Video: Ethanol gets worse mileage

posted at 2:30 pm on June 24, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Most people who read Hot Air already know this, but this still surprises drivers.  WPTY in Memphis reports on its own research on the effects of ethanol blends in contemporary cars, and catches some drivers at the pump reacting to the fact that they’ll pay more for less energy:

Supporters of ethanol use say it’s a cheaper, cleaner burning fuel. They claim the 10% blend has virtually no impact on fuel efficiency, but some mechanics disagree.

“It’s about 4-5% based on the numbers,” says Mark Block, owner of Block Automotive in Cordova.

Block says it’s simple science. He says a car must burn more ethanol to create the same energy as gasoline. So if you remove 10% pure gasoline and replace it with ethanol, the fuel won’t burn the same.

It’s not quite as simple as WPTY puts it, but it’s close. Ethanol contains about two-thirds of the potential energy of gasoline, which means one has to use about 50% more to get the same power as gas. Blending more ethanol into gasoline makes it less efficient, which means cars have to burn more of the blend than with straight gas to drive the same distance under the same conditions.

This doesn’t account for the varying efficiencies of ethanol varieties, either. Corn ethanol only produces a 2:1 ratio of potential energy to energy required to produce it, and transportation is much less efficient than with gasoline. Subsidies for farmers and rising food prices make corn ethanol more costly than ever. Cane-sugar ethanol can be grown cheaply and has an 8:1 return on production energy, but the US puts trade tariffs on cane-sugar ethanol while subsidizing corn farmers.

Democrats like Barack Obama like to say we can’t drill our way out of an energy crisis, but we certainly can do that, especially in the short term. What the rapid increase in food prices shows us, based on corn shortages, is that we cannot grow our way out of the energy crisis. We need realistic alternatives, not expensive and inefficient replacements that we can’t produce in amounts anywhere near impact levels. Anyone who says differently has their own power shortage.


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I lose 2-3mpg when I use a 10% ethanol blend vs. regular gasoline

infidel2 on June 24, 2008 at 2:33 PM

When the DC bunch gets involved in any aspect of our lives, you can bet your sweet bippy it is not gonna work. Just follow the money trail.
L

letget on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

didn’t they get rid a few years ago of the MTBE? additive because of environmentalist and some lawsuits and replaced it with Ethanol? This was during the first big gas spike happened.

jp on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

I don’t think I even seen a gas station that has ethanol.

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

“Corn ethanol only produces a 2:1 ratio of potential energy to energy required to produce it…”

There’s a lot of people that will argue that statement. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons that are coming out at best 1-1.

patrick neid on June 24, 2008 at 2:40 PM

And GM keeps out touting FlexFuel vehicles as its contribution to the environment. E85 or 15% ethanol is even worse than 10% ethanol. Even the EPA admits this.

Affordability

FFVs are priced the same as gasoline-only vehicles, offering drivers the opportunity to buy an E85 capable vehicle at no additional cost.

In general, E85 reduces fuel economy and range by about 20-30 percent, meaning an FFV will travel fewer miles on a tank of E85 than on a tank of gasoline. This is because ethanol contains less energy than gasoline. Vehicles can be designed to be optimized for E85–which would reduce or eliminate this tendency. However, no such vehicles are currently on the market. The pump price for E85 is often lower than regular gasoline; however, prices vary depending on supply and market conditions.

BohicaTwentyTwo on June 24, 2008 at 2:43 PM

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

I obviously don’t know where you live, but in my travels through alabama, georgia and florida, most wal-mart “murphy” gas stations (as well as other discount type stations) have the 10% ethanol blend. Quite a few other gas stations do as well. Keep your eyes out for a sign like the one in the video.

infidel2 on June 24, 2008 at 2:44 PM

I don’t think I even seen a gas station that has ethanol.

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Big on E. Coast (mostly NY area), W. Coast, and upper mid-west– blended with reg. gasoline. Has been for a few years at least now.

JiangxiDad on June 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

Hey, if it’s good for Archer Daniels Midland, it must be good for the rest of us. Just try to get rid of those ethanol quotas now,.. you’ll have some of the best fed lobbyists in D.C fighting you.

a capella on June 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

I am in central Texas, and I don’t believe I have ever seen a gas station offering ethanol either. My guess would be that’s a result of Texas being a large oil producer and not a large corn producer.

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

I don’t think I even seen a gas station that has ethanol.

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

You are lucky.

All the gas stations up here have them now. There use to be one, and I would wait in line to get their gasoline and it was always 3 cents cheaper too. I miss the parking space fairies gasoline store!

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 2:48 PM

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

You probably do. Look at the stickers next time when you are pumping.

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Anyone who uses a blend should just walk to Starbucks for your latte. They are using 3 to 10 percent less of their brain reacting to this warming religion. Your remaining brain power should be used to worry about the Mayan calender.

2Tru2Tru on June 24, 2008 at 2:49 PM

infidel2 on June 24, 2008 at 2:44 PM

I live in Texas, so that might explain a lot:)

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:50 PM

2Tru2Tru on June 24, 2008 at 2:49 PM

Have you built your bunker yet?

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 2:50 PM

crazyness.
wish they would just start drilling for oil already, damn.

trailortrash on June 24, 2008 at 2:51 PM

Yeah. And my old Audi’s engine control unit can’t cope with the stuff. Boosts idle to around 1800 rpm. Not fun. Nor economical.

Stephen M on June 24, 2008 at 2:52 PM

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/35388/story.htm

March 2, 2006 – right around the time prices really started to fly…

NEW YORK – US drivers filling up cars this year with gasoline made with additive ethanol instead of MTBE may be forced to pay up more because the blendstock cuts fuel efficiency, according to an industry expert.

Ethanol is replacing MTBE, a suspected carcinogen, in production of reformulated gasoline (RFG) because of concerns the fuel additive may contaminate water supplies and leave oil companies open to law suits.
But for motorists in regions where reformulated gasoline is required, the shift may mean higher bills at the pump because ethanol-blended fuel is about 3 percent less efficient than MTBE blends, Mark Routt, a senior consultant for Energy Security Analysis Inc, said.

jp on June 24, 2008 at 2:52 PM

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 2:49 PM

I will make it a point to look next time. I may not have noticed because I drive a diesel.

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:53 PM

I can think of one in my city.

melda on June 24, 2008 at 2:53 PM

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:53 PM

Oh Jesus Dude! I should give you a hug and let you cry on my shoulder. You are probably pumping that low sulfer diesel (which isn’t helping crap) which has 8% ethanol depending on State. I totally feel for you!

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 2:55 PM

Cuts mpg, and only boosts horsepower (as you sometimes hear people say) in those engines that can vary the ignition timing or compression.

DrSteve on June 24, 2008 at 2:55 PM

So aside from Corn more than tripling I beleive in Cost the last couple years, it also is 3% less efficient than MTBE in these 10% blends so you get worse MPG. and of course all the energy it takes to grow it.

jp on June 24, 2008 at 2:55 PM

Democrats like Barack Obama like to say we can’t drill our way out of an energy crisis…

When are people in this Country going to tell Barack Obama that he can’t tax his way out of an economic crisis either.

ChrisM on June 24, 2008 at 2:56 PM

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:50 PM

Thanks, I did a little sluething (meaning I looked at your blog profile) and figured that out. The only time I’ve spent in texas was in an airport, but I would be inclied to agree with

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

as to why you haven’t seen them. However, see Texas E85 stores that sell an 85% ethanol 15% gas blend for flex fuel vehicles.

infidel2 on June 24, 2008 at 2:56 PM

That’s not even the issue. It costs more, it competes with the food supply, and it costs more to deliver, adding to the cost.

Worst of all, it strains the water supply.

drjohn on June 24, 2008 at 2:56 PM

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 2:55 PM

It is definitely the low sulfur diesel, which I believe is the only diesel allowed to be sold in Texas now(except for off-road (red) diesel). I had no idea it has ethanol in it. Am I getting less mileage like a gasoline engine on ethanol?

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:57 PM

Let’s burn more food!
(Don’t all smart civilizations do that?)

Also let’s starve more poor people!
- We are sending hundreds of boxes of corn tortillas over the border to friends in Juarez who distribute them to the Juarenses, who can’t afford the tripling of corn and grain prices. Sending tortillas over the border to Mexico is sort of like “carrying coals to Newcastle”, isn’t it?
Thank the ethanol whores for that irony.

And most importantly, of course, it takes 2.5 gallons of diesel-equivalent to make a gallon of shitty ethanol. So we have to import MORE oil to feed this political boondoggle.

But.. save the caribou!

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 3:00 PM

Some dopey gal on O’Reilly last night said that her goal is a network of ethanol pipelines across the country, with which O’Reilly agreed. Problem is, ethanol is water-based and will rust pipes, unlike oil. So there’s another problem with ethanol: it takes oil/diesel to deliver it by truck. So it gives us worse gas mileage, is less efficient than gasoline and gives us lower horsepower, its subsidization (much of which goes to oil companies) has distorted food markets, and it is favored by Dems and Reps alike. It hasn’t solved any problems, rather, it is a problem. Therefore, its use is guaranteed to become mandated more and more. Soon it’ll be in the drinking water like Flouride.

“Children’s ice cream, Mandrake. Children’s ice cream!”

Akzed on June 24, 2008 at 3:00 PM

so at $4 a gallon, there is $.12 per gallon in extra cost(using that articles 2006 calculations) thanks to switching from MTBE to Ethanol. Really more than that if you factor in the higher cost of Corn thanks to this switch. That calculation is using 2006 corn prices, It may be as much as .36 per gallon in extra cost if not more if you factor in the cost of Corn now to make that 10%. That cuts prices down to close to $3.50 per gallon. Then how much is due to Per barrel of Oil cost and speculation?

jp on June 24, 2008 at 3:01 PM

Why on earth when a liberal says we can’t drill our way out of this and that off-shore and Anwar oil won’t be ready for 10 years, does everyone sit on their thumbs? Ask them when their alternative is going to be ready? Just once. Ask them that.

Sue on June 24, 2008 at 3:03 PM

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:57 PM

TX yes. Working on the North Slope here, they tried that low sulfer ethenol diesel. Bought a whole new fleet of Fords and Chevy’s that supposedly could maintain the new fuel and run just as good as the old diesels.

Guess what, after a 3 day -50 with a 40 mph wind, all these new trucks froze. BTW Trucks on the North Slope (Prudhoe and so on) that are used on a daily basis or do not have a plug in for the oil pan are never turned off in the middle of Winter … or they will be a block of ice. But these truck froze while in Idle, running.

They do not use ethanol for diesels on the north slope anymore and gave back the trucks.

Survey, I would make sure you CONSTANTLY change your oil and if you have glow plugs, rods or a fuel injector…. but get them cleaned and checked yearly!

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 3:03 PM

But.. save the caribou!

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 3:00 PM

I have some saved in the freezer!

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 3:04 PM

I live in Houston TX and I’ve seen quite a few stations that say “May contain up to 10% Ethanol” on the pump.

psychofilly on June 24, 2008 at 3:05 PM

But these truck froze while in Idle, running.

Freaking unbelievable! I would have thought that was impossible, although I have never been in that kind of cold climate.

Survey, I would make sure you CONSTANTLY change your oil and if you have glow plugs, rods or a fuel injector…. but get them cleaned and checked yearly!

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 3:03 PM

Thanks for the advice. I had no idea.

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 3:08 PM

I’ve told every single one of the candidates here in Wyoming that I don’t care if we drill through Rudolph the Reindeer’s forehead, DRILL NOW! http://www.roughriderpower.com They are making electricity out of exhaust heat. Cool stuff.

Casper the Friendly Host on June 24, 2008 at 3:09 PM

Yummy!

Bring some down here to Lockhart, Texas, and we’ll put it on the menu at Kreuz’s!

I saw on the food channel that there are some cultures that eat large masses of mosquito eggs in a seasoned stew. The host ate some and said that they were delicious, with a tangy aftertaste.

So, if the cretins in Washington don’t let us get to our (as opposed to “their”) oil in ANWR, frozen moquito eggs may be a whole new industry for Northern Alaska!

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 3:12 PM

Corn ethanol runs more like 1 to .85. Now add in the transportation problems/costs and we have a really, really, really bad idea but it comes from liberals so no surprise there.

jukin on June 24, 2008 at 3:15 PM

I’m so tired of seeing little MTV-programmed drones yammering on about “If it helps the environment, I don’t care about money!”

F-ing robots.

spmat on June 24, 2008 at 3:16 PM

How much corn does it take to make a gallon of ethanol?

Wade on June 24, 2008 at 3:21 PM

2:1, 8:1? I’d like to see the link to that data. I’ve heard numbers from 0.97:1 to 1.35:1 for ethanol from corn. This is the first time I’ve seen a 2:1.

Kevin M on June 24, 2008 at 3:22 PM

It was 6% mpg reduction on my car with 10% ethanol blend, Lost power as well. I notice the price didn’t drop a penny when the gasoline content was reduced with the liberal ‘filler’.

The low sulphur diesel took 1.5 mpg off my previously normal 16.5 mpg. Truck has been maintained by me for 19 years, since new. The drop off in mileage was sudden and at the same time as the low sulphur diesel hit the local pump I use. It stayed down, no other ill effects. Clearly the low sulphur diesel does not have the same energy content.

Democrat Marxist don’t give a wit about you, your family or your economic well being — All they care about is their power to tell you how to live your life. The Environmental Marxists are the enablers, by brow beating the rest of us into submission. Of course as we have seen, what they do themselves is far different from what they demand from you.

When is it that we say enough is enough?

tarpon on June 24, 2008 at 3:24 PM

In DE, it’s state law that all gas contain 10% ethanol. It ruined my mom’s newish Jeep Liberty, so now she drives to Ocean City to fill up at the one gas station that doesn’t use ethanol. It’s 10 miles out of her way, but it gives her peace of mind. I don’t even want to think about what the ethanol is doing to my car – but I have noticed my average mpg drops by about 4 when I buy the 10% mix.

It’s so hard to avoid, and the cheap gas around here has it, it’s not like my family has much choice.

Anna on June 24, 2008 at 3:25 PM

Corn ethanol runs more like 1 to .85. Now add in the transportation problems/costs and we have a really, really, really bad idea but it comes from liberals so no surprise there.

jukin on June 24, 2008 at 3:15 PM

It’s far worse than that. They fudge their numbers, forget about the large amount of water use, trnasportation costs, etc.
The key to this pathetic scam is to notice how often they use terms like “we’ll raise our national production to a billion gallons a year!”
Note: a billion gallons is less than 25 million barrels, and is about our daily national consumption of oil.

How about this: “by not drilling in ANWR, we’re losing over 20 billion gallons of oil every year!”
The computed number there is actually around 23 billion, but what’s a few billion gallons (or barrels) among friends?

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 3:31 PM

A simplae analysis:
It takes approximately 1 gallon of petroleum equivalent fuels to produce 1 gal of ethanol (producing and distilling). Then, when we burn the ethanol in our car it is like buring 2 gals of fuel for every gallon we burn. If we just cut out the ethanol we would reduce our consumption by 50%. Energy Issue Solved with better mileage!

trs on June 24, 2008 at 3:31 PM

If it helps the enviroment its good even if you have to use more gas

Wait, What little asian man from clip? If your burning the same amount of gas to go the same distance then its not good.

Rbastid on June 24, 2008 at 3:36 PM

It takes approximately 1 gallon of petroleum equivalent fuels to produce 1 gal of ethanol (producing and distilling).

OK, but for an apples-to-apples comparison you have to consider the energy intensity of regular gasoline production too, right?

DrSteve on June 24, 2008 at 3:36 PM

In addition to the reduce milegae, gasohol wreaked havoc on the marine industry destroying engines, fiberglass fuels tanks, etc…. It hit MA like a Tsunami around 05 – 06 when it became common here. Here is a good discussion of the issues:

Ethanol additive can gum up boat engines

By Jesse Husid – July 13, 2006

TheBigOldDog on June 24, 2008 at 3:39 PM

I don’t think I even seen a gas station that has ethanol.

terryannonline on June 24, 2008 at 2:38 PM

The reason you don’t see that gas stations have ethanol is that the Eco-Fascists have gotten state laws passed which either relieve the gas stations of the duty to label the product, or they have even out-right prohibited labeling of the product!! This is often accompanied with a measure mandating a minimum ethanol content…whether you want it or not. So you have to ask if you want to know ethanol content of your gasoline.

Apparently the Eco-Fascists knew there would be a backlash from their nonsensical scheme to turn food into fuel at four times the cost of gasoline.

We need to strike back by demanding the posting of energy content or some kind of standardized “fleet mileage” number for each kind of fuel at the pump. This would expose ethanol for the fraud that it is.

landlines on June 24, 2008 at 3:40 PM

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 3:31 PM

Hey on a side note.. check your email!

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 3:43 PM

Two clarifications: Saying we can’t grow our way out could have dual meanings. I think “we can’t shuck our way out” is more correct. No comment on jiving, however.

And E85 is not 15% Ethanol, it is 15% not Ethanol. At 85% Ethanol to 15% gas, you should be getting about 72% the mileage of gas, or 25.1 mpg on a 35 mpg-rated car.

raybury on June 24, 2008 at 3:49 PM

And E85 is not 15% Ethanol, it is 15% not Ethanol. At 85% Ethanol to 15% gas, you should be getting about 72% the mileage of gas, or 25.1 mpg on a 35 mpg-rated car.

raybury on June 24, 2008 at 3:49 PM

You may want to say that again. You made no sense.

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 3:55 PM

E85 is 85% Ethanol, 15% gas. For each gallon of E85, the combined efficiency is that of the Ethanol content (2/3 x 0.85) and the gas content (1 x 0.15), or about 72%.

So if my car gets 35 miles per gallon using straight gas, it will get about 72% of that, 25.1 mpg, using E85.

raybury on June 24, 2008 at 4:00 PM

Cuts mpg, and only boosts horsepower (as you sometimes hear people say) in those engines that can vary the ignition timing or compression.

DrSteve on June 24, 2008 at 2:55 PM

The stuff can’t boost horsepower in any event. It adds no octane needed for flame control, and it induces spark knock (“pinging”) or the far more damaging pre-detonation, and so the computer control you’re thinking of is retarding spark by way of a knock sensor in an effort to control those two events. That negates any tiny horsepower gain you would see. Ethanol is merely a fuel stretcher, and a mediocre one at that. It is very corrosive to older cars, and it’s production is no net gain in fuel supplies.

BillH on June 24, 2008 at 4:05 PM

I am in central Texas, and I don’t believe I have ever seen a gas station offering ethanol either. My guess would be that’s a result of Texas being a large oil producer and not a large corn producer.

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 2:47 PM

Well, you need to do a bit more surveying on this issue, since Texas has over 2 million acres of planted corn(including Travis County) and produces about 300 million bushels on average a year.

That may explain Cornyn’s vote on this issue..

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 4:07 PM

raybury on June 24, 2008 at 4:00 PM

You are right. Next time I’ll R(my own)FTA.

While pure ethanol is rarely used for transportation fuel, there are several ethanol-gasoline blends in use today. E85 is a blend of 85 percent denatured ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. In certain areas, higher percentages of gasoline will be added to E-85 during the winter to ensure that vehicles are able to start at very cold temperatures.

BohicaTwentyTwo on June 24, 2008 at 4:10 PM

Yea, I was going to mention that E85 means 85% Ethanol not Gasoline. The company I work for recently replaced 100% gasoline for E10 or Gasohol. They would prefer to continue selling 100% gasoline, but eventually only preblended E-10 will be sold from major oil at the terminals. Because Murphy sells gasoline at near cost in WalMart parking lots(and others like BJ or Costco), margins for small distributors are nearly none existent. Couple that with with credit card fees, lots of gas stations maybe losing one or two cent on each gallon sold, and trying to recoup with inside sales.

SCGOPgirl on June 24, 2008 at 4:11 PM

TexasJew on June 24, 2008 at 4:07 PM

Hey, it was just an off-handed guess, but I’m not arguing with you. Not much corn in the Hill Country, though. :-)

txsurveyor on June 24, 2008 at 4:14 PM

from: http://zfacts.com/p/436.html

The energy of ethanol relative to gasoline
A. 76,000 = BTU of energy in a gallon of ethanol
B. 116,090 = BTU of energy in a gallon of gasoline
C. .655 = 2/3 = GGE of energy in a gallon of ethanol. A / B.
D. 1.53 = Gallons of ethanol with the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline. D = B / A.

allrsn on June 24, 2008 at 4:17 PM

I posted this last night at MM.com

Think about our food prices in a few years when all these ethanol plants are completed and put into service.

I do not know how much of our crops we will use, but I do know Iowa expects to import corn and Minnesota will use most of their corn also.

Corn is our staple crop; 2 years ago it was $2.00/bushel last week it topped $8.00 and then dropped to just below $8.00. As farmers start to grow more corn the production of other crops (soy beans, wheat, alfalfa) will decrease and those prices will increase as well.

Corn is used to feed beef and milk cows, chickens and eggs, pork and yes humans.

Our food prices will go thru the roof.

Ethenol does not save oil (we use as many BTU of oil to make ethonal as ethonal gives back) We do not save pollution. We decrease fuel economy.
I have heard, but not yet verified, that communities with ethonal plants are starting to have problems with the water table (production uses a lot of water).

We gain nothing by making and using ethonal but consider its total cost!!!!

allrsn on June 24, 2008 at 4:22 PM

Well, all gas has an ethanol mix. Recently banned was MTBE, what they found in groundwater, and they don’t think they can get it out of groundwater.

I have an old car, a 350-V8 2bbl carb 1972 Pontiac Lemans. Since they started using ethanol, I got a 20% INCREASE in my mileage. I also have not seen any adverse effects or corrosion above normal wear-n-tear (after all, it’s 36 years old).

I think they should get rid of all 3 grades of gas, go with just 1… 90 octane. Old cars like mine will run great on it, new, fuel injected cars won’t even notice it. Give drivers a one time pass on smog checks to get any adjustments, either engine or computer, so the engine runs best on the “new” fuel. Well have ~3X the supply and cheaper because it won’t have to go through multiple formulations.

Mazztek on June 24, 2008 at 4:22 PM

Oh, and the corrosive effects? That’s toward the seals and gaskets. any engine can run E85, but you have to change all the seals and run a different type of engine oil.

I’m normally running “E11″… 89 octane. Haven’t had any problems.

Mazztek on June 24, 2008 at 4:25 PM

If we use the shale oil deposits we can drill our way out of this in the short and long terms. I don’t understand the obsession with ethanol and other CO2 emitting “alternatives”. In what way is ethanol better than gasoline? None that I am aware of. The same can be said of any combustible fuel. None are as efficient as gasoline. Not propane, not hydrogen, not alcohol…nothing! Nor are any other technologies more efficient, not even hybrids when the TCO (total cost of ownership) is calculaetd, i.e. a hybrid costs more to purchase than the cost difference for gasoline you will pay over the average ownership period. Hybrids will be worth the money when their costs come down.
Any other alternative is way off in the future given the fact that there are ~ 100 million gas consuming vehicles on the road today. I won’t ever sacrifice the performance, power, distance traveled, etc. for a lesser vehicle and neither will most Americans.

DerKrieger on June 24, 2008 at 4:28 PM

It adds no octane needed for flame control, and it induces spark knock (”pinging”) or the far more damaging pre-detonation, and so the computer control you’re thinking of is retarding spark by way of a knock sensor in an effort to control those two events.
BillH on June 24, 2008 at 4:05 PM

Might want to check that. E85 is 105 octane. Most places where you can still straight petrol the octane is 85, E10 with 90% same petrol content and 10% ethanol is 87.

Cuts mpg, and only boosts horsepower (as you sometimes hear people say) in those engines that can vary the ignition timing or compression.
DrSteve on June 24, 2008 at 2:55 PM

Right, given that flexfuel cars are designed to be petrol cars first and then given some extra equipment for tolerate ethanol. If the car was designed to be an ethanol car the compression would be much greater and the ethanol fuel mileage would be much higher.

Sinner on June 24, 2008 at 4:30 PM

Why is ethanol better than gasoline? Because the Saudis can’t shut down the source of ethanol.

I’m not a fan of corn as a feedstock, I prefer algae, but at least with ethanol and biodiesel we can move part of our economy when the Saudis stop the flow of oil.

With better feedstocks and better technologies we can add a new dimension to our energy mix. We best be getting around to developing those technologies and getting more diesel and flexfuel cars on the road. The further we get on that road, the less the influence (read: choke hold) the Saudis have over our security and economy.

Sinner on June 24, 2008 at 4:38 PM

Why is ethanol better than gasoline? Because the Saudis can’t shut down the source of ethanol.
Sinner on June 24, 2008 at 4:38 PM

Except that it takes so much petroleum to produce ethanol (particularly corn-based) that a petroleum shortage would also lead to an ethanol shortage.

Ethanol production represents little more than a giant federal subsidy for farmers. The Feds will always favor ag-based ethanol over other sources that don’t benefit farmers.

Hollowpoint on June 24, 2008 at 4:48 PM

DerKrieger on June 24, 2008 at 4:28 PM

Don’t forget the fact that most of the world runs on cone type of Carbon. Whether they want to admit to it or not.

Alternatives are great for warmer areas of the world, but when it comes to areas that actually do and can get cold, alternatives are not all that great and have been known to quit.

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 4:58 PM

Hollowpoint on June 24, 2008 at 4:48 PM

We can always break it down for them. Won’t be hard.

upinak on June 24, 2008 at 5:00 PM

This is absolutely correct about ethanol (and methanol) getting less mileage than gas. I crewed on a Top Comp dragster and we always ran methanol and it takes roughly twice as much fuel compared to gasoline to get the same BTU’s. Ethanol (and methanol) are also hard on rubber hoses, o-rings and gaskets. On the dragster we’d completely flush the fuel lines and drain the tank after each day of racing. The only thing I like about ethanol is that it smells like french fries when you run it straight.

Afterimage on June 24, 2008 at 5:33 PM

Afterimage on June 24, 2008 at 5:33 PM

True, ethanol (methanol even more so) has less BTU/Gal… but makes more power and can be run at higher compression ratios, which increases efficiency and thus even more power. Yeah, I know you know this already.

Point is- a car dedicated to using ethanol (or methanol) could use a significantly smaller displacement engine to generate the same amount of power, though it would require slightly stronger and heavier internals to handle the extra compression (12:1 in production form maybe?). Do that, and the difference in fuel use becomes much less pronounced. Many V6 engines could be replaced with 4 cylinders without significant (if any) loss of horsepower or torque.

Also true that ethanol (with methanol being worse) can wreak havoc on seals and fuel lines not designed for it, but I’ve little doubt that this could easily be overcome.

One other problem is cold weather starting- alcohol doesn’t do so well here; some sort pre-heating system would likely be required for pure ethanol in cold weather environments.

Hollowpoint on June 24, 2008 at 5:52 PM

Of course, the nay-sayers will forever deny that ethanol is to blame for reduced mileage.

Forget the fact that mechanics, the one who know cars, say otherwise, what do they know? The global-warming fear mongers are today’s sages who know what’s better for us than we do.

madmonkphotog on June 24, 2008 at 5:57 PM

Some dopey gal on O’Reilly last night said that her goal is a network of ethanol pipelines across the country, with which O’Reilly agreed. Problem is, ethanol is water-based and will rust pipes, unlike oil. So there’s another problem with ethanol: it takes oil/diesel to deliver it by truck.

Ethanol cannot be transported easily by pipeline because it absorbs water. Put a mix of ethanol and water into your car and it will really hate you. That is why ethanol is trucked out now, and with the cost of diesel, is even less cost effective.

Another hoax from our loving Congress. No wonder people call it “the Swamp”…

The mileage problem with ethanol is not due to how much power it can be used to produce but its heat content, as one poster spelled out.

The physics book says, all other things being equal, it takes a the same amount of energy to move a car from A to B regardless of the fuel you use. If you have a high heat content fuel (diesel), you need less. Low heat content fuel, (ethanol or John Murtha brain cells) it takes more.

Increasing compression ratios is easier with ethanol because it has a higher flash point than gas. A higher ratio tends to be more efficient, but the basics are against equalizing or overcoming the lack of heat content in ethanol compared to gas.

The greenies can dream all they want, but you cannot beat the physics book in some regimes…comparative heat content being one of them.

Harry Schell on June 24, 2008 at 6:09 PM

One other problem is cold weather starting- alcohol doesn’t do so well here; some sort pre-heating system would likely be required for pure ethanol in cold weather environments.

Hollowpoint on June 24, 2008 at 5:52 PM

You aren’t BSing there! A couple years ago we were running the car at Medford, OR and it got cold over night. The next morning we went to fire the car and I couldn’t get it fired. We run mechanical fuel injection so you have to squirt fuel down the butterflies of the injector to get it to fire. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to fire on methanol and it was only about 50 degrees. I finally got some regualr gas and squirted that in the injector butterflies and it fired the first time.

Afterimage on June 24, 2008 at 6:12 PM

Here in CT all the gasoline contains 10% ethanol. Some years ago, Congress mandated using MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) in gasoline to reduce CO and NOx emissions, but several years later, MTBE started leaking from underground gasoline tanks and getting into drinking water. Gasoline is insoluble and floats on top of water, but MTBE is soluble at 5% by volume, and can poison a well.

In order to have “oxygenated” gasoline that would reduce CO and NOx emissions without MTBE, some states mandated use of ethanol in gasoline, which is equally soluble in water but much less toxic (since people drink it).

It shouldn’t be surprising that ethanol in gasoline reduces mileage. The heat of combustion of ethanol is about 26.8 kilojoules per kilogram, as compared to 44.3 kJ/kg for gasoline. Since ethanol is denser than gasoline (0.787 kg/L for ethanol, 0.690 kg/L for gasoline), the difference on a volume basis is less (21.1 kJ/L for ethanol, 30.6 kJ/L for gasoline, or about 31% less for ethanol). If the engine burns both gasoline and ethanol with equal efficiency, a blend of 90% gasoline/10% ethanol should get about 3% lower mileage than with pure gasoline.

Interestingly enough, blending MTBE in gasoline causes less power loss than ethanol–its heat of combustion is 35.2 kJ/kg or 25.8 kJ/L, or about 15% less than gasoline.

A blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline would have a heat of combustion of 22.5 kJ/L, or about 26% less than that of pure gasoline. An engine burning mostly ethanol would tend to run cooler than a gasoline engine, which would probably reduce its efficiency.

If we figure in the fossil fuel cost of planting and harvesting corn, and converting it to ethanol, plus the lost food value, ethanol from corn is a huge energy loser, although the subsidies are good for buying votes in Iowa. Without the subsidies and mandates, ethanol would disappear from gasoline, corn prices would drop, as well as meat prices for any livestock which eats corn. Instead of “growing fuel”, we are basically burning food, which could be exported to hungry Third-world countries, which would improve our trade balance and prop up the value of the dollar, thereby reducing oil prices!

It makes sense to end ethanol subsidies and mandates, but can anyone who proposes it get elected in farm country?

Steve Z on June 24, 2008 at 6:18 PM

Ethanol is grotesquely inefficient… it’s not just inefficient to produce (and competes with food stocks), but it’s inefficient to run. Sure, it is more efficient at 12:1 than at 9:1 compression – but it’s still not more efficient than gasoline, which is the point.

And no, the power difference between 9:1 and 12:1 isn’t “substantial,” it’s minor for street-driven engines – you can get a lot more power out of a race engine that way, but street engines are designed to be reliable, durable and cheap – oddly, race engines are none of those things. The horsepower bump might be 8-10 percent.

Too much processing cost, too much land, too much fuel wasted (even a 1:1 ratio means you’re not gaining anything – you have to add the cost of the production of gas to the ethanol, which they don’t because of subsidies. And the ratio isn’t 1:1).

But we’re doing it anyway, because it’s easier to do something wasteful than it is for the govt. to keep its grubby hands off the market for five minutes. (sigh)

Merovign on June 24, 2008 at 6:30 PM

Steve Z: Given the useless infrastructure and secondary effects, I’d rather they just mail my money to the farmers.

Merovign on June 24, 2008 at 6:44 PM

Might want to check that. E85 is 105 octane. Most places where you can still straight petrol the octane is 85, E10 with 90% same petrol content and 10% ethanol is 87.

Will do, Sinner. Thank you- I’m never always right, but I can easily be wrong :)

BillH on June 24, 2008 at 6:45 PM

Anyone who says differently has their own power shortage.

Well I feel so much better now that has been settled and the microphone is turned off.

/sarc

Brian Paasch on June 24, 2008 at 7:03 PM

Ethanol is grotesquely inefficient… it’s not just inefficient to produce (and competes with food stocks), but it’s inefficient to run. Sure, it is more efficient at 12:1 than at 9:1 compression – but it’s still not more efficient than gasoline, which is the point.

And no, the power difference between 9:1 and 12:1 isn’t “substantial,” it’s minor for street-driven engines – you can get a lot more power out of a race engine that way, but street engines are designed to be reliable, durable and cheap – oddly, race engines are none of those things. The horsepower bump might be 8-10 percent.
Merovign on June 24, 2008 at 6:30 PM

Ignoring for a moment the production costs (monetary and otherwise) of ethanol, there’s no question that ethanol- particularly in a higher compression engine- is more efficient. A properly built gas engine could be made at 12:1 without reinventing the wheel- some modern car engines run at 10.5:1 from the factory using 91 octane.

True, going from 9.5:1 to 12:1 only gains about 6% more horsepower in a 200 horse engine, this is in addition to the 10% power increase due to lower air/fuel ratio. Still- a 16% increase in power for the same displacement engine is nothing to sneeze at. That’s an extra 32hp in a 200hp engine of the same displacement. Assuming a 3.0 liter gas engine, you could reduce displacement to around 2.5 liters and get about the same power output.

Hollowpoint on June 24, 2008 at 7:30 PM

Yeah, but Hollowpoint how do you lower the compression ratio when there is no ethanol to buy?

Ethanol is the shuck, the 68 million acres to drill on is the jive. Shuck and jive, tell me no lies.

Obama campaign song, Jive Talking, by the BeeGees.

I still say Comrade Obama is a post turtle.

tarpon on June 24, 2008 at 7:47 PM

Saw a newspiece this week about everyone switching over to plugin electric cars and so I asked my friend, “hey, if we all switch to plugging in our cars, won’t we then have to start building hundreds, if not tens of thousands, of new power generating plants, plus all the extra high tension wires to carry all that extra juice? So who is willing to have a huge number of new coal fired electic plants in their town????”

auzerais on June 24, 2008 at 8:13 PM

Yeah, but Hollowpoint how do you lower the compression ratio when there is no ethanol to buy?
tarpon on June 24, 2008 at 7:47 PM

Well, now yer getting all practical on me. The assumption is that ethanol would be widely available, with cars dedicated to run on it (also world peace and free bacon for everyone). With a flex-fuel vehicle, you can’t run the same compression ratios you can with ethanol and so lose some of the power and efficiency gains.

I suppose it’s possible to design an engine with a variable compression ratio, but that might be pretty tough to pull off. An alternative would be to use a turbocharger instead of higher compression- ethanol burns cooler in addition to the higher octane; varying boost depending on fuel would have about the same effect as changing compression ratios.

I’m not suggesting we all convert our cars to ethanol- only that it does have certain advantages in addition to it’s disadvantages.

Hollowpoint on June 24, 2008 at 8:19 PM

auzerais on June 24, 2008 at 8:13 PM

LOL When people start talking to me about ecectric cars I ask this simple question: Where does all this electricty come from? I wish I could discribe all the looks I get, The best response is a look of MY incredable stupidity and they will say–well, you just plug it into the outlet… lmao

A time or two I have tried to explain that we do not have the generating capacity or the infastructer to deliver that power. But, they normally have no clue what I am talking about.

allrsn on June 24, 2008 at 8:35 PM

The Faithful are being tested. The price of fuel — and everything else will cause pain. The idiots will smoke the Green Crack until the pain breaks through. Liberals have to learn everything the hard way (if ever). The middle of the roaders might be less patient. How many dollars per gallon is the Green Faith worth? Anyone taking bets?

We’re not running out of oil. And lots of natural gas to be had too.

Feedie on June 24, 2008 at 9:07 PM

Last night Oreilly reported that Gore has earned one hundred million dollars from his global warming scam.

http://www.billoreilly.com/show?action=viewTVShow&showID=1926#7

allrsn on June 24, 2008 at 9:09 PM

Problem is, ethanol is water-based and will rust pipes, unlike oil.

Ethanol is water based? What on earth does that mean? (Besides the fact you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.)

How much corn does it take to make a gallon of ethanol?

1 bushel of corn (~52 lbs at ~14% moisture) will make about 3 gallons of E100. (E100 is about 97% pure ethanol and 3% gasoline. Drink it at your own risk!) And you also get about 17 lbs of high protein cattle feed.

Why is ethanol better than gasoline? Because the Saudis can’t shut down the source of ethanol.

DING!!!!! Most of the anti-ethanol hysteria is so wrong as to be funny if it weren’t so scary. OPEC has a LOT to loose if crude oil is not the (THE!!!) raw material for transportation fuel. Try growing corn in a desert. The western world has a lot to loose by letting the Saudis have the monopoly on our transportation fuel raw material (crude oil). We need to drill for our own oil. We need ethanol from corn (today, now!) and tomorrow we need ethanol from corn and (fill in the blank with your favorite whatever) and we need methanol from coal (a very clean and cheap manufacturing process). We MUST break OPEC’s grip on the industrialized world’s transportation fuel raw material. Or else we need to learn Arabic. Captain Ed? You want to point us to Mecca and lead our prayers?

Brian Paasch on June 24, 2008 at 9:09 PM

Here in beautiful blue Oregon our Democrat Governor, being dedicated to the principles of democracy and rule of the people, mandated that all gas sold in Oregon would be E10. Consequently our mileage has dropped between 7-10% according to most people.

The Ethanol lobby denies that the mileage is affected that much, but everyone ignores the fact that they’re lobbyists and swallows it.

The Gov decided that Oregon is going to be on the leading edge of fighting global warming and just to make sure that we are, he has used executive orders (royal commands) to force everyone to comply. The democratic process can only be allowed when the outcome can be guaranteed.

That’s the Democrat way.

schmuck281 on June 24, 2008 at 9:26 PM

“Corn power” Not exaclty working like they want you to believe.

Texyank on June 24, 2008 at 10:22 PM

just a thought how do people who want to socalise a nation go about it???

any thoughts? (hint, think history)

allrsn on June 24, 2008 at 11:54 PM

..Why are your octane ratings so crap?

I think the best I ever saw during my trip across the states was something like 93, with 85, 89 and maybe 91 being the most regular. I can see why fuel additives are so popular over there

The worst-rated fuel we have here is the ethanol-blended mix, and even that has a 91 rating to start with.

My question might come across as a ‘we foreigners are better than you’, but I really am genuinely puzzled, as opposed to being patronising

Reaps on June 25, 2008 at 1:03 AM

I’m trying to figure out to whom this is actually news.

I live in the middle of ethanol land.

It’s spoken about on a regular basis that ethanol blends affect your mileage – the E10 blend here is higher octane (93 compared to 89) but drops my mileage (2004 Jeep Cherokee)by 1.3 miles per gallon. Heck, the founder of the company spoke about it at the grand opening of a nearby plant.

The E10 blend here costs 10-12 cents per gallon less than the non blended lower octane gas.(due to a tax rebate) E85 is 1.30 less than regular non blended gas – it drops the mileage on the truck(2006 Ford Sport truck)by 3.9 miles per gallon.

It all comes out in the wash – not worse, not better, just an alternative that’s made in the US and not imported from our “friends” in the middle east.

Tink on June 25, 2008 at 9:04 AM

Reaps on June 25, 2008 at 1:03 AM

Do you believe that 240 volts is better than 120V? Or do you understand that you need to use what the equipment is designed for? My car’s motor has been designed for 87 octane, so that’s what I buy. Most cars sold in America have motors that are designed to burn 85 octane. And then there are different ways of measuring octane ratings, so if your country uses a different rating method, the numbers aren’t even comparable.

Al in St. Lou on June 25, 2008 at 11:38 AM