OMAHA -- The ethanol industry is riding on a wave of momentum created in the wake of the State of the Union address and new commitments to ethanol by U.S. auto manufacturers. However, the industry must meet the enthusiasm with education, ethanol supporters say.

Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, says, "In December, consumer research showed that 70 percent of consumers still didn't know what ethanol was or if they did they certainly weren't considering putting it in their vehicle, so we've got a long, long way to go. But with a platform like President Bush's speech and General Motors' announcement on E85 and Ford as well, we can start to move the needle."

Slunecka says while the commitment by car companies to making and promoting vehicles capable of running on ethanol blends of up to 85 percent is great news for the industry, consumers need to understand those vehicles can run on normal gasoline if E85 is not available. Additionally, there is concern about the price of E85 currently being higher than gasoline, which is mainly due to large quantities of ethanol being purchased by major oil refiners as a replacement for MTBE in big metropolitan areas.

"Ethanol is in very high demand across the country. When demand is high, supplies run tight and prices generally rise and currently E85 in most areas is priced above where we would like to see it especially in time of adoption," Slunecka said.

However, Slunecka points out that the benefits of ethanol to the environment, to the economy and to the domestic security of the country are intangibles that add to the value of ethanol.

"Consumers need to be purchasing ethanol more on its value and less on its price. And now more than ever, they need to be committed to making a change in philosophy as to what fuel they are choosing to put in their vehicles."

Slunecka encourages consumers to buy flex-fuel vehicles even if E85 is not available in their area because it is definitely shaping up to be the fuel of the future.

"This is a chicken and egg type of conversation. You've got the ability to purchase the chicken today, and the ethanol industry will bring you that egg as soon as we possibly can."

In the meantime, Slunecka says 10 percent ethanol fuel, also known as E10, is more readily available and can be used by most any American made vehicle on the road. He suggests asking local gas stations if they carry E10 fuel and requesting it if they do not.

The Ethanol Promotion & Information Council is an alliance of ethanol producers and industry leaders who have come together to spread the word about the benefits of ethanol through information and promotional programs. EPIC is a nonprofit organization and is overseen by a seven-member board of directors.

SOURCE: EPIC via AgNewsWire.