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Is E85 Dead Now?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the somebody-call-netcraft dept.

Government 556

twdorris writes "With a stoichiometric ratio far lower than that of gasoline (much lower than the price difference), buying the E85 ethanol fuel blend instead of gasoline was already hard to justify. Unless you raced your car on a track where E85 provided a great alternative to race fuel, it really didn't make financial sense. And there are other reasons not to buy E85, too. Like the impact corn-based ethanol is having on food prices or the questionable emissions results (PDF). So, now that the ethanol subsidies provided by the U.S. federal government are scheduled to end this summer, it's going to be even harder to justify E85 (at least in the U.S.). This change will basically make a gallon of E85 cost the same or slightly more than gasoline. With so many things working against it, are the days numbered for readily available E85 at your local gas station? And should it have ever even been made available to begin with? How much did all that government-backed R&D and tax credits cost us for something that was pretty clearly questionable to begin with?"

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556 comments

10% Ethanol (5, Interesting)

XanC (644172) | about 2 years ago | (#38716976)

Does that mean that we'll go back to having gasoline actually be real, 100% honest-to-God gasoline too?

Re:10% Ethanol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717058)

Not likely, since everyone's still banning MTBE and they need to get the octane up somehow. Just wait, they'll probably bump it up to 15% soon and kill our old cars even faster.

Re:10% Ethanol (4, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | about 2 years ago | (#38717310)

Not likely, since ethanol is still a dogwhistle issue for uninformed voters in important election states, and subsidies are a cheap way to buy votes.

FIFY :)

Re:10% Ethanol (1)

Gordo_1 (256312) | about 2 years ago | (#38717640)

Perhaps a stupid question, but how does ethanol raise octane content? If I remember back to high school chemistry class, ethanol is an alcohol with 2 carbons, whereas octane is an 8 carbon chain.

Re:10% Ethanol (5, Informative)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 2 years ago | (#38717086)

For the record, I know of only one location that sells E85 in this area. Doesn't mean there aren't others, but if there are, I haven't seen them.

One of the talk shows on our station is a good ol' boy who talks auto repair. He insists -- vehemently -- that ethanol lowers mileage so much that whatever you saved on emissions, you lose because you're burning more fuel as a result. The callers to that show seem to echo that sentiment.

I know in my own car (Nissan Altima, and I LOVE it), I seem to get a bit more mileage when I'm burning pure gasoline -- about 5% more.

YMMV (literally, in this case) and that's hardly scientific, but there you go. :)

Re:10% Ethanol (5, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | about 2 years ago | (#38717348)

I had a Ford truck that would run on E85, but it said right in the owner's manual that the gas mileage was 15-20% poorer.

Ethanol is a net loss of energy. It takes more energy to produce a gallon than you get by burning it. Combine that with the fact that we could cover the entire country in corn and still not be independent of fossil fuels - it's a complete boondoggle.

Re:10% Ethanol (4, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | about 2 years ago | (#38717650)

Ethanol is a net loss of energy. It takes more energy to produce a gallon than you get by burning it.

Isn't that true for, well, everything? Gas is just nice because most of the energy has already been deposited so we just have to drill it and refine it so that we can extract the stored energy.

I'm not backing burning ethanol here, just the good old laws of thermodynamics. Essentially: The best you can do as far as energy-in vs energy-out is break even, and you can only do that at absolute zero.

Re:10% Ethanol (4, Informative)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 2 years ago | (#38717774)

That's just semantics.

It takes less energy to drill a gallon of gasoline out of the ground and deliver it to your fuel tank than you gain by burning that fuel in your engine. It takes more energy to grow corn, turn it into ethanol and deliver it to your fuel tank than you gain from burning that ethanol.

If you were using solar powered tractors to grow the corn, and solar powered trucks to move it around it might make sense (just might, it wouldn't necessarily.) Given that most of the energy to produce the ethanol comes from gasoline or diesel, it makes no sense to use ethanol.

Re:10% Ethanol (2, Insightful)

Jappus (1177563) | about 2 years ago | (#38717696)

Ethanol is a net loss of energy. It takes more energy to produce a gallon than you get by burning it.

Just as a neat reminder: As far as we know, the law of thermodynamics apply to all things. You can't create or destroy energy, the process is never fully reversible and you can't extract arbitrary amounts of energy from any limited thing. That means, you can't win the game, you can't cheat at the game and you can't even quit the game (as someone greater than me has so succinctly put).

This applies to E85 just as well as to pure Gasoline. After all, how much energy did you think was converted to allow simple carbon dioxide and water to be stored in the molecular form of hydrocarbons/carbohydrates? The same processes that lead to Ethanol were necessary to lead to Gasoline.

So yes, it takes more energy to produce Ethanol than you get by burning it. But that's true of gasoline, coal, wood and incautious lab assistants, too.

Re:10% Ethanol (5, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | about 2 years ago | (#38717786)

It's not a boondoggle.

It just wasn't designed to do what you thought it was.

Namely provide back-door subsidies to Big Corn.

Re:10% Ethanol (4, Interesting)

Hellasboy (120979) | about 2 years ago | (#38717492)

My car is relatively newer and I *hate* when gas stations are forced to use E10 (10% ethanol, ie. Winter fuel). My mpg drops by 10% - 15%. I wish I was exaggerating but I'm pretty meticulous in checking this when I fill up every couple weeks. This has occurred each year since I've owned my car and I've made nearly the same drive when comparing my winter and summer driving habits. They say E10 is cleaner but how much cleaner when you add the extra 15% in fuel I'm burning up to do the same work?

Re:10% Ethanol (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#38717564)

If you remove the ethanol, though, wouldn't you need to include some other additive to counteract water condensation issues in winter?

Re:10% Ethanol (2, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#38717780)

No, exactly the opposite.

Ethanol in fuel is what CAUSES the condensation problem as ethanol absorbes water and then dumps it during a phase change so you'll end up with a puddle of water at the end of your tank BECAUSE of ethanol. Ethanol is one of the primary reasons boaters use fuel stabilizers, don't need it without ethanol. With ethanol you need fuel stabilizers to keep the ethanol from dumping its water and your engine sucking it into all the places that don't need it as right after it dumps its water the whole damn thing turns into one big bunch of acid that fucks up everything in your engine.

Re:10% Ethanol (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | about 2 years ago | (#38717462)

I wish they'd remove that 10% that is required in some areas.

It used to be that at some gas pumps there'd be 0% ethanol and 10% ethanol in different spouts; I'd choose the 0% every time. It's doing your engine a much bigger favor than those snake-oil detergents in the premium grades do.

Re:10% Ethanol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717498)

It's not required, and whoever told you it was required was lying to you. It is, however, significantly cheaper, which is why 0% ethanol gas is harder to find.

Deader Than a Doornail (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#38716982)

I come from a family of farmers, some of which have taken advantage of the high price of corn. Well, around Christmas they were talking about two things. One is the serious disregard for pollution standards [publicradio.org] from most (they said more than just those caught and fined) ethanol refineries. And also the negative effect it has had on farmland in their area. The second was that many refineries were shutting down as these subsidies came to a close (my dad pointed out two abandoned as we drove along) and as a result some farmers had bought up land at high prices expecting the recent price of corn to continue. They had figured they would be getting $6 or $7 a bushel and there was a lot of talk that since the refineries were going down and production was already juiced that this was going to lead to a lot of farmers losing money in these purchases. From what I gathered from folks who have been doing this for many decades: this will be a very painful learning experience for everyone involved and this seems to be the sentiment whether the wind blows right or left.

Re:Deader Than a Doornail (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717030)

Yep, that's about the size of it. Congresspeople tipping off their buddies in big business to buy cheap farmland because they were about to legislate a corn bubble, and then making sure to tip them off again that the subsidies would not be renewed, so they could sell the land to unsuspecting farmers at corn bubble prices, only to have it come crashing down.

Typical corruption scam by government.

Re:Deader Than a Doornail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717714)

There's a saying that goes "you cannot cheat an honest person". We would all do well to live our lives with this in mind.

Re:Deader Than a Doornail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717268)

When you hear the talking heads go on about crony capitalism, this is what they are talking about.

Left? Right? It's all about pie, and who gets to slice it.

Re:Deader Than a Doornail (5, Insightful)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about 2 years ago | (#38717534)

From what I gathered from folks who have been doing this for many decades: this will be a very painful learning experience for everyone involved and this seems to be the sentiment whether the wind blows right or left.

What was the lesson exactly?

That it's a total douche move to lobby for subsidies to grow corn in order to make a completely unrealistic and net energy/money losing biofuel?
That it's a bigger douche move to switch from growing actual foods to growing this shit and driving up prices of general foodstuffs that would have grown on the same land, as well as the cost of meats from livestock that used to feed off of dent corn?
That it's really fucking annoying when many of the country's engines are being rotted away from the inside-out up by the water-loving ethanol that corn lobbyists demanded be put into gasoline?
Or that it was a completely idiotic idea to then invest "long-term" (but ironically very short-sightedly) in the Land of Oz that they managed to make for themselves?

I live in Wisconsin and go to school with quite a few farmers, and can relate to them and feel bad for them on an individual level, but some of the assholes at the top of this heap, namely the lobbyists for subsidies, can go fuck themselves for how much trouble they've caused in the name of greed.

Re:Deader Than a Doornail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717598)

It went from 'we have heaps of extra corn' to 'lets make everyone use it'.

It was meant to remove the need for farmers to dump their corn at a loss. It was garbage and we had found a way to use the 'garbage'. Then somewhere in the 80s it turned into 'everyone should use this'. Even *THEN* it was obvious to anyone involved it was more expensive. Hence the huge needs for subsides.

Kinda sucks (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717036)

A lot of the racers are putting turbos in their cars, running e85 and getting great horsepower AND gas mileage. It works great for them. However, most americans hate it because they get no increased hp in their car, and the price offset doesn't justify the worse gas mileage. Then theres the whole CORN IS FOOD. To which I say, there's enough corn in my food already

Re:Kinda sucks (4, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 2 years ago | (#38717108)

The problem is that e85 has less energy than standard gas does and typically you don't see a corresponding drop in price per gallon. Ethanol itself has less energy than gasoline does so you end up with less gas mileage than you would with regular gas. Claiming otherwise is just plain ignorant and requires one to ignore the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:Kinda sucks (5, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 2 years ago | (#38717224)

But it has a higher octane rating.
If you didn't have to have the "flex fuel" option then you could get better milage out of E85. Cars could run higher compression ratios and more spark advance. You could get very close or higher mileage out of E85 than Gasoline then... Oh and no breaking or bending of the laws of thermodynamics required. With the current compromise flex fuel set up you are correct.

Re:Kinda sucks (4, Insightful)

zieroh (307208) | about 2 years ago | (#38717300)

If you're going to switch over the whole system, and require new engines to get any benefit, you might as well just go straight to hydrogen and stop dicking around with this ethanol crap.

But since neither is going to happen any time soon, the point is moot.

Re:Kinda sucks (3, Interesting)

thebigmacd (545973) | about 2 years ago | (#38717342)

Actually, the flex fuel setup is not a compromise in terms of timing and mixture...an E85 vehicle has a ratio sensor in the fuel line that tells the ECU how much ethanol there is in the fuel. The ECU in turn advances timing and leans mixture when practical.

The issue is that thermodynamics still win out. If a car isn't turbocharged or stupidly high compression, being able to advance timing and run leaner isn't much of an advantage at all.

Even in a turbocharged car, during cruise you can already lean and advance the engine like crazy with regular gasoline as there is very little load on it.

The ONLY advantage to E85 is at WOT in a turbocharged or high compression engine, and most people don't spend much time at WOT.

Re:Kinda sucks (1)

UberJugend (2519392) | about 2 years ago | (#38717538)

I thought it was the other way around? Low octanes are good for high compression engines, like diesels with no ignition systems, and high octanes like ethanol are good for low compression? I'm not trying to make a point or anything, just trying to learning something.

Re:Kinda sucks (2)

mmontour (2208) | about 2 years ago | (#38717368)

It's not quite that simple. Although ethanol has a lower energy content, it has a higher "octane number" and can be used at higher (more efficient) compression ratios than regular gasoline. An engine specifically designed for E85 wouldn't necessarily be much less efficient than one designed for standard gasoline.

However, cellulose-derived butanol is probably a better long-term solution.

Re:Kinda sucks (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#38717400)

It's not just about total energy, it's about useful energy extracted.

Turbos usually require higher octane so that there won't be premature ignition under the extra pressure. They also get more power/efficiency out of the same fuel as they are driven by reusing exhaust gases. So it's entirely possible that a lower-energy, higher octane fuel can get better mileage with an efficient turbocharged engine...

Scheduled to end.... (5, Insightful)

cfulmer (3166) | about 2 years ago | (#38717042)

The E85 manufacturers and the agriculture companies that grow corn have a lot riding on this, and are quite good at influencing Congress. There's a very good chance that they will successfully lobby to extend this subsidy.

That's a shame, because the subsidy was originally intended to support this fuel alternative for a short time in order to give it a chance to become economically viable. Well, it's had that chance and the results have been a disaster.

Re:Scheduled to end.... (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#38717276)

> The E85 manufacturers and the agriculture companies that grow corn have a lot riding on this, and are quite good at influencing Congress. There's a very good chance that they will successfully lobby to extend this subsidy.

Unfortunately, I think you're right. I'll go one further -- I predict that even after we no longer add alcohol to gasoline, the subsidies will continue.

Re:Scheduled to end.... (5, Interesting)

dak664 (1992350) | about 2 years ago | (#38717354)

As I understand it, along with the subsidy expiration is the elimination of the tariff for Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, which was being imported anyway to the US because of the higher tax credit for sustainable EtOH when used for making E90 (US production being exported to Brazil to pay for it). So ethanol will actually become cheaper! A few gas stations near boating facilities have been selling unblended gas http://pure-gas.org/ [pure-gas.org] but most wanted the 5 cent per gallon credit for E90. Many small airports will let you buy leaded aviation gas for two cycle engines.

My chainsaw seized after overheating last month, after which I measured the ethanol content of my fuel mix to be 17.7% (add 100 ml of gas to 50 ml of water in a baby bottle, cap and shake well, read the water + ethanol level after it separates again). I am using $5/gallon aviation fuel in my new chainsaw. Using E85 voids the Husqvarna warranty!

Re:Scheduled to end.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717376)

it would be a lot more viable if subsidaries on gasoline would end as well - just saying.

Re:Scheduled to end.... (3, Insightful)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about 2 years ago | (#38717444)

That's a shame, because the subsidy was originally intended to support this fuel alternative for a short time in order to give it a chance to become economically viable. Well, it's had that chance and the results have been a disaster.

And this is a reason that I've become a bit more wary about these sorts of government subsidies that are intended to 'kick-start' a particular technology. It's not that I think that it's not a good and valid use of government money to provide this sort of startup from which innovation can flourish but rather the high risk that, having gotten on the gravy train and now being dependent on the government for financing, those industries can often manage to get entrenched into a position from which they cannot be dislodged even after the justification for the subsidy is gone. Look at the sugar industry in the US for instance -- you just can't get rid of the subsidies because they've used all that lucre to buy enough support and now we are absolutely stuck with them.

IOW, I just don't believe the second prong of "well if it doesn't work we'll try something else" because you've generated a whole bunch of people whose jobs depend on not trying something else. And no one wants to be against jobs right? A Senator can quite validly say that cutting subsidy X will lose Y jobs in his State -- jobs that were created by a subsidy that has failed to make the industry self-sustaining. So it becomes a one-way ratchet ....

Re:Scheduled to end.... (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#38717472)

The linked article allows the interpretation that the subsidy is "scheduled to end" simply because Congress didn't get around to renewing it yet. But the Sentate voted 73-27 [reuters.com] to eliminate the subsidy early last year. The Senate can't make laws unilaterally, but that's a pretty clear sign of significant active opposition to the subsidy. Now that the subsidy would have to be actively extended, reversing a 73-27 vote through lobbying seems like a very high hurdle.

Re:Scheduled to end.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717516)

I agree that a renewal may be a bad thing. It was given a chance to become economically viable. That chance has passed. I don't see corruption, and I don't see it as a bad thing. I look at it as similar to a research grant except it provides much more of an economic impact than pure research. Just like in research though, it's hit or miss whether it will be a long term success.

Some subsidies create a market where none would exist. Some drive technology to create a better, cheaper product. In this case, it may not be true, but i'm not against trying. I am against continuing throwing money at it if there is no indication of improvement.

Other industries such as wind have clearly shown improvements in efficiency and design cost. In these cases, the subsidy is a success and can either be extended to promote further improvement, or reduced if it seems the industry can now stand on its own. PTC removal for wind is OK at this point because the industry is self sustaining. E85 unfortunately may not be in the same position. The question is, has it been given enough time to develop?

It has been known for quite a while. (2)

Tsingi (870990) | about 2 years ago | (#38717066)

It's no secret that Ethanol production is no greener than petroleum fuels. There are other corn based products that are propped up artificially as well.
Hard to figure why the government subsidizes it so much. I'm sure someone will say, is there a huge corn lobby? Who pays them?

Re:It has been known for quite a while. (3, Funny)

russotto (537200) | about 2 years ago | (#38717258)

Hard to figure why the government subsidizes it so much. I'm sure someone will say, is there a huge corn lobby? Who pays them?

The answer to the last question is easy: You do, and I do, and we all do. That's the great thing about rent-seeking, it's self-sustaining. You use your rent to obtain more rent.

And yes, there is a huge corn-products lobby, headed by the Archer Daniels Midland company (motto: "We're not quite as evil as Monsanto.").

It was never worth it to begin with (4, Informative)

james_van (2241758) | about 2 years ago | (#38717072)

Even though it cost less than standard gasoline, it came at a reduced gas milage. I did the math and at the cost in my area, it was more expensive per mile than regular. Maybe in other areas that was different, I dont know.

Re:It was never worth it to begin with (2)

Sez Zero (586611) | about 2 years ago | (#38717418)

It was the same here. Our car supports E85 and the three tanks of it we tried we got 13% less mileage and paid only 6% less for the fuel. It just didn't make sense. The first fill-up was nice, because the price per tank was lower, but that came crashing down when I had to fill up much earlier than I normally do (based on miles on the tank).

Maybe we can see E10/E15 dead too? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717078)

For engines that can handle it, E85 is a nice alternative to gasoline because it does give a tad more horsepower. However, even with the included subsidies, it was still not worth using because of the MPG difference compared to plain gasoline.

However, being forced to use gasoline with ethanol in it results in more energy lost in making of replacement engines and parts than it saves.

Ethanol is an enemy of small engines. It is hygroscopic, which means the engine has to deal with water sucked in, and gas + water makes a nasty acid (nicknamed "gacid" by mechanics) that destroys engines. Of course, this stuff is not covered by any warranty, so your new car that gets ethanol damage, the owner is stuck with the bill.

Of course, you can add Sta-Bil to the gas tank to help combat the ethanol's effects, but gas additives get expensive.

I just hope that ethanol goes away except for the occassional E85 pump, just for the sake of lawn mower, generator, motorcycle, and boat owners everywhere. The carbon savings from not having to keep purchasing new engines will more than make up for the difference in pollution.

I LOVE e85 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717084)

I have been using E85 in my race car (a 1995 Dodge Neon) for a couple years now and love it dearly. I will be devastated to see it go.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bj9JhD4YGs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmlyPU3h3Fg

Re:I LOVE e85 (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about 2 years ago | (#38717470)

it may work in a race car but in normal every day cars it don't, example i will use "2011 Chevrolet Silverado C15 2WD 5.3 L, 8 cyl, Automatic 6-spd, Regular Gasoline or E85" it gets rated 21 MPG with gas, put e85 in it it only gets 16 MPG. that is 25% drop in mileage. Now look at how much E85 costs compared gas, on avg e85 is only 10% cheaper, some cases its up to 20%. so in end you are spending more to run E85. That is problem.

Not all bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717096)

We did get a real market sample of what the public does with a new technology, how the subsidies affect the pricing and incentives, as well as a realistic idea of what a change over from oil might be like. This should help us understand how changing pumping situations for a nation (E85 can still run on the same pumps, so it was much cheaper than implimenting a new/more efficient tech like hydrogen). We know how many Americans will adopt and how early they will.

This was just a tester for better tech down the line. As for the price to corn, how much do we pay farmers not to grow it?

The Great Ethanol Scam (1, Informative)

Chemisor (97276) | about 2 years ago | (#38717104)

Let's not forget that ethanol fuels destroy engines [businessweek.com], lower gas mileage, and drive farmers into bankrupcy.

Re:The Great Ethanol Scam (3, Informative)

what2123 (1116571) | about 2 years ago | (#38717214)

I've been wondering if Ford was already certain that the damage was too great to even risk with their vehicles. At the least, their standard non-hybrid or Alternative models all seem to be label explicitly NO-E85 or any alternative fuel other than gasoline/gasohol (10% ethanol). This is true on my 2011 Fiesta, where they state using E-85 can void the Powertrain warranty completely.

Re:The Great Ethanol Scam (2)

donour (445617) | about 2 years ago | (#38717226)

The information in that article skirts the border of misleading and bogus. Almost any modern (EFI) gasoline engine is capable of running an alcohol fuel with minimal modifications. Many engines, such as low displacement supercharged ones used in small cars, _will_ run more efficiently because of the higher octane rating. Ethanol is a very effective cleaning product. Many people seems to believe it can "gum" up engine parts while in reality it is simply stripping precipatates off the fueling system itself that may have built up over years of use.

Re:The Great Ethanol Scam (1)

armanox (826486) | about 2 years ago | (#38717626)

Ethanol doesn't cause gumming up so much as it just dissolves everything in there. Works terrible wonders on those of us with older cars (80's in my case).

Farm Subsidy (2)

RugRat (323562) | about 2 years ago | (#38717114)

This was never something for the environment. It was always another subsidy for farmers and Big Oil.

E85 Has Been Dead For Years Here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717118)

When E85 first came to gas stations in my area, it was SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than regular gasoline. However, it took less than 6 months for the price of E85 to slowly creep up and come within 5 cents of a regular gallon of gas. On my way to work this morning, E85 was a whopping 3 cents cheaper than Unleaded at the gas station by my house.

E85 has not delivered on ANY of its hype.

Re:E85 Has Been Dead For Years Here (2)

Skapare (16644) | about 2 years ago | (#38717218)

And they make up for that 3% by raising taxes to cover the subsidy. You lose whether you buy it or not.

Re:E85 Has Been Dead For Years Here (2)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 2 years ago | (#38717272)

E85 has not delivered on ANY of its hype.

It was hyped as government mandates trumping market decisions for the purpose of appeasing special interests.

Which part of that did it not achieve? Seriously, no one ever expected it to survive after the end of the subsidies (and taxes on petroleum based fuels). There was no secrecy. It was plainly presented as appeasement to the Corn Growers Association, paid for by all Americans who use fuel or eat food produced domestically (ie. everyone)

Bad Race Fuel too (1)

oic0 (1864384) | about 2 years ago | (#38717120)

Its not good race fuel either since they tend to screw around with the blend throughout the year. Many race vehicles are either have a carb or closed circuit fuel injection, neither of which compensate for the seasonal changes.

Re:Bad Race Fuel too (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#38717630)

Racers don't buy fuel from the pump. They get it trucked to the race track, and you can be certain that they will keep a close eye on what the blend is.

E85 is AWESOME!! (0, Troll)

andydread (758754) | about 2 years ago | (#38717132)

E85 is wonderful fuel for my RX-7 I LOVE it.. I am able to produce 700+HP from a 1.1 litre engine as opposed to only 545HP with 93octane. And the engine feels damn cool to the touch. And its MUCH cheaper than race gas. I just wish there were more stations to fill up when I am driving it on the street.

Re:E85 is AWESOME!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717372)

You mean "race", right? not race.
And all that subsidizing and eco-talk was set in place so that people on slashdot can pretend they are "race" drivers.

Re:E85 is AWESOME!! (1)

FranktehReaver (2441748) | about 2 years ago | (#38717442)

You received a 155 HP increase from just switching to E85? That is quite a feat.

Re:E85 is AWESOME!! (1)

andydread (758754) | about 2 years ago | (#38717528)

yes because the EGT was lowered quite a bit and was able to run 28PSI of boost as opposed to 21PSI on 93 Octane and 25PSI on 114 Octane race gas which is ridiculously expensive. It basically makes race gas obsolete in my book.

Solar Energy Storage (2, Interesting)

torklugnutz (212328) | about 2 years ago | (#38717138)

E85 will make perfect sense once petroleum is removed from the distilling process. Ethanol will be one of many methods to "store" solar energy. It's still going to continue to be important in the internal combustion field. Current marketplace E85 doesn't make much sense, but it is a stepping stone. It's not a dead end technology, it's just one that requires a good amount of energy to to expended on its manufacture. Eventually, the price of this energy will decrease.

Re:Solar Energy Storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717260)

Doesn't it also require a "good amount" of land to prove viable? And by good I mean a lot? And at the expense of land for other crops?
It's not like the world will need LESS food any time soon.
If I'm going to hope for wonders, I'll wish for higher (very high) solar cell efficiency or, why not, even cold fusion.

Re:Solar Energy Storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717322)

E85 will make perfect sense once petroleum is removed from the distilling process. Ethanol will be one of many methods to "store" solar energy. It's still going to continue to be important in the internal combustion field. Current marketplace E85 doesn't make much sense, but it is a stepping stone. It's not a dead end technology, it's just one that requires a good amount of energy to to expended on its manufacture. Eventually, the price of this energy will decrease.

Idiot

Maybe ethanol, but not corn ethanol (3, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | about 2 years ago | (#38717390)

We've seen that getting ethanol from corn kernels is not a good way to go about storing solar energy.

We've yet to see whether cellulosic ethanol plants work out as hoped, or not. If CE plants are able to cost effectively generate ethanol from cellulose-rich plants (like switchgrass, industrial hemp, etc), then there might be a future for ethanol as a biofuel, but not corn ethanol.

As a plant, it just takes too much energy to grow the corn, transport it, and you get too little energy back.

Re:Solar Energy Storage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717464)

Ethanol is an extremely inefficient way to "store" solar energy. It's a net energy drain to produce it and although we can probably make the process more efficient, it just doesn't make sense with the small amount of land we have to grow food on. We need farm land for people, not cars.

Captain Hindsight on /. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717150)

[q]How much did all that government-backed R&D and tax credits cost us for something that was pretty clearly questionable to begin with?[/q]
It can't be easy having 20/20 hindsight. I mean it's not like any project of this magnitude has proponents and opponents, with both parties eagerly just waiting to go "I told you so."

It was worth a shot. We could as well have ended up with someone discovering a super algae or yeast or whatever (I don't fucking know, something bioengineered) once we went down that road. This time we didn't, don't be a fuckbag about it. No one likes a fuckbag.

Cheers

At least it is domestic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717202)

All things being equal, I'd rather our fuel come from within the USA than outside. But I'll be the first to admit I hate seeing "flexfuel" on the back of all of those giant trucks and SUV's like it makes any difference. 99.9% of the population fills them with gasoline anyway.

Maybe with those subsidies gone, we can concentrate on better alternatives such as electric vehicles, natural gas, compressed air, and maybe someday (crossing fingers) hydrogen.

Lets keep E85, but.. (5, Interesting)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 2 years ago | (#38717210)

lets switch to switchgrass please. You don't need to waste food or farmland for switchgrass, it grows in many difficult conditions and is cheaper to manage by far. It also has better energy energy content by far.

Stuff was too costly (1)

ToasterTester (95180) | about 2 years ago | (#38717266)

They alway tried to hide the amount of corn and the energy required to make ethanol. It never was a cost-effective solution.

it puts the scare to foreign oil (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 2 years ago | (#38717270)

even if there is no other reason to product E85, if it causes pause in oil-rich countries that hate us and our freedoms, but want to gobble down our money while it's still good, hell yes, go E85.

if the US would build the appropriate pipelines to use the ND/MT/WY oil from the Bakken and other formations, where we have three Saudi Arabias worth of oil availiable for the fracking where there are no earthquake zones, we wouldn't even need to think about E85 or other alternatives to oil for a good hundred years.

as it is, we need to use everything we have to get away from using... everything we have... and build an alternate energy system in this country.

Re:it puts the scare to foreign oil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717424)

if the US would build the appropriate pipelines to use the ND/MT/WY oil from the Bakken and other formations, where we have three Saudi Arabias worth of oil availiable for the fracking where there are no earthquake zones, we wouldn't even need to think about E85 or other alternatives to oil for a good hundred years.

I am having a great deal of trouble not laughing. A hundred years? Are you nuts? Have you SEEN the well decline profiles of what's coming out of the Bakken these days? Just because one bad solution is dying and a stopgap appears suddenly does not mean there is no problem. Oil production in North America shows every sign of going the same way as the gold rushes [theoildrum.com].

Uhhhh...can you say tariff drop too? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717288)

Ummmm did the author of this do NO real homework...or do they just have a personal axe to grind against E85?

While the end of the subsidies may sound bad...the $0.45 per gallon US subsidy loss was also complimented by a dropping of the US import tariff of $0.54 per gallon.

http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-01-09/end-us-ethanol-tariff [energybulletin.net]

All this does is stop local protectionism and might actually result in a net DROP in e85 prices.

Bio-butanol anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717318)

What about bio-butanol? Could you mix that with gasoline? It may smell, but it has a higher energy density than ethanol. Is it more economical?

Hemp based bio-diesel (5, Informative)

msobkow (48369) | about 2 years ago | (#38717328)

I know diesel engines have a lousy reputation in North America, but I firmly believe hemp based bio-diesel is a FAR better alternative than E85. Most importantly, hemp seed based bio-diesel is a net-positive energy solution, requiring less fuel to farm the hemp and process it into bio-diesel than you end up producing (kind of a critical point for any product to succeed in the energy markets.)

Some go so far as to claim that hemp bio-diesel is carbon negative. I'm skeptical about that, but it would be interesting to test the theory.

Unlike ethanol corn, hemp produces a great deal of fiber suitable for textiles and paper as a side-product, even if the main purpose of the crop is bio-diesel. Levi's jeans used to be made exclusively from hemp-fiber denim, not cotton. I've read claims that hemp based paper out produces poplar tree paper production by a factor of nearly 4:1, though again, I've not seen a study to prove that claim.

Most important of all, hemp is literally a weed and will grow almost anywhere, allowing the use of low-grade farmland instead of taking away from food-crop acreage.

But it's nothing new. The pro-hemp community has been screaming this "nonsense" at the top of their lungs for decades while the cannabis drug war drowned out their good points about hemp farming.

Don't forget cellulosic ethanol (2)

JSBiff (87824) | about 2 years ago | (#38717504)

There's been some talk over the past decade about cellulosic ethanol. I believe there's a couple demo plants being constructed a few places in the country. From my understanding, you could just as easily use cellulose from hemp as from switchgrass or trees.

So, you could take the seed and make bio-diesel (and, perhaps, lubricating oils - not sure if the hemp seed oil would be any good for lubrication or not?) for diesel engines, and cellulosic ethanol from the rest of the plant (which accounts for what, like 99% of the plant mass)?

Because of that last bit, I suspect you would get far, far more ethanol from the plant, per acre, than bio-diesel from the seeds?

Re:Hemp based bio-diesel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717620)

I know diesel engines have a lousy reputation in North America, but I firmly believe hemp based bio-diesel is a FAR better alternative than E85. Most importantly, hemp seed based bio-diesel is a net-positive energy solution, requiring less fuel to farm the hemp and process it into bio-diesel than you end up producing (kind of a critical point for any product to succeed in the energy markets.)

Some go so far as to claim that hemp bio-diesel is carbon negative. I'm skeptical about that, but it would be interesting to test the theory.

Unlike ethanol corn, hemp produces a great deal of fiber suitable for textiles and paper as a side-product, even if the main purpose of the crop is bio-diesel. Levi's jeans used to be made exclusively from hemp-fiber denim, not cotton. I've read claims that hemp based paper out produces poplar tree paper production by a factor of nearly 4:1, though again, I've not seen a study to prove that claim.

Most important of all, hemp is literally a weed and will grow almost anywhere, allowing the use of low-grade farmland instead of taking away from food-crop acreage.

But it's nothing new. The pro-hemp community has been screaming this "nonsense" at the top of their lungs for decades while the cannabis drug war drowned out their good points about hemp farming.

Wish I could be bothered to log in on the off-chance that I had mod points to mod up. +1

When it was new many of us wrote papers on it (2)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 2 years ago | (#38717340)

I was one of many to write papers on it and why it really didn't fix anything. It was never even a band-aid.

But the refineries were built anyway- solely because of government money. It absolutely never would have happened naturally if there wasn't government money to be made.

Drop the subsidy .... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#38717344)

... keep the E85 engines.

For a few of us who race or can brew our own ethanol (sans road tax), this stuff is still great.

EISA is still a problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717370)

Without subsidies the law is still a problem... The law requires an amount of ethanol be blended into the nations fuel supply, but we're not using enough gas to safely reach those legal levels with E10 alone. E15 and E85 help meet the EISA law's requirements. Ethanol will not go away until EISA is fixed.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
(EISA) (Pub. Law 110-40) requires the motor fuel supply to contain 36 billion gallons of ethanol and
advanced biofuels by 2022 (known as the renewable fuel standard (RFS)). For instance, this year
requires 11.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be used in our nation’s fuel supply. ...
Here is where the "blend wall" comes into play. The nation consumes approximately 145 billion gallons
of gasoline each year and approximately 120 billion gallons are subject to the RFS ethanol
blending formula. Even if every gallon of gasoline included in the RFS were blended with 10 percent
ethanol, refiners would hit the "blend wall" around 12 billion gallons. Refiners are expected to hit the
ethanol "blend wall" between 2011 – 2012 (at current ten percent ethanol blended consumption).

http://www.pmaa.org/userfiles/file/Legislative/2009/.../BLENDWALL.pdf

Ethanol is feasible, just not here... (3, Insightful)

slippyblade (962288) | about 2 years ago | (#38717396)

Ethanol is very feasible, just not he way we make it in the states. Sugarcane produces far more ethanol per weight than corn does, and it does so with much less manufacturing. However, the USA has a massive pre-existing investment in corn. Thus the issue.

Welcome to the land of the boondoggle... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#38717454)

E85 was a bad joke from the start. If you consider the amount of oil it takes to water the corn, fertilize the corn, then harvest the corn, then process it to get your ethanol, its a huge losing proposition from a purely environmental position. It also profoundly screws with the food markets, and puts the poor around the world on precarious footing towards starvation.

The people it benefits are the big moneied corporate agribusinesses. It makes grain less available, jacks up the price of corn commodities, and in short makes a bunch of greedy buggers even wealthier.

You want to use a sane fuel? Oil from Algae, is sane. Ethanol from bullgrass is sane. Ethanol and methanol from sewage and organic waste is sane. By all means, turn refuse and societies byproducts into fuel and fuel additives. Just get food out of the equation.

It's a laugh (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 2 years ago | (#38717526)

In all these years of E85 hype, there's only been a handful of places I could actually get it. The only two within a 45 minute drive on the interstate are both on military bases which I'd need a military ID in order to get on base, much less purchase there. The others are so absurdly far that I'd have wasted more in gas getting there and back than I'd be saving.

Ethanol problems (4, Informative)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 2 years ago | (#38717582)

Even Scientists from Ag departments of California universities have known that looking to corn-based fuels is a bad idea. Look at this report from Professor Tadeusz Patzek, A Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley [phoenixpro...ndation.us]:

Excerpts:

Why Corn Ethanol is Unsustainable, Let Us Count the Ways:
4.
Approximately 99% of U.S. corn is fertilized, requiring more fertilizer than any other crop.
Nitrogen fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are all made from fossil fuels, as is the diesel
fuel, gasoline, LPG, natural gas, electricity, transportation and irrigation used to grow and
transport the corn.

7.
Because ethanol is a toxic and hazardous substance, its use is regulated by OSHA, DOT,
NFPA and NIOSH. Ethanol must be handled with extreme caution because it can enter the
blood stream from breathing the fumes, or by penetration through the skin or mouth. Exposure
can irritate the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat. As such, protective clothing, including gloves
and splash-proof chemical goggles and face shields should be worn by anyone coming in
contact with ethanol.

8.
People are advised not to eat, smoke or drink where ethanol is handled, processed, or stored
since the chemical can easily be absorbed. Moderate exposure can cause headaches, eye
and skin irritation, nausea, and drowsiness, whereas higher levels of exposure (over 1000 parts
per million over an 8-hour period) can cause shortness of breath, genetic mutations, damage to
the liver and central nervous system and unconsciousness. Exposure to ethanol levels of over
3300 ppm can result in death.

9.
Ethanol land requirements: Approximately 50 gallons of ethanol are produced per acre of
corn. Thus 2.8 billion acres of land would be required to generate 140 billion gallons of fuel
used in the USA annually, which is more than 5 times all of the cropland that is actually and
potentially available for all crops in the USA.

10.
Ethanol water requirements: ...8,360 gallons of water are needed per equivalent gallon of
gasoline in the form of ethanol. 140 billion gallons of gasoline are consumed in the USA
annually, times 8,360 gallons of water = 1.17 trillion gallons of water needed to grow and
process enough ethanol for the U.S. economy.

DARPA Style Contests (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 2 years ago | (#38717610)

While we need to find alternatives to fossil fuels (I care not about our reason - pollution, economics, or national security - any one is good enough for me) we won't get at the right solution without good old garage projects in a DARPA-style grand challenge. Only after we've had several designs on several aspects will we be able to get an improvement. Just look at all the effort and ingenuity into Pumpkin Chunkin!

Currently closed-loop steam looks like it might get a resurgence due to fuel indepenence, lack of stoichiometry, simpler design.
We currently need contests in:

  • Materials design - Mostly making carbon fiber chassis that won't kill
  • Materials design - Alternative fuels & fuel generation
  • Materials design - Alternative engine designs. (4-stroke, Sterling, Wankle, turbine, eletric)

Just more US corporate corruption (4, Insightful)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 2 years ago | (#38717638)

This was never about energy independence to begin with, it was another corporate raid on tax credits and subsidies. In this case it was agribusiness and big oil. It did not help consumers or farmers, it was bad for the economy in the long run, and it did not help the environment. Remember that farmers are not really agribusiness insiders, they are just the front end of the pipeline. The big players who really scored on this are the likes of Monsanto, Cargill and ADM. That's where the real money is.

This the same kind of crap as Medicare Part D, where the federal government is not allowed to negotiate bulk drug prices with the pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Veterans Administration gets bulk rates, and their costs are significantly lower.

Every big financial sector is in on this game. SOPA/PIPA anyone? The mortgage meltdown and the bank bailout. This is endemic corruption, where all the big players rewrite the rules so they automatically make a profit. Even Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorgan-Chase said he had a "right to make money". That's not capitalism. He has a right to engage in business, and make money if he is successful, and loose money if he doesn't. What we have now is a rigged game, and it not so slowly destroying the US economy.

Good now maybe we'll have Sucrose-based cola again (2)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 years ago | (#38717748)

Goodbye Dublin Dr. Pepper, hello sucrose-based not-outrageously-priced Dr. Pepper nationwide.

OK, maybe Dr. Pepper, Coke, and Pepsi won't want to damage their nostalgia market,* but at least Jones Soda and other sucrose-based sodas can be cost-effective with Coke/Pepsi/Dr. Pepper if the big boys are forced to pay more for the corn syrup.

*Coke distributes "Mexican Coke" in some markets at a high mark-up. Dr. Pepper distributes "10-2-4" Dr. Pepper in some markets in glass bottles at a high mark-up, with occasional "limited time only" sales in cans and large bottles at relatively small mark-ups. I haven't seen Pepsi do this but you can get "Mountain Dew Classic" at a non-outrageous markup.

E85 is Dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38717758)

E85 is one of those "We do not need to change"-technologies which suggest that we can go on the way we did until now. But the truth is, we cannot. So it would be best to cancel stupid food-based gasoline replacements. And we should not go to other plants for the same reason. We need to much valuable agricultural space for that. The best is to A) reduce energy consumption and b) use electric energy for locomotion.

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