cylinder, therefore deterring knock. It is safe to fill up a car with a carburetor that normally takes 87 AKI fuel at sea level with 85 AKI fuel in the mountains, but at sea level the fuel may cause damage to the engine

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Dukebets 5 years, 10 months ago

The key is 'generally no problems'. Did those articles mention the reduced gas mileage. Yes, 85 Octane and Ethanol will reduce gas mileage. Not by a lot, but 3 to 5 miles to the gallon. Did the articles mention the residue left from the intake to the rings from the gas not burning all the way out (another cause of reduced mileage). The corn guys and cheap consumers will argue for the cheap stuff all day long. Yes, the newer vehicles do have computers that adjust for altitude and octane. Adjust would typically mean that something is wrong. That being the crud you pumped into your gas tank.

Owning a brand name gas station and repair shop for 20+ years allows you to see more than the average consumer. For 10 to 20 cents a gallon difference, I will spend the $3.00 a tank extra. Of course, I change my oil every 2,000 miles also.

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Matthew Stoddard 5 years, 10 months ago

To back up RoxyDad's statement, Consumer Reports also states that unless your car's manual says it "Requires" higher octane fuel, there is no discernable difference getting 85 octane. CR also says that if the car manual "Recommends", don't bother unless you just feel to spend 10-20 cents a gallon more.

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weststmbtres 5 years, 10 months ago

Great, now we are just helping increase the cost of the bowl of cornflakes I eat every morning. Save a little at the pump, pay a lot at the grocery store.

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Pilatus 5 years, 10 months ago

I'd love to run B20 Biodiesel in my Dodge...it's a great fuel system cleaner and adds a lot of lubricity but I'm not paying more for less BTU's!

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Dukebets 5 years, 10 months ago

kielbasa - 'no discernable difference'...........C'mon, as I stated before, 85 is not even legal to sell in many midwest states. And that's not because there's no difference.

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Matthew Stoddard 5 years, 10 months ago

After calling my mechanic, he said that the ethanol alcohol can end up drying out rubber portions (hoses, etc.) that it gets to. Bummer. I'd have loved to save 50cents a gallon.

westmbtres- Start eating oatmeal!! LOL!

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Matthew Stoddard 5 years, 10 months ago

Duke- I'm no mechanic, so I listen to the ones I take my care to. What I can also say is that Consumer Reports has never let me down in any product I've bought or any advice they've printed. I've also used 87 religiously in my car until I saw this this article about a year ago and then switched to 85. The only difference I've seen in my is in my savings. I own a 2002 Ford Escort for 4 yrs and have always wavered between 28-30mpg in town, depending on whether I have to run the heater much in the winter or the AC in the summer.

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bubba 5 years, 10 months ago

While I don't know much about E85, I can tell you, duke, that you are mistaken on the octane thing. The reason, as someone already pointed out, that we have lower octane ratings in CO than other states is indeed due to our elevation. There are less molecules of air per cubic centimeter here, so when the motor compresses, the actual pressure in the combustion chamber does not reach the same level as it does at lower elevations, so there is less probability of pre-ignition from low octane fuel. See, the common misconception is that higher octane is more powerful, and therefore you get better mileage. This is actually the opposite, the higher the octane, the more resistant to combustion the fuel is, which allows it to be run in higher compression (high performance) motors. The risk with too low of an octane is that the fuel will pre-ignite (referred to as knocking or pinging due to the sound), which puts tremendous stress on a motor's inside, and causes a lot of heat, which can burn valves or pistons in extreme situations. Many high-performance cars now have a 'knock sensor' which retards the timing slightly when the motor is experiencing pre-ignition, and these are probably the only vehicles that would get better mileage on high octane fuel, but they also say things like porsche on the hood, so I don't have any personal experience, although I have heard that's the case. Other than vehicles tuned this way, you will get the best mileage and power out of the lowest octane you can run without knocking.

In my car, I run 87 octane around town, because it runs smoother, but I probably get worse mileage. If I am going on the highway, I'll fill it up with the cheap stuff, because without the stop/start, the engine isn't under as much load, so preignition isn't an issue.

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outsiderlookingin 5 years, 10 months ago

I was talking to a couple of guys the other day and they said they put in 3oz of acetone to the tankfull and doubled their gas mileage. Don;t know the long term effect on the engine but since acetone burns cooler than gas it sould not cause a problem. just puttin it out there.

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cmducks 5 years, 10 months ago

Cornflakes, eggs, meat, even bread. The run on corn will effect everything. People who used to raise wheat plant corn to get the prices, and then a shortage comes there. Ethanol is a joke, and just the latest example of how 1/2 thought out plans, and a whole lot of "green" marketing, have given the people the high, hard one. Now the corn market is turning countries like brazil into mecca's where they are cutting down the rain forrest to plant crops. Full circle, now we are back in the 80's.

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Dukebets 5 years, 10 months ago

bubba - I am not mistaken. Think about your logic. Why is it that 85 is not legal to sell in the majority of states? Is that because it's just as good? No, it's because vehicles get all jacked up from that crap. If it was just as good, you could fill up your Escort (kielbasa) in North Dakota or Colorado with the same fuel. However, you can't..........So, the most simple of logic, no mechanical arguments needed, would tell you 85 octane is not as good. If you don't ever leave the top of this mountain, more power to you.

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Dukebets 5 years, 10 months ago

bubba - I didn't realize that you actually defended my point by saying you run 87 in town because with 85 the engine will knock. You run 85 on the highway because it doesn't. That would translate into being too cheap to spend $3.00 extra for a tank of fuel. Do you fill up just enough, so you run the 85 out upon entering city limits? I'll let it go because you obviously will not get the point.

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Matthew Stoddard 5 years, 10 months ago

Duke- I had just talked to my mechanic yesterday, and he confirmed 85 will not have any noticeable effect. And while I'm not mechanically inclined, I gauge my MPG each fill up and have since first owning a car. These are the mechanics I've been using for the last decade on 3 or so cars I've owned since then. I've never had to take a car back to this shop to redo a problem because they got it wrong...ever.

What bubba posted is about the same as what Consumer Reports had in their article, if I remember correct.

So- in short, a magazine that has never gone wrong for me in products they recommend and my mechanic, who has never gone wrong for me both say use 85 to my heart's content. You, who I don't know whatsoever tell me they're wrong. Who do you think I'm going to believe?

As for other states? I live here...what can I say? When we travel by driving, I just get whatever is the lowest offered. If that's 87, so be it. If it's 85, that's what I go for. You call it cheap...I call it giving companies having their biggest windfall less money and using the savings for MY needs.

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justathought 5 years, 10 months ago

ducks, you think ethanol is a joke now wait til we start buying all of our corn from other countries because most of the mid-west is under water. As usual, government insists on fixing a problem by creating a larger one. What we need to do is overlook a politicians education and give them a simple common sense test as a requirement for election. Government motto: if it ain't broke, fix it until it is!

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yournamehere 5 years, 10 months ago

Just to clarify a few points, the "85" in E85 doesn't refer to 85 octane, nor any octane rating . The "85" in E85 means 85% of the fuel is 100% pure(200 proof) ethanol. The other 15% of the fuel is Unleaded gasoline. If you want to look for an octane rating, you'll find it's 105. That's just referring to it's anti-knock rating when compared to another reference fuel. Look for the RON+MON number on the pump label. Around here , you'll typically find 85, 87, and 91 for octane ratings of unleaded, unleaded plus, and premium fuel. As far as octane goes, in most cars you'll not really notice a difference between 85 & 87 octane until you try to haul something heavy over the pass.

For those with FlexFuel cars (GM, Ford, Chrysler late models) this new pump means you get to choose between a foreign or a domestically produced fuel source. Although corn is the basis for the fuel ethanol industry today, alot of effort is being put forth to bring out the 2nd generation of ethanol processing/feedstock, which is the cellulose ethanol processes(switchgrass) you may have heard mentioned in the news, or even dubya's state of the union speeches. Having a choice in what fuel you use can be a good thing.

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