Rauch smacks down ‘corrosive’ argument about ethanol

One of the most often-repeated attacks on ethanol we hear is that “It hurts my engine.” We hear it from people who buy into the oil companies’ misinformation; from people who are (reasonably) concerned about using a new fuel type after 100 years of using the same gasoline tank after tank; and even from car people who insist that it’s the small portion of ethanol — not the dirtier gasoline — that is responsible for engine deposits and wear on fuel systems.

Here’s the truth: Some older vehicles should not use any ethanol blend above E10, which is up to 10 percent ethanol and what virtually all of us use as regular gasoline. Higher ethanol blends also aren’t approved for motorcycles, boats and yard equipment. But E15 is approved for all vehicles model year 2001 and newer, and there are more than 17 million cars, trucks and SUVs on the road in the U.S. that are flex-fuel vehicles — built to run on E85, which is between 51 percent and 83 percent ethanol.

What happens if a non-FFV uses E85? As many of our supporters on social media have noted, nothing. No engine damage, no corrosion of parts, no locusts descending, nothing bad at all. All that happens is that they pay less at the pump, and go to sleep at night knowing that they’ve made the world a tiny bit better place, because they’ve used an American-made fuel that emits fewer toxic pollutants than gasoline.

In a post last week on Green Car Reports, writer John Voelcker mentioned research promoted by the Urban Air Initiative showing that ethanol-free gasoline (E0) is more corrosive than E10. But Voelcker then takes a swipe at higher ethanol blends:

Ethanol in its purer forms, specifically E85, is long accepted as more corrosive to rubber and other engine components than gasoline.

That’s why carmakers have to develop “Flex-Fuel” engines specifically designed to withstand the effects of fuel that contains a majority of ethanol.

I e-mailed Voelcker’s post to Marc Rauch, executive vice president and co-editor of The Auto Channel (and one of the breakout stars of our 2014 documentary PUMP), and he called me right away. Weary over the persistent “corrosive” debate point, Rauch asked whether ethanol — which is also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol or “moonshine” — ate away at the plastic bottles that hold such booze at the liquor store. The answer is no.

“What people don’t get is, everything is corrosive,” he said. “You have to find a material that is not as susceptible to corrosion.”

Rauch then went to the comments section of the Green Car Reports post to elaborate:

Ethanol opponents trump up mythical ethanol mandate predictions and horrific false stories of ethanol-caused damage to frighten consumers. The boating community is a prime example. If boat owners want to hear some truthful comments about ethanol blends they should watch the Vernon Barfield ethanol boating videos on YouTube and listen to the Mercury Marine “Myths of Ethanol and Fuel Care” webinar from August 2011.

… In fact, water is corrosive; wind is corrosive; air is corrosive; gasoline is corrosive; solar rays are corrosive; moving parts are corrosive; human interaction with seating and flooring materials is corrosive.

The reality is that auto manufacturers have had to develop “specially designed” containers to hold water for automatic window washing. That’s right, if they used most metals to hold the water it would rust and/or corrode. Manufacturers had to develop “specially designed” coatings or parts to prevent chassis and fenders and bumpers from water corrosion. Manufacturers had to develop “specially designed” body paint and rubber to prevent solar corrosion. And, over the years auto manufacturers had to develop “specially designed” engine parts, rubber, and body paint that was resistant to the corrosive characteristics of gasoline and diesel.

In other words, if auto manufacturers had to make some alterations to accommodate ethanol, so what? It’s not even worth a serious discussion, and it certainly doesn’t befit a person like you who is supposed to know something about automobiles and industrial engineering.

There’s more good stuff there. Take a look.

If you’d like to see Rauch bat away that and other myths about ethanol one by one, or ask him a question yourself, he’s going to be taking part in a special Twitter conversation with @fuelfreedomnow on Wednesday at 12 noon. Follow the hashtag #FuelChat.

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