SAINT PAUL, MN – More Minnesota state employees are heeding Governor Pawlenty’s call to reduce petroleum fuel consumption and use cleaner-burning alternative fuels like E-85 in state vehicles whenever possible. According to a new report from the Minnesota SmartFleet Committee, E-85 use in the state fleet during the first three quarters of 2008 is 55 percent greater than during the same period in 2007.

In the first nine months of 2008, 529,000 gallons of E-85 were used to fuel the state’s roughly 1,700 flexible fuel vehicles. Last year at this point, only 295,000 gallons of the locally-produced, largely renewable fuel had been used.

“We have increased our E-85 use to approximately 12 percent of our total fuel purchases,” said Tim Morse, chair of the SmartFleet Committee and director of Fleet and Surplus Services, Minnesota Department of Administration. “That’s very good progress toward our goal, but with E85 available at more than 360 locations statewide, we can do even better.”

The report was hailed by the American Lung Association of Minnesota, which supports the use of E-85.

“A flexible fuel vehicle running on E-85 instead of gasoline produces significantly less tailpipe emissions than the same vehicle using gasoline,” said Kelly Marczak, director of the American Lung Association of Minnesota’s clean fuels program. “To date, the state fleet’s use of E-85 in 2008 has prevented more than 2100 tons of lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions and other harmful pollutants from entering our air simply by using E-85 instead of gasoline.”

There are an estimated 200,000 vehicles that can use E-85 as well as gasoline on the road today in Minnesota. As with the state fleet, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has noted an increase in overall E-85 sales throughout 2008, even as gasoline sales have declined for four consecutive months. While vehicles using E-85 instead of gasoline get fewer miles per gallon, the price of the ethanol-based fuel in Minnesota is averaging from 40 to 60 cents less than regular unleaded, according to the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, which tracks E-85 prices on its Web site.