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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol



  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    To rest the whole blame on ethanol is what I am trying to correct. For you mileage loss it still would be nice to know if it is linear or if there is a mileage bump at E20 or E30.

    There's nothing else to blame it on. Everything else has been constant. Same vehicles, same drivers, same roads and traffic, same brands of gas. I keep very careful track of my mileage, always have. So I was keenly aware of the day that my mileage dropped by 10%. And what in the world could possibly cause a "bump" in mileage if even more ethanol were blended in??

    I've heard this "correct ratio" arguement before and it make absolutely no sense. There is less energy per unit volume in ethanol than the gas. There is no way to get more work out (make your car go farther) if there is less potential energy in the tank. :confuse:

    I gave ethanol the benefit of the doubt at first. It COULD have been a fillup error, it COULD have been that I had altered my driving habits slightly, there COULD have been something wrong with the cars. But it wasn't any of those things. The sole factor that changed was the ethanol added to the fuel. And I have no choice in that.

    So explain to me again what exactly it is that I'm saving. The price, at least in my area, did not drop at all once ethanol was included in the mix, so I'm not saving any money. And since at some pumps the sticker says "contains UP TO 10% ethanol", I'm not cutting back on demand for oil either. For nice numbers, let's say I was using 100 gallons of gas to do my month's worth of driving with my cars. Getting 33 mpg, I cover 3300 miles. Enter ethanol, and my mileage drops to 30 mpg. I still drive my 3300 miles, but now I have to buy 110 gallons of fuel. So I'm using the same amount of gas as I was before in addition to the ethanol that's been added. And that's if it's a full 10% blend. If it's actually less than that, I'm using more gasoline than I was before. :sick:


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  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    So explain to me again what exactly it is that I'm saving.

    Big Ag?
  • Since almost all gas here in the mid west is 10% ethanol then why are there people who track their mpg and show different distributors give different mpg. This is easy to test, take a small beaker and add water, you should be able to phase out the ethanol to determine if you have 10% ethanol.

    I have tried to give the information I know as accurate and honest as I can and I will stop posting entries to this site due to people using other people option verse facts. I will stop if someone can then answer the the following question will logic verse just because.

    If you want to argue that E10 gives 10% mileage loss and base it solely on the argument of BTU's. Then how can you get a 10% mpg drop when you are only putting in just under 3% by volume less BTU's? Do the math.

    I will have to keep visiting for the humor, where does this greater then a dollar tax break come from at the rack, last I knew it was 45 cents or to read cows need antibiotics just so they can eat corn. :surprise:

    Maybe some of you need your car tune.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    If you want to argue that E10 gives 10% mileage loss and base it solely on the arguement of BTU's. Then how can you get a 10% mpg drop when you are only putting in just under 3% by volume less BTU's? Do the math.

    The point is that WHATEVER the amount of ethanol is in the gas I'm using, my mileage is down 10%. I have NO control over how much ethanol is in the gas I use. I have no choice over whether it's in there at all. I know for a FACT that whenever I use gas that contains ZERO ethanol, my mileage is 10% higher than it is when using gas that contains "up to 10% ethanol. If you want to say that I need to test my gas bcause I'm at a wrong ratio and that some magical formulation is going to actually increase my mileage performance, then I'm going to ask why isn't that magic number what's being dispensed at the pumps?

    Wouldn't that be a GOOD thing to do? If making sure that adding 7.5% ethanol instead of 3% or 10% would boost the mileage of cars then we would definitely be doing that wouldn't we? Heck, if my mileage can increase by making sure we have the right blend, then why don't we INSIST that all ethanol blends be set to that magic number? And remember, you pointed out a mileage INCREASE in the study, not "less of a decrease". So I assume you think that it CAN happen.

    This is starting to sound exactly like the proponents of HHO kits who want to INSIST that the thing works despite real world evidence to the contrary. And as soon as something is suggested to the contrary it's all about well you're doing it wrong, or other modifications need to be done to your car to make the HHO effective. In this discussion I'm hearing "well you're at the wrong ratio of ethanol" or "your car needs to be tuned".

    Conservation of energy is a tough law to get around. Energy in an isolated system remains constant. The only thing that can happen to the energy is that it can change form. Potential to kinetic, kinetic to thermal, etc. My 13 gallon gas tank holds the energy to operate my car. If you reduce the amount of energy in the tank by replacing some of that fuel with a fuel that contains less energy in the same volume, the car can only get less work out of that fuel. It's as simple as that. Otherwise we're talking about a perpetual motion machine.


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  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    pf_flyer gave you a very practical example of mileage loss by using E10 fuel. Your argument does not hold water against practical application of E10 fuel. You are dealing with the theoretical. Yes, on paper it appears that adding only 3% volume of ethanol should not yield 10% reduction in mpg. I doubt this relationship of BTU and mileage drop is linear.

    I, too, wanted to believe that corn ethanol was a great way to reduce foreign oil. Grow our own fuel here! Great idea! the more I have read about this fuel, the more i see the negative effects. I could live with the drop in fuel mileage but it's not as clean burning as people think and it's raises up food prices which causes hardship for everyone.

    Again people need to understand that we only get 30-35% of our oil from the Middle East. And most of it comes from Saudi Arabia. the way to reduce foreign oil today and the near future until legitimate alternatives come into play is to drive more fuel efficient cars, drive smarter, keep whatever car you are driving in the best shape you can afford and slow down. It's working already since we have reduced our gas intake this year and we continue to drive less despite $1.60 gas. the oil market was driven by speculators the last few years. Now that they are out of the market we can get back to a supply/demand model. right now the demand has dropped and the oil prices have reflected this.

    Do we need to do more to lower our demand for the future? Of course! And there are many, many projects being researched. heck even Ford will have a 39 mpg midsize car next year. There'll be an electric car on the market late 2009 (probably not from GM). new diesels will be coming in 2010 that will get in the 40+ mpg range. We'll see CNG cars shortly. Developments of practical cars that get higher gas mileage helps reduce demand short term while technology is being developed for major technology change to come in a decade or so. And yes there is plenty of oil to supply us for that long and for the next 40 years.

    BTW, you may want to read more articles on corn ethanol than just studies and research projects that are supported by people or organizations that have a vested interest in the success of ethanol. You'll increase your knowledge and you may even be able to argue your point better.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    or to read cows need antibiotics just so they can eat corn.

    Massive corn feeding inhibits the immune system of cattle they are Ruminants.

    While corn feeding has kept the cost of beef low, it’s raised eyebrows among nutritionists and environmentalists the world over. Health experts represented by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the University of California, among other groups, point out that grain-raised beef is higher in unhealthy saturated fats than its grass-fed counterpart. In addition, it’s more likely to contain muscle-building hormones whose safety for humans remains under debate.

    Further, the widespread use of antibiotics among feedlot operators, who are compelled to administer the drugs in order to protect their animals from disease, has prompted concern among public health advocates.

    Antibiotics are routinely added to grain feed as a growth stimulant. Cattle consume 70% of the antiobiotics in the United

    Antibiotics are used only as a treatment for specific diseases in grass fed cattle. Corn fed beef is not as good for humans as grass fed. Lots of studies on the negatives attached to feeding cattle corn.

    And they have to learn how to eat this strange new diet, which consists not just of grass or hay, but of grain and, I should add, antibiotics, 'cause that's when the drugs kick in. I mean, that's when you start feeding beef cattle drugs. ndustry,_hormones,_antibiotics.html
  • The point is that WHATEVER the amount of ethanol is in the gas I'm using, my mileage is down 10%.

    Exactly. Theory is nice, but many people have observed a 10% mileage decrease from E10. The bottom line is that we use the same amount of oil whether ethanol is added or not. The energy and resources spent producing ethanol are completely wasted.
  • To gagrice
    I was born and raised on an Iowa dairy farm, the same one my dad grew up on. We had 30 to 40 dairy cows, somewhere between 100 and 150 head of feeder cattle and some hogs. Our feeder cattle since my dad started farming were corn based. I still remember when my dad started to use implants when the feeder cattle were around 5 or 6 hundred pounds and we didn't add antibiotics to our feed. This was in no way done for the fact that my dad alway had corn feed beef, it is being done for ecconomics. We use ground ear corn, corn silage and hay. Is there a reason to stay concern and evaluate with the use of hormones and antibiotics, yes. We, for several years continue to buy hormone free milk but to say that cattle shouldn't eat corn puts you way out in left field. Feeding practices in cattle feed lot are done for dollars saved. If you still want to hold on to this opinion then I guess you are pro ethanol. More ethanol with only residue protein, less corn means less cattle are feed corn.

    You seem to miss my question, one gallon of E10 (90%gas & 10% ethanol) contains 2.7% less BTU's then regular gas. So if you still think your car with a 13 gallon gas tank is 100 % efficient then you should only drop 2.7% in mileage. Now we all should know that gasoline internal combustion engines are roughly 1/3 efficient. Cars of same weight can vary alot on mileage to show differant efficiency. When you stated "Heck, if my mileage can increase by making sure we have the right blend" I thought you were getting it. Obviously you think those that try HHO are nuts, you think my information is made up and that energy in to energy out is constant. Do you work for some petroleum co. or a car manufacturer?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    but to say that cattle shouldn't eat corn puts you way out in left field.

    I am in good company. We have been fed a lot of crap about what is good for us and what is not. You being a dairy farmer should be cognizant of the many misconceptions about fat from cows vs vegetable fats. We were told margarine was better for us than butter, now that is being proved a big lie. There is a difference between a beef cow that grazes with a grain feed in addition. Than one in a feedlot being gorged on corn byproducts to just put on weight in a short time frame. Read some Michael Pollan such as Omnivore's Dilemma. Corn may be the cheapest food, it is not the best for human consumption. Corn ethanol has taken up millions of acres of crop land that were used for good food crops. Raising the price of wheat, Oats, Soy, Cotton, Hops, etc etc.

    Add to that the cost to truck that ethanol crap to CA makes our gas more expensive. You cannot just send it by pipeline. You have to mix it just before it leaves the distribution centers. CORN ETHANOL IS TERRIBLE STUFF. Pushed on US by the Midwestern Big AG Conglomerates. May they all go broke and rot in hell.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    You're missing the forest for the trees. Let me try this again.

    My mileage is down 10%. The ONLY change has been the addition of ethanol to the fuel. What percentage of the fuel is ethanol or whether I have to use it or not is beyond my control.

    My mileage dropped by 10% INSTANTLY, first tank, and has not returned except for the one fillup I was able to make at a non-ethanol station. The mileage immediately dropped back again on ethanol blend.

    It's pretty clear what the cause is. Whether that sits well with ethanol proponents or not is irrelevant.


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  • eliaselias Posts: 2,083
    4ethanol, your thinking appears to be magical, or maybe you are just rationalizing about ethanol maybe due to it making you or your family $? (I'd probably like ethanol-as-fuel lots better if I made some $ from it.)

    Why care if the mpg loss with E10 is 10% or 11% or 9% or 5% or 3% or 2.71828%? It's a scam any way you slice it.

    maybe our new president will recognize the scam and cancel the subsidies/etc?
  • In the last paragraph of this post, pf flyer offered a simple but powerful example of the folly we are engaged in with corn based ethanol. It is so simple a concept that to deny the conclusion is delusional.
    I keep a log in my 4runner and can pinpoint the change in gasoline formulations because I drive pretty conservatively and do the same kind of driving consistently.
    If the price of ethanol were such that the cost were less (without the subsidy, tariff, questionable air pollution issues, farmland, food prices, fertilizer use, engine damage to small/marine engines, and transportation issues) than gasoline, it might be a good thing.
    P.S. Does anyone know if there is an ethanol/global warming forum?
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    A buddy of mine runs a tire store/repair shop and I was hanging out there the other day when a customer came in and was talking about the mileage performance of their Prius. They are one of those Prius owners who are semi-fanatical about maximizing their mileage. Not a full-blown hypermiler, but still VERY attuned to and aware of their mileage. They were getting 52mpg out of their Prius until "the labels saying contains ethanol appeared on the pumps" and their mileage immediately dropped to 42 mpg.

    Gee... that sounds like about a 20% drop. I bet they aren't doing something right or there's something wrong with their car because that ethanol stuff can increase mileage when used properly. :P


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  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    First Wall Street, Then Automakers, Now U.S. Ethanol Industry Wants a Bailout

    "Enough already!"

    That ought to be Washington's response to the Renewable Fuels Association's request this month for $1 billion in financial aid to struggling ethanol producers so they can finance current operations.

    But wait, there's more. The RFA -- the ethanol industry's lobby -- has also suggested to the incoming administration that it create a $50-billion federal loan guarantee program to finance investment in the ethanol producers' expansion.

    And furthermore, the RFA has told Obama & Co. that any automaker that receives federal aid should be required to only produce vehicles that can run on any gas-ethanol blend up to 85 percent ethanol, beginning with the 2010 model season.

    Be sure to read the rest of the story at the Green Car Advisor


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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    Please Uncle Sam give me a bailout. I promise not to piss it all away this time.

    The ethanol industry has been a black mark on the country since it was first pushed 30 years ago. How many times do we have to subsidize this losing corn ethanol scam? The only people that benefited are Big AG like ADM. They con our ignorant Congress into the scheme. It lowers our gas mileage and then they got the nerve to ask the tax payers to bail them out of a business that was never intended to make money.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    The discussion of ethanol is getting to be a lot like the discussion of the effectiveness of HHO kits. Facts no longer seem to matter. We're supposed to go along just because someone thinks it's a good idea :sick:


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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    I think so much more media attention to our trade deficit with countries that are not all that friendly causes a lot of the problem. Everyone is looking for the magic bullet to save US from our supposed gasoline addiction. We are spoiled in this country by cheap fuel. I would not expect any alternative to offer anything as cheap as fossil fuel is right today. Just not likely. As much as I would like a car I could plug in and drive for a penny a mile. That is not going to happen either.
  • Personally it has been great in Fla, hi 70s & low 80s..I pray for more Global Warming...I thought ethanol would solve all problems, but like most left-hand ideas it created more than it solved..If you could look at our Congress folks portfolios of stocks you would understand where they put their money for they possess the "Insider Trading" status.. Called Blind Trusts, it's blind to the voters.

    Since I fed 3 cars, ethanol sucks!!!! The 09 Mustang Bullitt has not seen any ethanol, the 06 S/C Pontiac gets cheap premium gas and high-priced ethanol-laced petrol, and non-ethanol premium..Mileage goes from 18.5 on the cheap premium to 23.5 on the old fashioned gas..The third car is a 4banger XLE Camry which lives on a diet of junk gas and took a dive in mpgs w/ethanol of about 15%..

    At $4.00/gal, the ethanol guys were in hog-heaven, now they are in the slop, and screaming for our left-hand govt for a bailout..

    The chemistry and the benefits of ethanol somehow doesn't enhance my automotive experiences for the I fail to see any pluses on ethanol's behalf..I guess I am too old fashioned to gobble up the hype connected to what's driving this country back to Dark Ages..

    I am long on's at the bottom..Jump aboard and bid up the barrel price so the ethanol guys will stop complaining so Congress will not have to give them more of our taxes..

    Enviromentalists+Lawyers have created this downsizing of our economy based on the assumption of "Saving the Planet"..Who is going to save you folks????

    I am too old to worry about the outcome----remember "Elections have Consequecences". You will find out shortly what it's like to have professional politicians running your life..the ones who have been on the public payroll their entire working life except for the paper route in their early days or maybe a little "Community Organizing " using your tax $$$$$s....

    I got my fill of ethanol in 2000 in Michigan at a small town gas station, a very nice operation with gas prices 5 cents lower than the big city guys. However after filling up 10-15 times and receiving less gas mileage, while I really didn't care, but the car didn't have it's robust performance so I read the little stickers on the pump---low and behold it's ethanol-10%..

    I apologized to the car for this mistreatment...Now it is Mandated---sure makes me feel better??????? Isn't it fun to pay more for much less????? Cars get smaller however we pay more-much more???? Like the new light bulbs, full of mercury, now is that good or bad???? Ask a legal eagle for they used to collect big fees tracing down mercury...Smoking is bad, who cares, it creates taxes--okay, gives the legal eagles more basis for lawsuits based deceptive advertising. I guess smokers can't read..
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    This is just what Ahnold needs. Makes the Hummer look like a toy. Luxury with 6 NBA players able to sit in comfort. What more could you ask in an Urban Cruiser?

    The KNIGHT XV is 240 in length, 98 in width with a ground clearance of 14 and stands at 100. Its wheelbase is 141 and has an armoured curb weight of 10,000 pounds. The vehicle holds 40 gallons of fuel and sits on four, LT40X13.50R20 Mickey Thompson Baja Radial ATZ tires with ballistic run flats.

    Additionally, the KNIGHT XV contains an E-85 Ethanol conversion system (Flex Fuel) with California emission certification, thereby making it certified in all 50 States.


    What more could a tree hugging ethanol proponent ask for??
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,966
    Hm... you don't mention the MPG estimates on this one. I suspect you could get upwards of 7 MPG with a strong tailwind.


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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    I think 7 MPG with E85 would be optimistic. I found it interesting that there are start-ups using the E85 scam to get by the goofy regulations imposed by the EPA and CARB. If it runs on E85 makes no difference how much of it. That is how GM & Ford will get by the new CAFE regulations. A full sized PU getting 12 MPG on E85 gets an equivalent 33 MPG rating from CAFE. I don't think you will see many Conquest vehicles on the road at $310,000 each. CARB gives this behemoth the nod with its gas guzzling V10 engine. I cannot buy a new small PU with a 4 cylinder diesel engine anywhere in the USA.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    Pacific Ethanol to temporarily suspend production

    updated 12:57 p.m. PT, Fri., Jan. 9, 2009

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Pacific Ethanol Inc. on Friday said it plans to temporarily halt production at its 40 million gallon per year ethanol facility located in Madera, Calif., starting Jan. 12, due to extended unfavorable market conditions for ethanol.

    Demand for ethanol has waned amid record-low crude oil prices and weak oil demand.

    Pacific Ethanol produces about 114,000 gallons of ethanol per day and employs about 40 full time employees at the Madera plant. The company said it has temporarily laid off Madera employees and plans to reopen the plant "as soon as market conditions allow" and will bring employees back.

    More bad news for ethanol. Too bad people do not look past their noses. Ethanol history would have told US Corn Ethanol is not going to fly. Now we have more people on unemployment as a result of Government mandates and intervention into business. Will it ever end. Or is it going to continue to get worse?
  • texasestexases Posts: 6,201
    Here's how the disaster that is ethanol is doing right now:
    Ethanol's problems
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    All people had to do is look at the 90+ ethanol stills that were shut down in the 1980s to see this was a poor product. If it cannot make it without subsidies it is not a viable source of energy.

    “The ethanol industry is on its back despite the billions of dollars they have gotten in taxpayer assistance, and a guaranteed market,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy analyst at Rice University.

    The government’s Energy Information Administration recently projected that the industry would fall short of the targets for expanded use of ethanol and other biofuels that Congress set in a 2007 energy law. “It’s possible we may have to look at the targets again,” said Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    VeraSun Energy, one of the nation’s largest ethanol producers, has suspended production at 12 of its 16 plants and is planning to sell production facilities. In recent days Renew Energy, Cascade Grain Products and Northeast Biofuels have filed for bankruptcy protection. Pacific Ethanol said it would suspend operations at its Madera, Calif. plant.
  • texasestexases Posts: 6,201
    On top of that, the excuse used to justity corn-based ethanol, that it's a 'bridge' to other sources of bioethanol, is proving to be a sham:

    "In the meantime, plans are lagging for a new generation of factories that were supposed to produce ethanol from substances like wood chips and crop waste, overcoming the drawbacks of corn ethanol. That nascent branch of the industry concedes it has virtually no chance of meeting Congressional production mandates that kick in next year."
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 29,759
    I think the Congress and President were sipping too much of that Corn Hooch when they mandated ethanol in the 2005 Energy bill. That being a Republican Congress should have known better. Well they lost their jobs by not sticking to core conservative ideals. Now we got an even bigger mess to deal with.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,201
    Ethanol Industry’s 15% Solution Raises Concerns.

    Like we don't have enough annoyance with E10.
    2013 Mazda 5 Grand Touring, 2010 Toyota Prius IV. 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999 Mazda Miata
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,415
    Yea, I love it. The "magic proportion" will somehow get BETTER mileage out of a fuel that has a lower energy density. :sick:


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  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    Seems like our Government want to destroy it's self, they just keep digging the hole deeper.
  • cvs20cvs20 Posts: 14
    I am a Mecahanical Engineer, having specialized in vehicle performance, whether it be economy, crash-worthiness, roll-over, stability, etc. for over 28 years.
    PLEASE believe me when I show the comparison information below:
    1. Consider performance of gasoline as a standard of 1.00 for all the following (100% if you like)
    2. Ethanol has a heating value between 0.65 and 0.75 that of "gasoline" (for those who care heating value measures useable ENERGY content), but that also translates into an efficiency of 65% to 75% that of gasoline. Alcohol won't GO as far given the same volume, PERIOD. It's a fact of chemistry, and is not subject to legislation or wishes.
    3. A ROUGH idea of the fuel mileage of e85 (containing 85% ethanol and (maybe) 15% gasoline) can be roughly calculated according to:
    E85 mileage = 0.15 x 100% + 0.85 x 75% = 0.745, or a mileage value 74.5% that of gasoline (that is, 25.5% reduction in distance covered per gallon of E85.
    4. Bear in mind that the above is close to a "high" estimate, since alcohol absorbs water, which cools the combustion flame resulting in lower values.
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