Join Date: Dec 2009
Understanding the Benefits of Ethanol Fuel
Through wrong information many have come to despise ethanol fuel. It seems that on any given day someone is posting another article that declares how bad ethanol is for your vehicle’s engine and the environment. They repeat the same skewed science and offer the same baseless arguments as those who have written articles before them, as if by repeating the same incorrect information over and over it will eventually become fact. Those who have investigated and tried ethanol fuel are convinced that ethanol is the fuel of America’s future.
Ethanol free fuel in not an option
Gasoline requires an oxygenator for it to burn completely in the engine cylinders and ethanol is by far the lowest price, safest and cleanest oxygenator available. Ethanol blended fuels cause complete combustion of gasoline reduces carbon monoxide and other harmful emissions. Before ethanol was added to gasoline to raise the oxygen content, oil companies added MTBE to raise the oxygen content. Gasoline blended with MTBE (reformulated gas) has around the same BTUs as ethanol blended gasoline (E10), so again the less BTU argument is baseless. MTBE is a known carcinogenetic that has contaminated ground water and drinking water for over 15 million Americans. These same oil companies also added lead to gasoline as a cheap way to stop engine run-on, knocking and pinging. Leaded gasoline caused the poisoning of the central nervous systems of refinery workers who developed Parkinson’s like symptoms and were forced to live out the rest of their days in sanitariums due to lead poisoning. Lead also caused mental retardation in children who lived in highly populated areas, contaminated the air and drinking water for millions of Americans. The EPA finally outlawed lead and has banned MTBE enriched gasoline in most places. However the oil companies have never picked up the bill for the environmental damage or the many health problems they have caused. Could it be that these same companies that told us that lead and MTBE in gasoline were safe are the same ones that are funding the many anti-ethanol studies. In the 1910’s ethanol fuel sales in the Midwest were growing every year and I am told accounted for 25% of all fuel sales. The founder of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller contributed millions of dollars to support the “temperance movement” to outlaw the manufacture and sale of ethanol. When probation was passed by congress the competition was put out of business overnight and consumers were now required to purchase pure gasoline.
Food for fuel or Want Not, Waste Not?
How much corn does the average American eat on a daily basis? Truthfully, how much corn on the cob, creamed corn, side of corn or any other corn dish that you can think of do you consume weekly? You say that you do not eat corn every week? Okay then, monthly. Hmmm. Well then, how much corn do you eat each year? Most people admit that corn is not part of their regular diet. Unless we are talking about corn sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or some corn based cereal but most can argue that these are not really food. Junk food, yes but no real nutritional value. The corn consumed by humans are either sweet corn or white corn. Whereas Dent corn, also known as field corn, is the number one feedstock used to produce ethanol and accounts for nearly 80% of all the corn grown in America and is primarily grown as an animal feed or to produce high fructose corn syrup.
Dent corn is fed to animals to fatten them up before they are slaughtered. Anyone who has been around farm animals can tell you that they produce a lot of waste. When a cow is fed corn most of the corn kernel is not digested. If you were to examine a kernel of corn that has passed through the digestive track of a cow you would notice that the corn kernel is pitted, full of holes. This is because the cow can only digest the fat and protein that is in the kernel of corn the rest of the kernel is primarily carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the cow. So the undigested carbohydrates end up as waste never to be used.
The process of making ethanol only removes the portion that the cow cannot use and leaves a better animal feed that the cow can more easily digest. First the corn kernels are ground into cornmeal. The cornmeal is then put into large vats with water and enzymes are used to separate the carbohydrates from the protein, fat and other nutrients found in the corn. Once the carbohydrates are separated, yeast is added to the carbohydrates and the ethanol making process is started. The leftovers (protein, fat, vitamins and other nutrients) that are not used to make ethanol are then dried and are knows as Dry Distillers Grains plus Solubles. DDG & S are called this because distilleries like Jack Daniels, Jim Bean, Anheuser Bush and every other place that converts grains into alcohol have these left over. These leftover dried grains are sold to feedlots to fatten up animals and this has been done for centuries, even before ethanol became a fuel. The animals actually gain 17% more weight in the same time frame, produce less methane gas because removing the carbohydrates from the feed causes less indigestion for the animal. A pound of methane contributes ten times more global warming than a pound of CO2.
When was the last time you went to the store to buy food and you were told, we’re sorry we do not have any fresh produce because they used the field to grow field corn to fatten up animals or make ethanol? Never, I am sure. Additionally the amount of water used to grow the dent corn should in no way be figured into the ethanol equation since the corn was grown to feed animals not make ethanol. People blame ethanol for the increased food prices instead of blaming $4.00 a gallon diesel fuel?
Positive energy vs gasoline being a negative energy fuel.
The amount of energy needed to make a gallon of gas is more than what a gallon of gas contains. Understand that it takes energy to pump oil from the ground, transport the oil to the refinery (in most cases across an ocean), distill the oil into gas and other products, ship the gasoline to the pump. Some experts estimate for every 10 units of energy that goes into making a gallon of gas only 8 come out.
When farmers grow dent corn they realize around 165 bushels per acre (2009 national average). If 2.7 gallons of ethanol are realized per bushel and since there is 165 bushels per acre then we can expect to get 445.5 gallons of ethanol per acre. Using traditional farming practices it will take 5 gallons of fossil fuel to plant, harvest and transport the corn on one acre of land. 445 / 5 = 89 gallon of ethanol per gallon of fossil fuel. There are farms that realize better yields as much as 200 bushels per acre and that use better practices such as no till farming which reduces fossil fuel use to 3 gallons per acre. Additionally ethanol refineries are starting to realize as much as 3 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn. (200 bushels per acre) x (3 gallons of ethanol per bushel) = 600 gallons of ethanol per acre / 3 gallons of fossil fuel = 200 gallons of ethanol per gallon of fossil fuel.
To be fair we still have to consider the electricity used during the refining process plus any natural gas that might have been used. All things considered the national average for ethanol refineries is 2.3 units of energy for every one unit of energy used. Corn ethanol does a great job but other ethanol technologies will do even better to reduce our addiction to oil. Now lets talk sugar beets and cellulosic ethanol. Sugar beets contain 70% water so much of the water needed is already in the beet and cellulosic ethanol realizes as much as 800 - 1200 gallons of ethanol per acre of feedstock. Sugar beets realize around the same energy per acre as corn whereas switchgrass realizes around 5.4 units output for every unit input.
Ethanol made from garbage realizes around 7.7 units output for every unit of input this number includes the fuel needed to collect the garbage, energy to make the ethanol and ship the ethanol to market. Recently, a waste management company who of course owns a landfill sued to stop the construction of an ethanol plant. They sited many concerns of how ethanol negatively impacts the environment, how ethanol is bad for engines and all the same misinformation that the anti-ethanol people always claim. However the real reason is that the waste management company would lose money. Instead of the landfill receiving 2000 truck loads of garbage a day at a cost of say $100 per load: The garbage would first be diverted to the ethanol plant where the waste would be sorted and either turned into ethanol or the glass, metals and plastic would be recycled, instead of ending up in a landfill forever. This could reduce the number of trucks received a day at the landfill to 300 a day instead of the 2000 it normally receives. The bottom line is corporate greed caused a company to fight the ethanol plant and enlisted the help of every day people to fight the greater good of the community. The ethanol plant would purchase the trash from the communities instead of having to pay to dump it, saving tax dollars. Jobs from sorting and recycling the items that should be recycled, reduced dependence on foreign oil from the ethanol being produced from what usually ends up in a landfill (wasted food for fuel, one might say). Less traffic to the landfill means that it can stay operational longer and those who work there will have jobs for a longer period of time.
What is a BTU anyway?
Many ethanol critics compare the number of BTUs in a gallon of gasoline to the number of BTUs in a gallon of ethanol and use the difference in the BTUs to discredit ethanol as a fuel. A BTU, short for British Thermal Unit is used to describe the amount of energy needed to raise one milliliter of water one degree centigrade. Are we boiling water for hard boiled eggs or fueling internal combustion engines? When ethanol is blended into gasoline, BTUs decrease but octane increases. The higher the octane of fuel the more the fuel can be compressed before the fuel detonates. Pure gasoline (E0) has around 115,000 BTUs with an 86 octane rating whereas pure ethanol has around 76,000 BTUs with an 113 octane rating. If we were to take pure gas (regular unleaded) with its 115,000 BTUs and 86 octane rating used it to run a typical engine that at best has a 20% efficiency we would realize the following energy output (115,000 x .20) = 23,000. When we take pure ethanol with it’s 113 octane and put it into a engine that can compress the ethanol fuel much higher than what regular gasoline can be compressed we will realize a 40% efficiency (76,000 x .40) = 30,400. Of course the higher number means higher efficiency which equates to increased fuel economy using ethanol fuel with an engine built to take advantage of the high octane rating of ethanol.
American built engines waste more fuel than what they use
America is known around the world for building oversized gas guzzlers that have more power each model year than the one before. A typical “soccer mom” minivan built today has more horsepower than a mustang GT or Trans-Am “Muscle Car” built in the mid 80’s. Plus the sports cars got better fuel economy than what the current overpowered minivans get. If declining fuel standards over the past twenty plus years are not enough, let’s add some insult to that injury. Detroit has used the following selling pitch for years, “you won’t have to use premium fuel when you fill up - this vehicle takes regular unleaded gas - that’s extra money in your pocket each time you fill up”. However if Detroit built engines that required premium fuel, their engines would be more energy efficient / fuel efficient. Currently a typical gasoline engine is around 20% efficient. This means that the engine produces 20% usable work, while the other 80% of the fuel’s energy is lost in the form of heat that goes out the exhaust pipe and into the atmosphere. This waste of energy is known in the automotive industry as “waste heat”. As you can see gasoline engines are very inefficient. In contrast engines built to take advantage of the latent heat of vaporization of ethanol and its high octane are over 40% efficient and cost around the same to build.
Not limited technology, but limited liability
Ethanol does not cause reduced fuel economy it is current engine design that causes consumers to have to use slightly more ethanol to go the same distance as using regular gas. In the 70’s Detroit was building high compression engines that were more power due to the high compression ratios but Detroit was not building engines for economy they were building engines for speed. These engines also required expensive high octane fuel. For gasoline engines to come close to the efficiency of ethanol engines, gasoline engines would have to be build to run a super premium fuel of 105+ octane which is around $10.00 a gallon. Not a good business model. So Detroit builds engines to run regular low grade unleaded gas as a selling point to compete against import vehicles that require high octane fuel. Logic would dictate that when designing an engine to be flex fuel, one would look to see where the two points intersect on the graph. Then build an engine that takes advantage of E85’s 105 octane but would require high octane premium gasoline (93 octane) when E85 is not available. This engine would be around 28% efficient and cost around the same to manufacture. When using E85 with its 81,850 BTUs, it would produce 22,918 for an energy output using E85, much higher than 16,370 the current flex fuel engines are producing. The optimized engine is better overall, but is still limited due to the 93 octane of the gasoline. Detroit’s reasoning for not building such an engine is that most consumers would opt to put in the 86 octane to save money when E85 was not available, causing damage to their engines, then blame the engine manufacturer. So it is easier to avoid the hassles and build the path of least problems, even though they are leaving a lot of energy on the table. Many European countries have stopped using low grade gasoline and only sell premium fuel. European engine companies only design and build engines to run on premium fuel and these engines are much more efficient.
Ethanol reduces our dependence on foreign oil
America extracts around 7,000,000 barrels of crude oil daily out of the ground and we use 21,000,000 barrels of oil each day. Since 2006 the amount of oil that America uses has declined, but we still use 3 times more than what we can extract. Our current consumption of oil is not sustainable. We know that there is a limited supply of crude oil and that it’s availability is becoming more and more scarce. No sensible person will argue that point, but why do some still demand that only pure gasoline should be used? When gasoline is gone, then what? The fantasy fuels of hydrogen, water, flux capacitors, old tires and the such are not attainable at the present time. Some so called experts claim that the reduced demand for oil is due to the new fuel standards that will go into effect in 2012. 2012? What do fuel standards that go into effect in 2012 have to do with what has happened since 2006? Nothing. The real experts know that the #1 reason why America is using less gasoline is because ethanol, a clean burning and renewable fuel, is being added to fuel supply. When a barrel of crude oil is refined it yields around 19 gallons of gasoline. So for every 19 gallons of ethanol used in this country, one less barrel of oil is needed to be imported. The current use of ethanol in this country is around 700,000 barrels a day but ethanol refineries in the US produce closer to 840,000 barrels a day which could further reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. However, Americans are not able to utilize all of the ethanol produced in the country because many of the existing gas stations choose not to provide E85 fuel. Even when new gas stations are built it is rare to see one that offers E85 fuel, so those who own flex fuel vehicles do not have the option to purchase E85 fuel. Consequently, ethanol refineries are forced to export their product to countries that understand the benefits of ethanol fuel and build engines to take advantage of ethanol’s properties. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “OPEC, we don’t need you any more”? It worked for Brazil which is the 5th largest country by population and it can work for America too. Especially since FORD motor company builds many of the flex fuel vehicles that are sold in Brazil and has done so since the 70’s.
Ethanol is good for the engine
Instead of adding an expensive gasoline treatment full of harmful toxic chemicals to your gas tank to clean the fuel system, try adding one gallon of E85 per fill up. Ethanol will slowly clean the fuel system deposits left by gasoline, raise the octane rating of the fuel, plus you will get a whole gallon of fuel for what you would have paid for the fuel additive. Gasoline clogs the many components of the fuel system including the fuel injectors. Clogged fuel injectors can reduce fuel economy by as much as 30%. Ethanol cleans the fuel system and the injectors by removing the gunk and varnish left by gasoline and keeps your engine performing as it did when it was new. When blending ethanol into a car that has run on gasoline for many miles, it is better to start slowly. Ethanol fuel also has much lower sulfur and NOX emissions, reducing soot and particulate matter which are bad for engines, people and the environment. If people realized the amount of energy it takes to mine the ore, refine the metals, forge the engine block and components, plus the energy used during the machining process to make an engine they would demand better fuels that will allow their engine to last longer. Excessive Heat and dirty oil, greatly shortens an engine’s life. Ethanol fuel burns so clean that it causes your engine’s oil to stay cleaner longer. Clean oil = longer engine life = energy conservation. Ethanol also burns around 40 degrees cooler than gasoline. Less BTUs equals cooler engine.
Who needs blender pumps when you can blend your own?
If every driver added one gallon of E85 to their tank every fill up we would use every drop of ethanol produced in this country and our dependence on foreign oil would further decline. I know people who add ethanol to their tank every time they fill up. Tests have shown that any vehicle can use more than 10% ethanol. They start by adding one gallon of E85 and then fill up the rest of the tank with regular E10. Just add the ethanol side of the equation. One gallon of E85 + thirteen gallons of E10 (85 + 130) = 215. Since you used a total of 14 gallons, divide 215 by 14 and you get 15.35 or 15.35% ethanol. Others add two gallons of E85 (2 x 85) + twelve gallons of E10 (170 + 120) = 290. 290 / 14 (total gallons of fuel) = 20% ethanol. Depending on what year vehicle you have, you may be able to use up to E50. You can add more each time until your check engine light comes on. When this happens you know you hit the limit for that car’s computer. Just add a gallon or so of E10 to bring the mix back to just below the level that set the engine light off. Most vehicles 2004 or newer will reset the engine light automatically. Others will have to have a code cleared and most auto parts stores are happy to do it for you and that light will not come back as long as you stay within your limits. Whether that be 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or more gallons of ethanol each time you fill up. You will have to experiment with your vehicle. Remember if the check engine light comes on, there is nothing wrong with your vehicle. It just saw too much oxygen and it responded how it was suppose to. Just blend the ethanol mixture back down to what is acceptable for your vehicle and below that mark and don’t let the parts store talk you into buying a replacement part, because there is nothing wrong with the part you have. No need to buy an expensive flex fuel kit or bigger fuel injectors to run ethanol. Many people do the above without any modifications to their vehicles and their vehicles have over 163,000 miles and my Acura still runs great.
Ethanol can cheaply raise the octane rating of fuel by blending it into gasoline.
Due to ethanol’s high octane rating , it is not fair to compare E85 to E10 basic. It must be compared to E10 super premium fuel.
E85 (105 octane) is around $2.30 a gallon.
E10 (86 octane) is around $3.00 a gallon.
E10 (91 octane) is around $3.30 a gallon.
3 gallons of E85 (105 octane), plus 8 gallons of E10 (86 octane)
(3 x 105) + (8 x 86) = 1003
(315) + (688) = 1003
1003 / 11 (total gallons of fuel) = 91.18 octane
3 gallons of E85 plus 8 gallons of E10
(3 x E85) + (8 x E10) = 335
335 / 11 (total gallons of fuel) = E30.45
(3 x $2.30) + (8 x $3.00)
($6.90) + ($24.00) = $30.90
$30.90 / 11 (total gallons of fuel) = $2.81 a gallon for 91.18 octane, E30 fuel.
That is almost 50 cents a gallon less than the pump price of 91 octane.
E0 has around 115,000 BTUs with an 86 octane rating.
E0 blended with 15% MTBE had around 111,300 BTUs with an 86 octane rating.
E10 has around 111,100 BTUs with an 87 octane rating.
E30 has 103,300 BTUs with an 93 octane rating.
E50 has 95,500 BTUs with an 99.5 octane rating.
E85 has 81,850 BTUs with an 105 octane rating.
E100 has 76,000 BTUs with an 113 octane rating.
Its like we are our own worst enemy sometimes.
While the majority of ethanol produced and sold is in the Midwest and Central states, a disproportionate amount of the flex fuel vehicles are licensed and operated in Eastern states. Many companies on the East coast took full advantage of tax credits and other government incentives to update their vehicle fleet to flex fuel vehicles even though there is very limited availability of flex fuel in those areas of the country. Yes our government allowed millions of dollars in incentives to purchase flex fuel vehicles when there wasn’t any ethanol fuel available for hundreds of miles in any direction in most cases. Another government SNAFU (System Normal – All Fouled Up) that falls on the back of the American tax payer.
Ethanol is better for the environment
If someone spilled 100 gallons of gasoline in a field, there would be an environmental disaster. The soil would most likely never grow anything again. To clean up the mess a special hazmat team would have to come in and remove all of the soil contaminated by the gasoline and have to take contaminated soil to a special landfill, a very expensive ordeal. If someone were to spill ten times the amount of ethanol in the same area of land, there would not be a toxic mess or environmental disaster. The weeds might get a little drunk but that would be about it. 100% Ethanol is 100% biodegradable. Refining crude oil into gasoline is a very dirty process that severely pollutes the environment around the refineries. When gasoline is burned in an engine it further pollutes the air. To reduce the amount of toxic emissions emitted by engine exhaust, the government mandated that catalytic converters had to be added to vehicles to reduce the harmful emissions, however the catalytic converters also reduced the vehicles fuel economy.
Ethanol does not damage boat motors
Some boat manufactures make fuel tanks out of fiberglass and ethanol dissolves the chemical resin used to make the boat’s fuel tank. When the fuel tank is dissolved it releases pieces of fuel tank into the fuel line that make it to the engine and damage the engine. So it is the way in which the fuel tank was manufactured that led to the boat’s motor being damaged. Instead of the boat manufacture taking the blame for how they build the fuel tanks, they conveniently blame the ethanol fuel that is blended into the gasoline. That is like me blaming the road for making my tires wear out.
Ethanol uses carbon already in the air instead of adding more carbon like fossil fuels do.When plants grow they use carbon dioxide in the air and release pure oxygen. The more carbon dioxide available the faster plants and trees grow, thus cooling the planet not heating it up. Ethanol removes CO2 from the air and puts CO2 in the ground via the plants root system.
Remove the VEETC for ethanol and while you are at it. . .
Many complain about the VEETC Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and they do not even understand what it is. I have read many articles that complain that the money goes directly to the farmer and the farmers are getting rich from the VEETC. Others complain that the ethanol refineries are getting rich off of this credit. The truth be known, the oil companies that own the oil refineries get the VEETC for every gallon of ethanol that they blend into their gasoline. I say that we should do away with this tax credit because it only makes the oil refineries rich. I seriously doubt that every penny of the tax credit makes it back to the price at the pump of ethanol. Consumers only see a fraction of this tax credit. If you really want to make a domestically produced, safe, clean, renewable fuel that reduces our dependence on foreign oil and puts Americans to work, affordable to the masses then remove the federal tax or a majority of it anyway. Remove 30 cents of the federal tax on E85 since per gallon since ethanol is a renewable fuel and no military wars have ever been fought over E85. Blended fuels like E30 would pay the federal tax based on the amount of gasoline they contain.
Remove the Tariff
Placing a tariff on foreign ethanol is like telling a country that they cannot sell us oil below market value. However there must be wisdom in removing the tariff on foreign ethanol. First off only ethanol producers should be allowed to buy foreign ethanol. Second to keep one company from hoarding and having an unfair advantage, ethanol refineries should be limited to a percent of what they are currently manufacturing. If one percent is not enough then, bump it to two or whatever number it takes to absorb the additional ethanol. If one percent it too much then reduce it. Easy logic. The refineries would blend the foreign produced ethanol into the domestically produced ethanol and reduce the overall price.
What’s fair for the goose…
We should only quit subsidizing ethanol when we quit subsidizing gasoline. If it is fair to remove the subsidy for ethanol, then play fair and remove the tax credit for gasoline too. Let consumers pay the real price for gasoline instead of making those who actually pay income tax subsidize gasoline for the masses. I also say that we should increase the federal tax on gasoline since the toxic emissions in gasoline lead to so many health problems, military conflicts and wars. It is estimated that the second gulf war cost the US tax payers an average of 300 million dollars a day, each day.
Farmers back to farming
For years some farmers were paid not to farm their land. When a farm was in CRP the land owner just sat around and collected a check at the expense of the people who pay income taxes. The American tax payer does not have to pay for farm welfare anymore because the farmer has a new cash crop that is reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and stimulation the economy.
OPEC is anti renewable energy
When Jimmy Carter was president, he developed the synthetic fuels initiative. This mandate was designed to wean America off of foreign oil and build an industry here in America where we grow and develop our own domestically produced fuel. As soon as this initiative gained ground, OPEC drastically reduced the price per barrel of oil by excessive pumping, designed to saturate the market. When the price of oil fell there was no longer the great incentive to produce renewable fuels because it became too expensive compared to the cost of a barrel of oil. Every time we restart the initiative and make some headway, OPEC again starts to pump more oil then what the world can use and history repeats itself.
Increasing fuel economy
As gasoline is heading back to 5 dollars a gallon, you can blend ethanol and save money and keep your fuel system clean. The biggest fuel saver is to drive 5 miles an hour under the posted speed limit. Those who drive faster than the posted speed limit are consuming a lot more fuel. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the red light. I see many people speed past me even though the light is red and a bunch of vehicles are already stopped in front of them. Try coasting to a red light and don’t test your vehicle’s zero to sixty time every time the light turns green. To save even more fuel fill your tires to 5 psi over the recommended tire pressure. Change those old spark plugs to a new plug designed to save fuel (E3). Change your factory air filter to a high flow filter and experience a nice increase in power and fuel economy. You can also increase fuel economy by using a zero weight synthetic oil (0w – 20, or 0w -30) so your engine will not have to work so hard. If you are using a higher weight oil than what the engine manufacture calls for you are wasting fuel and causing your engine to wear out early.
Last edited by Acura-Power; 01-18-2011 at 10:44 AM.
Reason: missing info