Carrie Rengers

Business Perspectives

In His Own Words

Dave VanderGriend, CEO of ICM and president of Urban Air Initiative.
Dave VanderGriend, CEO of ICM and president of Urban Air Initiative.

I was driving home last week and was surprised to see the price differences on the gas station sign.

Regular 87 octane gas was 40 cents cheaper than “No Ethanol” 87 octane. Regular 87 has contained 10 percent ethanol in Kansas for almost 10 years now and is what most everyone chooses.

Now, fair warning: I am in the ethanol business, so you know which way I will be leaning. But it was a real-world example of why I am proud to be involved with a Kansas-made fuel additive that significantly reduces the price of gas for you and me, as well as helps to clean the air we all breathe.

In Kansas, we use about 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline per year. At a 40-cent savings per gallon, ethanol is saving all of us $600 million per year, or for you personally about $6 per tank.

Now some will say “it’s because ethanol is subsidized,” while others will say “you lose mileage so you don’t gain anything.”

The reality is that ethanol is not subsidized and can compete on its own and is currently selling below the price of gasoline. Also, refiners have integrated ethanol into their recipe. Gasoline is made up of over 400 chemicals, and ethanol is used as an excellent octane and oxygenate source in the mix.

When ethanol is added, some of the expensive and pollution-causing chemical like toluene, benzene and xylene are reduced. That is the source of the lower price and cleaner air.

Personally, for the last 10 years, I’ve been fueling up with E30 (30 percent ethanol), which is now available in Haysville, Sedgwick, Colwich, Kechi and a growing number of locations in Wichita.

What’s the difference? E30 is a 93 octane premium fuel that sells well below the cost of today’s premium fuel, and I’m significantly reducing my tailpipe emissions.

My older 2001 non-flex Oldsmobile runs flawlessly on higher blends of ethanol, and new vehicles run even better as more manufacturers are demanding higher octane for their new Ecoboost and turbo engines.

We also see that 20 percent and 30 percent ethanol blends do not cause a reduction in mileage, and some vehicles experience a slight increase in gas mileage. This is because the higher octane is moving into modern vehicle’s sweet spot for performance.

You may have noticed earlier this year that we had ozone warning days in Wichita due to grass burning in the Flint Hills.

Those days make us pay attention because we can see the emissions, but air pollution is around us every day. We can’t see it, but we can feel it.

When 10 percent ethanol is blended with gasoline, it reduces toxic emissions and particulate matter by 15 percent. This benefit grows as ethanol content increases.

This has a real impact on our health and the health of our kids as these pollutants are directly linked to many health issues.

I’m proud to be involved in the liquid fuels industry in Kansas and offer a product that complements and enhances gasoline. Kansas is blessed and can be energy independent with our local sources of oil, gasoline, ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, coal and nuclear. Have a safe driving season and next time you’re at the pump, think about the savings to your wallet and choose ethanol.

Dave VanderGriend is CEO of ICM and president of Urban Air Initiative. Reach him at

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