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The New Ethanol Blend May Damage Your Vehicle

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the just-what-we-need dept.

Transportation 375

Hugh Pickens writes writes "About 80 percent of the gasoline consumed in the U.S. is blended with ethanol, primarily with a 10 percent mix of ethanol, generally derived from corn. Now Kate Sheppard writes that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new policy that will allow states to raise the blend to up to 15 percent ethanol (also known as E15), approved for use for cars and light trucks from the model year 2001 and later. A few weeks ago, AAA issued a statement saying that the EPA's new policy creates the 'strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.' AAA surveyed vehicle manufacturers, and found that only about 12 million of the 240 million vehicles on the roads today are built to use E15 gasoline. The EPA will require that gas pumps with E15 bear a warning sign noting the blend and that it is not recommended for cars older than the 2001 model year. But what happens if you accidentally use it? 'Nobody really knows what negative effects [E15 is] going to have on the vehicle,' says Brian Lyons, Toyota's safety and quality communications manager. 'We think that there needs to be a lot more study conducted to make sure there are no longer term effects on the vehicle. So far everything we've seen says there will be.' The concern is that repeated, long-term exposure could cause the higher-alcohol-content fuel to degrade engine parts like valves and cylinder heads — which could potentially cost thousands of dollars to replace. Gas station owners don't like it very much either, because they'd likely have to upgrade their equipment to use it. Nor are environmental groups big fans of the EPA's decision, arguing that increasing the use of ethanol can drive up food prices, and isn't the best means of reducing our reliance on foreign fuels. The ethanol lobby is the only group that really seems to like the new rule. 'We've force fed a fuel into every American's car that benefits a few thousand corn farmers and ethanol refiners at the expense of virtually every other American,' says Scott Faber."

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A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (5, Insightful)

elashish14 (1302231) | about a year ago | (#42386787)

Politicians who make decisions based on the bribes they are going to receive, rather than what serves best the public interest causes people to suffer like this. This is why ignorance is one of the strongest poisons in a democracy.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#42386825)

In this case it's probably not bribes (common as that is), but politicians putting their corn-growing state before the country. Corn is not a good source of ethanol but it's great for the economies of states like Iowa and Illinois.

As to causing people to suffer, the pumps are labeled. Put E-15 in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#42386875)

As to causing people to suffer, the pumps are labeled. Put E-15 in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid.

True enough, till they decide that not enough people are using the E15, and make it mandatory.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (3, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#42386895)

This will only happen once a suitable alternative is found to keep running old vehicles. Washington isn't about to mandate a fuel 95% of car owners can't use. We had the same arguments when lead fuel was eliminated. Actually the very same "Oh but what about my '69 Mustang" arguments.

Well here we are today, no lead in the fuel and a small additive on the market for owners of vehicles which required leaded gas.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386961)

Unfortunately, that is untrue. We've had E15 as the ONLY option here in Illinois for over a decade. (In reality, the pump label states that the percentage of corn ethanol may be "up to" 15%.) No amount of bitching about studies that show potential engine damage have made the slightest dent in State politicians' desires to boost corn sales (and therefore raise the price of most food products). It's true that the percentage of ethanol is lower in the higher-octane blends, but not many people are willing to spend $0.20 or even $0.30 more per gallon just to avoid the potential ill effects of ethanol.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#42387059)

There were MUCH stronger reasons to take the lead out of the fuel.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (3, Interesting)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | about a year ago | (#42387153)

Just think of all the 'contributions' they'd get from the automobile industry if they did force-obsolete 95% of all cars.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42387341)

...and the auto unions

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386969)

I'll be using E0 for as long as possible. A few stations still have it [pure-gas.org] .

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (2, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#42387315)

I'll be using E0 for as long as possible. A few stations still have it.

Living where I do, between two states where all gasoline is E10 (because the politicos stupidly thought getting rid of MTBE justified it), the closest gas station that has ethanol free gas is 100 miles away. And they don't even have the octane rating I need.

Yes, ethanol in the fuel is bad. Wicking and phase separation (where the alcohol sucks up moisture from the air and forms a sludge at the bottom of the gas station's tank) has stranded more than a few cars, and many a gasket has been eaten away too.

You need engines designed for running on ethanol - in which case E10, E15 or even E85 is no problem. But what ethanol does is far more of a problem than the switch from leaded to unleaded was. Too bad many of us get railroaded and have to use it.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386931)

Putting E-10 into a car is just as stupid in many cases. You've almost NO choice in that decision. As someone else pointed out, just wait until they make it all but mandatory like it is now with E-10 (which is what this article is about...).

Ethanol doesn't improve things as claimed. It only really works in a small range of vehicles.

As several pointed out...this is a good example of the corruption you'd see in, oh, say, a Socialist country- because those central planners aren't even close to good let alone "pefect".

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#42387197)

As several pointed out...this is a good example of the corruption you'd see in, oh, say, a Socialist country- because those central planners aren't even close to good let alone "pefect".

Funny thing is that you don't see these problems in socialist countries. Part of this is that socialist countries tend to pass legislation that favor individuals over corporations, while in capitalist countries, it's the other way around.
"Caveat emptor" is not a creed of socialism.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387507)

Speaking as someone that lives in a socialist country, bills get passed that favor the politicians, not the corporations or the people.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (5, Informative)

stevew (4845) | about a year ago | (#42387305)

Yep - this is right up there with the MTBE debacle in CA about 10 years ago.

The Cal EPA (yes California has it's own set of idiot Environmental Regulators) decided that we needed Oxygenation in our fuel mix. The Refiners had this great additive that they had NO market for called MTBE that they claimed would do the job. A report was done describing the effect of use of the additive. CalEPA literally removed dozens of pages of negative results from the report documenting that the additive would corrode the neoprene used in Gas Hoses in most vehicles! Did I mention that MTBE is a major carcinogen!

So the state merrily adopts the stuff!

Well, sure enough, CHP starts to have a huge number of car fires in their patrol vehicles as proof that the original report (the suppressed part) was correct! The bureaucrats can't sweep that CHP fleet numbers under the rug.

Then the stuff starts showing up in drinking water all over the place!

The bureaucrats are running around in circles (think circular firing squads) pointing fingers at each other. Turns out that once MTBE enters the Ecosystem, it doesn't leave. The bureaucrats (without any scientific basis) start banning motorboats on reservoirs arguing that they must be all leaking the stuff. Nope - rain! The stuff is in the air, and the rain is bringing it down into the entire water shed.

Finally tally - 20K drinking wells are polluted with the stuff.

Next - it turns out that MTBE doesn't really do the original job it was claimed to!

Well - the public is incensed! How could this all happen! This is about the time the rest of the original report shows up documenting the fact that MTBE destroys gas engines. Everything from lawn mowers to cars had problems with the stuff. A new form of gas hosing was invented to contain this mess.

The public outrage grows and eventually the governor decrees that the stuff will not be allowed into CA gas.

Final insult. The biggest manufacturer of the stuff sues CA for 1 billion dollars because of voided contract with them - and wins!

Excuse me - I've seen this movie before and know how it ends.

 

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year ago | (#42386933)

Put E-15 in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid.
Well, put anything besides 100% gasoline in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid. Unfortunately, in some states, like Texas, you have no choice. Even the regular blended Ethanol is bad for cars and disastrous for small engines.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (4, Insightful)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about a year ago | (#42387125)

Nonsense. Brazil has been using E20 and E25 for decades. All it requires is some small tweaks.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (-1, Troll)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#42387255)

Like a brand new engine block every 30K miles. Already had to replace two in older vehicles due to E* being the cause of water getting into carburetors/fuel injectors and into the engine cylinders themselves. Distilled fuel-grade ethanol likes to soak up water whenever it can.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387257)

Your post is nonsense. The fact that it requires modifications to the engine and other components means his argument is validated

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387519)

You can have sex with a man instead of a woman. All it requires is some small tweaks. I prefer pussy!

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#42387035)

You and I may know that more than 10% ethanol can be a problem for some cars, but there's a lot of people who don't. If it was at least counterbalanced by a clear benefit and VERY PROMINENT warnings, it might be acceptable, but it's going to be more ethanol made using the least suitable feedstock available.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (2)

wkk2 (808881) | about a year ago | (#42387187)

Don't put it in small engines either. The 10% stuff caused a leak in a generator fuel tank. It leaked at the shutoff valve/tank seal. The tank was almost empty or I might have lost the house.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387209)

It isn't the Corn growing states that is driving this, but rather the Environmental movement - and out of control regulators.

This is what you voted for people! So now we get to all live with the results.

Good Choice!

RTFA (or summary for that matter) (4, Insightful)

Reschekle (2661565) | about a year ago | (#42387263)

The environmentalists are actually against it

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386841)

Why is it we allow people who failed math and science to vote again?

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386871)

I wouldn't take this "article" too seriously. I followed a few links in the summary and the sources seemed about as legit as NRA.

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386993)

Its not "politicians". Its Al Gore, hero of the green movement that has literally made hundreds of millions convincing other to go "green" while he lives in his big house and flys on private jets everywhere.

Ethanol Wrong [politicsdaily.com]

There is a solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387009)

Politicians desperately need money to campaign. They spend a huge amount of time fundraising. They are then beholden to their donors. This is how the system has been corrupted and is why our elected officials work for the benefit of people other than those who elected them.

Lawrence Lessig has proposed a solution. People should listen and act.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Lessig [wikipedia.org]

Re:A clear example of how lobbying hurts everyone (1)

Iconoc (2646179) | about a year ago | (#42387533)

Elections have consequences.

Next year: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386805)

E50, never mind your car, it helps corn growers and car manufacturers, its the new stimulus

Re:Next year: (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42386853)

Actually, let's mind the car. Think of all those new jobs that are created whenever you pump the wrong fuel into your tank. Only way it could get better is if we pay people to break cars. New economy, here we come!

Recipe For Disaster? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386811)

Here in NJ we are not allowed to pump our own gas. That's right, we get Full Service whether we like it or not (it is very convenient on cold or bad weather days).

Who is going to be responsible if they start putting this E15 into cars older than 2001? The attendant? The gas station owner?? The distribution company [patch.com] ??? If we get E15 it is going to happen, the only question is how frequently and will our astronomical insurance rates cover it?

Umm.. (1)

Reschekle (2661565) | about a year ago | (#42387275)

It's been a while since I've used a full-service pump but they ALWAYS ask you what kind of gas you want in your vehicle..

What, do you think that people who drive diesels are constantly getting regular gasoline in their tanks because the pump boy doesn't know how to ask you what fuel you want?

Re:Umm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387379)

It's been a while since I've used a full-service pump but they ALWAYS ask you what kind of gas you want in your vehicle..

Requesting "regular", et al, is different from requesting "regular, ethanol 10 or less", especially if the driver doesn't know that they may encounter E15 and/or what it could do to their engine. And the possibility of the wrong grade gasoline at a pump - doesn't have to be the aviation fuel at a gas station linked to by the OP - then what? Getting regular instead of high-test won't cause the same problems as getting E15 when your car can't handle it.

What, do you think that people who drive diesels are constantly getting regular gasoline in their tanks because the pump boy doesn't know how to ask you what fuel you want?

All of the diesel pumps I've seen in NJ are a separate pump or even on a separate island.

Re:Umm.. (-1, Troll)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42387453)

What, do you think that people who drive diesels are constantly getting regular gasoline in their tanks because the pump boy doesn't know how to ask you what fuel you want?

Given the fact that diesel doesnt come out of the same pump, and the fact that you dont know this, tells us that you dont even own a car.

You clearly know that you dont own a car, so you also clearly know that you don't know what you are talking about.

You know what I call people that know that they dont know what they are talking about, but are acting like an expert anyways? A fucking liar.

It seems the real problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386813)

is that we've lost the expectation that people need to think. There's no reason why denoting the blend on each pump and expecting drivers to understand what blend their vehicle requires isn't sufficient. Many of us have vehicles or boats that already experience damage if any ethanol blend is used. Simple solution - we know that and don't use it.

Duh.

Re:It seems the real problem (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#42387093)

Which vehicles and boats do you speak of?

I ride a 30 year old motorcycle, which was not designed with either unleaded gasoline or ethanol in mind. That old Honda fires up, first time, every time. The old 'Twisted Twin' just keeps going, and going, and going.

Too much ado about nothing (0)

JamesP (688957) | about a year ago | (#42386815)

Yes, some cars 'may' be damaged. But if they withstand E10, E15 is really a non issue

Not to mention ethanol is better for the engine in some ways (less carbon deposits)

Re:Too much ado about nothing (5, Informative)

SIGBUS (8236) | about a year ago | (#42386873)

My 2010 Honda's manual very specifically says not to use ethanol blends higher than 10%. I'll trust Honda's word over those of the corn lobby.

Re:Too much ado about nothing (4, Informative)

NIK282000 (737852) | about a year ago | (#42386959)

That's true for every gasoline engine that isn't specifically designed for alcohol. Alcohol makes rubber gaskets dry out and crack, it also does a pretty good job at taking the lubricating oil off of everything. Its a wonder that old motors last hours let alone years on the 10% stuff.

It isn't the engine that's being harmed... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387043)

...it's the fuel storage and delivery systems in the vehicle that are suffering the damage... all the rubber, plastic, and aluminum components that are getting dissolved or corroded by the ethanol.

A piston engine can run just fine on ethanol, but everything from the tank, the pump(s), hoses, seals, fuel injectors, etc, all must be made from materials that specifically can withstand constant contact with ethanol, and ethanol with water dissolved in it, without deteriorating. Most automotive fuel system component materials really cannot withstand this (even E10 is harmful over time), and materials that can withstand the ethanol are expensive and have shorter limited service lifespan too.

Also keeping all the water out of the fuel is problematic too. The entire fuel system must be sealed from the atmosphere since ethanol will absorb water vapor from the air anytime there is exposure to the atmosphere.... even for a few seconds.

Re:It isn't the engine that's being harmed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387307)

Actually the engine *can* be harmed. The PCM needs to be calibrated for the kind of gas you're putting into the engine, otherwise you run into performance issues or worse. Flex-fuel cars are calibrated for both types of fuels. An E10 car isn't.

Re:It isn't the engine that's being harmed... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#42387455)

Flex fuel cars can actually adjust for a range of gasoline/ethanol mix using a sensor that detects the fuel mix, it's not just a handful of different "profiles."

I'm going to hook up a flex-fuel sensor to my sports car next year but it's more for longevity than performance, I just run whatever pump gas is available and the compression ratio isn't high enough for any meaningful gains.

Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (5, Insightful)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#42386823)

The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42386909)

The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

Almost. The real issue here is that topsoil is being used to make fuel. Corn for ethanol is grown continuously, which means not only do they not let fields lie fallow, but they actually don't even practice crop rotation! This leads to rapid depletion of the soil, turning it into dirt. What's the difference? Soil is mostly organic material. Dirt is mostly minerals. Soil can support plants we like to eat, dirt can't. So the corn for ethanol is basically grown hydroponically, in a dirt medium, using oil for fertilizer.

Nobody is starving because we make corn into fuel. You think that they are, but there's actually plenty of food to feed them, going to waste. People are starving because nobody cares.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386991)

Maybe it's better to use human fat to render biodiesel.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#42387101)

Corn for ethanol is grown continuously, which means not only do they not let fields lie fallow, but they actually don't even practice crop rotation!

This is simply not possible as corn is very cold intolerant. And unlike winter wheat and some other crops, it doesn't go dormant when the air or soil temps go too low... it simply dies.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (2)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#42387115)

Nobody is starving because we make corn into fuel. You think that they are, but there's actually plenty of food to feed them, going to waste. People are starving because nobody cares.

Probably, but at the very least it's driving prices up for the benefit of a small group of individuals.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (1)

Thunderstruck (210399) | about a year ago | (#42387129)

Soil is mostly organic material. Dirt is mostly minerals.

I think you have those two words defined exactly backwards.

Also crops are still regularly rotated between soybeans, alfalfa, and corn even among farmers who sell corn for ethanol production.

Beyond that, I suppose you're technically correct. Heaven knows most of us would benefit from eating a little less food.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#42387441)

Food shortage is an economic issue. The problem isn't an inability to grow enough food - there's enough to around. It's just that the starving population of Elbonia can only afford to pay so much for the food they need to live, while the more wealthy populations of the world will happily spend far more on food for luxury purposes like producing far more meat than the human diet really needs. Or making ethanol.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386943)

www.climatedepot.com

All this 'ethanol' bullshit is on the back of the 'man made global warming' scam...

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (1)

fufufang (2603203) | about a year ago | (#42387061)

The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

Well, even if those corns are not used to make ethanol, they probably will be turned into high fructose corn syrup.

Re:Who cares about some damage to a few cars... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#42387069)

The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

That depends on what kind of corn is used - there's more than one kind and not all are really edible by humans.

Ethanol and corn (1)

NetNinja (469346) | about a year ago | (#42386829)

Did yah ever think farmers were going to stop producing corn for food and instead make themselves rich selling thier food to make fuel?
Food prices would of course go up since so much of our food contains corn.
The shortage of corn for food would make the farmers rich on both ends.
What is the cost to make 1 gallon of Ethanol? Time+materials+ labor = 2 gallons of Diesel to make 1 gallon of Ethanol?

If Ehtanol is so great how come it's not used in the Aviation industry?

Hooray!

USA! USA! (1)

fitteschleiker (742917) | about a year ago | (#42386833)

Home of the brave land of the free! w00t!

Re:USA! USA! (1)

fitteschleiker (742917) | about a year ago | (#42386843)

Force fed free market FTW!

Economic Remedy? (1)

BlueMonk (101716) | about a year ago | (#42386859)

Could the additional internal cash flow improve the country's general economy?

Re:Economic Remedy? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#42387481)

See: Broken Window Fallacy.

Irony (5, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#42386863)

There's a lot of irony to this. For starters, the actual change in regulation by the EPA won't require E15 gas. It simply allows individual states to require it if they want. So in other words this is the federal government giving the states more control, which normally is a good thing. However there are states that are so influenced by corn production that they will certainly make E15 the standard in their state, but for all the wrong reasons. So it might be a bad thing for the Feds to give up some control here, which I hate to have to say.

The second irony is this is the EPA making this decision, and this decision will harm the environment. If the valves and rings in older cars wear out faster from using higher ethanol fuel than they were designed for, then they will begin burning oil, vastly increasing harmful emissions. I thought the EPA was supposed to protect the environment?

big $$$ for ngk (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386877)

i have found that it generaly fouls sparkplugs, especially in stationary motors (generators -fixed speed)
around 1/4 plug life.

Greenwashing at its finest (5, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | about a year ago | (#42386879)

Corn Ethanol is the ultimate in greenwashing. It's not green at all. It's not even energy positive. We're not gaining energy here. We're just using fossil fuel based products to grow corn and turning the corn into an inferior fuel without any gain whatsoever.

Shows the power of the corn lobby, but it's a disaster for the overwhelming majority of the population. If they want an easy thing to cut as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations, all ethanol industry subsidies are a great place to start. They're a total waste of money.

Re:Greenwashing at its finest (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#42386977)

This. And don't kid yourselves, the ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup as Big Food's sweetener of choice is another negative fallout from these insane corn subsidies.

Care to back that up? (1)

kervin (64171) | about a year ago | (#42387081)

First, we are only currently using fossil fuel based products to grow corn. That can easily change, especially with the advances we're seeing with green energy.

Secondly what research indicates that growing corn for energy on a wide scale would use more energy than it produces? There are many studies that conclude ethanol from corn is Energy Positive [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Care to back that up? (3, Interesting)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#42387151)

Any energy gain would be similar to the energy produced by photovoltaic arrays, which have the advantage (over corn) of not needing fertile soil and water.

Re:Care to back that up? (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#42387215)

This research:

Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2005 doi:10.1007/s11053-005-4679-8

Which was cited by the article you cited.

Here is another discussion:

http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/8/25/221617/881 [theoildrum.com]

The latter is more interesting because not only does it point out the economic issues, but also that there are other issues such as water consumption, soil erosion, political costs etc. associated with using ethanol for fuel.

The Oil Drum is a very worthy site because it presents a useful hard economic view of alternative energies. I think it's probably overly pessimistic, however it's probably a lot closer to the truth than a lot of the advocacy positions that appear in the media.

Propaganda on Slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386881)

The EPA approves consumer choice and Slashdot complains something is being forced? Irational FUD tactics are usually used by stakeholders in a debate.

E15 may be an issue... and not just for cars (5, Insightful)

Constantin (765902) | about a year ago | (#42386883)

The percentage of ethanol is not just an issue for cars... boat owners have reported extreme issues with molded-in-place gas tanks where the fiberglass resin mix wasn't just right, which then led to the resins softening and dissolving into the gas. The resin juices then proceeded to destroy the engines in the boats by coating / clogging the fuel system and the chambers with this juice. Folks were allegedly going up and down the coast looking for gas stations that could guarantee 0% ethanol gas or forced to undertake a $$$ diesel repower of their power boats.

It's not as if refineries are going to ship a different blend of gas to most ship docks, doesn't make sense, is a distribution nightmare. They're going to ship whatever they have.

And here's the rub: The ethanol will also result in worse gas mileage because the stuff does not have the same bang per cubic volume as gasoline (i.e. 66%). Thus, the higher the ethanol volume fraction, the lower your vehicle's range is going to be. It's why cars designed to run on E100 in Brazil and elsewhere feature bigger gas tanks than cars designed for use with gasoline, for example.

At the end of the day, the ethanol debate is one of the best examples of how lobbying results in extreme market distortions, i.e. the adoption of a fuel substitute at the behest of the corn farmers in the midwest and the large corporate interests (ADM, etc.) which profit from the processing and marketing of the stuff. Now that natural gas is too practically too cheap to meter, expect even more fuel conversion efforts of this sort.

Re:E15 may be an issue... and not just for cars (3, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#42386921)

It's not as if refineries are going to ship a different blend of gas to most ship docks, doesn't make sense, is a distribution nightmare. They're going to ship whatever they have.

Actually in many cases the ethanol is added post blend of the gasoline giving refineries exactly that level of control. A station in some state wants zero ethanol, send them straight gasoline. If they want it blended, dump some into the tank before sending it out.

Heck in some cases it's not even the refineries themselves which blend ethanol but rather the distribution terminals. Although there is a trend towards making refineries do the blending since they have an in house lab and if they certify the product they can actually hit the octane target. The alternative is having to hit the octane target without ethanol and then adding it after. Since ethanol has a high octane it results in giveaway (product better than spec)

Boat owners also report problems... (1)

kervin (64171) | about a year ago | (#42387131)

when they put diesel in their gas engines.

Not every change deserves a corporate conspiracy theory. The fuel you use has never been just gas. There's always been many various additives, octane, levels, season mixes, etc.

High ethanol mixes have been available in many countries without a major collapse in infrastructure. I'm pretty sure we'll do alright as well.

This sounds like NRA-like topic - full of errors (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386885)

This sounds like NRA-like topic - full of errors and blatant cynicism.

The oil industry is perhaps even more prone to kill any truths ofhard facts mixing them with hard-to-tell false innuendos and subtle lies.

weapons, tobacco and oil

who did I miss?

Re:This sounds like NRA-like topic - full of error (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#42386905)

Homeland security?

Re:This sounds like NRA-like topic - full of error (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#42386987)

ACs?

It "might" be damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386951)

Many people confuse methanol (very corrosive) with ethanol (mildly corrosive), since both are used as fuels. You have to burn more alcohol than gas to have a proper air/fuel mixture for combustion. For this reason if the fuel system for the car was only marginally adequate with gas, it will be inadequate as the use of alcohol increases -- the cylinder temperatures will rise and could damage internal components. I'm not sure if 15% alcohol would be enough to do this in a car, but 85% (E-85) could, but only if you were pushing the car hard. Even so, I would suspect that the nominal decrease in fuel mileage would appease those selling the product.

Also, older rubber components seem to deteriorate more quickly with ethanol. Additionally, the alcohol will clean (dislodge) things like those inside of the gas tank. If the particles clog the fuel filter, this could also cause problems as well.

There are many things that produce more ethanol than corn. Most notably switchgrass. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=grass-makes-better-ethanol-than-corn

 

Start with ethanol mandates on the farm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42386957)

The government should mandate that ONLY pure ethanol be allowed to be used in farm machinery used to harvest corn. No tractors running on diesel. If that experiment works out, then we can consider it in our cars.

more corn lower price (2)

night_flyer (453866) | about a year ago | (#42386967)

Ive been watching the pumps around my area, the E-10 regularly is cheaper than the E-85.

I dont understand the big push to ethanol anyway (well yeah I do, the big grain growing states get a kickback) it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than 100% gasoline.

Ethanol breaks specific parts (2)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#42387001)

Ethanol in gasoline fuel breaks specific parts in your car.

Fuel lines and parts of the fuel circuit that contain rubber. Unless special formulated rubber is used that is ethanol proof, the rubber will deteriorate.

Fuel pumps and injectors. Some of these are still manufactured from materials that are not adapted to ethanol.

Carburetors. Older cars that are not using injection systems, may have parts inside the carburetors that dissolve in the ethanol. Most common carburetors will have replacement parts available that are resistant to ethanol, so retrofits can often be done.

This is mostly a cost issue and for only $100 more or so a new vehicles components can be resistant to ethanol in such a way that you could easily run E85 without problems for the life of the vehicle. Any modern car that is not capable of doing so, is made so on purpose. Even your 69 mustang can be made to run just fine on ethanol, providing you retrofit the carbs with some new floats and seals and replace the fuel pump and fuel lines with something modern too. Corn Ethanol may not be cost effective or "green" in the USA, but in large parts of the world, ethanol is the cheapest and most environment friendly fuel option. Don't hate on Ethanol just because the way it's being done in the USA isn't right. It has it's place and merits, if you do it right.

It's not just the rubber parts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387183)

Even so-called ethanol-proof rubber parts are only just ethanol resistant. Ethanol will still dissolve even fluorosilicone and Viton rubber seals given enough time and exposure. Ethanol is a really persistent solvent.

But that's not the only problem. Ethanol also attacks and corrodes metal parts too... aluminum and alloy parts, and galvanized steel too. All metal parts need to be made from stainless steel to resist ethanol, and that gets really expensive.

Re:It's not just the rubber parts... (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#42387287)

Man what?

Ethanol is not dissolving fluorinated polymer seals anymore then octane or the other components of gasoline are - you know, given time and contact. In all the fear-mongering people forget that regular octane is a pretty damn effective solvent.

A few things (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#42387003)

First, any auto manufacture that claims they have no idea how ethanol is going to effect their engine is simply incompetent. The question is what will happen with higher temperatures and maybe increased reactions. This has been around for ove 5 years in the US, and longer in other countries, so the testing has been done. In particular US studies has shown that up to 20% is not going to harm the engine. So what we are saying here is we believe hand waving from lazy manufacturers over data. This kind of cognative dissidence is all to common around here.

Second, no manufacturer is going to extend a warranty beyond minimum requirements. Can you imagine going to a dealer, after not changing the oil for a year, saying they would fix an unrelated warranty issue? Of course not. The purpose of a dealer is deny as many warranty repars as possible. So why would they say they would warranty a uncovered fuel that might mean even an additional warranty repair. Much better to blame the fuel even if the repair is unrelated. Of course flex fuel cars are warrentied to run on flexible fuels.

Third, the issue with ethanol is really an issue with corn production in the US as our only crop for such purposes. Corn is about the worst thing one can use for ethanol, but the US has a corn economy. There are many weeds that can be made into ethanol, but little money has been put into developing that technology. Sugarcane can also be used, but the sugarcane economy in the US has been systematically decimated in the US by northern interests who value politics over national security.

So it is clear that this is just another FUD article to promote the fossil fuel economy. Things are going to change, interests that have become fat and lazy on the backs of americans workers are going to become less fat and lazy, and this simply scares them, so they have to scare us.

Re:A few things (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#42387063)

Second?

Again this BS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387005)

1. Cars work perfectly well with ethanol, provided you use parts protected from corrosion. We get lower taxes in Brazil for using ethanol powered cars; "flex" cars which can use any proportion of gas+ethanol get no incentive -- because everyone and his dog purchases flex cars, so you get to use the best fuel at any place or anytime. The only people which get gas-only cars are those who buy imported cars -- and even those are starting to offer flex cars. I guess I haven't had a gas-only car since maybe 1980.

2. Gasoline is very corrosive (and used for cleaning grease, for instance). Most cars can deal with it and for ethanol it's just a matter of replacing a few parts and pipes. No big deal and _all_ (I mean all as in every single one) Brasil-based US makers know how to do it. I had Ford and GM cars in the past which worked perfectly well. Ethanol leads to a lower mileage, but not only is better for nature (no additional CO2 to atmosphere), engines work somewhat better and smoother with it than with gas -- I only use gas on that long trip thru roads without many fuel stations, just to avoid stresses about running out of ethanol. On cities, gas simply is not worth the trouble (though prices can vary from place to place due to fuel transportaion freights).

3. Ethanol is cheap in Brazil (we make it from sugar cane), but not in the US (it seems corn is not as good as cane), so either you develop a cold-resistant sugarcane variety or maybe drop the ethanol idea and try solar panels... whatever. And if you cannot do R&D properly, maybe it's time to quit the car business, eh?

Re:Again this BS? (1)

qazwsx (78379) | about a year ago | (#42387019)

Brasilian cars can easilly handle this mixture:
link [wikipedia.org]

Re:Again this BS? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387409)

Brazilian cars can easilly handle this mixture: link [wikipedia.org]

Brazilian cars can handle any mixture. I still have to wonder why the US keeps up with this bullshit over and over. Guess their informed citizens would know better, but no. Just another case of not-invented-here syndrome.

The effect of alcohol in fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387017)

is already a problem for classic cars (ie those older than the mid-60s).

Even low percentages of alcohol can degrade fuel hoses, carburettor parts, cylinder heads, valves and, through diluting the lubrication oil, engine bearings in older cars. Destruction of the fuel system is a considerable worry, as it can lead to vehicle fires due to un-noticed leaks.

Classic car enthusiasts WELCOME users of modern cars to their world of hurts.

FUD (1)

kervin (64171) | about a year ago | (#42387037)

Safeguards can obviously be taken if needed. For instance, surprisingly it's also bad for the car to put diesel in your gas engine. Yet just about every station sell both types of fuel. Personally, I'm looking forward to E25 [wikipedia.org] , which has been used in Brazil since the late seventies and they seem to be doing ok with that decision.

Re:FUD (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about a year ago | (#42387205)

I don't care much about the safeguards, I agree that is FUD. What I do care about is how ethanol is produced, and how Brazil can produce it efficiently with sugarcane, but we can't because of the corn lobby.

Because of this, I hope E25 never comes on corn, and prefer there to be an E0.

Re:FUD (1)

kervin (64171) | about a year ago | (#42387353)

I agree Corn is not the best crop for producing ethanol. But it can be used as a stepping stone since it's readily available here.

I'm guessing at some point Ethanol producing firms will seriously investigate other crops and challenge the Corn lobby. But none of this will happen until Ethanol becomes a bigger part of our fuel consumption.

No one knows! (2)

sd4f (1891894) | about a year ago | (#42387045)

Article is pretty bad, of course people know, it's just that no one can say it without boring non-technical people to death. Sounds like this article was written by those pommie top gear clowns, as soon as anything technical related is mentioned, they cut it out and proclaim it dark mysterious magic!

I think the problem will probably be that the fuel map won't be made to cater for a 15% blend, issue with ethanol is that the stoichiometric mixture requires more fuel relative to mass than hydrocarbon gasoline, since the car can't identify the fuel, and it either sticks to a predetermined fuel map, or uses O2 sensors to adjust, i'm not sure what they'd have selected to do, and i'm not sure what by product gasses you get when you have lean alcohols (being oxygen, hydrogen and carbon). With that said, if the mixture isn't made stoichiometric, then you will be down on power and NOx emissions will go up, which the latter is probably why manufacturers state not to use higher mixtures of ethanol.

I doubt the engine or other parts would suffer any damage, aluminium doesn't like alcohols, corrodes with them, but i don't think 15% is high enough to cause problems, still, and rubber parts might not last as long if in contact with ethanol, but again, just as before, upping the concentration to 15% won't has serious and immediate effects. Valve and cylinder head issues is completely wrong, all cars made to run unleaded have hardened valve seats and valves as it was the tetraethyl lead that reduced wear in those parts, with that being long gone, manufacturers have been making the engines withstand unleaded, this remain unchanged with ethanol mixes.

The real drawback with ethanol is that the energy density is about two thirds of ordinary hydrocarbon gasoline, which means operating with stoichiometric mixtures, ethanol engines won't be significantly changed with power, but to do the same amount of work, will consume a higher volume of fuel as opposed to gasoline engines. So from a simple cost benefit point of view, 1 unit of ethanol is worth two thirds of straight, unadulterated gasoline, therefore to get your money's worth, 15% ethanol should be approximately 1.7% cheaper than 10% ethanol, and 5% cheaper against straight gasoline.

Re:No one knows! (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about a year ago | (#42387427)

My undertanding is that E15 also eats rubber and plastic quickly, so think all your seals, hoses, fuel pump etc.

Even if your guess is right (and I am a long way from convinced you're right), that valve seats etc wont get more harmed by burning E15, just the side-effects of long-term running with incorrect timing (i.e. caused by unnig E15 with any ECU not explicitly rpogrammed for it) will surely wear out your engine much quicker.

As for the potential for damage, you only have to imagine the increased danger of a corroded fuel hose leaking fuel onto a hot exhaust manifold, or an engine running with bits of corroded plastic or seal floating about inside.

Everything I've read that isnt US government controlled says that that adding any ethanol at all to gasoline has no actual benefits and a lot of disadvantages.

The reality is that even the existence of E10 or any etahnol in our fuel at all is just the US government selling out to the corn lobby in return for campaign funding. E15 is beyond sane.

o great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387159)

just what we need.. HIGHER corn prices.... and not just the feed, grain or oil either.... but EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT that uses them (and their non-corn-based competitors... as they will no doubt raise prices to match -- simply because they can).

Somewhat interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387199)

...to see the normally objective / generally scientific /. response go out the window when ethanol is mentioned.

TFA quotes, "Nobody really knows what negative effects [E15 is] going to have on the vehicle," - which means the whole damn article is merely speculation.

From a design standpoint, engines have had hardened stainless steel valves and valve seats since the late 70's to deal with unleaded fuel. I hardly think adding a few percent ethanol is going to make any difference. A designer would be very hard pressed if you challenged him to build something to withstand a substance at 10% concentration, but be utterly destroyed at 15%.

From a cost standpoint, corn simply is not a major cost of food. Right now, with drought, and billions of gallons of ethanol in production, corn is running about $7.00/bushel. A bushel is 56 pounds, so $7/56 = 12.5 cents per pound. In browsing the pantry, I see a 16 ounce bag of corn nacho chips at $3.98 and a 10 ounce bag of potato chips at $4.29. Even if the corn part were FREE, I'd still expect the nachos to cost $3.86 and the potato chips would stay the same at a comparable $6.86 per pound.

From the 'food' standpoint, It's not like the corn is destroyed in the ethanol process. You still get corn oil out which can be made into biodiesel or used for other consumption. Dried Distillers Grain - the corn 'mash' left over after distillation is an excellent high-protein animal feed, so it continues in the food cycle.

From the anecdotal standpoint, I've been running E85 (85% ethanol / 15% gas) in my NON flex fuel vehicle for over 6 years now. Initially with everything completely stock - just to see if all these fears were warranted or if the automakers were just afraid of something new and feeding the public a big smokescreen to cover their own ass. Car ran fine and actually seemed to enjoy the clean burning / 105 octane juice vs the sooty/87 octane crap gas it had been burning. So it definitely seems to be the automakers BS. The second part of the test involved building an engine specifically for E85...small displacement, 12.5:1 compression ratio, turbocharger, etc. Turns out, you can get diesel-like fuel efficiency (or better), equal(or better) horsepower/torque, and with a fuel which costs much less than diesel and generally less than gas, too.

I understand some of the animosity toward ethanol...it is something new, it's easy to bash, easy to repeat the same tired old rhetoric, easy for mechanics to blame as a scapegoat for all sorts of mechanical issues - either real or imagined - then charge a hefty fee for 'repair'. But if you actually compare it to gasoline it's a pretty dang good fuel.

With all that said, I don't really support E15 either. To really make ethanol shine, you need an engine built for it...just the way a diesel engine is different than a gasoline engine, an ethanol engine needs to be different to take advantage of the high octane and burn properties of ethanol. Once you do that, fuel efficiency and power density for ethanol both skyrocket. Burning ethanol in engines meant for crappy 87 octane fuel is a waste - just as much as burning premium race fuel would be.

Lost yard equipment to E10. Now I'm more careful. (1)

NetRanger (5584) | about a year ago | (#42387295)

I didn't really care about the difference between 100% gas and E10. I thought it was a bunch of hoopla from competing political interests. Then I lost a trimmer and a tiller to ethanol's corrosive powers. Within a couple of weeks of being fueled with E10, both had developed holes in the gas tanks and were dead. Happily my mower didn't suffer the same fate.

The moral? Don't let E10 sit in your trimmer or other yard equipment. In fact, use 100% gas in them when possible.

Laugh.. (1)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#42387351)

Sure burn up our food and use it for cars in a starving World.

Not Invented Here Syndrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387367)

I can only laugh as I and the rest of Brazil have been driving hybrids - which can take any proportion of ethanol and gas - for some decades now.

Bad for those of us with older cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387425)

I own a 68 Chevelle, and I already have to deal with stalling from the E10 blends sold today. It will only get worse with E15, and I shudder to think of what it's doing to the engine.

quit pandering to corn lobby - not green energy (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#42387443)

ethanol is a horrible fuel, less energy dense than gasoline, corrodes and dissolves parts, and is net energy loss. We need to stop this nonsense, our lawmakers are out of control and in the pockets of the wealthy.

Subsidize This... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387445)

Ethanol has produced taxpayer financed windfall profits from subsidies. The fact that farmers now have two hands in Uncle Sam's pocket is more than irritating.

Regarding vehicle fuel requirements...Have an informational advertising campaign. Post it on the pumps. Didn't we run into this same problem with flex fuel vehicles and E85 several years prior? Let people regain some personal responsibility. Mommy won't always be there to pump your gas for you (unless you live in New Jersey). Beyond that let Darwinism prevail.

What they should really be focusing on is biodiesel. Better economy and better torque. A bit noisier, yes, but modern TDIs have come a very long way. While 1.5 gallons of E100 ~= 1.0 gallons of gasoline, 1.09 gallons of B100 ~= 1.00 gallons of Number 2 diesel (the higher grade of diesel), making comparisons in BTUs. I recommend www.biodiesel.org/. Also, www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/biodiesel.shtml.

I'm not an ethanol, hybrid or EV fan. Once the opportunity arrises, I'm investing in a early 80's Mercedes 300D. A time when Mercedes built truly overengineered vehicles and produced an absolutely bulletproof engine. All mechancial fuel pump, injection and ignition. Runs on WVO, WMO, and B100 with no modifications. With a little over $1000 to 'do it right', it can run on all the aforementioned fuels better than it would on conventional diesel. And when the real apocolypse hits, I'll be cruising around getting 35-41+ mpg. Eat it Prius.

I don't think we'll see beyond E10.... (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about a year ago | (#42387449)

....Mostly due to potential engine damage and the fact you have to redesign the fuel-delivery system to take full advantage of E15 fuel--not a cheap option!

Ethanol vs. Biodiesel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387475)

Ethanol produces 26% more energy than what goes into the production of it.
Biodiesel produces 80% more energy than what goes into the production of it.

Not new, been known for ages... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42387515)

Motorheads the world over've known that it can damage gaskets, seals, & the plastic parts of fuel injectors for ages.

* I remember 'hearing tell' of it, decades back in fact (albeit only hearsay amongst mechanics I knew @ least).

APK

P.S.=> Can it be prevented? Sure, for newer models IF you can get the assembly & part making plants to retool for it - a BIG stickler's that, what-with stockholders screaming "make me more money" (rightfully so, it's their monies invested after all). However, legacy vehicles are the issue mostly on that account...

... apk

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