Alternative Energy ethanolcrazies_main

Published on January 20th, 2013 | by Jo Borras

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Anti-ethanol Propaganda isn't 100% Wrong, Just 100% Crazy

Yesterday, I found myself clicking around a website that called itself “smarter fuel future“. The distortion of facts to fit fictions and lies by omission committed throughout the site would be laughable, if they weren’t so readily accepted by some of the mental midgets (mental little people?) that frequent this site’s comments section from time to time.

I welcome the wingnut contingent, though. I’d like to say something here about keeping things honest and objective, but the reality is that a pageview’s a pageview, right?

Right.

SO, in the interest of calling the anti-ethanol people out on their ridiculous bullshit keeping things honest, let’s address some of the nonsense I read on the “smarter fuel” website. People with an IQ below 90, prepare to comment sarcastically without understanding the logic of what you are about to read.

The specific link that came to my attention from an ad on Gas 2 that was emailed to me by a confused reader. It linked to this page that talked about vehicles and small engines, so let’s start there.

Please click the link and notice the heading “Decreased Fuel Economy“. The “smarter fuel” site reminds us that “smarter” is a relative term almost immediately here, committing 2 logical fallacies at once. The “smarter fuel” website (like most ethanol detractors) points to the 100% correct fact that ethanol contains about 30% less energy by volume than petroleum gasoline. They specifically say “vehicles fueled with ethanol cover fewer miles per gallon than those running on conventional gasoline. The higher the ethanol blend, the lower the fuel economy, meaning consumers must fill up at the pump more frequently.” The first fallacy in the “Decreased Fuel Economy” argument is here: the informal fallacy of equivocation, or “the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).” In this case, “fuel economy” and “miles per gallon” can mean many things, since “fuel” is a vague and intentionally misleading term, and “miles per gallon” implies “miles per gallon of gasoline”. Think about the statement another way: if you substitute the vague term “fuel” with the specific term “petroleum gasoline”, I think (hope) that arguments made against ethanol from a basis of “decreased petroleum gasoline economy” becomes a laughable objection to ethanol. They are literally saying “the higher the ethanol blend, the lower the amount of petroleum gasoline will be used”, and there, RIGHT THERE, is their core complaint … because they are either oil company employees or the idiot pawns of oil company marketers who never took (or, more likely, passed) a formal logic class.

Education FTMFW, amirite?

Beating a dead horse just a bit, I’d like to point out that (even if you accept that whoever wrote it simply too stupid to realize their logic is horribly flawed) this is strictly an appeal to short-sighted convenience, and places “more trips to the pump” ahead of concerns about foreign oil dependence, environmental damage that comes from extracting oil from the ground, the huge amounts of resource-draining government oil subsidies, the wars fought over a finite (non-renewable) energy source, and the numerous health problems associated with burning petroleum fuels. In scientific terms: all this anti-ethanol hysteria is crazy-talk.

Moving on, let’s talk about the next heading, “Damage to Vehicles and Performance”. The site says “Beyond the damage to your wallet, ethanol can also damage vehicles and affect performance – corroding metals, causing rubber to swell and causing engines to break down more quickly. Some ethanol blends should not be used on certain engines and motors at all. EPA’s E15 waiver covers only 2001 and newer motor vehicles.” All of that, by the way, is 100% true. Alcohols can dry out the organic rubber o-rings and fuel lines in many automotive fuel systems, causing them to crack, leak, and require replacement. If not enough fuel is getting to your engine because of a fuel leak, your car will stop running and require maintenance. You may need to replace several feet of rubber fuel lines with ethanol-safe line, at a retail cost of about $6/ft. O-rings cost a few cents.

That doesn’t sound quite as scary as “break down”, does it?

Those of you who are not too young or too senile to have long memories will recall that a lot of this bickering and fear-mongering sounds pretty similar to the hubbub raised in the 70s when the US government banned the use of lead as an octane-boosting fuel additive. The transition away from leaded fuels was fought by the oil companies, who didn’t want to have to find new ways to refine fuel for higher octane. Claims were made that vehicles designed to run leaded fuel would experience knock conditions that could damage engines’ efficiencies and hurt fuel economy, even leading to break downs.

Sound familiar?

As with ethanol, the claims made against unleaded gas were true. The changeover was long, lasting form 1975-1986, and it was expensive. Automakers had to build engines with tighter tolerances that ran hotter to burn the unleaded fuel, while oil companies had to find newer and cheaper ways to make higher-octane fuels available to the public. Change costs money, and the people who will have to spend that money will fight doing so, tooth and nail, long after reason has failed them.

Why was lead used in the first place? Leaded gasoline was discovered on Dec. 9, 1921, at the General Motors research labs in Dayton Ohio. GM researchers had been testing fuel blends since 1916, trying to stop engine “knock.” Knock is caused by early detonation of fuel inside a combustion chamber due to compression, which pushes the engine “backwards” causing a knock-like sound. Knock was a hug problem in early internal combustion engines, and was a problem that was preventing the development of higher efficiency, higher compression engines that could generate more power. GM researchers tried many different additives and found quite a few that worked well. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) from cellulosic materials became Detroit’s strong preference. “Of course,” Thomas A. Midgley of GM wrote in a memo to his boss, GM research vice president Charles Kettering, “alcohol is the fuel of the future.” Oil companies, however, resisted the use of alcohol, and pushed for lead – which was (all together now) cheaper.

That’s right, kids. We knew 100 years ago that alcohol was the way forward, but we decided to put all that aside in favor of a substance that was known to be toxic just because it was cheaper.

Thankfully, someone got their head out of their ass long enough to put pen to paper and legislate lead out of our fuels. That move away from lead in gasoline was motivated by public health. It was expensive, to be sure, but it was money well spent. Cases of lead poisoning are way down, and the average lead content in Americans’ blood is much lower than it was in the 70s and 80s, which has helped drive crime rates and other bad behavior down, according to a recent study published in Mother Jones.

Today, the move away from gasoline is similarly motivated by public health. Carbon emissions cause heart attacks and respiratory problems and kill millions every year. Thousands of soldiers – American and otherwise – die in land wars over oil. Inconceivable fortunes in government spending subsidize oil companies and lobbyists, and pay them to produce twaddle like the “smarter fuel” site, all in an effort to convince the most impressionable among us that their vote should be cast this way or that, so that they can save their fortune just a little while longer. “Don’t think too much about the future,” they say. “In the future, we’ll be dead.”

Sorry, oil-advocate douchebags. My kids will be alive in the future. They’re pretty cute, so they’ll probably breed and then their kids will be alive in the future. I’d like for them to have some clean air to breathe, some water to drink, and maybe some scenery that isn’t shimmering purple from oil slicks. As such I would like to ask, sincerely, that all you anti-ethanol hysterics douse yourself in your precious gasoline and die in fires. (this is the part where we all send letters to the men and women in congress who opposed the EPA’s move and tell them we hate them)

Sources: Smarter (ha!) Fuel Future, Radford University, and a bunch of others, linked-to in the text.


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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Skype (jo.borras) or Google+.



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  • Markw

    Hummm.. I think you are missing the bigger picture. 30 years ago the oil boys rigged elections in Central America and funded revolutions in Africa. Today they can even keep the corn lobby from stealing their business or keep electric cars off the road, ( note after millios spent on attacking the Chevy volt , it’s sales actually tripled last year!). My how the mighty ave fallen….

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Well put.

  • Art

    Ethanol definitely hurts the mileage on my RV. I only get 17 MPG on Ethanol but on PURE GASOLINE I get 22 MPG. The problem is finding stations that sell Pure Gasoline

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Your math doesn’t add up there, dude. Assuming you’re actually talking about 100% ethanol (which I doubt you’re buying for an RV), that 30% loss of “per gallon” range equates to 15.4 mpg. Math doesn’t lie, so I’ll assume you are referring to E10 (which is what’s available nationwide, right now). Only 10% of your fuel is ethanol, so assuming you’re getting 22 MPG on 100% gas, you’d get 19.8 MPG on E10 JUST ON THE GASOLINE. That remaining 10% of the fuel, at 15.4 mpg (using your math) nets you an additional 1.54 miles, so you should be getting 21.34 MPG based on 10% ethanol.

      If you’re using E15, you’re going 18.7 miles on your .85 gallons of gasoline and 2.31 miles on your .15 gallons of ethanol … a net of 21.01 miles per gallon of E15.

      The math doesn’t lie “sir”, but you do. In case that wasn’t obvious enough: you are full of shit.

      • http://maxhedrm.montebellopark.com/blog maxhedrm

        There are factors other than the energy per gallon involved here. Some good, some bad. Ethanol generally has the advantage that it can raise the octane of the fuel, but I doubt an RV would take advantage of that. Depending on the design of the engine, ethanol may also not burn as thoroughly. It’s also possible that he was dealing with different formulations in other ways that often impact fuel economy.

        That said, this site continues to get worse & worse. Gas2.0 calling out other sites for publishing nonsense is a joke. Most of the writers here believe in magic that can circumvent the laws of thermodynamics, yet someone gives experiential data and it must be a lie because it doesn’t match their math. I keep asking myself why I still have you in my RSS feeds. I guess it’s like rubbernecking at an accident … I just can’t resist seeing what idiocy you’ll spew next.

        • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

          Math=magic. You got it.

  • TemK

    Ethanol is just another fuel source, there is nothing bad about it.
    Engines need to be optimized to better utilize its unique properties.
    I’m just agreeing with the article.

    • Curly

      No, there is nothing wrong with ethanol for a fuel. Yes you are correct that the engine needs to be optimized to use. But there are draw backs. First is if corn or wheat or any other food crop is used will push up the price of that food. Another draw back will be one of two items; when the road tax is added to the ethanol the price per mile will exceed the price of petroleum fuel or if the road tax is not added to the ethanol fuel then the road fund will be depleted.
      As it was mentioned ethanol has less energy per unit than gasoline therefore more units have to be used to get the same quantity of energy to do the work of moving the same distance. Most of the energy comes from the C part of the fuel. When the C part is burned it produces CO2 which will be very nearly the same for each. In addition the amount of energy to produce the same energy level is higher than with gasoline or petroleum fuel. To produce grain for the ethanol it also takes fertilizer which contains nitrogen in the form of NH3 or one of the other forms. This is in its self a pollutant and all of these are before the petroleum fuel needed for the production.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Exactly. Gasoline is a terrible fuel in a diesel or sterling engine, too. Let’s get straight that we need to build ethanol specific engines to get all the thermal efficiency benefits.

  • ken

    My reality is that I pay 2-3% more for non-ethanol gas and get 5-8% better mileage. That translates to more miles per dollar. Just saying.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Like I said: it’s an argument for convenience. I’m glad you’re willing to forfeit your children’s future and your nation’s security to save a few pennies at the pump. Also: go f@#$ yourself.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      You’re full of shit, too. Read the other comments for a basic math lesson (you jackamoe).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001008562611 Charlie Peters

    A random ‘Smog Check’ inspection & repair ‘secret shopper’ audit, ethanol cap and elimination of dual fuel CAFE credit can cut California car impact over 50% in 2013. (Prevent Over 2000 tons per day of sulfur, PM, HC, O3, NOx, CO & CO2.) Improved performance of AB32 at reduced cost.

  • John Aislabie

    All of this argument does not seem to address the only valid anti-ethanol point. That is the question of how much food crop is diverted to ethanol production and what is its energy efficiency of production.
    If (I stress IF) world food prices rise to offset the set aside for ethanol corn or other food, then we will have a very difficult time justifying the ethanol expansion

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      That’s because that isn’t a valid point. We have covered that ad nauseam.

  • gvoll

    Ethanol degrades to Acetic acid aka vinegar, that is why it is corrosive.

  • http://gas2.org D. Haney

    Hey, Jo, even if I agreed with you, your language is too rude, crude and shows disrespect for yourself as well as others.

  • http://chuckstone100 chuck stone

    Jo Barras went over the line in this article. His tone is from the ditch while his wisdom is from the top of the hill. Calm done my friend, we and they know you are right.

    See YOUTUBE “93 cents a gallon” about the statewide test with alcohol fuels in the 1980s using 14 to 1 compression in 500 test cars, trucks and aircraft – very successful. Using higher compressions like 14 to 1 allows the methanol to reach 75% of gasoline mileage with much higher performance, and uses no oil based fuel so the carbon is not in the exhaust to foal the air. You don’t need to fight wars for oil or to stop terrorists from bombing pipelines or refineries.

    The ethanol is even better on beating gasoline when you can get 85% of gasoline mileage, a much higher horsepower and save the purchase of foreign oil by 85% while cleaning the air as you drive. The alcohol fuels actually allow the exhaust to be cleaner than the intake air, we confirmed that and so did The Bank of America which was one of the test fleets.

    The Ford Motor Company took over the project and then switched to their Flex-fuel vehicles configuration and then built millions of these low compression monsters. GM and Chrysler followed suite because that was the demand of BIG OIL. The Flex-fuel cars can us gasoline with the low compression and the alcohols will show poor performance in power and mileage because the higher octane value of alcohols is not utilized. We found both alcohols worked as 106 octane rating or better.

    It too bad the farmers with to the corn feedstock to make some fast money and drive the price of corn up. They could have used the corn stocks and other farm waste to make the ethanol and we would all be better for it.

    That was in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s when these academic decisions were being made by PHDs who never saw the total energy crisis in the right view. We now have the ability to build a lower cast plant that turns the agricultural feedstocks into finished fuel in less than one hour and allows the producer to produce several fuel values from the one plant. Thermal processes controlled by small computers is here now. They are the newest challenge to the old fashion oil business.

    I would love to see the new Chevrolet Corvette engine running on alcohol fuel.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Great memory and great comment.

  • stan

    It’s time for a New Approach or maybe the end to Ethanol and RFS Mandates.
    With the droughts and population growth we should not,and don’t have to use farm land for fuel.
    Waste sources would be great,but I don’t think the farm lobbyist will let the mandates end, for crops that take up land.to grow fuel.
    For the carbon and global warming problem we need to fast track new, safe nuclear energy, Terra Power,the biosynthetic process at Proterro.com and maybe Air Fuel Synthesis.
    When Congress picked corn as the winner in 2007, it did not account for the advances in technology that would occur, enabling the cost-effective production of ethanol on a mass scale from new sources. For example, new methods for making fuel-grade ethanol from hydrocarbons like natural gas, an abundant U.S. resource — and other sources — are now available. The current RFS does not include new sources on its list of approved ethanol sources, stifling competition and giving the advantage to a small sliver of industries. It should be amended to make room for new ethanol sources in the marketplace. Excluding them from the RFS program inhibits the growth of our domestic energy economy

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      Most scientists would agree that those droughts are caused by climate change driven by hydrocarbon emissions … The very thing ethanol fuels aim to reduce. So (politely) hush.

  • SOS

    Interesting, on the http://smarterfuelfuture.org/ website, the bottom of the page says a project by: and lists many poultry and dairy federations and associations. Did you know that cows don’t naturally eat corn? But that has become the primary food because it is so cheap, thanks to the Federal subsidies. They also uses GMO corn, which is another story. The majority of chicken and egg farmers are poor excuses for humans. If anyone saw what these sickos do to the chickens you would never eat another non-organic egg or chicken.
    Did you know that bad farming practices and the consumption of meat in the US cause more air problems and global warming than all the autos combined?!? If we want to save the world, we must stop eating meat. Then drive our hybrids, which will hopefully all soon be running on diesel or bio diesel.

  • Bob Wallace

    “If you were to take every gram of crops produced anywhere in the world for all purposes — and that includes every grape, every ton of wheat, every ton of soybeans and corn — and you were to use that for biofuels and essentially stop eating, those crops would produce about 14 percent of world energy,” says Timothy Searchinger, an associate research scholar at Princeton University.

    G. Philip Robertson and colleagues at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station have been looking at plants that don’t require farm fields.

    “First, we discovered that the grasses and flowers that take over fields once you stop farming produce a fair amount of biomass, especially if you provide them a little bit of fertilizer,” Robertson says.

    Robertson and his colleagues surveyed the Midwest acre by acre and identified 27 million acres of marginal farmland where these plants could grow, and where the acreage falls into a compact enough area that someone might want to build a refinery to produce biofuels.

    They figured that it would become too expensive to transport this heavy and bulky plant material more than 50 miles, from field to refinery.

    “At the end of the day, we discovered we could produce enough biomass to supply 30 or so of these potential biorefineries,” Robertson says.

    The 27 million acres identified in the latest study would provide less than 0.5 percent of (US) national energy demand,

    http://www.npr.org/2013/01/16/169538570/could-some-midwest-land-support-new-biofuel-refineries

    Around 200 million tonnes of waste is produced in UK every year which is capable of producing 4% of the total UK’s electricity and water needs.

    http://s.tt/1yFiH

    Now, to figure out how far we could drive if we didn’t eat, used our marginal land for fuel crops and converted all our waste stream you’ll need to do some energy to transportation and electricity to transportation conversions.

    41% of all US energy is electricity. 28% of all US energy is used for transportation.

    It’s just some fun with algebra. And considering not eating. Which would knock our waste stream down to about zero.

    • stan

      “those crops would produce about 14 percent of world energy”.
      I wonder if they subtracted the energy it would take to produce the biofuel.

      • Bob Wallace

        It would have been included since the crops are now being grown and harvested. That energy is already part of the larger world energy number.

        But the real takeaway here is – we can make on 14% of what we need only if we quit eating.

        Biofuels (unless someone invents magic algae) just isn’t going to keep our cars on the road. We simply have to give up on the internal combustion engine, it’s run its course.

        What modest amounts of biofuel we can produce are going to be needed for air travel.

        • stan

          Very true.
          What do you think of http://www.terrapower.com,
          http://www.proterro.com/ for sugar production for biofuels. http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com and liquid-fluoride thorium reactor by flibe-energy in Alabama. For better energy options.

          • Bob Wallace

            I divide solutions into two categories – what is working right now and what might be proven to work sometime in the future.

            Right now the things that work are feeding into the grid and going into our tanks. All the others are “perhaps” solutions, including the ultimate – fusion.

            We’ve got an enormous problem – our climate is starting to heat and if we don’t turn that problem around soon there will be no more “life as we know it”. Those of us who make it through the nastiness will probably spend most of our time in underground cities where we can control the temperature.

            We don’t have thorium reactors or fuel from a test tube. At least none working so that we can discover how much it would actually cost to drive our rides. And what other problems they might bring with them.

            We do have well-developed wind and solar technologies. The electricity they produce is very affordable. And using them to power EVs gives us operating costs similar to driving a 50 MPG Prius on $1.80/gallon gas.

            I think we have no choice but to move quickly with what is working right now and what makes the most economic sense right now.

            If something better proves out then we can move to that new technology. That’s what we’ve always done. We moved from rocks to sharp sticks to flint tips to ….

          • stan

            As much as I really like solar and wind energy,there are some big problems, I feel that we are over looking. The energy and carbon it take to build the equipment, build the infrastructure because of the large area needed on land, or at sea,and to maintain it ( for instants the best place for solar is in dry dusty areas and would need to be cleaned constantly ) all this I think, ends up being more energy used and carbon produced, than energy produced or carbon reduced over the life of the panels and turbines. That’s why I feel we need to push for these new energy technologies.

            From the book Prescription for the planet. free at The Science Council.com, under the Books, Videos, Audio link.

            Here are a couple of quotes from an article on what is scheduled to be the largest solar energy “farm” yet, a 4,500 acre,500 MW array of Stirling solar-thermal dish generators in the Mojave Desert in southern California:
            […D. Bruce Osborn, Stirling Energy's new CEO, says,] “a dish farm of 11 miles square could produce as much
            electricity as the 2,050 MW from Hoover Dam.”…Theoretically, Stirling dish farms with a total area of
            100 miles square could replace all the fossil fuels now burned to generate electricity in the entire U.S.76
            A casual reader might be forgiven for interpreting that “11 miles square” figure as the more usual “11 square miles,” but in reality it denotes 121 square miles. That is a LOT of dishes. It’s also a wildly inaccurate calculation, since at a capacity of 500 MW per 4,500 acres it would take approximately 29 square miles of dishes—not 121—to equal that 2,050 MW Hoover Dam output. While this may look good at first glance, that would be around 80,000 dishes
            (each 37 feet in diameter), which will soon allegedly cost $150,000 each (they cost much more than that now) and could, we are told,drop to half that cost with true mass production. Not to get bogged down in figures here, but even at the theoretical greatly reduced target figure of $75,000 each that would come to a tab of about six
            billion dollars. Not exactly chump change.The second figure quoted above is pretty close to right on (it
            seems the reporter is better at math than the solar guy), if by fossil fuels you also (incorrectly) include nuclear power. But 100 square 76 Otis Port, “Power from the Sunbaked Desert,” Business Week Sep 12, 2005.miles isn’t what they’re talking about there. Notice it’s “100 miles square” which is actually 10,000 square miles, an area larger than
            the state of Vermont. Oh heck, as long as I’ve got my calculator out I’ll do the math for you. That would take about 28 million dishes and run up a bill of around $2.14 trillion. Plus the cost of all the feather dusters you’d need to keep them clean and shiny

          • Bob Wallace

            Let’s look at how much land we would need for a massive wind program to power the US.

            The footprint of a wind turbine is typically around 0.25 acres. This includes tower foundation, roads and support structures.

            In 2010 the US used 4,143 TWh of electricity or 11,300,000 MWh per day.

            Since we’re just guessing about what our future grid would look like, let’s assume we get 40% of our electricity from wind, 40% from solar and 20% from hydro, geothermal, tidal, etc.

            4,143 TWh / 365 = 4,520,000 MWh per day from wind.

            The average wind turbine is around 3 MW and median capacity is now 43%.

            3 x 24 hours x 0.43 = 30.1 MWh per day

            4,520,000 / 30.1 = 150,166 3 MW turbines.

            150,166 x 0.25 = 36,040 acres required.

            2.4 Manhattan Islands, 1.4 Disney Worlds or 0.0015% of the US.

            Add charging EVs to that and we might need 3 Disney Worlds.

            The 40% from solar can pretty much go on top of existing buildings, over parking lots and over low quality land such as landfills.

            We’re not likely to build too much solar in the desert once the price of rooftop drops to where Germany’s is right now. Building on rooftops/over parking lots eliminates real estate costs and most permitting problems. It takes transmission costs to about zero.

            I don’t know if we’re thinking about the same Stirling dish farm, but one recently was morphed into a PV farm. The rapidly dropping price of PV is causing Stirling and thermal solar a world of butt-hurt.

  • http://maxhedrm.montebellopark.com/blog maxhedrm

    “If not enough fuel is getting to your engine because of a fuel leak, your car will stop running and require maintenance. You may need to replace several feet of rubber fuel lines with ethanol-safe line, at a retail cost of about $6/ft. O-rings cost a few cents.”

    A leak is unburned hydrocarbons escaping into the atmosphere. That is a BAD thing. That is why we have catalytic converters. On top of that, while your parts costs may be correct (I haven’t had to buy any high pressure fuel line in a while – the couplings are likely to be a significant expense though), the labor on replacing all those parts would be significant. If for instance you have to replace the orings in a fuel pump, you are looking at a few hours of work at probably more than $100 an hour. Or a new pump.

    And if the leak develops on the high pressure side in the engine compartment, and the fuel sprays the wrong place, you could have a lot more than a leak on your hands. Try a rather major fire.

    “I’ve been working in motorsports and tuning since 1997, with some the biggest names in the business.”

    Really. Dare I ask which sports?

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      A leak under pressure is unspent fuel, yes – and ethanol is far less toxic than gasoline, so I am ok with your “revelation”. Same with the leak in the engine bay, where ethanol would be less likely to burn (since no compression) than gasoline. Finally, we have catalytic converters because of gasoline, not because they are essential to the operation of an internal combustion engine. Couplings are pennies at wholesale. My favorite Motorsport is motobadminton.

  • Aaron

    Jo Borras, How old are you? You act like your 7 and like to call names. The guy with The low milage with his RV could very well be correct because ethanol works great at removing water. And if he doesn’t use all the gas in his tank in a short period “90 days” he has water in his gas.
    http://www.fuel-testers.com/gasoline_octane_and_ethanol_E10.html
    Try a little more open mind might help.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/joborras/ Jo Borras

      I am 5, but you make a VERY good point! Let’s hope all these hysterics listen to you and are less quick to judge the fuel later … And I will ask how many tanks they ran, too. :)

  • Ed

    Jo, I’d like to echo some of the comments you’ve received. The approach you’ve taken with this article will do little to sway people to your way of thinking, nor will abusing commenters. You raise a number of important arguments in support of ethanol, but unless readers are looking for affirmation of their belief in ethanol, I think they miss will miss the message. Any chance you have good data on differences in cost of production—I’m thinking particularly of energy use, I’ve heard a lot of discussion about the issue, but often not from what I ‘d consider unbiased sources. Anyway, I enjoy reading your articles.

  • Greenshift

    #1 the corn used is inedible to humans.
    #2 only the starch is used to make ethanol, everything else passes through the ethanol plant in the form of high quality livestock feed.
    #3 a whole corn kernal is hard on the digestive system of animals. When the kernal is processed into ethanol, it’s much easier for animals to digest what remains because the corn is broken up.
    #4 as explained in #1, corn for ethanol is not human food. We use it for animal feed. This country needs a lot of animal feed to, in turn, feed humans. The ethanol process makes a better animal feed. New technologies like corn oil extraction make the feed even better. It removes excess fat leaving a low fat, high protien, high quality, easily digested animal feed.
    #5 one of the reasons E10 gets lower mileage is because the 90% gasoline in it is subgrade 84 octane. This 84 octane will not run without the ethanol in it. This lower grade gasoline is not the same as regular gasoline.
    #6 there is an octane shortage in the U.S.
    #7 ethanol can and will get BETTER mileage than gasoline when used in engines designed to take advantage of the higher octane.
    #8 vehicles made after 1995 no longer use natural rubber lines, they’re part synthetic.
    #9 the car companies are telling the ethanol companies that the new 54 mpg fuel standard is coming. The car companies are telling the ethanol companies the only way to get to 54 mpg is with smaller, high compression engines. These engines need at least 94 octane to get 54 mpg. the best, cheapest, and cleanest way to get higher octane to get the new standards of 54 mpg is with ethanol. These new engines will be designed to burn ethanol, not just tolerate it like flex fuel vehicles.
    #10 algae plants in iowa are growing algae every day from the carbon released during the ethanol process. this oil algae can double in volume everyday. it’s used for animal feed, nutricuticals, and biodiesel fuel at a rate of 2500 gallons per acre per year.
    #11 growing corn needs carbon and other “pollutants” to grow. it cleans the air.
    #12 it takes 75 gallons of water to make a gallon of gas. it takes about 2 to 3 gallons to make a gallon of ethanol. what about the water used to grow corn you say? Well most of it is rain. How many millions of gallons of water did it take for the fossils to turn into crude oil?

    #13 The corn to ethanol process has improved dramatically over the past decade while the crude oil to gasoline conversion has remained the same. We get a lot of products from ethanol including hand sanitizer, high quality animal feed that’s better for animals, corn oil based biodiesel fuel, algae based biodiesel fuel/feed, corn syrup, and the carbonation in our soda pop. The lower mileage issue will soon be a thing of the past.

    #14 Ethanol companies have never got a dime from the ethanol tax credits. It’s the oil companies and blenders that got it. Oil companies are still getting huge tax credits among record profits.

    • Curly

      Greenshift , Brazil has been producing cars that run on ethanol for a very long time. At that time it did not have a domestic source of crude so it developed ethanol form sugar. My question what kind of mileage do the cars get there. They have had about 20 or 30 years on US on the development of ethanol engines.

    • stan

      correction #2 I should have said; less than 1/3rd of the corn used for ethanol can be used for animal feed.

      • stan

        #1 Even if the corn is uneditable for humans,it still competes with food, for land and other resources.
        And ethanol made from sugar cane, that we import from Brazil takes land away and creates no animal feed.

        #2 Less than 1/3rd of the corn used for ethanol can be used for animal feed .http://www.ethanolproducer.com/articles/8611/world-of-corn-report-breaks-down-corn-used-for-ethanol-ddgs

        #6 When Congress picked corn as the winner in 2007, it did not account for the advances in technology that would occur, enabling the cost-effective production of ethanol on a mass scale from new sources. For example, new methods for making fuel-grade ethanol from hydrocarbons like natural gas, an abundant U.S. resource that maybe cleaner than producing corn and other land sources of ethanol — and other sources like http://www.proterro.com/ sugar production for biofuels — are now available. The current RFS does not include hydrocarbons on its list of approved ethanol sources, stifling competition and giving the advantage to a small sliver of industries. It should be amended to make room for new ethanol sources in the marketplace, or ended. Excluding them from the RFS program inhibits the growth of our domestic energy economy,www.celanese.com/tcx-ethanol/Products/Fuel-Ethanol.aspx

        #14 But they are supported by the mandate, which creates a false market. If the corn and other land source ethanol are good products then they don’t need the mandates. End the mandate and let the free market work, the way it should in America.

  • Eric

    The goal: Domestic Oil + Ethanol = NOPEC
    * The government (tax payers, us) prior to ethanol payed the farmer not to farm because they grew to much corn.
    * Ethanol plant efficiencies: Plant to wheels, 2.6 btus out for every 1 btu expended in production of the fuel (better than oil refineries).
    * Ethanol tanker spill 4 years ago off east coast. Clean up crews focused on the diesel from the engine, knowing that the ethanol would disapate in 48 ours (they saw risk short term as drunk fish, long term diesel slime).
    * Corn exported has 9% protein. The remaining protein (ddgs) at the ethanol plant (after starch converted to fuel)is 27% protein. The US now exports between 8-10 million tons of ddgs anually for food/feed, displacing the equivalent of 1B bushels of corn. The world needs our protein, not carbs.
    *New, higher compression engines need (like) octane. Ethanol is 113 octane, today priced at $2.35 per gallon at the plant gate. The next octane option (I am told) is toluene which is less environmeentally friendly and today $3.80 per gallon.

    • Curly

      If ethanol is $2.35 at the plant gate what would be the price at the pump? Now remember there will have to be added a the Federal and state road taxes added as well as some profit for the place that less the ethanol and transportation costs Then the next question would be what is the net cost or gain to the Federal government when the all cost benefits including the income taxes from the production workers, corporate taxes are taken into consideration?

  • Greg

    Jo, you’re not doing yourself of your website any favors by insulting them. For the record I get the same kind of MPG differences in my 2004 F150. From a strictly mathematical BTU perspective, my MPG should only decrease about 1-2%, but instead I’m seeing around 10% when running E10. My wife’s 2001 Acura also saw the same drop.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bruce.miller.900 Bruce Miller

    My Question: Can an engine designed specifically for ethanol be designed that will yield the maximum benefit from that fuel?

    • http://chuckstone100 chuck stone

      YES -YES -YES

  • JoeD

    This is an awful post. Wading through all the preemptive insults causes too much distraction from whatever substantive content there is in it. Are you under the impression that you refuted the fuel economy argument?

    • Nathan Bollman

      Agreed, this is how stupid people argue… Ethanol DOES lower your gas mileage, increases oxidation of your exhaust manifold, and costs more energy to produce than it puts out. Not only that, it increases the cost of corn, bad when we have starving people in this world. When looking into alternative forms of combustive fuels, it it is blatantly obvious that Ethanol is the choice of morons… Please keep ethanol where it belongs, everclear and bunsen burners.

      • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

        No, it doesn’t. Ethanol only lowers the mileage of cars that aren’t optimized (through higher compression, more advanced timing, and proper materials in the fuel lines) to run the fuel.

        • Drain52

          Which is like saying junk food only hurts those who don’t have an optimized exercise program. What a pathetic evasion.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      Yes. You seem to be confusing available BTUs with BTUs used. Potential for kinetic energy, in other words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    Excellent! Now: where did the pure alcohol-water
    injection engines (water lubricated just like the old steam engines) go that
    started on a rich mixture of alcohol, and added water to the mix as the engine
    warmed to exploit all the heat created? Older books like Mechanics illustrated
    and the like had two stroke, injected, loop charged diesel styled engines akin
    to the Detroit Diesels but burning alcohol with water injection for cooling,
    running at very high compression ratios. These engines took little space for
    power out as they were “supercharged” or loop charged and fired every
    stroke as well. Exhaust was clean since they were alcohol fueled, water
    lubricated.
    I look now beyond the compression engine conundrum for America as the
    “Threos” from China show claims that can only be obtained by nano carbon
    super capacitors and pulsed D.C. electric motors with return tuned coils. These
    can operate at higher voltages than chemical battery systems, have no
    “internal resistance” losses to overcome as do chemical battery
    systems, and recharge astoundingly fast from super capacitor discharges at
    filling stations where larger transformer systems can fill them. Next: The Hemp
    body, University of Alberta system – mining, smelting, rolling forming,
    pressing, welding, bending for steel vehicle bodies are all eliminated:
    replaced by a hemp field, a drying and separation shed, and vacuum moulding and
    resin processes – and two crops of renewable, rust proof, car bodies can be
    produced in carbon sequestering fashion a year?
    imagine for a moment the huge “ballasting”  benefits: Solar by day , Wind Turbine peaks,
    even the Thorium LFTR reactor night-time power output, all stored and replacing
    gasoline, oil, alcohol, with three moving part D.C. pulse – coil motors and
    super capacitors. Fact is: All these technologies are a fact and a reality for Asians,
    but not Americans – sad note folks
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.trussler.9 Sean Trussler

    I will say that you didn’t make a note on the octane comparison leading towards a better compression ratio, but I got the message. It happens when you feel so passionately about an issue, so as a result, I credit you for restoring my faith in humanity for the day but try to dispel garbage science, not compound the simpletons confusion.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      This article wasn’t meant to explain thermodynamic efficiencies and the hows and whys of them, but you’re right- a better explanation of basic maths will reduce the “No! Murica! Oil good!” comments, I think.

  • anamaya

    That doesn’t sound quite as scary as “break down”, does it? -well actually, yes.. ask any ducati, aprilia or other plastic tanked motorvehicle owner what effect ethanol is having on the size of their tanks.. Ethanol is causing tank expansion and costing many hundreds of dollars of damage

    your post is disgustingly awful.

    • JamVee

      Yes, and the writer forgot to add the cost of a mechanic to the cost of replacing an “O” ring, or a fuel line. Let alone mentioning that gas leaks can cause disastrous FIRES.

      • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

        Right, because gasoline doesn’t burn.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      Ethanol isn’t recommended for use in ANY motorcycle, dude. Not by the AAA, EPA, AMA, etc. and all blending stations are required to keep E10 (or less) available for small engines.

      In other news, you should not put diesel fuel in a Ducati … which would probably break down, anyway. :P

      • Drain52

        However, pure gasoline is usable for any gas engine of any age. But let’s keep subsidizing ethanol, which is far less usable.

  • Pingback: FYI: Ethanol Fuel is NOT Linked to E. Coli

  • JamVee

    Wow, Jo Borras is, perhaps even MORE biased on the opposite side of this issue than his opponents. He is, at least, equally guilty of half truths, innuendo and spin as the article he is attacking! I’ll have to side with the Anti-Ethanol folks, at least on these points, because they make a lot more sense.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      It would seem like that to some people, I guess, who tend to say things like “Person A says this, Person B says that … the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

      Let me assure you, “sir”, the truth is very, very far from the typical anti-ethanol spiel.

  • LRWC

    I don’t think you have taken the time to actually examine just what ethanol does to your vehicle. First, it does dry and corrode your O-rings. If this were the only problem, we could work around easily enough, but it’s not. The ethanol also damages your plastic fuel tank and corrodes your fuel lines and can damage your fuel pump, costing hundreds of dollars in repairs. Just check factory warranties. Many manufacturers don’t warranty damage from ethanol in your fuel. Second, you have completely ignored the performance losses from ethanol. Using a blend fuel can cost you a palpable amount of horsepower, which is a major problem for anyone who relies on their vehicles performance for their living. Third, what is all that babble about “petroleum gasoline economy?” I don’t know about you, but when I say miles per gallon, I mean miles per gallon of fuel. That includes ethanol, gasoline and diesel (which you conveniently forgot to mention. It’s not gasoline.). If you put ethanol free fuel in your car, I can assure you that there will be a mileage and performance boost, and your car will last longer. Fourth, there is a 65% energy loss when producing ethanol from corn in the US. This results in using more fuel, driving our fuel costs up. And finally, with an enormous amount of our corn crop being used for ethanol production, we drive up our food costs as well. Producers are putting more and more acres into ethanol production, resulting in less food and much of our meat production relies on corn. When corn prices rise, food prices rise. In the future, please do your research and consider the whole picture of an issue.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      Blah blah OMG you are 100% wrong about all of this.

  • Sailblazer

    Fuel economy is in fact somewhat lower with an ethanol blend, but nowhere near the 33% decrease claimed by Smarter Fuel Future. I would love to see ethanol eliminated from our fuel supply, but I am appalled at the outrageously false claims made by SFF. Any organization that publishes outright falsehoods like this loses all credibility.

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      That depends on the engine. In most cases where a non-optimized engined is using ethanol, that’s correct. The compression ratio, design of the intake, etc. is built for gasoline, which has more available BTU by volume, but a thermal efficiency (in most naturally aspirated ICEs) of about 25%. With a small, variable-vane turbo and proper sensors, the car’s ECU can determine the presence of ethanol, which DOES have about 30% fewer available BTU by volume … but which can burn at over 50% efficiency under high compression.

      What that means is that you are able to extract MORE available energy from an ethanol car, assuming your car is optimized for the fuel. As for the argument about lines, exhaust parts, etc. they’re all nonsense. They only apply to older cars, anyway, and most new-car buyers keep their cars about 3 years.

      INB4 “but I don’t wanna buy a new(er) car” … if you say that kind of thing, you might be part of the problem. Go drink some leaded fuel.

      • Drain52

        No problem. I’ll go right out and dump $30k on a new car right away, so I can burn a fuel that takes as much energy to make as it gives up and is made out of food. What could be smarter?

    • http://www.insteading.com/ Jo Borras

      Sorry, forgot to mention the outright falsehoods: you’ll find those at the sites against ethanol.

  • doug

    Does ethanol fuel attract water and separate? Yes it does. I just had to cyphone half a tank of fuel from my snowmobile for the third year in a row because it was infested with water. Never before, was it a problem with straight gasoline. Now I have to go to the airport and buy aviation fuel at $5.50 a gallon to prevent this.
    Do I have to invest in fuel treatments and stabilizers to safely run ethanol fuel in my snowmobiles, chainsaws, and boat? Yes I do.
    When the ethanol draws water in from the surrounding air it collects in the tank. WHen enough water is accumulated, it separates and forms a separate layer, called phase separation. (test this yourself by half filling a 1 gallon glass pickle jar with E10 fuel and let it sit). Now oil injected engines rely on the oil/gas mixture for lubrication. When water is introduced to the system, your piston is washed from the lubricating mix of oil and gas. It is replaced with water, which isn’t very lubricating. It causes hot spots on the sides of the piston. The piston then swells, decreasing the clearance between it and the cylinder wall. The piston makes contact with the cylinder wall and begins to grind against it causing scuffing. This leads to more heat until you end up with a stuck ring or seized piston. Talk to any small engine mechanic about the use of ethanol blended gasoline and see what they have to say. The men and women who repair the engines that are damaged. Don’t trust websites, ask the people who fix the damage.

    • Drain52

      Just think: your tax dollars were used to subsidize the ethanol so many engines can’t run. Wasn’t that nice? And now our elected officials subsidize ethanol by forcing us to use the worthless crap.

  • Drain52

    The problem with calling other people morons is when the caller himself is a moron. Let’s take a quick look at the nonsense in Borras’s column masquerading as fact.

    Environmental damage from pumping oil? It’s there, no doubt. But how about the fertilizer dumping into our waterways from the ever-increasing corn acreage, corn being a heavy feeder? Here’s pollution on a mega-scale. What oil subsidies? Like most businesses, oil companies can write off losses. And even if there were subsidies, this is a political problem, not an oil problem.

    The following is a real howler: the wars we supposedly fight to maintain our foreign oil supply. What wars? We didn’t have to go to war with Iraq. Or Libya. We’ve never attacked Saudi Arabia nor any other Middle East oil supplier who was willing to shine our shoes. We may dismiss Borras’s comments out of hand on this one.

    Let’s talk about ethanol’s energy content. It used to be that ethanol creation was a net energy loser. Now, according to most favorable studies, it’s a net energy producer. Like about 1 to 1.19 units of energy in to energy out. Whoopee! We barely get more out than we put in. Compare that to oil’s eieo ratio, which is typically around 1 to 10-20 units. So much for any supposed decrease in energy used because of this renewable fuel.

    Evidently Borras has never dirtied his hands with wrenching on machines. Not only are the parts ethanol destroys on older machines not always as cheap as he makes them out to be, he totally ignores the labor costs of replacing them. It cost me over a 100$ to get my snowblower fixed (1996 model) when the ethanol in its gas ate through the fuel line and clogged the carburetor. Ethanol-free gas works in all gas engines; ethanol gas works only in newer engines. So what’s the point of making a net energy-neutral fuel that’s not as universally usable as pure gas?

    What’s more, perhaps this buffoon Borras should have his vehicle stall somewhere inconvenient because of ethanol, if he thinks it so minor a matter.

    What this well-informed ethanol lover doesn’t realize is that ethanol was DOA when the car industry first formed because you could barely vaporize and ignite the damned stuff. Fuel injection overcomes that problem, but FI didn’t become reliable and cheap enough to use until the 1980s. In the meantime, how-to books on running cars on alcohol recommended a dual-fuel system, using gasoline to run the engine until it got warm enough to burn alcohol. Pure Rube Goldberg.

    Ethanol may not be healthier for us too: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ethanol-not-cut-emissions/

    And pollute as much or more than gasoline:http://www.intota.com/docs/ethanol-pollution.asp

    And of course, who could forget the heavy government subsidies behind ethanol? Ethanol makes oil look like a piker in this respect.

    Clearly, Borras was drinking more ethanol than he was burning in his car when he wrote his column of dreck.

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