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Has the Ethanol Threat Manifested In the US?

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the think-of-the-corn-farmers dept.

Transportation 432

Five years ago today, we mentioned here what was characterized as "The Great Ethanol Scam." According to the central story in that post, the ethanol in gasoline was (or would be) "destroying engines in large numbers," and the only real winners with a rise in the use of ethanol as a gasoline supplement would be auto mechanics. An increasing number of cars are officially cleared for use with E15 (15 percent ethanol), and a growing number of E85 vehicles are in the wild now, too, though apparently many of their owners don't realize that their cars can burn a mixture that's mostly ethanol. When I can, I fill my car with no-ethanol gas, but that's not very easy to find (farmer's co-ops are one handy source), so most of my driving over the past decade has been with E10 fuel. I seem to get better mileage with all-gas, but the circumstances haven't been controlled enough to make a good comparison. What has your experience been? Have you experienced ethanol-related car problems, or were the predictions overblown?

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1st (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087677)

Poopster long hill step 3 profit

Ethanol threat??!!! (5, Funny)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#47087689)

My God, someone's after the BOOZE?!

Well, scam or not, we can't have that sort of behaviour. It was bad enough when we ran out of vermouth, without this sort of nonsense....

Re:Ethanol threat??!!! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087727)

What is this "run out of vermouth" you speak of? I never run out. I just keep a bottle to wave next to the martini.

Re:Ethanol threat??!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088031)

You keep a bottle of it? I just whisper it while pouring the martini.

Re:Ethanol threat??!!! (1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about 4 months ago | (#47087973)

Yea, we need to keep our booze, slashdot has devolved to the point where timothy posts his own tripe to the front page. Doesn't even bother with faking it through other editors anymore. There isn't enough booze to deal with this problem :(

ok if your car is new (5, Interesting)

indy_Muad'Dib (869913) | about 4 months ago | (#47087695)

2012 honda insight runs the e10 fine but gets better mileage using 0% ethanol gas from the local marina, ive had to rebuild the fuel system on my 65 datsun van because of the ethanol eating the hoses.

Re:ok if your car is new (4, Informative)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 4 months ago | (#47087943)

2012 honda insight runs the e10 fine but gets better mileage using 0% ethanol gas from the local marina, ive had to rebuild the fuel system on my 65 datsun van because of the ethanol eating the hoses.

That is why as I restore my 1972 Charger, she is getting ethanol compatible gaskets and lines. Going with a six-pack traditional carb setup too because MPFI additional expense on a small block is just not justified.

From the post above:

I seem to get better mileage with all-gas, but the circumstances haven't been controlled enough to make a good comparison.

The energy density of gasoline is higher than with ethanol, so the more ethanol you add the more you "dilute" the energy contained in a particular volume. One thing the ethanol seems pretty good for is cleaning out your fuel system. If you are in an area where they seasonally increase the ethanol you might want to change that fuel filter a tank or two after the swap. Also, a fuel drying additive is a good idea if you have any ethanol, because that stuff collects water like mad. Keeping the water in solution reduces fuel tank corrosion.

Price per kilojoule [Re:ok if your car is new] (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 4 months ago | (#47088179)

The energy density of gasoline is higher than with ethanol, so the more ethanol you add the more you "dilute" the energy contained in a particular volume.

Yes; logically they should sell fuel at a dollars per kilojoule price, not a dollars per gallon (or Euros per liter). But of course they don't.

At the moment E85 is cheaper than pure gasoline (avarage price May 2014 $3.05 for E85; $3.71 for gasoline), but since both oil prices and ethanol prices fluctuate separately, this can change.

http://www.e85prices.com/ [e85prices.com]

Re:Price per kilojoule [Re:ok if your car is new] (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 4 months ago | (#47088335)

Consumers can always factor that in if they wish. Other things are factors too, convenience of the station is pretty close to the top. People around where I live who say "they all charge the same price" really don't get out much. Find a different cluster of stations, and you will find a new price, which is not hard to do even in cities of 175,000 people.

Re:ok if your car is new (5, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#47088347)

Also, a fuel drying additive is a good idea if you have any ethanol, because that stuff collects water like mad.

You do know what fuel-drying solutions are made of, right???

Keeping the water in solution reduces fuel tank corrosion.

Which is exactly what ethanol does...

Re:ok if your car is new (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | about 4 months ago | (#47088035)

Those cheap jet skis you see for sale along the road have shot hoses from ethanol use.

In the car, I hate the higher cost from worse mileage. It's awesome traveling to a different state (southern) and getting a full tank of gasoline and all the miles that entails.

Re:ok if your car is new (5, Interesting)

knightghost (861069) | about 4 months ago | (#47088089)

Ethanol cost me $2,000 in repairs to my motorcycle and a lot of hours of work on cleaning out carburetors from small engines.

Corn ethanol is an expensive way to turn good oil into bad gasoline. It was pushed as corporate welfare for ag stages. Everyone involved has always known that it was a big lie.

Re:ok if your car is new (1, Informative)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about 4 months ago | (#47088237)

Sadly the stats don't agree with your anecdotal story.

Canada has required a minimum of 5% ethanol in gas since 1999. Typically you'll see 15% ethanol. The percentage of original vehicles that have survived long term has gone up. Especially on the 12 years and up vehicles which the survival rate has gone up as much as 14%. http://www.fleetbusiness.com/p... [fleetbusiness.com] see page 7.

Re:ok if your car is new (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 months ago | (#47088313)

The summary basically amounts to "Do you answer leading question in the way writer of leading question wants you to answer?"

Not that I think ethanol is the answer, but this summary is your typical echo chamber nonsense.

Re:ok if your car is new (2)

reboot246 (623534) | about 4 months ago | (#47088307)

Thankfully I can find non-alcohol gasoline around here to use in my small engines. Everything - riding mower, push mower, trimmers, leaf blower, chainsaw - runs better with no alcohol.

The guy who owns the station where I buy the gasoline says that it's all he uses in his car and van. He says the increased mpg more than offsets the higher price.

Re:ok if your car is new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088103)

Careful with that. If that fuel doesn't include the road tax (as is found in coastal marinas, not sure about a lake or some such) then it's a bozo no-no to use that in a road vehicle. People have been busted in Alaska picking up fuel at the dock and putting it in their truck.

YMMW.

Compromise is implied by multipurpose (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#47087703)

For example: the dual fuel engines that can burn gasoline or methane, where because of the design compromises for the two fuel convenience, neither fuel operates at optimal function.

Re:Compromise is implied by multipurpose (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088333)

What are you talking about? It's been decades since you have had to redesign an engine for natural gas (and back then "redesign" meant replacing the valve seats). In fact, it's simple enough nowadays, the typical way to do it is to take a gasoline car, add the appropriate injectors to the manifold for natural gas, add a controller for said injectors (and possibly a spark controller as well), add tanks, then connect it all up. This permits the car to start on gasoline (much easier for those cold winter days) and once the engine is warmed up (a couple of minutes later) the controller switches to natural gas at some point when the engine is at ~2000 RPM. The driver doesn't even notice the change.

There's no compromise other than the additional weight of the new system and fuel, but frankly, there's no way around that other than being able to get the manufacturers to integrate natural gas fuel patterns into their controllers, and the controllers are only perhaps 0.1% of the system's overall weight anyways.

Go speak with a propane (yes, it is a little different, but still, not different enough to matter) or natural gas conversions place and verify that I'm correct.

Ethanol don't seem to matter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087711)

I can see a difference in mileage between different gas stations, but they all claim to be E10.
I'm still getting 200,000+ miles on my cars(and motorcycle).

Re:Ethanol don't seem to matter (1)

alen (225700) | about 4 months ago | (#47087799)

NYC all the gas no matter the brand gets brought in by the same pipes
but i have noticed differences between some stations. the one i use most often seems to get me the least mpg and i think their pumps aren't calibrated properly. for their favor, and not ethanol

Re:Ethanol don't seem to matter (1)

JDAustin (468180) | about 4 months ago | (#47088257)

Thats how it is a lot of places. But the mix of gas between one brand and another is what ends up at the independent gas stations.

first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087713)

first

I dont know about cars... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087717)

but with motorcycles, ethanol has continually given Carbs troubles by promoting gas that gets all sorts of bacteria growing in it within a week due to the ethanol being a great thriving place for it.

I hate ethanol and it ruins motorcycles really quickly :(

Re:I dont know about cars... (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 months ago | (#47087955)

It also causes plastic fuel tanks to expand causing all sorts of issues remounting them after tinkering inside.

Re:I dont know about cars... (4, Interesting)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 4 months ago | (#47087979)

but with motorcycles, ethanol has continually given Carbs troubles by promoting gas that gets all sorts of bacteria growing in it within a week due to the ethanol being a great thriving place for it.

I hate ethanol and it ruins motorcycles really quickly :(

Have you tried a fuel drying agent? The bacteria is growing because the ethanol absorbs water and gives it a medium to grow. Straight petrol products do that too, at a lesser extent.

Ethanol IS a scam (2)

russotto (537200) | about 4 months ago | (#47087721)

It reduces mileage by more than it reduces emissions per gallon. But if it were really destroying modern engines left and right, we'd have heard about it, the same way we heard about ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel destroying truck engines.

Get 10% less fuel economy with E10... (4, Interesting)

BUL2294 (1081735) | about 4 months ago | (#47087723)

I firmly believe that E10 is a total scam. Anecdotally, doing pure highway driving, I get 8-10% less fuel economy with E10 than E0 (pure gasoline), so what's the point? This has been consistently the case with the last 3 cars I've owned (V8 RWD, turbo I4 AWD, regular I4 FWD). Losing 10% fuel economy for the privilege (more accurately, the forced subsidy of corn growers in many states) of driving E10 makes no sense to me. Just water down my gasoline by 10%--same effect but water is cheaper than ethanol...

Re:Get 10% less fuel economy with E10... (1)

oddtodd (125924) | about 4 months ago | (#47087751)

I get at least 10% better on the highway using no ethanol premium in my Mustang GT. I took a bit to find a no ethanol station but after I did I became a loyal customer.

Re:Get 10% less fuel economy with E10... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087921)

I firmly believe that E10 is a total scam. Anecdotally, doing pure highway driving, I get 8-10% less fuel economy with E10 than E0 (pure gasoline), so what's the point?

Well, if you actually paid attention to the science, you'd realize that the point was to alter the tailpipe emissions from your engine, to the point where you driving your car, even if you use more gas in the end, will produce less pollution.

Seriously, you could look this up in the law they passed. The math is right there. So is the research. Believe it or not, they did look at alternatives. But ethanol worked out.

This has been consistently the case with the last 3 cars I've owned (V8 RWD, turbo I4 AWD, regular I4 FWD). Losing 10% fuel economy for the privilege (more accurately, the forced subsidy of corn growers in many states) of driving E10 makes no sense to me. Just water down my gasoline by 10%--same effect but water is cheaper than ethanol...

Water wouldn't have the same effects that ethanol does. In fact, it'd reduce your mpg even more than ethanol, without having the beneficial effects.

So no, no, thank you.

Re:Get 10% less fuel economy with E10... (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47088147)

I firmly believe that E10 is a total scam.

Do you firmly believe that enough to change who you vote for, and to convince others to do the same? If not, then it doesn't matter what you believe.

Political parties in favor of ethanol subsidies and mandates: Democrat, Republican
Political parties opposed to ethanol subsidies and mandates: Green, Libertarian

Re:Get 10% less fuel economy with E10... (2)

JDAustin (468180) | about 4 months ago | (#47088265)

Corrected for you...

Political parties in favor of ethanol subsidies and mandates: Democrat, Republican (establishment)
Political parties opposed to ethanol subsidies and mandates: Green, Libertarian, Republican (tea partiers)

A lose/lose/lose situation (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087725)

Ethanol is a lose/lose/lose situation all the way around here in the US:

1: The corn used to make ethanol causes higher fuel prices, either directly or indirectly because feed for livestock is up in price, so ethanol takes food out of people's mouths.

2: E-15 voids car warranties, and ECMs can tell if E-15 is put in and throw a code that can't be cleared by a ScanGauge, but only by a dealer.

3: Gasoline has a very shitty shelf life. I used to be able to store gasoline for a lawn mower for 1-2 years. Now, even with fuel preservative, even six months may be pushing it, and can clog up the carb or cause a bad reaction.

4: As an RV-er, the #1 cause of generator malfunctions is bad gas. This was not an issue 1-2 decades ago, but when looking at a used motorhome, the first thing you have to do is rebuild/replace the carb unless the previous owner either ran the generator every so often, or fogged it, with OnaGard fogging spray.

Then there is the E85 scam. It has significantly less MPG than regular gas... but the cost difference makes it not worth getting. The only advantage it gives is that with a Flex-Fuel engine that can adjust fuel/air ratios, it burns hotter so you get 5-10 more horsepower.

If the US had plants like Brazil did that were by products of growing, I'd champion ethanol, but as it stands right now, people are starving due to E-10, so anyone who has a shred of ethics can't champion this.

Re:A lose/lose/lose situation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087781)

But it's a win! Win! WIN! for corn farmers!

Re:A lose/lose/lose situation (0)

retroworks (652802) | about 4 months ago | (#47088161)

You left off #5, that while it's good to turn spoiled or over-produced corn into ethanol, to actually plant/fertilize/grow/harvest/synthesize corn in order to produce ethanol likely consumes more fuel than the ethanol produces. From what I've read, you can't power the farm tractors and distilleries without a net loss of gasoline.

Re:A lose/lose/lose situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088193)

Your ECU has no idea if it's running on gasoline, ethanol, or horse piss. All it's trying to do is adjust fuel delivery that results in a good burn (not too lean, not too rich) as detected by the O2 sensors.

Re:A lose/lose/lose situation (1, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about 4 months ago | (#47088247)

The person you're responding too is one of those people who knows a little about engines, but not enough to know what they are doing ... just enough to sound like it.

He thinks he knows all about it but then makes silly statements where he's confusing two different things and doesn't even realize that cause A does not result in effect B.

Re:A lose/lose/lose situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088343)

could you please post your relevant credentials and give more detail as to why the OP is wrong? Since you have done neither I can not take your statement as factual and must disregard it.

Stupid (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087731)

Corn ethanol is an EROI disaster. This is big-agra, some of the same people that ram HFCS into everything and spam tons of research trying to exonerate added sugar as the culprit in the obesity epidemic. Subsidize corn. We love it.

"I seem to get better mileage with all-gas." You seem to have forgotten that the energy density of ethanol is lower to the point that aircraft will never under any circumstances use it. 42MJ/kg vs 30MJ/kg. Per liter it's even worse. You're not getting better gas mileage.

Avoid ethanol at all costs (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087737)

I have done numerous calculations in different vehicles for fuel economy using ethanol blends and discovered that my fuel economy is always worse than it is with pure gasoline. Makes sense because the energy content of methanol is much lower than gasoline.

Comment from a Chemist (5, Insightful)

NReitzel (77941) | about 4 months ago | (#47087741)

The thing is, ethanol has a lower energy density per litre (or gallon, if you are metrically challanged) than does gasoline, just as gasoline has a lower energy density than diesel fuel.

You get better mileage out of diesel than gasoline, and better mileage out of gasoline than ethanol, all things being equal. Laws of thermodynamics aren't to be bypassed. No amount of "clever" can change the basic fact that gasoline holds more energy than ethanol.

However, and this may count for something for you, as it does for me, ethanol releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that was taken out of the atmosphere to grow the crop that led to the ethanol. There is no net increase of CO2, as there is with fossil fuels. Of course, a cynic might point out (and I might be one) that the carbon in the fossil fuel was also in the atmosphere at one time, to the tune of no less than 1500 ppm in the Carboniferous period.

Using ethanol isn't for getting better mileage, it's for reducing carbon footprint, the amount of carbon added to the atmosphere when you go down to the corner store to buy a six-pack of beer. The beer, btw, doesn't add carbon to the atmosphere, because like the ethanol that's in it, that carbon came -out- of the atmosphere when the crops to make it were grown.

Why do you hate plants? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087775)

The poor plants, having to fight continuously for every ounce (or milliliter, if you are Imperally challenged) of carbon dioxide that they need in order to sustain their very existence. And you begrudge them the potential bountiful feast of our releasing the pent-up food supply that lies underground, cruelly kept from the innocent plant life for thousands, perhaps millions of years.

You plant-haters are all alike, every one of you.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

alen (225700) | about 4 months ago | (#47087809)

i thought it was to better burn the fuel to you know, get rid of the real pollutants like nitrous oxides and the rest of the bad ones that cause real health problems

and not just anxiety for the blog readers

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

snsh (968808) | about 4 months ago | (#47088069)

i thought it was to siphon money into corn-producing states in the midwest, states which are obscenely overrepresented in the US Senate.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

Ries (765608) | about 4 months ago | (#47087827)

Ramp up the beer production! We just found a solution to global warming!

Re:Comment from a Chemist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087939)

Methane is a MUCH worst green house gas then CO2. Many Many beer farts would come of this solution.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087839)

But this doesn't really reduce the carbon footprint since the farmers burn plenty of fossil fuels to produce the crops to make the ethanol. Contemporary factory farming is all about petroleum, from fertilizer to tractor diesel you can't claim the moral high ground.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#47087853)

ethanol releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that was taken out of the atmosphere to grow the crop that led to the ethanol. There is no net increase of CO2, as there is with fossil fuels.

So, how much fossil fuel is used to grow & harvest the corn? And then there's the whole "distill it" part. Not sure how much energy is used to distill corn liquor as opposed to gasoline....

Re:Comment from a Chemist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088239)

Here's a bummer:

You can't point me to ANY non-fossil-fuel energy solution that doesn't use fossil fuels in production.

Guess we should just give up!

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1, Insightful)

edibobb (113989) | about 4 months ago | (#47087857)

You've omitted from your calculations the fossil fuels required to raise the corn and produce the ethanol. This is significant.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087879)

Using ethanol isn't for getting better mileage, it's for reducing carbon footprint, the amount of carbon added to the atmosphere when you go down to the corner store to buy a six-pack of beer.

Agreed. Except for the fact that you have to burn 10% more fuel to get down to the store to buy your beer, meaning that the CO2 you saved by burning ethanol was offset by the fact that you used more fuel to get there. It's still a net wash, but it makes people feel good and farmers love the handout!

Could it be tuned for better mileage though? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087883)

Methanol has a much higher anti-knock rating right? Could you crank timing way up and achieve better city efficiency or is it not that significant?

I know the drag racers love the stuff. They have to install massive injectors, bigger lines, and multiple fuel pumps but they can make some massive horsepower with forced induction and E85.

Re:Could it be tuned for better mileage though? (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | about 4 months ago | (#47087933)

Ford (and maybe others) have suggested [greencarcongress.com] that an E30 blend would allow them to make significantly more efficient engines due to the strong anti-knock effect of ethanol, particularly when used with direct injection.

Alcohol sensor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088157)

Are they using an alcohol sensor like this: http://www.zeitronix.com/Products/ECA/ECA.shtml

Seems like they could adjust the tune on the fly based on alcohol content.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087913)

Ethanol is also an oxygenating agent. Oxygenating agents promote complete combustion and have been added to gasoline for a long time in order to reduce smog. Before ethanol subsidies and requirements, most places used MTBE instead.

Personally, I would much rather have ethanol in my gasoline than MTBE. MTBE is much more environmentally persistent, and more harmful, than ethanol.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088021)

Look at the hazards of drinking pure ethanol though.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 4 months ago | (#47087989)

So you're saying that corn doesn't use any carbon at all from the soil?

Cause you know the research disagrees with you. You might be a chemist, but you aint' no botanist.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

NReitzel (77941) | about 4 months ago | (#47088287)

Of course it uses carbon (and nitrogen, and a raft of other things) from the soil. However, unless you're planting that corn on a tar pit, the carbon in the soil isn't fossil carbon that's been in the soil for a million years. You might make the case that plants use marine carbonates dissolved in water, but that amount is very small compared to the mail building block of plants, and for photosynthetic plants, that's carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

I may not be a botanist, but I can work the numbers.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 4 months ago | (#47088323)

and if you read the research, the numbers say that the carbon removed from the soil is more than any savings.

Ethanol is a crock of shit no matter which way you look at it.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088001)

"... ethanol releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that was taken out of the atmosphere to grow the crop that led to the ethanol. There is no net increase of CO2, as there is with fossil fuels."

Not really true. The corn grown for the ethanol is taking the place of something that would have naturally grown in the same space. Furthermore, that naturally growing something would be there all year, not just in between planting and harvest seasons. So my more energy efficient gasoline derived from oil pumped out of the ground under a field of natural grasses for the entire growing season (except winter depending on where you live) vs. your less efficient ethanol derived from a half empty field on average over the growing season actually results in less net CO2 emissions.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (5, Insightful)

sharkytm (948956) | about 4 months ago | (#47088043)

Here's where your net-carbon-zero falls apart: It takes energy to ferment and distill the ethanol. Where does that energy come from? Electricity, mainly produced by coal, natural gas, and oil. So, your tying a food commodity price to fuel, burning coal to do it, and causing the resulting fuel to be less efficient. Ethanol in fuel is a lose-lose. The only reason that it doesn't cause fuel prices to rise is that the government is paying farmers to grow the corn in the first place, artificially depressing the price.

Re:Comment from a Chemist (1)

KevMar (471257) | about 4 months ago | (#47088091)

I think people look at millage and make the wrong comparison. It's not about how many miles you get per gallon, it should be about how many dollars you spend per mile. My millage is not better, but I am spending less for the same amount of driving.

"I seem to get better mileage with all-gas" (1)

dougmc (70836) | about 4 months ago | (#47087745)

I seem to get better mileage with all-gas

Not surprising -- gasoline has a higher energy content than ethanol -- 34 vs 24 MJ/L [wikipedia.org] .

So you really are getting less energy when you buy a gallon of E10 or E15 vs. a gallon of pure gasoline.

Not impressed (-1, Redundant)

Arker (91948) | about 4 months ago | (#47087761)

I have not seen as much damage to the hoses as I was afraid of, but my car is not one of the really old ones either - I think it was actually designed to tolerate some ethanol.

Still not at all impressed. 10% ethanol seems to result in ~8% mileage decrease, so in terms of cutting down on petroleum use it seems nearly ineffective. The best I can tell it's just a scheme to prop up the cost of corn.

ethanol vs gasoline (2)

confused one (671304) | about 4 months ago | (#47087771)

ethanol contains fewer BTU per gallon (Joules per liter) than the mix of chemicals known as gasoline. (114k BTU/gal vs 76 kBTU/gal) You will end up with lower MPG using ethanol through pure physics. An engine can be designed to run specifically on ethanol with higher compression and different timing curves, which will result in increased efficiency and will partially offset the energy loss.

i will run E10 or E15 in my pickup truck (2)

FudRucker (866063) | about 4 months ago | (#47087789)

because my pickup has fuel injection and the fuel lines and filter is capable of using ethanol dehanced gas, but my motorcycle which has a carburetor and my chainsaw, lawnmower and weedeater all get pure gas without ethanol, there have been too many people that had ethanol mix gum up carburetors and motorcycle enthusiasts are the most vocal about it, just google it

Yes, it is a scam (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087801)

It does nothing for the environment and costs the consumer extra money for no gains at all. Auto mechanics may or may not be winners, but the corn lobby sure is.

87 Toyota carburator damage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087807)

I used to have an 87 Toyota truck which ran flawlessly until the E10 mandate in KS. Soon after I had to replace two diaphrgams in the carburator due to pinhole leaks.
 

A brazilian point of view (5, Interesting)

morcego (260031) | about 4 months ago | (#47087823)

Brazil is considered one of the world leader in ethanol, the country with the most successful alternative fuel program, one of the cheaper (if not cheapest) ethanol technologies and, by using sugar cane, one of the most energy efficient. All cars here can easily handle up to E40, and most cars can handle any mix of gas and ethanol. Oh, and the flex fuel technology for any kind of mix? Mostly developed here also.

That all being said, I don't use pure ethanol. We are not able to find pure gas here, because of local laws (the government mandates the ethanol level), but I avoid it as much as I can. Even with everything we have in our favor here, it is still most expensive, and the overall car performance is not as good as with gas. For ethanol to be a cheaper option for the consumer, its price on the pump has to be no higher than 75% of gas.

There is, however, another side of the coin. Gas is a limited resource. We need to develop alternative fuel technologies, and right now ethanol is the best, if not only, viable option. The technology is getting cheaper everyday, and improving a lot. As someone who saw the so called birth of the car ethanol, in the 1980's, I can see how much that changed.

Last, but not least, gas with some ethanol in it does pollute less. I remember seeing some time ago some studies regarding E20(ish), and the number was impressive.

All told, it is an important technology, it is not a scam or a threat, but it is still improving. Luckly, we still have the luxury to choose, so we can say no. That won't last, tho.

Re:A brazilian point of view (2)

alen (225700) | about 4 months ago | (#47087889)

is the US climate and land conducive to growing sugar cane?

Re:A brazilian point of view (5, Informative)

morcego (260031) | about 4 months ago | (#47087941)

is the US climate and land conducive to growing sugar cane?

Mostly it is not, unless you somehow genetically engineer sugar cane for different climates (some groups are working on it). The reason our climate and land are so conductive to growing sugar cane gives Brazil an edge, and is perhaps the reason it is more successful than a few other countries that also have a huge alternative fuel program.

Corn based ethanol has less energy potential and is much more expensive. However, it is the only viable option available for the US right now. There are several studies involving kelp, sugar beat and castor beans that might benefit the US. Castor beans has a lot of potential. But it is much easier to pass laws and incentives for corn related programs in the US, for obvious reasons.

Re:A brazilian point of view (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 4 months ago | (#47088331)

Brazil is also located in the tropics where as the US is not. You have the advantage of both the sun and copious amounts of rain. Both of which make it advantageous to grow sugar cane. In a roundabout way, your ethanol industry is nothing more than a transportable form of solar energy (with conversion losses).

Re:A brazilian point of view (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088339)

is the US climate and land conducive to growing sugar cane?

Without massive import protection, the US probably wouldn't grow any cane sugar. Those import laws are supported by both the cane farmers and the corn farmers. Tea party types too!

Re:A brazilian point of view (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088233)

morcego > There is, however, another side of the coin. Gas is a limited resource. We need to develop alternative fuel technologies, and right now ethanol is the best, if not only, viable option. The technology is getting cheaper everyday, and improving a lot. As someone who saw the so called birth of the car ethanol, in the 1980's, I can see how much that changed.

No way we can grow sugar cane in Europe. Besides biofuel has a very EROI:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

It's going to be very hard to replace petroleum.

Ask Slashdot? (4, Informative)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 4 months ago | (#47087843)

Timothy,

Once again you have posted an "Ask Slashdot" article in a different section than where it belongs. Some of us regulate what articles we see by section and would appreciate it if you would at least try to get it right.

Thanks.

Fnord666

For those who usually get "irony" wrong.. (5, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 4 months ago | (#47087845)

<quote> I fill my car with no-ethanol gas, but that's not very easy to find (farmer's co-ops are one handy source) </quote>

Priceless.

motors (1)

kqc7011 (525426) | about 4 months ago | (#47087849)

One of the bigger problems with ethanol is with smaller engines, basically any engine that is not moving people. Use ethanol free premium with a stabilizer in any engine you fill up out of a can. Most motorcycles too. My motorcycle is supposed to be able to take 10% ethanol, but I will only put that in if I cannot make it to a gas station that sells ethanol free premium.

ethanol is to clean the gas (0)

alen (225700) | about 4 months ago | (#47087885)

MTBE works better but it poisons the ground water and leaks out of gas station tanks

ethanol is less energetic but cleaner and won't give you cancer

the point is to clean the gasoline so it burns cleaner and causes less real pollution. not the CO2 nonsense, but real pollution like nitrous oxides that cause real health problems

meh (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47087901)

It makes your seals ware out faster, but that's about it. Most people drive around with half their seals and gaskets shot, leaking oil and getting crap millage anyway. So it's not like they'd notice. People that have no clue how their car works have a bigger detrimental impact on the environment than any fault in the design of cars. I see Chevy volts all around me now, yet when I pull up to them at a red light I can hear the engine running. Meaning they've bought an electric car, aren't charging it and driving around on the generator probably burning more fuel than if they had just bought a gas car. You can't engineer the stupid out of people.

My parents took our Canadian car to Florida (3, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 4 months ago | (#47087903)

My parents took our Canadian car to Florida, which generally is not designed for E85. The mechanic showed me that it basically turned nearly every rubber bit into mush. There were many hoses where you could push your finger through the hose with not much effort. Luckily most of those hoses were available off a wrecker so for very little they just replaced every single hose. Where the mechanic was worried was what things like the fuel pumps or whatnot might look like.

I have a distinct feeling that my parents car would not be the only Canadian car to spend time in the US.

Re:My parents took our Canadian car to Florida (3, Insightful)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 4 months ago | (#47088017)

That probably has less to do with it being a 'canadian' car (hint, they're all pretty much manufactured out of the same places) than it does with the age of the car.

Re:My parents took our Canadian car to Florida (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088187)

Why did they put fuel not designated for their engine in the car? E85 is clearly displayed on the pumps and uses a complely separate pump and nozzle, just like diesel. The blame for this clearly rests with your parents.

Most cars in the states cannot take E85, they need to have their engines specifically engineered for it; it is called a flex fuel designation. I think you are confusing E10 and E15 with E85. In California, we use E10. Ethonal replaced MTBE in 1999 and we used E5 (actually 5.7%) intitially, switching to E10 in 2010.

The answer is obvious... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47087909)

Ethanol has a lower energy density then conventional gasoline. That's a scientific fact.

Thus direct miles per gallon calculations with entirely different fuels are not reasonable. You first must adjust for the energy density of each fuel and then do a comparison on that basis.

In my own calculations, I've found ethanol to be more expensive then regular gasoline AFTER accounting for the lower energy density. For this reason, I try to avoid it since it is not economical.

Oblig (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47087931)

YMMV

Lawn mowers (1)

Salo2112 (628590) | about 4 months ago | (#47087947)

The guy who I take my lawn mower to tells me the Ethanol gas is damaging lawn mower engines. Not sure if the newer ones are engineered to burn E-gas, but the older ones certainly aren't. So you go out of your way to a marina to get unadulterated gas for your mowers.

No idea, but my diesels have had problems (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47087963)

The pickup feet in both tanks of my my 1992 F250 7.3 turned gummy and fell apart about the same time, I blame that on wacky fuel additives. Happened all across the country one year at about the same time. (The new blends don't reach the whole nation at once...) And the return lines on my 300SD started leaking at about the same time.

The short version (3)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 4 months ago | (#47088009)

My parents' new car can take E85. It can be filled up a lot cheaper on that fuel but it gets exactly that reduction in gas mileage making it break even. So it's a wash except the lower chemical energy lowers the horsepower. So they don't fill it up with E85. It's a stupid idea and it's wasting corn and upping food prices. We need electric cars that are sourced by fusion power plants.

Re:The short version (1)

Manuka (4415) | about 4 months ago | (#47088151)

And the only reason ethanol blends are cost-effective is the blending subsidies the fuel producers get.

Missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088029)

Part of the point of ethanol blended gas is not that you'll get better gas mileage, but some very simple mathematics: It takes millions of years to convert the carcass of a beached whale into crude oil, whereas with ethanol you can grow millions of acres of corn in a single year. So we have crude oil on the one side, where we're (literally) burning through our reserves at a rate far and away outstripping the rate at which it can be replenished. Corn-based ethanol can be reproduced at a rate considerably closer to what we actually burn. Plus how much corn can you plant and harvest for the cost of constructing even a single oil well?

It's not some kind of magic cure-all solution that will solve our looming energy crisis. Ethanol alone will not save us from having to make some difficult and painful changes to a way of life in most western nations. It is, however, one possible part of a multifaceted solution that will see us beyond the next couple of generations. Sure sticking a couple of solar panels on the roof of every house and office building in the country won't be enough to replace all the oil or coal based power plants across the country, but even if those solar panels provided a few percentage points of the power used by that building in a given day, it would be huge. Add to that some wind power to knock out a few more percentage points in some areas and/or hydroelectric in others and while you still won't be able to completely replace traditional power plants, you'd still create a significant glut of power relative to what we have now. Adding a small amount of ethanol into gasoline is just one more potential savings given how quickly we can replace the ethanol. Why in this country we are so enamored with the idea of the magic bullet solution that will single-handedly cure every single problem is as fascinating as it is disturbing. Instead of developing a number of different solutions targeted at the unique seasonal properties of different regions in the country, we keep chasing the latest fad miracle solution and when that doesn't pan out it's just back to our ever dwindling supplies of coal and crude oil.

YMMV as they say... (1)

AndroSyn (89960) | about 4 months ago | (#47088039)

I've got a flex fuel suv, that I do run E85 in from time to time, when I can find it. Even then, I will only typically fill up on E85 when its at least 20% cheaper per gallon that gasoline. Otherwise, you are paying more for less energy. I usually see a reduction in MPG running on E85, if its a full tank, usually close to 20%. With that said, if you are planning longer trips, through the midwest, E85 can possibly save you a little bit of cash in some places. I took the trip out to the Dayton Hamvention this year, running mostly on E85.

Like they say, YMMV.

Why is everyone hung on "MPG"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088087)

You never see the word 'ethanol' without some joker mentioning 'less MPG' within a sentence or two. Likewise, you hardly see the word 'diesel' without 'great MPG' mentioned shortly there after.

Around here, in comparison to gas: E10 is usually 10-15 cents cheaper per gallon, E85 is about 30-40 cents cheaper and diesel is 50-70 cents more. When you actually use these figures to compare 'miles per dollar' - which is what I am actually concerned with - the math actually favors ethanol slightly. And that even considers using the ethanol in a gasoline engine.

Several years ago a company named Ricardo - www.ricardo.com developed an engine optimized for ethanol (ie designed for the high octane properties of ethanol) which essentially showed diesel like power and economy, but using a fuel which cost less than even gasoline. This pushes the 'miles per dollar' figure substantially in favor of ethanol.

Re:Why is everyone hung on "MPG"? (1)

Manuka (4415) | about 4 months ago | (#47088155)

However, your miles per dollar on ethanol are being artificially increased due to blending subsidies.

Crap gas. (1)

SuperTechnoNerd (964528) | about 4 months ago | (#47088117)

The problem I find is it goes bad after 6 months to a year or so. Leaving a varnish like gunk residue behind. If I don't completely drain it from my snow blower in spring, and lawnmower and weed wacker in fall, the carburetors need complete overhaul and cleaning by the time I need them - the jets get clogged. You can see the crap in the carb bowl and tanks. Never used to be like this before ethanol.

Re:Crap gas. (1)

confused one (671304) | about 4 months ago | (#47088271)

This has always been true with plain gasoline. It does get exacerbated in some older equipment which pre-dates the use of ethanol in fuels. In some cases the plastics and seals can be damaged by the ethanol, with components of the plastic ending up in solution. Obviously these can precipitate out as the fuel evaporates.

I use both. (1)

Manuka (4415) | about 4 months ago | (#47088141)

One of the benefits of being in Kansas (even in town) is that I can readily get "real" gas (both 87 and 91 octane) at my local Cenex station (it's about 30 cents a gallon more for the 87, about an 8% premium, than the E10 they sell). With the ethanol-free fuel I typically get about 20% better tank range on the highway in my 1997 Toyota Avalon (about 70-80 miles). Cost-wise, it's pretty much a wash, but I like not having to fill up as often. I don't have any qualms using E10 in the car if real gasoline isn't available, since it has a modern engine. For gasoline-powered generators and equipment, though, I won't put ethanol in those if I can at all avoid it, as they do not have computer-controlled injection and ignition systems.

Ethanol replaced MTBE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088167)

The purpose of ethanol is to enhance the supply of oxygen in gasoline, not so much to augment energy supplies. MTBE used to provide that role, but was and is a huge liability to the gas companies due to leaking tanks and how it wreaks havoc on the aquifer. Sometime around 2005-2006 it became feasible to add 10% ethanol to gasoline - it's mixed at the terminals and not in the pipelines since it absorbs water. When it became feasible, gas companies couldn't switch over fast enough. It took some work at the stations, since a lot of the tank and dispenser components had to be replaced, and the tank itself had to be emptied of MTBE gas before adding ethanol; gas.

Energy density lower (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 4 months ago | (#47088201)

Ethanol's got a lower energy density (less energy per gallon) than gasoline. That's chemistry and there's no known way around it, to deliver a given amount of power you have to burn more fuel and the more ethanol in the mix the greater the difference. I do see a hit to gas mileage, it's not significant for highway driving (steady high speed) but it really starts to show up in city driving (lots of stop-and-start, lots of time in low gears for power getting the car moving). Ethanol's also got an oxygen atom in it's structure, which the components of gasoline mostly lack. That results in the same problem as with oxygenated gas: it looks like a leaner mix (more air per unit fuel) to the sensors in the engine, which results in the ECU setting the injectors to run richer (inject more fuel per cycle) to get the programmed ideal air/fuel mixture resulting in higher fuel consumption. Oxygenated gas was a great idea for carbureted engines, but it doesn't play well with modern EFI engines and I don't think there's been a model sold in the US since 2000 that isn't EFI.

Scientifically... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088213)

Any IC engine, when running part ethanol fuel, no matter how well optimized for it, will have higher output with pure gasoline. Gasoline simply has so much more energy potential that the math is a no brainer. In order to make an engine run better with ethanol, you make it slightly less efficient with pure gas. However, the engine will STILL be more efficient with pure gas than any gas/ethanol mix.

Honestly, how come no body wants to go to all electric vehicles, and switch all of our power plants to thorium nuclear??? Super efficient, low waste, and CHEAP! We even have private enterprises willing to help PAY for the infrastructure change!... WAIT, I know why, because A) we can't weaponize the thorium nuclear reaction, B) we don't want to stop subsidizing the corn/ethanol industry, and C) nobody in the US like anything with the word "Nucular" in it...

From a hobby tuner point of view (1)

olsonish (2526782) | about 4 months ago | (#47088229)

Before I say much else, my 'tuning' experience is limited to three cars, all fords, one supercharged 5.4 v8, one 4.6 v8, and one turbo 4.6. I'll use the lightning as my case. Its is a supercharged and heavily modified 5.4 v8. Specifically regarding fuel delivery: even after upgrading to two 255#/hr pumps, adding a resistor to correct a hi/lo relay trip issue, upgrading to 60#/hr injectors, and higher capacity fuel rails I'm still using a high percentage of the overall fuel delivery capability at wide open throttle. This is using CA 91 octane which as I understand has a minimal but present ethanol blend. Because this is a hobby and coming out of my own pocket, I never run systems to 100% of capacity if I can avoid it. Now from talking to other L owners and exploring an e85 conversion much over the last 10 years, here are some relevant points that stand out when talking of efficiency: Switching to e85 for my application would at minimum require a retune and more upgrades. I would need bigger fuel pumps, stainless fuel lines, maybe bigger rails, and definitely 80#/hr injectors for this same power level. Switching to e85 will net me worse gas mileage. If I'm lucky I can get 13-15mpg mixed city/hwy on CA 91. Similarly modified L's on e85 regularly report 15-25% worse fuel economy (or 7-10mpg to be specific from conversations and forum threads). Switching to e85 also has a tuning/performance perk of having characteristics of a higher octane rating (to the note of 104 octane). On e85 I can potentially make more power, but I'd also have to dump substantially more fuel in each cylinder than I would have to put non ethanol gasoline to achieve the same power levels. At some point e85 beats CA91 for potential resistance to detonation. Now real food for thought: I just moved this truck out of CA where I can put non ethanol 93 and 98 octane gasoline in the tank. The truck feels to have noticeably more torque across the entire rpm range (at a higher elevation to boot) and so far I've documented an average 17 mpg on the last tank mixed country road and small town driving. The best MPG I've ever seen in this vehicle was in 2006 driving through northern Texas, all freeway a freakish 20mpg that never happened again (and I do not know if this was plain gasoline or e blend, it has been awhile). And finally one common overlooked part that all L e85 conversions must do: in the fuel tank the Y that connects the two fuel pumps to the fuel line is factory plastic. If you do not replace plastic fuel delivery components with stainless steel replacements, on e85 they will dry, crack, and fail. In my case this could mean a blown motor. Hence the need for stainless fuel lines, too. I can only imagine an otherwise stock car on a stock tune not meant to run or not specifically tuned to handle ethanol or ethanol blends would feel to run more rich and get guaranteed worse fuel economy. My own research seems to indicate so.

I dont think I have had probems (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 4 months ago | (#47088285)

But I tossed some of that fuel system cleaner in my car, which is mostly ethanol, and it took out a pressure sensor to some part of the emissions system. It throws a code and when its actually acting up the car runs a little lean, and I have to reset the computer and do a drive cycle before going into emissions testing.

Id fix it, but you have to drop like half the ass of the car out, its expensive and the damn dealer wants like 800 bucks to do it, meh

Ethanol's hygroscopic properties are the danger (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47088305)

I asked Otis, the corner gas station mechanic this same question and, since he works on engines all the time, I wanted to share his thoughts. That combined freshman chemistry.

Ethanol attracts and absorbs water. Ethanol fuel blends will also absorb water. If you put ethanol blend in your engine and it sits for any length of time, it is likely to absorb more water. This ethanol-water mix is can corrode your engine, carbs, fuel injectors, etc. It's especially bad for aluminum parts and rubber parts: gaskets, O-rings, etc.

If you constantly keep it agitated -- operate it at least once a week - you're probably OK. However, engines that are only used seasonally (boats, snow mobiles, motorcycles, lawn mowers) will be damaged by ethanol in the way I have just described. It's best to avoid ethanol. Fuel stabilizers might help, but I haven't researched that alternative...

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