Ethanol article misses the mark



Your article on the ethanol blending barrier (Blending wall hinders ethanol industry growth, Jan. 8, 2009) was misleading on two counts.

It is true that the federal government has established a 10 percent blending limit. However, Minnesota has passed a 20 percent blending rule and is applying for a federal waiver. The article also leads us to believe that cars will not run correctly, according to the automakers, on more than 10 percent ethanol.

Not true.

People all over the country are running their fuel injected cars on up to 50 percent ethanol with no performance or maintenance problems and significantly improved emissions results.

One test reported by David Blume used a variety of unmodified cars from a 1977 Mercedes to a 2004 Toyota Tacoma. Their computers adapted to the fuel change, ran fine and passed their smog tests (in California!) with flying colors.

If we just make the ethanol and cut our gasoline by 40-50 percent with it, that simple act can replace imported oil and all the foreign policy costs that go with it.

Bruce Rickard
Fredericktown, Ohio


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  1. What Ethanol promotion board does this guy work for. I clearly states in most manuals. Do not use more than 10 pct ethanol blend for x vehicle. Ethanol is a corrosive additive so much so that the fuel pumps that dispense E85 have to be of different design and so dot he E85 vehicles when it comes to parts of their fuel systems. Beyond the blending wall I would like to see ethanol held to a pricing that puts it on par with its BTU value (66% of Unleaded) instead of the oversubsidized value I see at the pump right now. 10% blend gives me 96.5% of the mileage that regular does so lets keep it priced that way.

  2. I believe that e85 pumps have to be made of different materials because ethanol conducts electricity and gasoline does not. Cars made in the past 20 years should be able to take much greater concentrations of ethanol than the 10% currently blended in gasoline with few — if any — modifications to their fuel systems. True, ethanol doesn’t have as great an energy content as gasoline, but it is renewable.

  3. Where are we going to get all that ethanol to replace 50% of our gasoline needs? Brazil? Celluose is a ways off still. Corn can only get us a few % there. I hope we decrease our oil addiction….but let’s be realistic and focus on making the correct steps. Keep reducing our demand and and improving efficiencies our our day to day life (ie less trips, walk, bike) and low and behold energy prices come down. Let’s just do with less and we will all be better off. The economy built on consumption and service. We were too fat and happy and now it’s time to change. Let’s get back to basics and live better.

  4. Ethanol is not renewable. It consumes large amounts of natural gas, and diesel. Natural gas creates the fertilizer and powers the ethanol plant. Diesel runs the tractors and trucks to haul the grain. We also have a pitiful amount of acreage. There is no way to produce enough ethanol by growing it with corn. If you want your warrantee to count in your car. Don’t experiment with higher rates in ethanol. The Kansas City Star has run some excellent articles on the overdosing of ethanol and its effects on engines. real life stuff not just some guy putting a study together.

  5. Guzzling Alcohol in Autos Can Be Deadly

    As a 30-year career chemical/environmental engineer, I want to comment on the ethanol fuel racket. Ethanol is chemically the same as moonshine-corn liquor.

    Ethanol may only cost $2.85 at the pump when gasoline is $3. But ethanol fuel (85 parts ethanol/15 parts gasoline) has only 72% of the energy content of gasoline, so its cost at the pump is actually $4 per gallon of gasoline equivalent; and you get a reduction in driving range of 28%.

    According to a study by the Cato Institute, for every dollar in profit a producer makes off ethanol, the costs to taxpayers is $30 after summing the government subsidies on corn. At 15% profit margin, a sixth grader can calculate the actual cost is about $9 per gallon. Other hidden costs are the almost doubling (and climbing) of corn prices resulting in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs. More acres planted in corn reduce supplies of wheat and soybeans causing these prices to rise.

    It requires more energy to make ethanol than you can get out of it. Otherwise the ethanol plants would be using it to fuel their plants rather than our natural gas and coal. Converting all the U.S. corn crop to ethanol would only reduce gasoline consumption by 1%, according to Robert Panier, a former ethanol-industry chemical engineer.

    The negative environmental impacts by the use of crop chemicals are significant. It takes 7 gallons of water (groundwater?) to produce one gallon of ethanol. The emission reductions from ethanol-fueled cars are so small that air quality is not improved at all.

    Even China is smart enough to know that ethanol fuel is a loser. That is why they shut down their ethanol plants this year.

    But there is more. One-third of the corn feedstock becomes a massive quantity of waste. This is sold to factory farms to force feed cows, cattle and pigs along with the chicken manure. We are told that this is a bonus because they count the calorie content (BTUs) of the slop toward the energy gain, so it makes it look they are creating more energy. Milking cows were fed these “grains”, as they call them, pre-1940s. These cows got sick, the milk became contaminated with harmful bacteria, people got sick and died, ushering in pasteurization. Last week, it was announced by two university research departments that ethanol wastes fed to livestock is related to the surge in recent meat recalls and e-coli breakouts.

    But, there’s more. Since the triangle of government (EPA, USDA, DOE), industry (ADM) and environmental whackos, in all of their infinite wisdom, believe so much in ethanol saving us from the planet’s certain and rapid doom. In fact, they crafted legislation which has been made into regulations requiring a rapid increase to meet the crisis head on. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, rules call for increasing ethanol fuels from the current 5% of transportation fuels to 36% over the next few years and install tanks and pumps everywhere-along with a huge fleet of trucks to haul it.

    One has to wonder how many will die and suffer because of this money-making scheme, in part allowed by recycling the profits into election contributions.

    Corn would be better used as food to help feed the hungry and not the ethanol producers and their lobbyists. After all, ADM is the supermarket to the world. Auto and oil companies fought for decades that ethanol is an inferior fuel, but now are embracing it for profits as the dumb-downed, green-washed public demands it. It is a major loser energy wise, environmentally, and economically and another threat to food supplies and safety. The true costs are immeasurable. Ethanol is unsustainable.

    David M. Augenstein, M.S., P.E.
    Automotive Environmental & Safety Engineering


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