5 Common Ethanol Myths Exposed – as Crap!


Fact or Crap is a fairly popular board game that pitches itself as an “edgy” version of Trivial Pursuit.  If you like trivia and enjoy saying that something “is crap”, then, you’ll probably enjoy it … and – as regular readers have probably guessed by now – I love it!  So, when I saw the Argonne National Laboratory issued a report last week that attacked 5 of the most common myths about ethanol and bio-fuels (myths which, it should be noted, have been posted as “rebuttals” to several articles by different commenters) I was only too happy to share them here with you.

Myth No. 1
Ethanol Require More Energy to Produce than it Yields (is not “net-positive”)

Argonne’s research has shown that corn ethanol delivers a positive energy balance of 8.8 megajoules per liter, and that cellulosic ethanol has a potential net yield nearly 600 % than that of corn.

Myth No. 2
Ethanol Production Reduces Food Supply

Most of the people who maintain this view don’t understand how ethanol is produced, or else they have ulterior political agendas / strong profit motivations to steer people away from ethanol.  Despite the obviousness of these motives, though, people seem to keep chanting their ridiculous “No Food for Fuel” mantras – without realizing that only 1 % of all corn grown in the US is eaten by humans (if that).  The vast, sweeping majority is “No. 2 yellow field corn”, which (per the study) humans cannot eat, and which is used as animal feed/food supplements, and (you guessed it) ethanol production.

Argonne goes on to state that 1 bushel of corn used for ethanol also produces 1.5 lbs. of corn oil, 17.5 lbs. of high-protein animal feed (called DDGS), and 2.6 lbs. of corn meal.  To reiterate:  that is in addition to the 2.8 gallons of ethanol produced.

Despite this, it has been difficult to sway people from their “food-versus-fuel” debates long enough to get them into library or science museums – which is OK, since those debates have pushed significant research into developing next-generation biofuels that do not use “food like” crops.  Camelina, switchgrass, and algea-based fuels are just a few examples of this.

Myth No. 3
Ethanol Production Emits More Greenhouse Gas than Gasoline

Back in 1996, the EPA analyzed various sources of air pollution and confirmed that petroleum-fuelled vehicles (including busses, over-the-road trucks, and non-road equipment) are the largest contributors to hazardous air pollutants.  Further studies published in 2010 revealed that vehicles powered by ethanol produced 30 % fewer carbon emissions and 50% less tailpipe particulate matter. And blending ethanol with gasoline (as in E15 and E85) dramatically reduces carbon monoxide tailpipe emissions and tailpipe emissions of volatile organic compounds that form ozone – all while doubling as a high-octane performance fuel.

Myth No. 4
Ethanol Production Requires Too Much Water

Producing one gallon of ethanol requires approximately 3.5 gallons of water, which is more than it takes to process a gallon of gasoline.  In either case (gasoline vs. ethanol), however, that water doesn’t just disappear – it goes back into the ground and, eventually, into the water table … and there is where the big differences begin to appear.

Simply, water that is used in the ethanol process begins as water and goes into the ground as just that:  water.  It’s not carcinogenic, polluted, or harmfully “contaminated”.

The water used in oil extraction?  That water mixes with fine particles and bitumen until it becomes a sort of “slurry”, which (according to Alberta Environment, a government organization which oversees Canadian oil production in the Alberta province) takes “several years to settle into a yogurt-like goop – the technical term is ‘mature fine tailings’ – that is contaminated with toxic chemicals such as naphthenic acid and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and would take centuries to dry out on its own.”

Argonne’s study speculates that much of the criticism surrounding ethanol’s water requirements stem from the perceived (read:  imagined) need to irrigate corn in drier climates.  The majority of ethanol, however, is produced from rain-fed crops grown in the Midwest.

Myth No. 5
Cars Get Lower Gas Mileage on Ethanol

On the surface, this isn’t crap – it’s fact.  Completely burning 1 gallon of gasoline and 1 gallon of E85 will net 25% less energy from the E85.  Here’s the thing that most people miss,  however:  internal combustion engines do not burn 100% of the gasoline you put into them.

I know I’m going to get static from this from the conservative comment-bots, so I’ll quote Wikipedia (as a neutral source) on these points, directly …

Modern gasoline engines have an average efficiency of about 18% to 20% when used to power a car. In other words, of the total heat energy of gasoline, about 80% is ejected as heat from the exhaust, as mechanical sound energy, or consumed by the motor (friction, air turbulence, heat through the cylinder walls or cylinder head, and work used to turn engine equipment and appliances such as water and oil pumps and electrical generator), and only about 20% of the fuel energy moves the vehicle.

The article goes on to mention ways to improve an engine’s overall efficiency …

The efficiency depends on several factors, one of which is the compression ratio. Most gasoline engines have a ratio of 10:1 (premium fuel) or 9:1 (regular fuel), with some high performance engines reaching a ratio of 12:1 with special fuels. The greater the ratio the more efficient is the machine. Higher ratio engines need gasoline with higher octane value, which inhibits the fuel’s tendency to burn nearly instantaneously (known as detonation or knock) at high compression/high heat conditions.

Today, carmakers are turning to smaller engines equipped with turbochargers to help cars extract more horsepower (and, therefore, motive force) out of smaller engines – and “more from less” is the very definition of improved efficiency.  Here’s the thing with turbochargers, though:  they work by compressing air into an engine’s combustion chamber at greater than atmospheric pressures, in a bid to get more of that gasoline to burn (by combining it with more oxygen which is, you know, how stuff burns).

At the moment, these turbochargers are limited in the amount of overall compression they can provide – and they’re limited by gasoline, which has (depending on where you live) an upper octane rating of 91-94 PON (equivalent to 95-98 RON).  Ethanol’s octane rating?  The great state of Texas rates conventional E85’s octane rating at 113 – significantly higher, even, than VP109 motorsports fuel (a fact already being exploited by high-performance tuning firms like Switzer Performance and Dyno-Comp).

So, yeah – in your car ethanol might get you 25% less energy … but in a high-boost turbo car like the Chevy Cruze or the tiny new Ford EcoBoost 3-cylinders?  Optimized to run ethanol-specific software?  That ethanol will burn cleaner, last longer, and make more power – making “No. 5” crap, too.

There you have it, people.  5 common “Ethanol bad!” myths that have been thoroughly de-bunked.  Copy/paste onto your Facebook, share with your friends, and troll the climate-change deniers wherever possible.

Sources:  Argonne National Laboratory (via Autopia),  Alberta Environment, National Geographic, VP Drag Racing Fuels, etc.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
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  • Nice article. I’ve been saying for some time that I think ethanol isn’t the demon that science-illiterates from BOTH sides of the aisle proclaim it to be. Frankly, I’m for anything that helps starve the terrorists.

    One other point I would make is that even if ethanol were a net negative (but your Myth 1 points out it is NOT), it is a much higher quality energy product than the coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels used to produce it. That alone has its value.

  • It is apparent you know little to nothing about ethanol. Check your facts. Oil company propaganda and oil money do not let truth get in the way of their hatred for ethanol.

  • Ethanol can’t be made without the support of oil. That is the problem with ethanol.

    • Ethanol can’t be made without the support of oil? What does that mean? Care to back that up? Links?

      • I don’t think this one is that complex,Jo…what kind of fuel do ag tractors run on? What is the feedstock for all modern fertilizers?

        • The point is tractors don’t have to be run on oil. There are other alternatives.

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  • Does anyone know what the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) is for ethanol?

    • According to Argonne, it’s net positive, so – one would think – as long as it’s more than the energy required to put in, it would go well beyond being a viable source.

  • In before the Trolls!!

    I can predict that this thread will be epically flooded with right wing nutters as it gets linked to by right wing web sites.

    The other thing I can predict is that no matter what, they will not let trivial things like FACTS get in the way of them still calling ethanol crap.

    No matter what they say, this report destroys the arguments they’ve been making for years. Thank you very much Argonne!!

    • LOL! I hope you’re wrong about the nutters, but experience tells me that you’re right. Why do they even read this blog, anyway!?

    • It’s mostly left-wing nutters that object to ethanol, on environmental grounds. What the right-wing nutters generally say is that the ethanol industry should stand on its own and not receive subsidies.
      Ethanol represents a very possible solution to replace fossil fuels.
      It shouldn’t be abandoned now, when there are so many promising sources for ethanol, like algae, garbage, landfill methanol, sugar cane, sweet sourgum, switchgrass, etc.

      • I agree with the Right on that front: ethanol SHOULD stand on its own, and SO SHOULD OIL … and I mean it!

        No more tax breaks or subsidies for oil companies, and ZERO military protection at taxpayer expense. They want cheap oil? Let them send THEIR lucky-sperm-club brood to fight and die for it.

    • BG

      Ethanol is a useful alternative fuel, but there are so many better ways to produce a better liquid fuel it is a shame the US has gone down this route; particularly using corn as the sugar source.

      The article discusses cellulosic ethanol, but the technology for making sugar from the cellulose is stll not yet economically feasible — although coming. When it is, it will be far better to feed the sugar to algae to make oil (much less oxidized compared to ethanol), or to bacterial that can produce a form of oil directly, or in a direct catalytic conversion to oils.

      The problem with the use of water to produce ethanol is not so much that it can be recycled, but the huge amounts of energy needed to separate ethanol from that water. Oil production, depending on the process, also requires lots of water, but oil separates from water! So it is easier to isolate. Oils also can be processed using current refinery technologies along with fossil fuel-derived oil.

      Ethanol has its uses, but really needs to be considered as a stepping stone to other technology combinations, solar, hydro, nuclear and cellulosic biofuels to move the world forward on energy and carbon/greenhouse issues.

      • Oil does separate from water, but that is mind-numbing oversimplification (literally, I almost blacked out trying to parse the insanity on this one).

        By your logic, we shouldn’t worry about crude oil in the oceans or in our water tables because “water separates from oil”. So, I propose you mix a few teaspoons of 10W-30 into your coffee every morning for a few weeks and let me know how that works out for you.

        (note: the above suggestion is sarcasm. Do not actually do it – and yes, I fear you might – you will die, and I do not need your death on my conscience)

  • yes… I’m convinced…..

    … let’s clear more of the Amazon to grow monocultured corn or switchgrass… (preferably genmodded Monsanto patented round-up-ready crops)

    algae based sounds better though … as long as it is sea based….

  • Rubbish. Care to tell who paid to write this drivel? ADM or someone else?

    Next you’ll be telling us HFCS…er…uh…”corn sugar” (sorry) is good for you!

    • Feel free to post any articles or scientific journal entries which contradict Argonne’s findings here in the comments.

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  • I think in #2 you ignore the effect of using acreage for fuel crop corn at the expense of, say, soy. Crop plantings of other foods are down significantly at the expense of corn.
    As to the secondary usage of the byproduct as feed, the stripping of the germ lowers the nutritional value of the product. The recombined product can only be used for a portion of diet. See the work of Lou Armentano at UW-Madison for some interesting studies.

    • Well-reasoned, but it would seem to me that the rotation of corn and soy (common, if not mandated by “laws of nature” for lack of a better term) would neutralize the effect on soy supply/ crop variety you’re describing?

      In any case, the future of ethanol isn’t corn.

      • Soy is a rotation crop, but wheat is not. Wheat has doubled in price since 2005. Part of the reason for the increase is the drop in wheat acreage planted. Yearly wheat acreage has dropped 9 million over the last decade ~(60 to 51), while corn is up about the same amount ~(79 to 88).
        It is hard not to look at those numbers and see a direct relationship between increased corn acres, decreased wheat acres, and increased wheat prices.
        I do note there are other causes of commodity price movements, and weather can have a big effect on yield. However, if it isn’t planted, it can’t be sold.

  • It appears that number three isn’t actually addressing the myth. The myth focuses on the production of ethanol from corn not necessarily the tailpipe emissions associated with it. I think the issue (which is hard to track) is referring to the lifetime emissions associated with the fuel used to grow the corn (petroleum-based fertilizer) as well as the energy required to refine the corn into usable fuel. The argument I have heard (not actually seen proven I should add) is that corn takes more energy to grow and refine than other possible solutions (such as algae-based) and thus should not be the focus of our energy production because the life-cycle energy return isn’t great enough. I suppose petroleum is tough to beat because the production (aka extraction) of it has historically been pretty cheap (although this is the argument against tar-sands as well).

    • Very well said. I agree with you that No. 3 was, perhaps, not taking “emissions” in the correct context, but (and this is the key thing) when THE TYPICAL AMERICAN VOTER reads “ethanol emissions higher than expected” their minds jump straight to tailpipe emissions.

      The idea here, then, is to preach to those that need conversion – not those who are already eye-balling algae and camelina-based fuels.

  • Is anyone factoring in the oil used to transport crude from the other side of the world.Is anyone factoring in the milatary cost to keep oil flowing out of the middle east?If all of the flex fuel car owners would use e 85 even twice a month the price of gas would drop for everyone and billions of dollars would stay in our country.

  • Your article (re. Argonne’s study) ignored the real criticism I have of ethanol – cost. The Feds subsidize production of ethanol based fuels to the tune of a $1.00/gallon of ethanol. If the consumer were paying this cost, the cost of E-fuels would be higher than strictly petroleum-based fuels. As these subsidies go away, we will find out how desirable it is to run fuels which cost more than gasoline and have the potential to damage some older engines.

  • Argonne’s research, and by extension, your article, ignores my only objection to ethanol – the $1.00 per gallon subsidy associated with the production of alcohol, which comes directly from the federal government. This would put the cost of ethanol-based fuels above that of petroleum-based fuels. As far as petroleum subsidizes go, the only subsidies that oil producers receive are reinvestment tax breaks, which every other company of all shapes and sizes receive. If you want to eliminate “oil-subsidies”, eliminate them all (you get to deal with the economic effects…).

    • Steve, you are dead-wrong on this. I’m opposed to gov’t subsidies as well, and would like to see gas and ethanol “duke it out” in a free-market, but you’re just wrong about the US gov’t subsidies re. oil – and I’ll point out a HUGE gov’t bill that acts directly to keep American oil prices artificially low: THE MILITARY.

      Billions and billions spent EVERY DAY, billions in foreign aid going to Egypt and other oil producers, billions spent in Israel keeping “stability” in the region, billions spent bribing the Saudis to keep airbases in the region, billions spent keeping US troops in the gulf, etc., etc.

      THAT, dear friend, is a subsidy, even the checks aren’t written directly to BP/Amoco.

  • I have some comments:

    #2 – anything that uses land that could be used to grow food crops is “food for fuel”. That’s one of the reasons suburbs are bad too, since in some areas they are built on once fertile farmland.

    #4 – if you think the runoff from a farm is just water you need to do more research. The fertilizers (the production of which is energy & petroleum intensive, by the way, which is where most of the negative energy argument comes from) do terrible things to the bodies of water they run into. I invite you to stir a teaspoon of commercial fertilizer into YOUR coffee & see where it gets you. Just sayin’.

    #5 – the turbos are limited by more than gasoline, they are limited by the materials used in an engine. Programing can adapt to take advantage of ethanol somewhat, but most engines would need much stronger (more expensive internals) than they are currently built with. Not only that, but non-boosted engines are still the vast majority on the roads. And, all of those things that make up the 80% lost (heat from the exhaust, mechanical sound energy, or friction & drivetrain losses) in an internal combustion engine still apply when using ethanol.

  • To start out with, I have a significant pro-environmental approach to nearly everything I do, and I drool over data to help me determine what that means on many decisions (and I’ve had my reservation on a leaf since day 1, and I read your blog frequently). With that said, I traditionally have believed that ethanol either does not offer net positive return (not just energy, but taking other factors and externalities into account) or it’s benefits are marginal, and cannot be scaled up enough to have a significant impact.

    Responding specifically to parts of your post, #1 is news to me, though I have not read or sought out what the latest state of the art was. My understanding was that years ago it was not a net positive, but even then I understood that economies of scale could improve that. Still, the figures in #1 are meaningless without more context, it should be expressed in percentage/factor terms. I don’t know how much 8.8 megajoules. 110% energy return is not significant, 200% would be.

    Ethanol absolutely competes with food costs/supply (as others have commented on). Do you think all of the land that produces No. 2 field corn was just sitting idle and contributing nothing to food or environment before? You even concede that it is used for animal feed and food processing. Do you think taking millions of bushels off the market does not affect the cost of meat. Just because the immediate product of No. 2 field corn cannot be used for human consumption does not mean it does not impact the quantity and cost of downstream food products.

    To me, the broader issue in looking at any potential solution for better fuels is to understand if it can scale or pivot in some way in the future to be a global solution. My understanding for ethanol, is that if we try to replace all gasoline today with ethanol, it would take more arable surface area of the earth than we have (even if cellulosic ethanol meets its claims)

    Further, even if ethanol does have benefits today, there is much more interesting and promising technology that has greater short and long-term benefits (primarily batter and capacitor technology). So there is an opportunity cost of focusing ethanol as a solution, and I would rather see the energy (no pun intended) spent on other approaches.

    Separately, your comments continually imply that only if gasoline’s externalities (e.g. war costs, foreign affairs) were taken into account, then ethanol would shine. While perhaps true, this line of reasoning could call into question many of our societal trade-offs, like coal vs nuclear (or rather coal vs anything). As a pragmatist it’s irrelevant, these externalities exist and are not likely to change, so our choice of alternatives need to assume they exist.

    I think increasing the speed of vehicle electrification is a more promising route than ethanol. The speed of advances in the lab, and engineering, the level of investment from a number of industries (not just automotive), and the environmental benefits make it a more compelling and promising approach to rid ourselves of oil. I’ve seen figures that even with electricity from coal fired power plants, electric cars are far cleaner than other vehicles on the road today, mostly because of the energy efficiency figure you cite about internal combustion engines. Also, switching from millions of small point sources, to only hundreds of utility scale generating plants it becomes easier to switch out dirty sources for clean ones without changing the transportation infrastructure (witness issues with ethanol itself, diesel grades, CNG, hydrogen, etc.).

    • @ Micheal Cameron

      The one thing you must learn about studies is that they can never be trusted. It is pretty easy to get a study to say what you want, as long as you ask the right questions.

      I think what you are really missing is the fact that oil will be around for many decades to come, and that ethanol blending takes a significant chunk out of how much crude must be mined. I don’t see America running solely on ethanol, but I think it can play a very important role in lessening our reliance on oil. There are methods of manufacturing ethanol available, today, that do not require anything but junk biomass to convert into usable fuel. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

      There will not be one major technology that unseats oil, but rather death from a thousand cuts. Ethanol has its place, as do electric cars, hydrogen vehicles, and any other form of fuel that isn’t oil.

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  • Excuse me! ” internal combustion engines do not burn 100% of the gasoline you put into them” Is incorrect. The real number is 99.99% or better for modern engines., which is very close to 100%. The amount not burned is measured in smog tests and is very, very low to sometimes zero for newer cars.

    What you mean to say is that engines are not 100% efficient, which is an entirely different thing.

    Part of the efficiency is how the fuel is burned. In my vehicle, E10 (normal 10% ethanol in gasoline) gets 20.8 mpg at 70mph. Pure gas (zero ethanol) gets 24.8 mpg at 70mph. For a 500 mile trip, I will use 24.0 gallons of E10 or 20.2 gallons of pure gas. When you do the math, you will find that E10 causes my vehicle to use 1.6 gallons more oil-based petroleum in addition to the 2.4 gallons of ethanol. The reason that ethanol contaminates gasoline is that it absorbs water from the air and interferes with the combustion process, it also rusts the engine over time. One could theoretically make an efficient engine to run on ethanol, but that is not what we have.

    Today, I paid $3.399 for pure gas at a station in Oklahoma. That 500 mile trip would cost $68.66. If I had used gasoline contaminated with ethanol, it would have cost $3.269/gal resulting in a trip cost of $78.46. Not only is ethanol a contaminate and reduces fuel mileage, but it is more expensive per mile than pure gas, even though pure gas is priced a little higher per gallon.

    There are a few places to buy pure gas. Pure-gas.org has a list.

  • Excuse me! “No. 2 yellow field corn”, which (per the study) humans cannot eat, and which is used as animal feed/food supplements” is incorrect. My family has owned a farm for 140 years, field corn is rotated through regularly. Field corn is great roasted, made into hominy, and it is the primary kind of corn used to make corn meal for everything from cornbread, corn chips, and tortillas. I personally have 50 lbs of field corn in my pantry that we grind into corn meal as needed. Many corn processed products, such as corn syrup and corn oil are made from field corn. It is also a major feed for chickens, pigs and cows, which end up being eaten by humans. Furthermore, not only does ethanol compete directly for corn, but it competes for land production with other crops, including wheat, soybeans, and hay, driving the prices of all of them up.

    Your reporting that the the other corn products is in addition to
    ethanol from the same kernels is incorrect. From the same field, yes.
    Same process, no. The fermentation process used to turn corn into ethanol (just like making moonshine) starts with enzymes turning the starch into sugar (adds to the natural sugar). Yeast turns the sugar into ethanol, carbon dioxide, and dead yeast cells, which includes protein. The waste products are fed to animals. The dried mash is not a bad feed, but it is still a waste product. The primary products mentioned are not from the same process stream.

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  • danwat1234

    “Here’s the thing that most people miss, however: internal combustion engines do not burn 100% of the gasoline you put into them.”
    Actually they do, if you count the healthy catalytic converter(s) in a typical car. Lots of heat, yes, but it’s completely burned, except when the system is cold and not PZEV emissions rated.

    The argument of Ethanol blends getting higher MPG; Only if you stay out of the turbo, I believe.
    For instance with Ford’s Ecoboost engines, if you use the turbo a lot you aren’t going to get much fuel savings.
    The reduced displacement is what saves the fuel, not primarily the increased compression ratio when the turbo is churning. IMO, I’m not an expert.
    So then if you stay out of the turbo the Ethanol blend isn’t needed to prevent pinging/retarded timing, so you once again have the lower energy density of Ethanol vs gasoline. Of course then you can’t have the turbo, so then the likelihood of buying a car with such a small engine without being able to use the turbo is unlikely. So, you go back to the benefits of using Ethanol; the ability to run a turbo on a small engine. Does that save fuel/energy?

  • Dampier RN and ethanol truther

    What a hack you are for the ethanol industry! E10 cost me a $12,000 2004 Suzuki 225 4 stroke outboard, ruined the carb in my 6500 watt generator and regularly gives me 26.5 mpg in a Suzuki Forenza that gives 29 mpg with REAL gas. NO motorcyclist I know has any use for it (never goes in my bike). The only CRAP (besides the ethanol) here is the BS you are slinging. Talk is cheap–especially your theorums that defy reality.

    • A little advice to anyone reading this: someone who calls themselves a “truther” is worth laughing at.

  • Enter1


  • Enter1

    Just to back up my last statement…Also they ran E10 instead of pure gasoline in the final test so the numbers on your cars performance are skewed. :

    What should consumers do?

    Currently, there’s no financial advantage to consumers in buying an FFV. As of January 2010, E85 cost $2.38 a gallon on a nationwide average basis, compared with $2.65 a gallon for regular gasoline. Considering the fuel’s worse fuel economy, however, it would cost consumers the equivalent of $3.36 a gallon to drive on E85 rather than gasoline, according to the federal Alternative Fuels Price Report.

    Even when gas prices rise, E85 doesn’t become more financially appealing, says Craig Pirrong, director of the University of Houston’s Global Energy Management Institute. Because it serves as a substitute for gasoline, “if the price of oil goes up, you would expect the price of ethanol to go up as well,” he says.

    On the other hand, there’s no inherent downside to buying FFVs, because they can run on gasoline and don’t carry the hefty price premiums of a hybrid. Your choice, however, is limited mostly to large SUVs, pickups, and sedans that get relatively poor gas mileage. So far only about 3,000 gas stations (out of 176,000 nationwide) sell E85 to the public, although that number is growing. So finding an E85 pump near you can be a challenge. Most of these stations are in the upper Midwest, relatively close to where corn is grown and most ethanol is produced.

    Even using the most optimistic estimates, ethanol on its own will never be able to provide Americans with energy independence. Alternative energy experts say it will take a host of alternatives to meet the United States’ energy needs beyond oil.

    Even so, ethanol proponents say that it should still be developed as a long-term hedge against oil shortages, because petroleum is a finite and dwindling resource that has its own environmental problems. Against that backdrop, ethanol, as one of an arsenal of oil alternatives, seems to have fewer problems than some other options.

    Test results: E85 vs. gasoline

    This chart shows how our 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe performed while running on E85 and gasoline in three fuel-economy tests and overall, in four acceleration tests, and in three emissions tests for gasoline vehicles.

    E85GASOLINE*Fuel economy, mpgCity79Highway1521150-mile trip1318Overall1014Acceleration0-30 mph, sec.3.43.50-60 mph, sec.8.99.145-65 mph, sec.5.75.8Quarter-mile, sec./mph16.8/84.616.9/84.5Emissions, parts per millionNitrogen oxide19Hydrocarbons11Carbon monoxide00

    * Clarification:

    * Blended with 10 percent ethanol.

    The great E85 fuel hunt

    The scarcity of E85 fuel in the Northeast made testing our Chevrolet Tahoe more of a challenge than we had first anticipated. We quickly found there are no commercial stations in Connecticut, where our auto-test center is located, where we could fill up with E85. The only E85 pumps we could locate were owned by the state of Connecticut, and the fuel wasn’t for sale.

    After a call to a representative of the state’s alternative-fuels program, however, we found that the state buys its ethanol from a supplier in Alabama. So we contacted the supplier and arranged to have 220 gallons of ethanol shipped to us from South Carolina by truck in four 55-gallon drums.

    But that got us only the pure denatured ethanol. To use it in the Tahoe, we had to blend it with gasoline in an 85/15 percent ratio to create E85. For that, we again turned to the state and arranged to have a fuel expert come to our track and help us blend the fuel by hand.

    The whole process took the better part of a month to complete and vividly illustrated why advertising flex-fuel vehicles in most of the country is currently an empty promise.

  • Enter1

    A consumer reports story

  • pjp1

    so, unless you own a tiny car, its is actually true Ethanol gets less milage per gallon. The bigger the engine, the worse milage ethanol will give you.Clearly nobody is buying the 3 cylinder engine vehicles. So the author should have just made a list of the top “4”Ethanol myths and left number 5 out. As it clearly is not a myth
    Otherwise this was a decent article.