Lightening hasn’t struck the auto industry. The earth hasn’t moved for the oil industry. Profits are still rolling in for both. But, a group of noble researchers at Ford (new energy and fuel.com), recently found out, what many of you, Over a Barrel readers, already knew. “Substantial societal benefits” will derive from the ability of consumers to use higher volume blends of ethanol with gasoline to generate higher octane fuels. Succinctly, ethanol, generally, provides higher octane ratings than gas. Ethanol and, indeed, methanol offer higher octane and motor octane numbers when compared to gasoline. The alcohols, also, have a greater latent heat of vaporization than gasoline and provide additional charge cooling in direct-injection engines.
Regrettably, ethanol (E10) is now the dominant blend used in lower-octane gasoline. This fact results in a historically static net octane mix. We are missing a real opportunity! A higher level of ethanol (E15) was approved by the government beginning with model year 2001 but has not been widely used to date, in part because of the opposition of the auto and oil industry. Only recently, has EPA approved a limited number of stations to sell E15.
The Ford study suggests use of E30 etc. If this were done, there would be a real benefit to car owners. Their engines would reflect higher compression ratios and, as a result, run more efficiently. Equally important, those of us concerned with the environment, as well as open fuel markets and reduced oil dependency, would be happy. Consumers would have more choices. Less fuel would be consumed and, for environmental advocates, less air would be cycled through the engines.
Ford, apparently, has not yet endorsed the study or advocated it’s becoming operational policy. But the mere fact that the company permitted its researchers to publish the findings is good news. The analysis, is contrary to the recent American Petroleum Institute-supported study concerning ethanol, which, based on heavily faulted methodology, found ethanol to be unsafe for engines (Over a Barrel, May 22). So let’s raise a half a cup of whatever you the reader drink, to Ford and commend the company for initiating the research and getting it out to the public. At the same time, before we drink the other half of the cup, let’s urge Ford and their colleagues in the oil and auto industry to actually endorse increasing the use of higher octane ethanol-gasoline blends, flex fuel automobiles and the opening up of gasoline markets to flex fuels. Good for the economy, good for the consumer, good for the environment!
Postscript: Over A Barrel was impressed with the New York Times editorial on Sunday (July 15-www.NYTimes/pages/opinion). It criticized both Presidential campaigns concerning their energy policies. The editorial indicated that “drill baby drill” will not get us to energy independency. It noted that a country with only 2% of the world’s oil reserves and a daily appetite for more than one fifth of the world’s oil production will still need to import a sizeable amount of oil. Accordingly, drilling was one element of a multi-pronged strategy. Over a Barrel has no problem with multi-pronged approaches as long as they are strategic and reflective of the different kinds of energy required by the U.S. to meet its different needs. As you know, Over a Barrel’s focus is transportation and opening up the now restricted market for fuels for vehicles. It was pleased that, for the first time in a long time, the Times granted importance to cleaner cars, and alternative fuels as part of the U.S. strategy.+