This is the week we show our respect and gratitude to veterans for their service to our country. But that sentiment doesn’t have to be reserved just for Veterans Day.
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
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- PUMP clip: Ethanol has always been the better fuel
Still waiting for Debbie Carlson to explain why ethanol “isn’t a good fuel.”
That was the headline of a piece she wrote for The Guardian last week: “Energy hypocrisy: Ethanol isn’t a good fuel, but it’s not going away anytime soon.”
Carlson, a veteran business freelancer who also has written for Barron’s and The Wall Street Journal, makes several uncontested points, noting that ethanol — particularly ethanol made from corn — carries some political baggage. And of course there’s a looming battle over how much ethanol to blend into the nation’s gasoline supply under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
But nowhere in the 1,024-word post does Carlson explain, specifically, what makes ethanol such a lousy fuel.
Ethanol, whether it’s made from corn, sugarcane, biomass or other feedstocks like natural gas or municipal waste, simply burns cleaner, producing far fewer emissions than gasoline. The result is a net gain for air quality, people’s health and the environment. Henry Ford called it the fuel of the future.
Marc Rauch, executive vice president and co-editor of The Auto Channel website, takes issue with Carlson’s assertions in a new TAC post, titled “Ethanol Honesty is the Best Energy Policy.” Marc Rauch, a longtime champion of alcohol fuels who appears in the Fuel Freedom-produced documentary PUMP, starts in right away with the title of Carlson’s piece, noting that she “included nothing within her story to support calling ethanol a bad fuel.”
Rauch is just getting warmed up. He continues:
Ms. Carlson doesn’t get any more honest as she thoughtlessly rattles off hackneyed, long disproved criticisms of ethanol like a detached high school cheerleader who doesn’t understand the rudiments of the game she’s cheering for.
Ms. Carlson writes that while ethanol was supposed to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil; combat climate change; be a gateway for more renewable fuels technology, and reduce gasoline prices because it was cheaper; that it hasn’t done any of these things. She is wrong, it has done all of these things.
If America used 13 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014 to help power our passenger vehicles then that means we reduced our dependence on foreign controlled oil by 13 billion gallons — simple mathematics.
Rauch saves his harshest criticism for Carlson’s rehashing of the argument that corn ethanol steals food out of the mouths of starving babies. It’s a line that opponents of ethanol, including the oil industry, have been leaning on for years. She writes that “we’re putting nearly 40% of the US corn crop in our gas tanks, which some argue pushes up food prices.” (emphasis added.)
Rauch writes that Carlson “attempts to re-ignite the preposterous flames of the ‘food vs. fuel’ argument, adding:
Central in trying to make this an alarming statistic is the imagery that just as the corn is about to be distributed to millions of corn-on-the-cob deprived starving people around the world, greedy ethanol producers swoop in and buy up all the food to be turned into fuel. In reality, this is not how the system works.
There is no question that more corn being grown in America today is being used for ethanol production than as compared to, say, 10 years ago. But the reason for this is that the corn is specifically grown to be used for ethanol. There is demand for the crop so farmers grow more. This means that farmers (American farmers) can grow something that is profitable. Moreover, it means that they can grow something without having to turn to public assistance.
In 2000, U.S. corn production was 251,854 metric tons. In 2013, U.S. corn production was about 353,715 metric tons. Despite the increase in the amount of corn grown between the two years the actual amount of corn available for human consumption remained the same. Additionally, although most of the world outside of the western hemisphere does not eat corn the way that we do, world corn production reached record highs in 2014. So it’s safe to say that there were fewer starving Africans being deprived of non-nutritious high-fructose corn syrup products. Considering the obesity problem that we have in America, even if we were depriving someone of corn chips perhaps we would be doing them a favor.
Finally, there’s the issue of ethanol’s price. Carlson writes that: “As of 26 January, Chicago Board of Trade ethanol futures were holding around $1.448 a gallon, whereas New York Mercantile Exchange reformulated gasoline futures prices were at $1.3167, giving the renewable fuel a 13-cent premium.”
Ask yourself: Where have you seen regular gasoline at $1.31 a gallon? That low price doesn’t take into account marketing and distribution costs for gasoline, Rauch says.
As for the price in the real world, FFF blogger William Tucker has observed that ethanol prices have dropped, which is remarkable considering that oil has plunged 60 percent in seven months. According to E85Prices.com, the national average for E85 on Monday was $1.70, compared with $2 for E10 (regular gasoline with 10 percent ethanol).
In some states, it’s more cost-effective than the national average: In Texas on Monday, E85 was 18.2 percent cheaper than E10. In Florida, the spread in favor of ethanol was 24 percent, and in California it was 19 percent. The spread likely will increase if volatile oil prices rise again, which some experts say they inevitably will.
Rauch writes that Carlson is:
assuming the current surprisingly low price of crude oil will remain surprisingly low …
Read Rauch’s full post, and watch his segment in PUMP, to learn the truth about ethanol.
Until then, here’s a clip from the film, in which Rauch says ethanol “has always been the better fuel” for cars and trucks, and David Blume discusses the many crops besides corn that can be processed into alcohol fuels:
- Want to keep gas prices low? Watch PUMP
- What the critics are saying about PUMP
- We used to ride cheap trolleys. Then we burned them.
- Henry Ford, alcohol-fuel visionary
- Meet the couple who sell ethanol as God’s work