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Will ethanol E85 catch on in the US? Will we Live Green and Go Yellow?

SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
edited March 20 in Chevrolet
Ethanol is creeping up in the news more and more. Not the 10%, but 85% or E85. A number of manufacturers have E85 compatible vehicles on the market. Fueling stations are slowly being opened.

There are environmental, business and legislative questions. At the end of the day - will consumers embrace ethanol similar to the adoption of hybrids?
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Comments

  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    a LOT cheaper than regular gasoline. People complain about the higher cost of diesel even though the improved mileage more than makes up for it. I doubt anyone would be willing to pay MORE for the lost mileage and power that comes with using [expletive deleted] gas.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,043
    At the end of the day - will consumers embrace ethanol similar to the adoption of hybrids?

    I don't think they will. Maybe in the corn growing states. Even with a big subsidy it is more expensive than unleaded. It is also about 25% less efficient. If people think it is hard to find Diesel. There is only one station in California that sells to the public. The E85 price today is $2.79 per gallon. It should be kept in the midwest where the corn is grown. Until they can make it without huge subsidies to the mega-Ag corporations, it is not viable. Corn is far from an earth friendly crop.
  • vicenacvicenac Posts: 229
    Unfortunately, I think you are wrong. The American market is driven by the opinion of the commentators. So, if they see on TV that diesel is bad or there is no talk at all about it's benefits, people would not even look. On the other side when the media is beating the drum about the ethanol, people will listen and will find a way to rationalize it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,244
    I don't see how you can rationalize a fuel that costs more to make than the energy it provides vis a vis gasoline. If ethanol were in a free market situation, nobody would buy a drop of it. Basically ethanol is just a hidden tax on citizens near as I can tell, and a farm subsidy. It's relationship to an "energy policy" is rather vague.

    Of course, if gasoline gets more expensive (maybe double what it is now), or scarce, then the whole picture changes for ethanol.

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    Few problems I see with E85. First is the reduced fuel efficiency, on average cars will get 25% less mileage that with regular unleaded (some over 30% less). Secondly to be used in a large scale would take enormous amounts of land to grow the crops to make the ethanol. Finally its not an economically sound solution unless its subsidized.

    I believe E85, along with biodiesel and hybrids, are just flavors of the month. Its like putting a band aid on a broken leg, they won't even come close to solving our energy problems. We need to find another energy source and fast.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    I don't see a future when vehicles are run primarily on ethanol, although I could see a time when the 10% blends become universally mandated for year-round use across the country, if just for a matter of national security. (I would assume that this would reduce our overall level of oil consumption by a few percentage points.)

    The core problem with E85 is that there is no "wow factor" for the consumer, just no compelling reason for the consumer to seek it out. Toyota was smart to make its first hybrids into a showcase of technology, which created a sort of hybrid chic that motivated the earlier purchasers to buy them, despite the high cost. Honda's approach of simply enhancing gas motors gets the improved power and fuel consumption, but also doesn't make the technology very sexy for the end user.

    Not specific to cars, but I would recommend Geoffrey Moore's excellent book on technology marketing called Crossing the Chasm to get some general insights that could applied to seeing why Toyota has succeeded in making hybrids catch on. In essence, there is an adoption cycle for technology that determines whether products will or will not survive the mass market, beginning with "innovators" who are tech enthusiasts, followed by "early adoptors" who serve as visionaries to the buying public. If you can make the leap over the chasm from those two groups to the pragmatic "early majority", then you have a winner. Toyota has worked diligently to appeal to the first two groups, and is now working on getting things established to appeal to the pragmatists who help drive the spike in sales.

    I don't blame GM or Honda for trying to take more subtle approaches, based upon past failures of electric cars, but they missed the boat on how to generate public interest. Now Toyota has the advantage of first mover advantage, which means they will be able to license their proven and popular model to other automakers, who will find their best pitch to the customer is that they use Toyota's hybrid technology. I don't see any automaker that is currently pushing E85 being able to pull off a similar coup.
  • jae5jae5 Posts: 1,205
    I agree. Basically I pay the same or more for the E85, to travel less. I end up spending more money in the long run. Also, in my neck of the woods, the E85 stations are not in metro-areas. You have to go darn near way downstate or upstate to get to a station. So you burn even more fuel just getting to / from the station. And when you get there, unleaded is STILL cheaper!!

    What I found funny as well was when the president gave his speech back in February about utilizing E85, the prices shot through the roof, so it's now gotten even more expensive. That just tells me it's all a game.

    I think for it to make an impact:

    E85 has to be more energy-efficient than an equivalent amount of gasoline (or by hella cheaper)
    If less-efficient, can't be no more than 10% than gasoline
    Can't be volitale like gasoline pump prices (constantly going up, then sliding down a penny, then back up by a dime a week later)
    Readily available like gasoline - why drive out of your way to save a nickel when gasoline fuel is available darn near every corner
    Determine what happens when there's a drought, bad crop, etc - a la Katrina
    Control the gouging

    I could go on but the post is long enough
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    What I found funny as well was when the president gave his speech back in February about utilizing E85, the prices shot through the roof, so it's now gotten even more expensive. That just tells me it's all a game.

    May I ask where you are at? I am in the Midwest just outside of Chicago. There are enough E85 stations to make using it no real hassle. The last time I checked prices were around 50 cents less than regular unleaded. But still with the loss of mileage the E85 would still be more per mile.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    1 bushel of corn yeilds 2.8 gallons of ethanol. About 10 billion bushels of corn are produced annually in the US. So, a maximum of 28 billion gallons of ethanol is possible. We use 140 billion gallons of gasoline and another 40 billion gallons of diesel annually. About 7 billion bushels of the corn is used to feed livestock so that we have something to eat.

    The basic point is that there is no way to replace gasoline with corn. Even if it were possible to double or triple corn production.
  • The price of E85 is not $2.79 around the country, maybe only in Southern California (and all of us who live here know the prices here are GROSSLY inflated, just because we will pay them...look at real estate). The E-85 product in the corn growing regions of this country sells for well under $2.00 a gallon, making it a very competitive product even if the efficiency is less than traditional gas.
    Further more, corn is an extremely earth friendly crop. It produces food for the masses, livestock and can create renewable resources, fuels, packing materials, byproducts and other products we use in our daily lives. I have no idea where you get the idea it is an earth unfriendly crop - perhaps you need to visit the midwest before putting down a very important resource we can produce right here in our own country.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,043
    I have no idea where you get the idea it is an earth unfriendly crop

    I happen to own a farm in MN. I know exactly how much chemical is required per acre to get a decent crop of corn. I know how many years of Alfalfa has to be grown on the land before I can grow another crop of corn. Corn requires more chemicals than most other crops. These are chemicals that leech through the soil into the water table. These are some of the reasons I let my farm go to natural pasture. It is not good for the environment. It is not cheaper than unleaded when you consider we are adding a dollar or more to each gallon by way of subsidy.

    How do you get it out of the midwest to market?

    In Massachusetts, an estimated 250,000 flexible-fuel vehicles stand ready to run on E85 as easily as gasoline without mechanical adjustment. Yet because New England has no ethanol production facilities, transporting E85 from the nearest producer in South Bend, Ind., was cost-prohibitive until gas prices reached the $2.50 per gallon range.

    Still, unless the Commonwealth is persuaded to subsidize an ethanol infrastructure, fuel specialists say, pumps stocked with E85 are unlikely to spring up here.

    Chief among the skeptics is Cornell University ecologist David Pimentel. In analyzing how much fossil fuel and other energy goes into planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and then converting corn into a liquid fuel, he concluded in a 2005 paper that the process isn't economically or environmentally advantageous.

    ''Actually, we're contributing to global warming [by using E85] because it takes more energy to make a gallon of ethanol than you get out of that gallon," Pimentel said.


    E85
  • jae5jae5 Posts: 1,205
    In Chi-town, the heart of the city.

    How far just outside Chicago are you; I've probably been there.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    I am near I-55 and Rt 53.

    I know there is a station just North of Wrigley field on Clark that sells E-85. A lot of the burbs have one. Most places I have seen that sell it is Gas City. I will be going by one place later on and I will check the prices.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • First, if you're paying more for E-85 than regular, you're being ripped off.

    Second, the Cornell energy balance scenario is a.) wrong b.) assumes that the sun doesn't count c.) ignores the fact that we run on a liquid fuel economy (i.e. coal has a MUCH higher balance than regular gas but I don't think we're going back to steam powered cars).

    So, what does E-85 have going for it?
    1.)Sunsidize a farmer instead of a terrorist or several other groups of people that would rather you just die.
    2.)It IS cheaper per gallon if your local station doesn't rip you off. It SHOULD run about 25-33% cheaper.
    3.) Higher octane means more horsepower.

    What needs to be done?
    1.) Auto manuafacturers need to designs vehicles that capture the HP boost via turbos, ignition changes, etc. AND change the gearing in the drivetrain to boost the mileage while keeping the drag-racing performance equivalent to the regular vehicles. The Bio-Saab did all of this EXCEPT the gearing change so the fuel economy is still less.
    2.) More stations need to be made available.
    3.) Bio-mass conversion to ethanol needs to be put into production.

    I hope nobody feels flamed, just wanted to add some food for thought and dispel some irritating myths.

    Oh, one more thing, to commercially produce ethanol under today's technology costs $1.30-1.80/gallon while bio-diesel (to spec) costs about $2.70-3.10/gallon. So yes, the last too years, ethanol plants could have stood alone without government subsidies but the spring of '05 would have been rough with ethanol trading in the $1.05/gallon range.

    Cheers,
    Boiler
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    2.)It IS cheaper per gallon if your local station doesn't rip you off. It SHOULD run about 25-33% cheaper.

    It would be cheaper but not by that much, factor in the loss of mileage it becomes more costly to run your car on E-85

    3.) Higher octane means more horsepower.

    No it doesn't

    just wanted to add some food for thought and dispel some irritating myths.

    Just how do you dispel irritating myths by putting out more irritating myths?

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • clovmoclovmo Posts: 1
    I used ethanol in my car for 20 years (4 different cars), not E85 but 100% ethanol.
    Ethanol consumption is not 25% higher but about 10 to 15%(my personal experience). Engine power is increased, but very slightly (less than 5%) so you hardly notice the difference.
    I agree that the main factors for ethanol adoption would be the economics and availability. Here the wrong assumption is that prices will be stable in the next future. Prices are not frozen and I think the only guarantee is that they will change.
    How much? You would need a crystal ball. But nobody expects that oil will be cheaper in the future, the trend is only to increase. There will be a price level that will make ethanol attractive.
    Wrong assumption: ethanol production does not depend on just corn. There are several different ways to "grow" ethanol. It can be extracted from corn, sugar cane, beets and other cultures. Each one gives a different cost. The price of these commodities depend on supply and demand, that's why prices are always changing. Besides prices also affect production. The higher the price more area is dedicated to that culture.
    Oil does not offer this choice. There is a ceiling on the production level and the world is very close to this ceiling, with comsuption increasing, the price tend to go higher.
    Regarding availability, it is also an economic issue. It is not difficult for the gas stations to offer ethanol. If there is demand and oportunity to make profit on selling ethanol, I am sure they will start offering it.
    There is also the political issue on whether government will subsidize ethanol or impose more taxes on gasoline which would affect the balance between both.
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    OK I drove past the one near the way home. E-85 is running between 30-40 cents a gallon less so its about $2.30 a gallon. That makes it more expensive to use.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    I used ethanol in my car for 20 years (4 different cars), not E85 but 100% ethanol. Ethanol consumption is not 25% higher but about 10 to 15%(my personal experience).

    Better let the EPA know, their tests show anywhere from 20 to 30+ percent less fuel economy. I had a car that could use E-85 and my MPG with E-85 was a little more than 70% of what I got with gas.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • Here is where I think we are at, the ignition systems are up to snuff. With the Bio-Saab the logical use of the turbo captures the gains of the increased Octane level of E-85. The last missing element is someone who tunes the transmission to take the addition HP and convert it to increased mileage. To do that, more E-85 pumps need to be at the corner station.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,043
    to commercially produce ethanol under today's technology costs $1.30-1.80/gallon

    If that is a fact which I doubt. Where does the $1.00 per gallon subsidy fit in. It seems E85 is selling for about $2.05 in the production area. It should be about a dollar less. I think it actually costs about $2.30-$2.80 to produce.

    I do agree supporting terrorists is a bad thing. Too bad the little farmer is left out on the ethanol corporate welfare scam. A little farmer would have a hard time making any money growing corn at 2 bucks a bushel. They are better off chopping it for silage and feeding their cattle. Remember if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. That fits Ethanol.

    Biodiesel is also subsidized and about the same price as Ethanol to produce. The difference I see is that biodiesel is being produced by a lot of small operators. Biodiesel has at least 50% more energy than ethanol. E85 in CA is the same price as B20 biodiesel. B20 is more readily available.
  • If that is a fact which I doubt. Where does the $1.00 per gallon subsidy fit in. It seems E85 is selling for about $2.05 in the production area. It should be about a dollar less. I think it actually costs about $2.30-$2.80 to produce.

    Why do you think that ADM is actually selling ethanol to the Sunday morning talk shows? That subsidy is going into deep pockets, so much so that some are talking about removing the subsidy. Whether this involves removing the tariff I do not know. Either way, ADM is trying to make you feel better about there making obscene profits right next to Exxon-Mobil.

    Now, the pity party about the farmers. Actually, the farmers who DO own many of the farmer-owned ethanol plants are doing quite well. You don't have to believe me, just go to the SEC.gov site and look at their financials and realize that alot of these are Co-Op owned. The two largets gorrillas in the ring, ADM and Broin, still have to share the market with the 10,20, and 30+ million gallon plants scattered throughout your state (Minnesota I believe), Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa where the basis was so low that farmers were better off sending a processed commodity and then feeding the waste product, Distillers Grains, to the local feedlots where they were readily consumed as an animal feed. So, while they have struggled for year, many Co-Op shareholders will be investing into new pick-ups, tractors and other on-farm niceties thanks to the profits their plants have made the last two years.

    Sustainable? That's one I won't tackle. I don't predict the weather, either. As for $1.80 ethanol, those record corn yields for the last two years have influenced that (which you probably already know so don't be offended by the obvious). Scale and process is also a factor.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,043
    Why is Ethanol so expensive outside the corn belt? Is Ethanol another MTBE boondoggle?

    U.S. gasoline is facing a major change in the way it's manufactured and distributed. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 repealed the 2% oxygenate requirement for reformulated gasoline, the cleaner-burning blend used in the country's smoggiest regions.

    Due to hundreds of pending groundwater contamination lawsuits against makers of MTBE, the primary oxygenate in most reformulated blends of the fuel, and the fact that the energy law didn't protect producers from past or future lawsuits, many gasoline marketers are planning to eliminate their use of MTBE once the oxygenate requirement lapses on May 5. In addition, the new Renewable Fuel Standard establishes for refiners a baseline use of renewable fuels such as ethanol measuring 4 billion gallons in 2006 and expanding to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.
    While the shifts have been well flagged to the industry, concerns about the switch come from the different properties of MTBE and ethanol that can impact not only gasoline production but its distribution and storage - and ultimately the prices consumers pay at the pump.

    Ethanol, unlike MTBE and MTBE-blended gasoline, can't be transported by pipeline. It has to be moved and stored separately from the base gasoline mixture to which it is added just before delivery to retail stations. This is a a huge change for an industry that has long relied on pipelines to supplement local gasoline production and imports.


    Ethanol Market Watch
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,043
    "I rise today to open the debate on the ethanol mandate in the Senate Energy Bill," Senator Feinstein said in a speech on the Senate Floor. "I believe that the renewable fuel provisions in this legislation amount to a wish list for the ethanol industry, and the Senate has to consider the impact of these provisions on the rest of the nation."

    "Frankly, I believe that it is egregious to require this nation to use more ethanol than we need in our fuel supply. This is terrible public policy. It amounts to a wealth transfer of billions of dollars from every state in the nation to a handful of ethanol producers. I believe this mandate amounts to a new gas tax."


    Feinstein objected to the mandate on the grounds that: Read More
  • Biodiesel is also subsidized and about the same price as Ethanol to produce. The difference I see is that biodiesel is being produced by a lot of small operators. Biodiesel has at least 50% more energy than ethanol. E85 in CA is the same price as B20 biodiesel. B20 is more readily available.

    Biodiesel is also made in much smaller quantities at these plants as well. This, however, is about to change:
    Biodiesel Plant in Indiana
  • I'm sorry, I don't see the merit of your point. Why are you using talking points from a political debate from 2002? Remaining on your point, Dianne got her way and the ETHANOL industry opted to not fight the MTBE replacement issue that the Madamae Senator is upset about (when you take in the full context of her argument). They got their way later with the new Energy Bill which was also another discussion that happened Post-2002.

    So, when you site information, even over-hyped political rhetoric from EITHER party, realize that the landscape does change.

    I guess she would rather fund another yacht for a prince in another country...she just won't let them buy the port to park it in. :shades:

    C'mon lets leave the politicians and movie stars out of a semi-rational debate.
  • montztermontzter Posts: 72
    "subsidize a farmer instead of a terrorist...."

    I would pay $5 per gallon for fuel for my car if the source was domestic!! Then, we could just blockade the entire Middle East and let the fanatics just kill each other instead of us.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,043
    C'mon lets leave the politicians and movie stars out of a semi-rational debate.

    Fair enough! I am not totally against Ethanol. I think in the midwest it is a viable option. I just don't trust the government to govern it's use. Seems when they get involved we end up in a bigger mess. I kind of put it in the same arena as CNG. It has very specific advantages to a very specific demographic. I get the feeling that Washington has just discovered it and want to push it on the public. Another thing having grown corn, I do not believe a small farmer will make money selling corn to a co-op for ethanol. It is cheaper now than it was in 1978 when I last planted my farm in corn. I got between $2.60 & $3.00 per bushel. How much is that in today's dollars. And I was losing money at that price.
  • gogogodzillagogogodzilla MarylandPosts: 701
    You'd pay far less than that if we'd just consider using the old WWII-era technology of coal gasification.

    Or turning coal into diesel and gasoline.

    Considering the US has some of the world's largest reserves of coal... we could easily wean ourselves off foreign oil without having to plow under new farmland to do it.

    But for some reason, no one wants to consider it.

    :confuse:
  • john1701ajohn1701a Posts: 1,897
    Coal & Diesel are extremely dirty, so the priority right now should be to clean them up to the point where a vehicle can meet the SULEV emission rating minimum. Then they'll become realistic.

    They still won't become a good idea until a way to use less becomes available. After all, reduction is the key. Simply switching to an alternate fuel only puts a new bandage on an old problem.

    That's where ethanol comes in. All the hybrids are capable of 10% usage already. And some owners have been fueling their hybrid that way for years now. Both emissions & consumption are reduced.

    Once that 10% infrastructure becomes well established, the percentage blend can be increased. Until then, this E85 nonsense is just greenwashing.

    At the same time, the evolution of plug-in hybrids continues. With that comes introduction of a third fuel to the mix... gas, ethanol, and electricity. That last one can be far cleaner than any other source of energy, plus its renewable.

    In short, the solution is more than just E85 alone.

    JOHN
  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,787
    In short, the solution is more than just E85 alone.

    I hate to burst your bubble but E85 cannot be in the solution. Even if everyone used plug in hybrids that ran on E85 (an event that will never even come close to happening) we would not be able to produce enough ethanol.

    The solution has to come from another fuel source. One that isn't in a finite amount and one that doesn't need huge tracks of land to grow it on.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

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