Letter Re: Advice on Storing E85 Ethanol Fuel

Hi Jim:
I’m having a good time filling the tank on my [flexible fuel variant GMC] Yukon XL with E85 [a 85% ethanol / 15% gasoline blend] which is very cheap compared to regular in these parts. I was wondering if you had any storage information for E85? Given it’s high alcohol content, by default do you know if it would it require an additive for long term jerry can storage? Google searched return a lot of useless noise. Thanks, – Eric

JWR Replies: In retrospect, I’m glad that more than year ago I started recommending that SurvivalBlog readers buy themselves E85-compatible vehicles. The good news is that I predict that within a few years the price of E85 in the U.S. will be about half the price of unleaded gasoline. But the bad news is that by the time this happens, E85 will probably be $3 per gallon, and standard gasoline will be $6 per gallon. I am hopeful that within a few years E100 vehicles will become available. These will run on pure ethanol (grain alcohol) or methanol (wood alcohol). That would be ideal for a survival retreat, where you could presumably build your own still. But for now, E85 vehicles are highly recommended. They are still fairly scarce. (To find one for sale near you, do a search on “Flex Fuel” in the Edmunds.com vehicle search page.)

The E85 ethanol blend has a storage life that is longer than standard gasoline, but it is essential that it is stored in tightly sealed containers. Otherwise, the alcohol will absorb moisture. If enough water is absorbed, the alcohol separates from the gasoline and goes into solution with the water. (Read: Ruined fuel, and an engine that won’t start.) So keep your containers full, and tightly sealed. A special note to SurvivalBlog readers in damp climates: The higher the humidity, the faster that this will occur!

Pri-G (available from Nitro-Pak) or STA-BIL (available at your local auto parts store) brand additives can and should be added to E85 that is stored more than a couple of months, to protect the 15% of the blend that is gasoline. But of course you only need about 15% of the quantity per gallon that you would normally use to treat standard gasoline. (The alcohol component of the blend needs no special stabilization.) As with storing standard gasoline, it is best to buy E85 for storage during winter months, when you will presumably be buying a winter blend that has extra butane added for cold weather starting. (This also extends its useful storage life.)