The fuel sold for 85 cents per gallon from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. The discounted fuel was offered in honor of MFA Oil opening its fourth E85 fueling facility -- and the first in Southeast Missouri.
"One of the main reasons we offered E85 (in Charleston) is the prison," said David Perkins, manager of special projects with MFA Oil, referring to the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston. "The prison was requesting E85."
Perkins noted E85 also burns cleaner than gasoline and contains a 100+ octane level. In addition, ethanol used in E85 is produced by Missouri corn farmers and processed at one of the three operating ethanol facilities in the state. Farmers are working to build at least two additional facilities in Audrain and Stoddard counties.
"It's a great deal all-around," agreed David Achter, garage supervisor for the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston. "We're keeping the fuel here." It's a win-win situation, especially with farmers being here, Achter noted. "Look. There's corn behind us," he said, looking at the cornfield that separates the prison and Petro-Card 24. "It's everywhere."
The prison mainly uses fuel for transporting inmates, but a car patrols the prison 24 hours a day, Achter noted.
Ethanol is produced by the fermentation of plant sugars, and one bushel of harvested corn can yield approximately 2.7 gallons of ethanol fuel. Nearly 2 billion gallons of ethanol is produced each year in the United States.
E85 is a renewable transportation fuel that can significantly decrease the nation's dependency on foreign oil, officials said.
"Right now the amount of ethanol in the Midwest extends the total gas supply in the nation by 10 percent. So we are making a difference," said Ken Caspall, senior vice president of sales for MFA Oil.
Since November the price of E85 has dropped 34 percent while the price of gas has skyrocketed, Caspall noted.
"Back when we started promoting ethanol-based fuel was $1.20 to $1.30 a gallon, and the economy questioned it," said State Rep. Lanie Black. "But when gas is $1.80 to $2.55 a gallon, there's no doubt it's the cheapest fuel source."
J.T. Johnson, manager of the East Prairie and Charleston MFA Oil Companies, said E85 will always cost 10 to 20 cents cheaper than what is being offered at the pump for unleaded fuel.
All automobiles manufactured since the 1970s can burn the most common blend of ethanol called E10 -- a blend of 10 percent ethanol with 90 percent unleaded gasoline. However, not all vehicles are compatible with E85.
Currently there are approximately 3 million vehicles, called Flexible Fuel Vehicles, in the United States that can burn E85. There's no additional costs for flex fuel vehicles, and drivers can use unleaded gas if E85 is not available. "To be honest, a lot of people don't know the alternate fuel exists," said Zip McKinney of Galemore Motor Company in Charleston, which currently has seven E85-compatible vehicles in-stock.
General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler are among the manufacturers that make flex-fuel vehicles. To determine if a vehicle is E85-compatible, look inside the vehicle's fuel door, consult the owner's manual, contact the auto dealer or visit www.E85Fuel.com.
Mike Geske of Matthews, a farmer and vice president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association, noted the ethanol industry is growing 20-25 percent each year.
"We're so appreciative of MFA oil and what they're doing," Geske said. "MFA is a leader in promoting ethanol. It's the right time for ethanol and the right time for the nation's economy."
And Geske said the future of ethanol-based seems pretty clear: "Burn more ethanol, and we'll grow more corn."