Iowa corn farmers always have a bunch of junk lying around after every harvest — corn cobs, stalks and leaves. California, meantime, was in dire need of the type of non-food-based fuel that can be squeezed out of those corn leftovers. Read more
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles might be the cars of the future. In fact, to recycle an old joke (because here at Fuel Freedom we’re big on recycling), FCVs might forever be the cars of the future.
I have been impressed with your tenure as Pope. You have literally taken the road less traveled (Robert Frost) in the Catholic Church. You have succeeded in opening up the hearts and minds of many in your flock. For non-Christians, like me, your words have suggested great love for the diversity among people and a strong concern for the future of humankind and the quality of life in the world.
You have made religion meaningful for millions. Your willingness to raise concerns about the visible degradation of the environment, because we have not been good stewards, has granted new energy to environmental reformers in and out of governments around the world. Your courage in acknowledging our collective role in increasing GHG emissions, because we have regarded the air above us and the ground below us as free to use and misuse, public commons has stimulated a vigorous debate among leaders, religious and otherwise, and their constituents.
I am grateful for the policy and behavioral link you have made between environmental, GHG emissions, and poverty issues. Failure to aggressively respond to pollution and pollutants, as well as failure to significantly reduce GHG emissions, as you have indicated, will lead to a bleak future for our children and their children, etc. In this context, as you have indicated, it is the least advantaged among us who bear the heaviest burdens. Their low incomes and lack of mobility limits choices concerning living space, clean air and water, healthcare, work and recreation. It is the poor in many nations who most (and must) often live next to GHG- and pollutant-spewing industrial plants and utilities, as well as emissions from congested, dirty, auto-filled roadways. It is the poor, particularly in poverty-stricken nations, that also must live next to unregulated landfills, untreated sewage, polluted streams, ponds and lakes.
Your Holiness, you have put us all on notice that if we continue to behave as we have in the past, we will risk global calamity and increased human suffering. Here my own theological beliefs as a Reconstructionist Jew match your Catholic or universal view of our obligations to each other. There is a part of God in us, and our role in life is to bring out the Godliness. Paraphrasing the Jewish scholar Hillel, if not us, who, and if not now, when?
By your words, you have accepted the fact that none of us is perfect but that we all are perfectible. I suspect that this is how we must look at policy and behavior responses to GHG emissions and environmental crises. Permit me, in this context, to focus my words on something the nations of the world and their citizens can do relatively quickly to make the world a better place.
Right now the world produces nearly 90 million barrels of oil every day. In my own country, the United States, oil accounts for 95 percent of all energy used by transportation every day. One of oil’s derivatives, gasoline, provides the fuel we use to power most of the vehicles used by industry, commerce and households.
Gasoline is a dirty fuel, meaning that it generates GHG emissions and other pollutants. Alternative fuels either that exist or are on the horizon (like ethanol, batteries for electric vehicles, fuel cells, biofuels and natural gas) could reduce the oil and gasoline dependency for many nations and simultaneously lessen emissions that despoil the lands we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The expanded use of alternative fuels could also reduce the need to go to war to protect oil supplies and transit, thus making the world safer for both secularists and non-secular families and children. Finally, their increased use could reduce the costs of travel for low-income folks and help extend their means to acquire needed basic goods and services.
Please forgive me for using the word agnostic, but I believe we must be fuel agnostic and grant a range of alternative fuels status as long as each one on the fuel spectrum can provide cheaper, safer, environmentally better power for vehicles than gasoline.
For God’s or people’s sake, we can do better! You have begun to stimulate our minds and hearts. Your recent encyclical on climate change, while controversial and provocative, provides each of us with the normative guidelines to make a difference with respect to securing a healthier planet for future generations. While your criticism of capitalism and free markets is very severe, and while I must confess disagreement with its implication that market mechanisms should not and cannot be used to impede global warming and GHG emissions, I applaud the encyclical’s implicit (if not explicit) support of actions to reform market systems.
Your Holiness, I would hope that religious leaders led by you would encourage reform and, as with alternatives to gasoline, accept perfectibility, not perfection. If we don’t, the enemy of the good will be the perfect. Certainly, if the church, under your outstanding leadership, secured the support of other organized religions, as well as secular leaders from many countries, including the U.S., and the group subsequently urged oil companies to open their gas station franchises to a range of alternative fuels, the results could provide a big step in the journey toward GHG emission and pollutant reduction and a better world. Similarly, if the group urged the world’s auto manufacturers to both produce more vehicles able to run on alternative fuels and support development of innovative ways to convert existing cars to flex-fuel vehicles, the impact would provide consumers, including the poor, lower-cost fuel choices and reflect another step toward healthier people and a cleaner planet.
You have opened the door to increased ecumenism among religious faiths and a positive dialogue between the very religious, less religious and non-religious institutions and people concerning social welfare and environmental problems. I suspect that you find sympathy for the writings of one of my favorite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “I do not find that the age or country makes the least difference; no, nor the language the actor spoke, nor the religion which they professed, whether Arab in the desert, or Frenchman in the Academy. I see that sensible men and conscientious men all over the world were of one religion of well-doing and daring.”
We did some quick math here at Fuel Freedom Foundation, and we can say, without hesitation, that there are thousands of flex-fuel vehicles on the road in Sacramento and its environs.
Attention soccer moms in your GMC Yukons, and dads in your Chevy Silverados and Ford F-150s! This is a deal you can’t afford to miss.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 12, five gas stations in the Sacramento area will sell E85 ethanol fuel for 85 cents a gallon, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. See what they did there? E85 all over the place!
Here are the five participating stations:
- Shell: 5103 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael, CA 95608
- Shell: 730 29th Street, Sacramento, CA 95816
- Shell: 3721 Truxel Road, Sacramento, CA 95834
- Shell: 800 Ikea Court, West Sacramento, CA 95691
- Oliver Gas: 1009 Oliver Road, Fairfield, CA 94534
Our friends at San Diego-based Pearson Fuels are sponsoring the promo. The five stations are the newest outlets for E85 in a network that spans California. (We wrote about Pearson and its business model a couple months back.) Check out Pearson’s release for more information.
There are some 1 million flex-fuel vehicles in California, built to run on E85, a cheaper, cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline that also emits fewer toxic pollutants that foul the air and fewer greenhouse-gas emissions that warm the planet. Since there are about 2.1 million people living in the Sacramento metro area, 5.4 percent of the state’s population, we can extrapolate that there are roughly 54,000 FFVs in the area.
So get thee to the pump, and tell your FFV-driving friends!
Even after Wednesday, when E85 resets to its usual price, consumers will still see a benefit. It’s usually 25 to 30 percent cheaper than regular 87 octane.
Even if you don’t own an FFV, you can enter our contest to raise awareness about the benefits of E85. You could win a $50 Amazon gift card!
So, is everybody out there waiting for the spiffy new editions of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt? If EV-makers and proponents are waiting for those holdouts to show up, it could be a very long few months.
The website Inside EVs, which keeps track of monthly sales for all-electrics and plug-in hybrids in the U.S. and globally, has published its July numbers, and they’re abysmal: Only 7,102 were sold during the month, compared with 11,242 in July 2014. There are still six models for which numbers are not available — Ford’s Fusion Energi, C-Max Energi and Focus Electric; Porsche Cayenne S-E and Panamera S-E; and the Kia Soul EV — but even if those cars come in at the same level as this June, the overall sales tally will still be well under last year’s pace.
For the first six months of 2015, a total of 61,449 EVs have been sold domestically, compared with 123,049 during the same period last year. Meantime, the rest of the world continues to outsell the U.S., thanks in part to generous subsidies in many European countries.
This marks the third straight month that U.S. EV sales have lagged the same month in 2014, and there’s a running debate about why. The dominant argument is that consumers are waiting to push their hard-earned money toward the next-generation Leaf and Volt, both of which are due out in 2017.
According to Inside EVs, the 2016 model year of the Leaf will have a 30 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, compared with the 24 kWh currently out there, giving the 2016 version an estimated range of 105-110 miles, up from the current 84. The range for the redesigned (and much more stylish) 2017 Leaf should be even better, and Nissan is testing battery technology it hopes will allow a future version of the Leaf to get 250 miles on a full charge.
The current iteration of the Volt can travel only 38 miles without recharging, but the 2016 model of the hybrid will be able to go 53 miles before the gasoline-engine kicks in, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. On a full charge and full tank of gas, the range is 420 miles. Details about the redesigned 2017 Volt are sketchy.
The Times notes that the all-electric Tesla Model S has a range of 265 miles, but it costs $100,000. The cheaper EVs are, the generally shorter their battery ranges are. The 2016 Volt’s MSRP is $33,170 (without incentives), and the last iteration of the Leaf, the 2014, starts at $28,980.
Tesla’s upcoming Model 3, which is supposed to retail at $35,000 and is slated to be released in early 2016, is expected to have a battery range of about 200 miles. Tesla expects big things from its first “mainstream” EV. The Model S already is the hottest-selling EV in the nation so far this year, with 13,200 units sold, although only 1,600 were sold in July, compared with 2,800 in June and 2,400 in May.
The other splashy new release is the $30,000 Chevy Bolt, an all-electric that’s supposed to go on sale in 2017 and also has a range of about 200 miles.
So there’s a bounty of high-tech, much-improved EVs and hybrids hitting the market in the next year or so. But if sales remain flat even then, the depressive effect of low gasoline prices could emerge as the true motivator.
With the 2014 gas-price spike long in the distance (a gallon of regular was $2.64 Tuesday, compared with $3.50 a year ago), there’s little incentive for consumers to buy or lease a new electric car now, especially if they’re not sure they’ll have a battery strong enough to get them to work and back.
Sales of conventional vehicles are going in the opposite direction as EVs: The big automakers are on track for their first year of 17 million units sold since before the Great Recession. SUVs, crossovers and pickups led a strong sales month in July. “That segment of vehicles continues to be smoking hot,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of sales and marketing, told the Detroit Free Press.
For perspective, more Chevy Silverados were sold in July (56,380) than the eight top-selling EVs combined that were sold from January through July (55,365).
If you’re shopping for a new or used car and want the benefits of cleaner-burning, cheaper, American-made fuels, consider buying a flex-fuel vehicle that can use E85. Check out E85Vehicles.com to see which models are FFVs.
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.
- Some drivers are blending their own premium fuel
- Ethanol haters beware: Marc Rauch is ready for you
- Marc Rauch picks apart Guardian’s anti-ethanol post
- PUMP clip: Ethanol has always been the better fuel
Being agnostic about certain things in life either makes you a person of little faith or willingness to leap across no or partial data; a wise person who is intellectually and emotionally strong enough to reflect on his or her personal doubts; a person who would prefer not to think about life’s complexities; or, succinctly, a person who is intellectually and emotionally lazy.
No, I am not going to discuss God at this time. But I do want to talk about fuel agnosticism. When people ask me which fuel I like, most times I reply that I am fuel agnostic. Put another way, except for gasoline, I have only strategic short-term fuel favorites among the fuels now on, or soon to come on, the market. As far as gasoline, I agree with the president, almost all environmentalists and a growing number of business leaders, that America must wean itself off gasoline. It just does not cut it, given the country’s air quality, GHG, pollution, economic and security objectives.
Happily, drivers, particularly owners of flex-fuel vehicles (new or converted) have fuel choices at the present time besides gasoline. They are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But they are better than gasoline with respect to key public policy and quality of life commitments.
Flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) can use E85 ethanol blend, the vast majority of which is made from corn; battery powered vehicles can power up on electricity; vehicles with fuel cells can fill up with hydrogen. Natural gas-based ethanol likely will come on the market relatively soon, perhaps within the next 3 to 5 years. This is only a partial list, but they include the “biggies” with respect to alternative fuels.
Obstacles exist restricting consumer ability to exercise their choices among alternative fuels. Among them:
- lack of investment in infrastructure — fuel stations, pumps etc.
- franchise agreements excluding sale of E85 at brand-name stations
Both electric and hydrogen-cell cars, on average, are too expensive right now for most Americans to purchase, and reliance on batteries increases the psychiatrist’s bill for many drivers because of mileage constraints. Fear of being stuck on a freeway without electricity and without proximity to fuel stations induces lots of pre-driving psychodrama and expands the use of Ambien the night before driving relatively long distances. Misery, in this case, doesn’t like company. Sort’ve up the crowded creek without a paddle. However, on the good news side, we may have a paddle soon, as electric car producers are aiming at batteries capable of “driving” cars longer distances and producing cheaper sticker prices. Hopefully, with increased use of natural gas, wind and solar power as substitutes for coal, electric cars will become even better than they are now concerning life-cycle GHG emissions.
Corn-based ethanol is presently the best alternative fuel capable of competing with gasoline on a large scale and simultaneously responding to environmental, pollution and GHG objectives. Independent retailers selling E85 have grown in number and locational diversity. Better land management by farmers and an ample supply of corn have lessened the intensity of the food vs. fuel dialogue. While varying over time, the price of ethanol now in most areas of the nation is very competitive with gasoline on a mileage-per-gallon basis. The price differential between the two fuels seemingly has stabilized at between 20 and 26 percent.
Detroit, aided by available federal incentives, has put more than 17 million FFVs on the road. And even though there is a paucity of fuel stations, sales of E85 have still increased modestly.
Because of costs related to development and certification, only one EPA-approved conversion kit exists to change internal combustion engines to FFVs. It is very expensive. Even though consumers, including drivers of fleet vehicles, administered by the public sector, indicate driver satisfaction with the kit, its limited use to convert EPA-approved vehicles to FFV status is understandable. An increase in the number of certified kits would bring down their price and lead to expanded conversion of existing gasoline-only autos.
Natural gas-based ethanol has stimulated a good deal of interest. The process of making ethanol from natural gas seems doable. Coskata, Inc., has developed and tested a process to convert natural gas to ethanol. It results in a product that is relatively inexpensive and responds well to environmental and GHG objectives. The company is seeking financing to build one or more facilities. Its success will provide a strong contender among alternatives for consumer fuel dollars.
It is important that we extend the menu of choices at the pump. Right now, the nation has no real strategy to get from where we are now, which on paper and in a limited way at your friendly gas station is promising, to an effective nationwide menu of consumer fuel choices. Acting now to secure such a strategy is important, in light of GHG emissions, pollution and security problems, including growing tension in the Middle East and our allies’ continued need for imported oil.
We need an immediate, transitional and long-term strategy that increases competition, over time, among multiple fuels — fuels able to respond to national economic, social welfare, and environmental as well as GHG objectives. Through public-private sector partnerships, the nation should be aiming at low-hanging fruit (substitute fuel) like corn-based ethanol E85, and, when it’s ready, natural gas-based ethanol.
Electric vehicles and hydrogen-fuel vehicles are not yet ready for prime time, but both, with technological, cost, and design improvements, could be a necessity in the intermediate and long-term future. Let’s not meet the enemy only to find out that he or she is us (Pogo). We have the data to become a believer concerning the benefits of a transitional and growing fuel menu, while at least for now being fuel agnostic.
Anyone who thought that the EPA’s publication of its proposed Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014, 2015 and 2016 was going to settle the ethanol debate has definitely got another thing coming.
The EPA ruling has simply made the situation more contentious and complex. In fact, nobody really knows where ethanol is headed now.
Consider the following developments:
- The industry hit an all-time high first week in June, producing 992,000 barrels per day, equal to the old record of Dec. 19, 2014, and 100,000 barrels more than the first week in May. This despite the argument from the industry that the EPA measure is crippling the industry.
- Gasoline consumption rose 3 percent over the first quarter, the fastest increase in a decade. Gasoline costs $1 less a gallon than it did a year ago, and motorists are responding by driving more. The more gasoline consumed, the more ethanol will be consumed, since it makes up 10 percent of each gallon.
- While the EPA may have underestimated the amount of ethanol that will be consumed in a year, the agency has definitely overestimated the amount of “advanced” ethanol the industry can produce. This is supposed to be an incentive for the development of cellulosic ethanol, but cellulosic plants are having a hard time getting off the ground. It’s not at all certain that cellulosic ethanol will ever be available in commercial quantities.
- Through a quirk in the law, the EPA counts sugar-based ethanol as an “advanced technology” in opposition to corn-based ethanol. Therefore, refineries are allowed to count sugar-based ethanol toward their EPA “advanced” quota. The result has been a boon to Brazil, which saw its exports of sugar-based ethanol triple over the past few months. There is very little sugar-based ethanol produced in this country. The price of Renewable Identification Notices (RINs), whereby refiners show they have added “advanced” ethanol to their gasoline, rose to its highest level in two years since the EPA announcement. Meanwhile, the price of RINs for corn-based ethanol has fallen by 50 percent over the same period.
And so it goes, round and round. All this has left commentators scratching their heads as to where the industry is headed. On OilPrice.com, Colin Chilcoat wrote a column asking, “Has U.S. Ethanol Production Topped Out?” Accompanying it was a graph showing that ethanol production has leveled off at 9.8 percent of every gallon over the last three years:
This puts consumption just below the 10 percent “blend wall,” at which ethanol supposedly starts to harm engines. But that’s not the whole story. As Chilcoat writes: “Buoyed by high exports – up 33 percent from 2013 – ethanol production totaled more than 14.3 billion gallons in 2014.” American ethanol is starting to find markets abroad, even as we import more from Brazil.
Then there’s the question of whether that “blend wall” really exists. There’s no question that ethanol corrodes steel. That’s the reason it can’t be shipped in pipelines – which makes it very expensive to get it from farm country to the East and West coasts. But steel has been replaced by rubber in fuel-injection systems, and the danger no longer exists for cars built after 2001. Then there are the flex-fuel vehicles, of which there are some 17 million on the road today. They can handle any liquid fuel. Finally, an older car can be modified by replacing the steel parts in the fuel system through a simple procedure that costs less than $200. E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is being sold all over the Midwest, where support for ethanol is strong. And the Obama administration’s Department of Agriculture has just appropriated $100 million for gas stations that can dispense all varieties of ethanol.
“Unfortunately, the EPA continues to cling to the ‘blend wall’ methodology that falsely claims ethanol has reached its saturation point at a 10 percent ethanol blend,” Bob Dinneen, president the Renewable Fuels Association, complained. “The Agency has eviscerated the program’s ability to incentivize investments in infrastructure that would break through the blend wall and encourage the commercialization of new technologies.”
Perhaps the biggest shift has come from environmental groups, who were once ethanol’s biggest supporters but who have done a 180-degree turn and are now among its biggest opponents. The Environmental Working Group recently published a paper claiming that corn ethanol actually produces a 20 percent increase in carbon emissions and is a contributor to global warming. EWG estimates that the production of E10 in 2014 resulted in 27 million tons more carbon emissions than if American drivers had been burning ethanol-free gasoline (E0). A study by the World Resources Institute purports to show that where carbon emissions are concerned, ethanol does more harm than good. Friends of the Earth, once a supporter, is now one of ethanol’s most vocal detractors.
Yet the public seems to be still behind the ethanol effort. A poll conducted by RFA found that 62 percent of the public favors corn-based ethanol, while only 18 percent were opposed. The number rose to 69 percent when people were asked if manufacturers should be required to offer flex-fuel vehicles.
So the EPA is limiting the production of corn ethanol, which is plentiful, while providing broad leeway to cellulosic ethanol, which doesn’t yet exist at scale. To top things off, Sen. John Cassidy of Louisiana introduced a bill to do away with the Renewable Fuel Standard altogether, making all gas E0 again. Senators Diane Feinstein of California and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania already have a similar bill in the hopper.
The last act of the ethanol story has definitely not been written yet.
You’ve seen the badges on the rear ends of cars, trucks and SUVs, likely while you’re stuck in traffic. They say “FlexFuel” or, more descriptively, “FlexFuel … E85 Ethanol.” Almost 20 million vehicles in the United States come off the assembly line as flex-fuel, meaning they can run perfectly well on any mixture of gasoline and ethanol, up to E85 (which is actually 51 percent to 83 percent ethanol, the rest gasoline).
But not all of them have that shiny badge declaring them flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs). Sometimes a yellow gas cap is the dead giveaway, but those caps only started appearing on model-year 2008 vehicles (2006 for General Motors). Buried deep inside the owner’s manual, too, is a notice about which fuels are approved to run in your vehicle.
Now, there’s an easy tool that will tell you whether you’re one of those lucky 20 million whose vehicle can take E85. Fuel Freedom Foundation has just unveiled the Check Your Car tool. You can enter in your vehicle’s make, model, year and engine size, and it’ll tell you whether you’re driving an FFV.
This tool is long overdue, because ever since the first FFV rolled out of the factory — the 1996 Ford Taurus, which actually could run on gasoline, ethanol and methanol — FFV owners have consistently not taken advantage of all these engines can do. Less than 10 percent of such drivers use E85. Part of the reason likely is that only a small percentage of the nation’s fueling stations offer it. But that proportion is rising: E15, which has twice as much ethanol as regular gasoline (which contains up to 10 percent ethanol already), is spreading around the country, and more stations are offering E85 as well.
Using higher ethanol blends, and less gasoline, has multiple benefits:
- It’s cheaper for consumers. The Renewable Fuels Association says blending ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supply saves the average American family about $1,200 a year.
- It’s a natural octane enhancer, which makes engines perform better.
- Since ethanol burns more efficiently, it results in fewer tailpipe emissions being released into the air, which is better for air quality.
- It’s an American-made fuel, requiring American-based jobs. The U.S. only produces less than 10 million barrels of crude a day but consumes some 19 million. The difference must be imported.
Check Your Car is part of our Fuels 101 initiative, which will soon include other features such as an education page about the various fuel types; how to find a station that sells alternative fuels (for the time being, use the Alternative Fuels Data Center’s locator); and how to find a kit that could convert your gasoline-only engine to run on ethanol.
So check back soon. In the meantime, kick the tires and take Check Your Car for a test drive.