The Other Price of Oil

You may have heard about the recent gasoline spill in Ely, Minnesota.  Workers at a local service station, investigating what they first thought was a small spill, were shocked to discover that nearly 5,000 gallons of gasoline had escaped into the ground. Some of the fuel has made its way into the city’s storm sewer system and a nearby lake.  While crews try to assess the situation and prevent further damage, spills such as this can have lasting (and expensive) consequences.

One example can be found in our neighboring state of North Dakota, which is a major petroleum producing state. A leak of a crude oil pipeline in the northwestern part of the state has resulted in a cleanup that has lasted five years and has cost the oil company an estimated $93 million.

Closer to home, the City of Blaine has been forced to shut down several of its wells because of gasoline contamination in the groundwater. The original source of the gasoline is unknown, but it likely goes back to days when inspections and environmental protections were less stringent.

Any type of fuel spill is bad, but ethanol degrades quickly in the natural environment, often in a matter of days. Crude oil and refined fuels like gasoline are different, and can cause problems for decades. In addition, because ethanol is produced closer to home, the refined product doesn't have to be transported as far to the consumer, resulting in lower risk of spill.

We're all aware of the rising gas prices so far this summer, but the costs mentioned above are price tags we should never overlook.

Those of us who use ethanol-based fuels like E85 can feel good about using a product that is largely renewable, has less tailpipe emissions, and helps to support our state’s economy.

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