Gasohol was the catchy name of a new type of fuel developed in the 1970s as an answer to America’s dependence on foreign oil, triggered by the oil crisis of 1973.

The name was first coined in the Energy Tax Act of 1978, says Randy Hascall, senior writer for the South Dakota Corn Growers Association.

At that time, regulations stated that if blenders put alcohol in gasoline, they would get a tax break, says Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol. When it first began, gas stations offered two types of alcohol in gas — methanol and ethanol — and both were sold as gasohol.

It turned out that methanol was more corrosive to engines and underground storage tanks, ultimately causing engine problems. But gas and engines in general were dirtier then, Lamberty explains.

“You were introducing a solvent into fuel that was dirtier and oilier than today. It cleaned up engines,” but then it also clogged filters.

Consequently, consumers at the time shied away from the new gasohol.

Some manufacturers, including Honda, BMW and Volkswagon, even went as far as printing warnings about using gasohol in their car care guides.

It was a bumpy start, Lamberty says.

“Changing the name from ‘gasohol’ to ‘ethanol’ or ‘methanol’ helped differentiate the two products and helped ethanol producers get away from most of the negative connotation,” he says.

Ethanol is made from corn and comes in several different blends. The most commonly sold blend is E10, which contains 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. Any vehicle can use E10.

E15 — 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — can be used safely in any car, light truck or SUV that is 2001 or newer, according to the EPA.

Other blends, including 20 percent, 30 percent and 85 percent ethanol, can be used only in flexible-fuel vehicles. Flex-fuel vehicles can burn any blend of fuel in addition to straight gasoline.

Ethanol lowers greenhouse-gas vehicle emissions by up to 52 percent compared with conventional gasoline, according to the EPA.

South Dakota has 15 ethanol plants capable of producing a billion gallons a year.