My mom lives in Arizona most of the year. When we talked on the phone earlier this week, she asked me two of her most repeated questions: How is the weather? And what are the gas prices in Iowa?

I reminded her that gas prices are less expensive here – in part, because Iowans can choose lower-cost ethanol at the pump.

Today’s high gas prices are causing a lot of us to rethink our summer travel plans or to limit any unnecessary trips.

Yet here in Iowa, we are fortunate to have a homegrown fuel choice that’s better for the environment and helps us save money, too. Ethanol is made from Iowa-grown corn. In fact, Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production, with more than 40 ethanol plants in the state producing 30% of all U.S. ethanol.

And Iowans can save money by choosing the highest biofuel blend their engine will allow.

If you drive a flex-fuel vehicle, you can fuel up with E85 (85% ethanol). In mid-March, E85 cost about $1 less than ethanol-free fuel, reports the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

Check the owner’s manual or look for the yellow gas cap to see if you drive a flex-fuel vehicle that can run on E85.

I don’t drive a flex-fuel vehicle (although I did a few years back, and I loved paying less at the pump). But I still prefer to use ethanol-blended fuel.

When I fuel up, I choose either E10 (10% ethanol, often called Super Unleaded) or E15 (15% ethanol), depending on what’s available.

E15 is a new fuel option that’s offered at a growing number of Iowa retailers, including Kum & Go, Kwik Star and Casey’s. E15 is often marketed as “Unleaded 88,” referring to the octane level.

E15 is approved for all 2001 and newer vehicles, or about 90 percent of the cars on the road.

And E15 often costs 10 to 30 cents less per gallon than regular unleaded fuel.

Motorists have driven more than 20 billion miles on E15 without any reported issues, according to Growth Energy, an ethanol industry trade group.

E15 is also higher in octane, so it helps your vehicle run better. Plus, it’s a cleaner fuel, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 to 50%, according to recent studies by Harvard, USDA and the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Now I know it can feel a little odd trying something new, especially when it comes to fueling up your car.

But trust me, it’s OK to pull up to the gas station and choose E15 – or E85, if you drive a flex-fuel vehicle. You will save money, improve Iowa’s air quality and help your car run better and cleaner.

For a list of Iowa retailers offering E15 and E85, visit the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association website.

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