I used to love reading the National Review, particularly in the days of Bill Buckley. While I, often, did not agree with the content of some of its articles, I always found the magazine entertaining and thought provoking. I have not read the magazine recently. I did yesterday after a colleague called attention to the recent “Ethanol Protection Agency” article by Nash Keune (July 5). I wrote about the CRC (Coordinating Research Council) study that the author uses as background in a previous blog. The study, funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute, was underwhelming and likely wouldn’t pass muster if sent to a refereed panel of scholars and practitioners.
Bill Buckley once responded to a comment with “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.” I guess I would say the same to the author of the National Review piece. Do you, in light of facts, really believe what you just wrote? Using the CRC study, often, cited by automobile trade groups and gasoline station dealers, Keune suggests that E15 harms automobiles, burns hotter than gasoline and will likely cause mechanical damage and increased emissions. It also results in misfueling as owners of older cars, that are not able to handle the E15 ethanol blend safely, will mistakenly use it. Keune didn’t mention the harm to mother-in-laws and stray dogs and cats.
Not quoted or cited by Keune is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) quick and harsh response to CRC’s study. DOE representatives faulted CRC for weak methodology and suggested its conclusions were not statistically significant. As “Over the Barrel”, previously noted, if you look hard at CRC’s sometimes obtuse research, you will know that the CRC looked at eight different vehicle types during the study. In total 28 engines were tested (16 on E20, six on E15 and six on EO). Some of the engines reflected durability problems before the study, irrespective of the fuels used in them. Only one vehicle, apparently, was a late model year auto (2009).
Mr.Keune, automobiles with a much higher blend of ethanol to gasoline (E20 – E25) have already been in used in Brazil successfully for a long time. Indeed, flex- fuel automobiles now are able to use E85.
My colleague, one of the founders of Fuel Freedom Foundation, a very bright, insightful guy, passed me a note as I was concluding this blog. He, briefly, outlined some additional problems with Keune’s article. For example, contrary to Keune, ethanol, because it is a high octane fuel, burns colder than gasoline, not hotter. This fact enables more complete combustion and, as a result, generates fewer emissions. Significantly, ethanol has a better environmental and cleaner air footprint (or better airprint) than gasoline. Finally, because the CRC test used ethanol spiked with acid and water, it was not representative. Water acts as an abrasive and if similarly spiked gasoline was tested, Keune’s conclusions concerning gasoline would be much worse than E15.
Okay. Let me go back to the beginning. We need the National Review, as it once was, as we need the New York Times. Two excellent policy sides of the same needed civil dialogue coin. The magazine, once again, should become a real national asset. Regrettably, we cannot bring back Bill Buckley, but we can ask for a good fact check and recent literature review preceding potentially important articles like Mr. Keune’s.+