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Published July 08, 2010, 09:33 AM

SD Democrats chide state government on ethanol use

PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota Democratic Party official criticized Republican Gov. Mike Rounds for not doing enough to promote ethanol use in state government vehicles, but state officials said Wednesday the fleet is rapidly increasing its use of the fuel distilled from corn and other crops.

By: Chet Brokaw, Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota Democratic Party official criticized Republican Gov. Mike Rounds for not doing enough to promote ethanol use in state government vehicles, but state officials said Wednesday the fleet is rapidly increasing its use of the fuel distilled from corn and other crops.

In a written statement, Democratic Party Executive Director Erin McCarrick criticized Rounds and Republican Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is running to succeed Rounds as governor, because only three of the state government’s fueling sites include pumps for E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

McCarrick also said only 40 percent of state government vehicles are flex fuel, which means they can use varying blends of ethanol. She said nearly half the gasoline bought by state government does not contain ethanol.

However, state records show more than 80 percent of the gasoline used by state vehicles in the past year has included ethanol.

Mike Mueller, spokesman for the state Bureau of Administration, said the state buys gasoline based on price, and E10, or 10 percent ethanol, is nearly always the lowest price. In May, for example, the state used nearly 164,000 gallons of E10 and only 18,000 gallons of gasoline without ethanol, he said.

In the first 11 months of the 2010 budget year, from July through May, 49 percent of all fuel used by state vehicles was E10 ethanol and 3 percent was E85 ethanol, Mueller said. Another 12 percent was gasoline without ethanol, 35 percent was diesel and 1 percent was bio-diesel, he said.

Rounds last week noted that use of E10 and E85 for the year amounted to 52 percent of all fuel put into state vehicles, up from 34 percent the previous budget year. “That’s pretty good when you consider that many of our trucks can’t use ethanol,” he said.

McCarrick on Wednesday said she was pleased to learn state use of ethanol is increasing. But she took Rounds and Daugaard to task for criticizing President Barack Obama and other federal officials for delaying the use of a 15 percent blend of ethanol when federal money is helping provide ethanol pumps in South Dakota.

“Let’s continue to be more forward-thinking,” she said.

Mueller said of the state government’s 96 fueling stations, those in Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls offer E85. A fourth site, in Brookings, will begin pumping E85 later this year. Adding E85 pumps at other sites wouldn’t be worth the cost because those sites pump low volumes of fuel, he said.

Federal stimulus money has been used to install the E85 pumps, Mueller said.

Mueller said McCarrick is correct that 40 percent of the state’s vehicles are flex fuel, but many of the remaining vehicles are unavailable with the flex-fuel option.

The state has been unable to increase its number of flex-fuel vehicles because it hasn’t bought new vehicles for about two years due to budget problems, Mueller said.

The state isn’t moving to install blender pumps, which can pump differing blends of ethanol, because it would cost about $25,000 at each fueling site to install a pump and fuel tank, Mueller said. If a blender pump were installed at each of the 96 fueling sites, the total cost would be $2.4 million, he said.

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