Highlighting the lack of E85 availability at the pump, Illinois Senators Dick Durbin (D) and Barrack Obama (D) and Governors Rob Blagojevich (D-IL) and Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) joined together in sending formal letters to six of the nation’s largest oil companies, requesting them to increase their availability of E85 across the country, notes the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent ordinary unleaded gasoline. In the letters, the governors and senators highlight the fact that there are 6 million flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the road that can run on E85, but only 1 percent is using E85. Lack of consumer awareness and funding for the infrastructure needed are key reasons for E85’s limited use. The governors and senators say states are eager to talk with the oil companies and work to expand alternative fueling pumps at gasoline stations.

“We appreciate these elected officials understanding the importance of ethanol and the issues surrounding renewable fuels,” says NCGA Chairman Leon Corzine. “We are very pleased they have taken this interest and are asking the appropriate questions of the companies that provide the fuels for the majority of consumers around the United States. These are legitimate questions that deserve answers.

“The majority of the ethanol industry growth has been primarily through farmer investment,” he continued. “Corn growers have a vested interest in continued development of the ethanol industry and expanded marketing of E85. NCGA members are directly involved in bringing ethanol from the cornfield to the consumer.”

Corzine says renewable fuels play a vital role in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. More than 30 percent of the nation’s fuel is blended with ethanol. “Automakers are producing more flex-fuel vehicles that run on E85, and we need the availability of E85 at all fueling stations,” he says.

The governors sent letters to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman offering their state representation in upcoming meetings he is arranging with the oil companies. Earlier this year, Blagojevich sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission urging an investigation into potentially illegal policies by major petroleum companies that discourage the sale of biofuels made from ethanol or biodiesel.