NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 1, 2008

Conventional gas delivers more energy than a gallon that contains ethanol, says the Kansas City Star.

For instance:

  • A gallon of ethanol has 76,000 British thermal units while conventional gasoline has 115,000 Btu.
  • A blended gallon of gas that contains 10 percent ethanol gets 111,100 Btu.
  • That amounts to a 3.4 percent reduction in energy, which over the course of a year of normal driving would take an additional 40 gallons of E-10 to go the same distance as conventional gas.

If it's E-85, a blend containing 85 percent ethanol that can be used in specially equipped vehicles, the energy loss soars and more than offsets its lower cost, even though E-85 is about 60 cents per gallon less at retail than conventional gas:

  • Mileage can suffer by about 25 percent with E-85, according to AAA.
  • Over the course of a year, that amounts to an extra 300 gallons of E-85 to go the same distance as when using conventional gas.
  • That means an average household, when the total cost of conventional gas and E-85 are compared, would spend nearly $100 more per year for E-85.

To those that have the flex-fuel vehicles that can use the fuel, it's tempting to purchase E-85 because at first glance it appears to be a great deal compared with conventional gasoline.  But at least for now, it isn't, says the Star.

For example:

  • AAA now calculates a price for E-85 to adjust for its energy content.
  • The national average pump price for the fuel on April 24 was $2.91 per gallon; regular gasoline was $3.56.
  • But adjusted for its energy content, the price for E-85 jumps to $3.83, or 27 cents more than regular.

Source: Steve Everly, "Loss of fuel economy from ethanol-blended gasoline hits motorists in the wallet," The Kansas City Star, April 26, 2008.


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