Minnoco fuels Minnesota’s drive for fuel choice

Lance Klatt, executive director for the Minnesota-based fuel-station brand Minnoco, is tired. During his time as the executive director of a fueling retail chain, he’s heard countless arguments back and forth, from both the oil and ethanol industries, about how one fuel is superior and how the other fuel is a detriment to his business, consumers, and the country. Read more

Facts, and 93-octane ethanol, win over riders at Sturgis

Robert White of the Renewable Fuels Association is in his seventh year of promoting ethanol in what can be a hostile environment: the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

But as he wins over more converts — even the burly Harley-Davidson riders — his job gets easier.

“I did have one guy yell at me yesterday morning as I was driving around,” said White (pictured above), a longtime Harley rider himself. The gentleman hurled a few expletives his way. “He said ‘That stuff is terrible, it doesn’t work.’ I said, ‘Well that’s not what Harley says.’ He said, ‘Well they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ I said ‘Yeah, the people that just build your bike, what would they know?’ ”

White, a VP for the Washington, D.C.-based RFA, has met a lot of skeptics during the 75th annual rally, which runs through Sunday. In partnership with the famous Buffalo Chip campground (site of so many cool concerts this week, including John Fogerty on Wednesday night), RFA has been giving away free motorcycle tankfuls of a special blend of E10. But instead of merely 87, 89 or 91 octane like you get at the gas station, this E10 is 93 octane, made by infusing ethanol into existing pure gasoline.

“That’s higher than anything sold in town, and the bikers love that extra octane, so they take it,” White said.

Sturgis2015_banners3Convincing bikers that ethanol won’t harm their engines is an point of emphasis for RFA, because there are 22 million motorcycles in the United States, and groups that represent some of them have complained loudly about the fuel. Even though ethanol blends above E10 aren’t legally approved for motorcycles anyway, the American Motorcycle Association has railed against the increasing adoption of E15 for vehicles. Much of the group’s argument consists of fear that bikers will accidentally put E15 or higher concentrations into their tanks; the jury is still out on what effects, if any, higher ethanol blends can have on fuel lines and engine components in older cars, trucks and SUVs that aren’t flex-fuel vehicles.

White thinks something else is at work with AMA’s obsession.

“I think it’s just simply a membership campaign,” he said. “You can only sell so many memberships trying to protest helmet laws. That’s run its course in most locations. So you have another reason to maybe sign on a few members. There are 22 million motorcycles in the United States, and AMA has a whopping 250,000 members. So they may claim to be the biggest, the baddest and the voice of the motorcycle industry, but it’s almost laughable.”

For this year’s free E10 giveaway (which continues through Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mountain time), White got the idea to put up actual language from motorcycle warranties on poster boards and display them. The Harley excerpt reads: “Fuels with an ethanol content of up to 10 percent may be used in your motorcycle without affecting vehicle performance.”

“A guy walks up and says, ‘I’ve heard I shouldn’t use this. How can you convince me to do something different than what I was told to do? I just turned him around and I pointed him, he had a Harley-Davidson, and he read the Harley statement. I said, ‘That’s the only people you should be listening to. They’re the ones that built it, they’re the ones that designed it, and they’re the ones that honor your warranty. No one else should have any part in that.”

Rob “Woody” Woodruff, owner of the Buffalo Chip, is convinced. Watch this video with him telling White his 11-year-old Harley has never had anything but ethanol.

White said bikers he’s talked to are concerned mostly with how a fuel will affect their engines. But they’re open to hearing about the other benefits of higher ethanol blends, like the fact that it’s American-made and will reduce the amount of oil the U.S. has to import.

“It all starts and stops with the ‘Is it OK for my bike?’ If you get past that, they really don’t have any problems, and the extra benefits are just bonus for them. … a lot of the bikers are also veterans, or they have some connection or really love the troops. Well, here’s a fuel we don’t have to fight for, we don’t have to protect supply lines. That resonates pretty good too.”

(Photos from RFA/ZimmComm New Media)


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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