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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol

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  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,832
    If the ONLY reason you see for using ethanol is getting a better mileage (that´s at least what´s being inferred from your post) then you did not understand a thing about the benefits of ethanol.

    What I keep hearing is that the reason we're using ethanol is to reduce our dependence on oil. I already KNOW it does nothing but reduce mileage performance by an amount that guarantees no reduction in our use of or need for oil.

    I've asked it before and I'll ask it again, what's the benefit of this nonsense? Green at ANY cost? (And it isn't even all that green)

    I have a solid year of experience with ethanol now and the only thing it's proved to me is that a lot of subsidy money has been wasted. But that's not a big change for the folks in DC is it? :sick:

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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,133
    I cannot imagine anyone being for Corn Ethanol, unless it is feeding their family. It is corporate welfare for Big AG & companies like ADM and Verasun. And we the tax payers are paying at the pump and on April 15th. We lose tax dollars and mileage with Corn Ethanol. "Stop the Ethanol nonsense NOW" should be a grass roots movement.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,330
    I don't think labeling corn ethanol proponents as part of any green movement is accurate.

    I am certainly pretty green by thinking and this boondoggle is about as bad as it gets from an environmental standpoint. It's corporate welfare. It has nothing to do with environmental concerns.
    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: 7,832
    If the ethanol proponents (switch grass, corn or sugar cane based) aren't part of any green movement then you can color me really confused. :surprise:

    The entire push seems to be part of this "green at ANY cost" attitude that's developed. Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT for wasting energy or pro-pollution, but the idea that we have to DO something immediately or we're all gonna die isn't the way to approach things.

    The "corporate welfare" is a political issue that I'm ignoring because it winds up distracting us from the point that the ONE thing ethanol is touted as doing, reducing dependence on oil, is the one thing I know for a fact it doesn't do.

    There's a lot of "bad science" out there that's accepted as general wisdom simply because it's repeated and parroted endlessly.

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  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    If the ethanol proponents (switch grass, corn or sugar cane based) aren't part of any green movement then you can color me really confused.

    I believe the “ethanol equals green myth” is marketing that grew out of the fact that ethanol was the least of two evils that is used to replace MTBE in gasoline. (I think MTBE is correct). I assume the EPA and greenies were in favor of it only because MTBE was more harmful than ethanol and it sounded good at the time. I’m sure neither the EPA nor the greenies had any idea of the unintended consequences or the sheer volume of land, corn and resources required to meet these needs.

    Then you have the big AG’s and politicians promoting ethanol even farther and it has now grown closer to being an environmental disaster than the salvation it was intended to be.
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,804
    I will go so far as to separate the farm lobby-based corn ethanol scam lobby from the others. The switch grass/cellulosic ethanol boosters have a point, if the technology can be made to economically work, and witness Exxon's recent $600million plunge into fuels from algae.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,832
    Ignoring what it's made from, I don't see ethanol as a solution to anything regarding reducing dependence on oil. And the idea that adding more than 10% ethanol to gasoline is somehow going to make things better boggles the mind.

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  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,832
    Wowie zowie... deformed watermelons as a source for ethanol.

    Just Eat It

    Food isn't fuel

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  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576
    I agree!

    Adding 10% ethanol = poorer mileage.

    Add in all the equipment (using energy) to produce that ethanol and the net effect could be we actually burn more dino fuel.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,832
    Given that ethanol HAS to be trucked around and can't be sent trough pipelines, I'm certain it's a net negative as far as reducing consumption of oil/gas is concerned.

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  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576
    Yep!

    Considering:

    tractors tilling the ground and planting the seed

    Power to irrigate the fields

    Tractors harvesting the crop

    transporting the crop by truck

    energy to convert the crop into ethanol

    trucking the ethanol to a facility to "mix" the ethanol with dino fuel

    poorer mileage from the finished product

    A lot of dino fuel is burned just to get 10% ready for our fuel tanks.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,133
    Forbes Magazine dated September 07, 2009
    If the U.S. insists on getting motor fuel from crops, it should think about putting them closer to the equator.

    Corn ethanol swallows tax subsidies, jacks up food prices and doesn't do much to reduce the world's carbon footprint. So what does one say about the newest contender in the biofuels industry, sweet sorghum? Perhaps the most compelling sales pitch that can be offered about it is this: It's no worse than the alternative.

    Federal law mandates that by 2012 gasoline refiners use at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel a year. If agribusiness executive Vikram Shroff has his way, sorghum will get a significant share of this market. Shroff runs United Phosphorus, an Indian firm founded by his father that sells sorghum seeds, as well as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals. He says many American farmers looking for a piece of the biofuels market should try growing sorghum along with sugarcane on their land.

    A sorghum-sugarcane mix, says Shroff, can yield double the ethanol per acre of land as corn, uses less fertilizer and doesn't raise food prices (not directly, anyway). Persuading farmers in the southern U.S. to give his fuel-producing plant a try would give his firm a nice boost but not have a huge impact.


    How much will spend to save on foreign oil?
  • gogogodzillagogogodzilla VirginiaPosts: 707
    What I don't understand is that if the only reason we're using ethanol is to rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil...

    ...then why aren't we building coal-gasification plants. Both the US and China have the world's largest supplies of coal. So if we convert it to gasoline, then we have rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil...

    ...saved the midwest aquifer, saved the Gulf of Mexico from the deadly algae plumes caused by the nitrogen-based fertilizer runoff coming out the Mississippi, reduced the chances of global famine, etc, etc, etc.

    Well, I guess environmentalists would say that it's good for the earth to kill off the sealife in the Gulf of Mexico, plow under wildlands for corn, and starve the poorest people on earth.

    Oh happy day! :cry:
  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576
    >"What I don't understand is that if the only reason we're using ethanol is to rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil... "

    During the 2nd world war, a great deal of Germany's war machinery ran on "Liquified Coal". The technology has been around for quite a while.
    As you pointed out, we have plenty of it.

    We have huge deposits of light crude under the north mid-western states. Supposably larger than several of the "Oil Producing" countries combined. Also huge deposits of Natural gas in this region.

    Another huge deposit of crude and NG under ANWR.

    Huge deposits of oil shale in the Rocky Mountains.
    NOTE: FWIW, we get a lot of our oil from Canada. The main source of that oil is from OIL SHALE.

    That $700 billion, we are sending out of the country every year could supply a lot of good jobs here. Also stimulate the economy in a big way. Why can't the unions see and understand that and back someone that would actually help them

    Before he left office, President Bush lifted the Ban on California's offshore drilling. California is in serious financial trouble, and could probably drill their way out of debt. Yet they don't. WHY!

    I believe there is something going on bigger than we understand. Something to do with the ONE WORLD ORDER.

    President Obama promised the UAW that their jobs would return if he was elected, but they have not and most likely will not.

    Oldsmobile division of GM went away. Then Pontiac, and Hummer, and now recently announced Saturn. How many UAW jobs has that cost? No telling what type of death grip the FEDS have on GM and Chrysler. "Cap and Trade" will punish companies and force many out of business or out of country and raise the cost of living as even more jobs go away.

    In spite of all the promises that were made, It seems our government is setting this country up to fail. WHY?

    If we are honest in our thinking, we will realize that 535 people are responsible for the mess this country is in. They are the members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the US Supreme Court. Any President can do little without the support of those 535. The corruption and greed and entitlement mind set is running rampant. Every time the administration changes, the other side has all kind of good ideas of how things could be made better. WELL?
    Why didn't they make them better when they were in control?

    "WE THE PEOPLE" keep those 535 in office and on the bench. So we share a great deal of the blame. Just as many believe the UAW is responsible for the D3 failures, "We the People" have our share of greed also, contributing to the failure of this country.

    Kip
  • berriberri Posts: 7,862
    My fear is that Wsashington ups the ethanol content in regualr gasoline to 15 or 20% as a payoff to the midwest agricultural lobby in exchange for cap and trade although ironically that will hurt the midwest and east the most. If ethanol is going to work its got to stop being a poltical game and dump expensive corn (including the collateral effects of upping the cost of food) and start using grasses and sugar cane like Brazil (but the sugar lobby will not allow that). As for cap and trade, if Warren Buffet says its a dumb idea, I'll take his opinion over 535 baffoons in the capitol.
  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 10,427
    I usually buy whatever brand of gas that's cheaper but recently something happened to change my mind.

    When I bought the "no-name" brand I got 23mpg but when I bought a name brand (Mobil) I got 25mpg. Both stations have the sign that says "contains 10% ethanol". Someone suggested that the name brand had less ethanol and thus the milage was better.

    Is there any way to find out if different brands of gas contain less than the permitted 10%?

    2015 Mustang GT, 2009 PT Cruiser, 2004 Chevy Van

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,133
    I would love to know which has the least ethanol. I am traveling the USA right now. When I gassed up in Nevada at Shell my mileage on the Sequoia went up just over 3 MPG from the crap gas we get in CA. I ran gas from Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota all with better mileage. The first tank I got in Minnesota the mileage dropped back to 15 MPG. In South Dakota they charge a few cents more for unleaded without ethanol. It was only 85 octane and gave my best mileage on the trip so far at 19.73 MPG. So ethanol is the product that steals from US in so many ways.
  • Germany's WW II machinery was dependent upon “liquefied fuels from coal” for transportation. Germany had neither sufficient oil reserves nor sufficiently advanced alternatives to petroleum to wage a prolonged war. Once the Allies destroyed Germany’s oil infrastructure, Germany lost the war.

    During WW II America was the world’s largest oil producer. Today America is at a strategic disadvantage, which off shore drilling and oil shale reserves cannot reverse. North America has just 3% of the world’s oil reserves, yet America alone has grown to use 25% of the world's annual oil production, 70% of which must be imported from other countries.

    80% of the world's oils supply is controlled by OPEC, Russia, African Nations and Venezuela. The interests of these nations do not align with America or democracies in general. Our NATIONAL SECURITY and ECONOMY have more to fear from these countries controlling our energy future than we do from Midwestern farmers, ethanol producers, alternative fuels or even the gang on Capitol Hill.

    Dr. Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer , Senior Scholar to the www.setamericafree.org coalition and author of ENERGY VICTORY www.energyvictory.net/ sees alternative fuels such as alcohol as part of a plan to break the economic stranglehold the OPEC cartel has over America and the world. “Alcohol fuels” does not mean only ethanol. Ethanol does not mean only ethanol derived solely from corn.

    Dr. Zubrin explains "Coal can easily be made into methanol, which is why we need the FLEX FUEL MANDATE to include compatibility with methanol as well as ethanol and gasoline as part of the capability of the flex fuel engine.”

    “Making coal into gasoline is more involved. First you turn it into methanol, then you turn the methanol into dimethyl ether (DME), then you turn the DME into propylene which you can turn into gasoline. It can be done, but it is expensive. “

    “That's why we need a methanol-inclusive flex-fuel mandate, as it will make it possible for us to readily use our coal to make vehicle fuel. In China right now they are making methanol compatible Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFV), and they are producing methanol from coal at a cost of $0.50/gallon, and selling it for $1/gallon. Methanol has about 55% the energy/gallon as gasoline, so that is equivalent to selling gasoline at about $1.90/gallon.”

    The OPEN FUEL STANDARD BILL (S.835 & HR.1476) now before Congress puts America on a path toward FUEL CHOICE similar to what Brazil has accomplished. The establishment of specific percentage of new cars by target dates offering flex fuel compatibility does not mean any individual MUST RUN the car on anything other than gasoline (as so many people on this blog worry about), it just means you could if you want to use a fuel less expensive than gasoline or American transportation would be able to continue in the event of another oil embargo, Iran’s threatened closing of the Strait of Hormuz, hurricanes closing oil facilities in Louisiana or Texas as has repeatedly happened or an act of terror at the Saudi oil facilities or American pipelines.

    It’s time to END CONGRESS’S MANDATE AMERICAN TRANSPORTATION RUN ON 70% FOREIGN OIL.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    I think the only thing you can do is to test the gas yourself. I have done this and found that nearly all are very close to the 10%. So far, I haven't found one over 10%. I found one BP station that was about 7%, so I stop there when I can. I used a Chevron station not on my usual route last night and the mileage appears to be the best I've ever gotten, but I didn't have my fuel tester with me.

    The ethanol testers I see are less than $10-15. I got mine on ebay, but I think you might find them for sale at small airports too - as the FAA does not allow ethanol in aviation fuel. The main disadvantage of these test tube testers is that the opening is so narrow that its easy to spill gasoline all over your hands. You have to improvise a way to pour the gas into the tube without going over the fill line and spilling gas all over yourself.
  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576
    I filled with Shell 87 octane a few months ago and noticed a 2-3 mpg increase in mileage on that tank. Thought it might be a fluke so did it again with the same result. I've been using Shell ever since and the better MPG is staying there.

    The tank says "Up to 10% ethanol with regular grade gas". Don't know exactly how to take that, but mileage is definitely UP with the Shell.

    The Shell cost $0.05 a gallon more than what we have been using for years, But the 8%-10% increase in mileage results in less cost to use the Shell. I've also heard of better mileage with Chevron and BP, but haven't tried them.

    Kip
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,133
    I am in Evansville Indiana all this week. Found a Shell selling RUG for $2.29. With the Shell card you get 5% discount on gas. So at $2.18 per gallon that is the cheapest gas on this trip thus far. The pump does have the up to 10% ethanol sticker. My best mileage is still with Conoco No ethanol added 85 octane. Only available in So Dakota so far. It is still hard to believe that people can be persuaded that we are saving any money on foreign oil using ethanol. What a scam ADM has pulled on Congress and the tax payers.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    The presence or absence of a sticker on the pump may not mean much in some states. Here in MD, the stations are not required to label their pumps with the ethanol content. Most do, and the most common is the one reading "may contain up to 10% ethanol" - but I have found 10% ethanol from pumps with no ethanol content sticker on them.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,133
    In South Dakota they sell 85 octane unleaded for more than their 87 octane ethanol laced unleaded. The claim by the gas station attendant is unleaded without ethanol is more expensive. Which I believe as there is more than a dollar per gallon subsidy on ethanol.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    In addition to the subsidy, I think the market would allow a higher price for undiluted fuel. I would certainly pay more for it. My only concern would be the low octane rating. Ethanol-free fuel is a boon for boaters in particular - but many marine outboard manufacturers specify 87 octane. I'd still try it in my car and boat, regardless of the lower octane, and wish it was available here.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,133
    I don't think the 85 octane makes much difference. I still cruised along at 75-80 MPH across the state and got 19.73 MPG for 256 miles on that tank of gas. Driving mostly 60-65 MPH in MN on their nasty E10 my mileage dropped to 15.47 MPG. No one will convince me that ethanol is a viable alternative to fossil fuel. Corn is for making Tortillas not gas.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    I just checked the Conoco/Phillips site and there are no stations in MD. But their station finder could be potentially useful to ethanol-free trip planning:

    http://www.drivesavvy.com/sitelocator/usstorelocator.aspx

    I have an upcoming road trip to TN to visit colleges for my youngest, so I'll be looking for ethanol-free for that trip. Anyone know of ethanol-free around Knoxville and Nashville?
  • gogogodzillagogogodzilla VirginiaPosts: 707
    Shell also puts detergents into their gasoline, so it helps clean out the engine.

    Maybe that tank of Shell gasoline scrubbed some sludge out of your engine?
  • bassprobasspro Posts: 34
    The big issue I have is Phase separation with the added ethanol and having to add additive to protect my fuel system. Hopefully before it is used nation wide and at even higher percentages,the corrosion issue can be addressed. It is a serious issue and especially for boats and long storage of fuel.
  • Gasoline with detergent can't scrub sludge out of an engine's oiling system, but it can melt carbon deposits on the valve stems and reduce carbon clogging in injectors and the combustion chamber. Both improve ignition. Particularly with lower octane fuels.
    When the carbon builds up in the combustion chamber it increases the effective
    compression ratio and reduces the strength of the power stroke, thus reducing
    horsepower and MPG.
    Sludge is coked oil that is reducing the lubricating abilities of you oiling system
    which also causes loss of horsepower and/or gas mileage due to friction.
    Soberguy.
    P.S. What exactly does ethanol do to an engine. Why is it bad?
    P.P.S. I also use Shell gasoline when I can get it. On rare occasions I can find
    Sinclair 93 octane. Which seems to kick [non-permissible content removed].
  • gogogodzillagogogodzilla VirginiaPosts: 707
    Well, there you go!

    I knew the detergent cleaned the engine, but wasn't too sure how it was done.

    Thanks for the information.

    :)
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