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Transportation Technology

The New Ethanol Blend May Damage Your Vehicle 375

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-what-we-need dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "About 80 percent of the gasoline consumed in the U.S. is blended with ethanol, primarily with a 10 percent mix of ethanol, generally derived from corn. Now Kate Sheppard writes that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new policy that will allow states to raise the blend to up to 15 percent ethanol (also known as E15), approved for use for cars and light trucks from the model year 2001 and later. A few weeks ago, AAA issued a statement saying that the EPA's new policy creates the 'strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.' AAA surveyed vehicle manufacturers, and found that only about 12 million of the 240 million vehicles on the roads today are built to use E15 gasoline. The EPA will require that gas pumps with E15 bear a warning sign noting the blend and that it is not recommended for cars older than the 2001 model year. But what happens if you accidentally use it? 'Nobody really knows what negative effects [E15 is] going to have on the vehicle,' says Brian Lyons, Toyota's safety and quality communications manager. 'We think that there needs to be a lot more study conducted to make sure there are no longer term effects on the vehicle. So far everything we've seen says there will be.' The concern is that repeated, long-term exposure could cause the higher-alcohol-content fuel to degrade engine parts like valves and cylinder heads — which could potentially cost thousands of dollars to replace. Gas station owners don't like it very much either, because they'd likely have to upgrade their equipment to use it. Nor are environmental groups big fans of the EPA's decision, arguing that increasing the use of ethanol can drive up food prices, and isn't the best means of reducing our reliance on foreign fuels. The ethanol lobby is the only group that really seems to like the new rule. 'We've force fed a fuel into every American's car that benefits a few thousand corn farmers and ethanol refiners at the expense of virtually every other American,' says Scott Faber."
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The New Ethanol Blend May Damage Your Vehicle

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  • Politicians who make decisions based on the bribes they are going to receive, rather than what serves best the public interest causes people to suffer like this. This is why ignorance is one of the strongest poisons in a democracy.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:38AM (#42386825) Homepage Journal

      In this case it's probably not bribes (common as that is), but politicians putting their corn-growing state before the country. Corn is not a good source of ethanol but it's great for the economies of states like Iowa and Illinois.

      As to causing people to suffer, the pumps are labeled. Put E-15 in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:54AM (#42386875)

        As to causing people to suffer, the pumps are labeled. Put E-15 in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid.

        True enough, till they decide that not enough people are using the E15, and make it mandatory.

        • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:03AM (#42386895)

          This will only happen once a suitable alternative is found to keep running old vehicles. Washington isn't about to mandate a fuel 95% of car owners can't use. We had the same arguments when lead fuel was eliminated. Actually the very same "Oh but what about my '69 Mustang" arguments.

          Well here we are today, no lead in the fuel and a small additive on the market for owners of vehicles which required leaded gas.

          • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:47AM (#42387059) Homepage

            There were MUCH stronger reasons to take the lead out of the fuel.

          • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:05AM (#42387153)

            Just think of all the 'contributions' they'd get from the automobile industry if they did force-obsolete 95% of all cars.

          • by Smallpond (221300)

            This will only happen once a suitable alternative is found to keep running old vehicles. Washington isn't about to mandate a fuel 95% of car owners can't use. We had the same arguments when lead fuel was eliminated. Actually the very same "Oh but what about my '69 Mustang" arguments.

            Well here we are today, no lead in the fuel and a small additive on the market for owners of vehicles which required leaded gas.

            Not just older vehicles. E-15 should also not be used in new motorcycles, lawnmowers, chain saws, ATVs and light-duty trucks. Anything not covered by auto regulations in 2001 to make engines more alcohol-safe.

            • by mlts (1038732) *

              Ethanol is very nasty stuff when it comes to small engines like generators. Because most of these are use carburetors, they are very sensitive to varnish and bad gas. In the past, one could leave gasoline in a tank over the winter and be OK. With E10, using stored gas of that length can result in a carb rebuild, or in some cases (newer Onans), a possible replacement.

              Yes, one can use Sta-Bil or other additives, but they are more of a band-aid solution than anything else.

            • Humidity (Score:4, Informative)

              by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:24PM (#42391665)
              The stuff fresh out of the pump is perfectly fine (for a while), but in humid environments the ethanol sucks in water which can cause corrosion problems in those motorcycles, lawnmowers, chain saws etc especially if the level of the fuel is constant for days or weeks at a time. The corrosion happens in the metal adjacent to the surface of the fuel, and it's not just in the tank since there will be some fuel sitting for extended times in a lot of portions of the engine. That's why it's a bigger deal in engines that are not run a lot - it's apparently a huge deal in outboard motors for boats that are only run on weekends.
              I use ethanol fuel (E10) in my car at times but only if I know I'm going to be driving a lot and get the stuff out of the system in under a week if the weather is humid. I don't use it in my lawn mower. If I didn't live in the humid subtropics I probably wouldn't care about it. If there isn't much water in the air a few percent of ethanol alone isn't very corrosive so the time you can leave it in the tank is a lot longer.
          • It's not hard to convert an automobile engine accustomed to leaded gas to unleaded. Getting a catalytic converter to work with leaded gas is very difficult.

            Aviation gas is still leaded. I think the aviation market is so small (comparatively) that the EPA is not so concerned, and the FAA doesn't want to go through the legwork to make piston aircraft unleaded capable.
      • by tompaulco (629533)
        Put E-15 in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid.
        Well, put anything besides 100% gasoline in your '69 Mustang and you're just stupid. Unfortunately, in some states, like Texas, you have no choice. Even the regular blended Ethanol is bad for cars and disastrous for small engines.
        • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:02AM (#42387125)

          Nonsense. Brazil has been using E20 and E25 for decades. All it requires is some small tweaks.

          • not "small" "tweaks" (Score:4, Informative)

            by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @02:44PM (#42389053)

            Brazil has been using E20 and E25 for decades. All it requires is some small tweaks.

            If by "small tweaks" you mean replacing every single component in the entire fuel system that has rubber (which means all the seals, any lines that aren't completely metal, all the fuel injectors, the fuel pump, which is often inside the fuel tank and very difficult to reach, and the fuel pressure regulator), adjusting the engine computer's timing maps (not really possible except in vehicles made after 2000 or so, which tend to have electronically-reflashable computers) *and* better-sealing the fuel system (ethanol is very hygroscopic.) ...then yes, "small tweaks." You're probably looking at upwards of $1,000 in labor alone, and at least half that again in parts (fuel pump, injectors, fuel pressure regulator, and replacement lines, mostly. Seals are comparatively cheap.)

      • by sjames (1099)

        You and I may know that more than 10% ethanol can be a problem for some cars, but there's a lot of people who don't. If it was at least counterbalanced by a clear benefit and VERY PROMINENT warnings, it might be acceptable, but it's going to be more ethanol made using the least suitable feedstock available.

      • by wkk2 (808881)

        Don't put it in small engines either. The 10% stuff caused a leak in a generator fuel tank. It leaked at the shutoff valve/tank seal. The tank was almost empty or I might have lost the house.

    • Can we make it an executable offense for this level of stupidity?

  • Recipe For Disaster? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:35AM (#42386811)

    Here in NJ we are not allowed to pump our own gas. That's right, we get Full Service whether we like it or not (it is very convenient on cold or bad weather days).

    Who is going to be responsible if they start putting this E15 into cars older than 2001? The attendant? The gas station owner?? The distribution company [patch.com]??? If we get E15 it is going to happen, the only question is how frequently and will our astronomical insurance rates cover it?

    • by mpe (36238)
      Here in NJ we are not allowed to pump our own gas. That's right, we get Full Service whether we like it or not (it is very convenient on cold or bad weather days).

      Who is going to be responsible if they start putting this E15 into cars older than 2001?


      I suspect it's going to be rather more complex than a 2001 cut off date. Newer cars could quite easily contain older parts and some older cars may have no problems with the fuel at all.
  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:38AM (#42386823)

    The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

    • The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

      Almost. The real issue here is that topsoil is being used to make fuel. Corn for ethanol is grown continuously, which means not only do they not let fields lie fallow, but they actually don't even practice crop rotation! This leads to rapid depletion of the soil, turning it into dirt. What's the difference? Soil is mostly organic material. Dirt is mostly minerals. Soil can support plants we like to eat, dirt can't. So the corn for ethanol is basically grown hydroponically, in a dirt medium, using oil for fertilizer.

      Nobody is starving because we make corn into fuel. You think that they are, but there's actually plenty of food to feed them, going to waste. People are starving because nobody cares.

      • Corn for ethanol is grown continuously, which means not only do they not let fields lie fallow, but they actually don't even practice crop rotation!

        This is simply not possible as corn is very cold intolerant. And unlike winter wheat and some other crops, it doesn't go dormant when the air or soil temps go too low... it simply dies.

      • Nobody is starving because we make corn into fuel. You think that they are, but there's actually plenty of food to feed them, going to waste. People are starving because nobody cares.

        Probably, but at the very least it's driving prices up for the benefit of a small group of individuals.

      • Soil is mostly organic material. Dirt is mostly minerals.

        I think you have those two words defined exactly backwards.

        Also crops are still regularly rotated between soybeans, alfalfa, and corn even among farmers who sell corn for ethanol production.

        Beyond that, I suppose you're technically correct. Heaven knows most of us would benefit from eating a little less food.

        • I think you have those two words defined exactly backwards.

          No, he has it almost exactly correct. Soil is a mixture of minerals, water, air, and organic material (e.g. organisms, living and dead). Soil develops over long periods of time, and lies in layers (horizons), each with its own composition and properties. Soil is alive and in situ---it has history and context. Dirt, on the other hand, is what you track into the house after playing in the soil.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Organic material is the difference between soil and regolith (moon dust). Beyond that is gets a bit complicated, it's one of those "why is the sky blue" questions that looks like it has an easy answer until you think about it.
      • Food shortage is an economic issue. The problem isn't an inability to grow enough food - there's enough to around. It's just that the starving population of Elbonia can only afford to pay so much for the food they need to live, while the more wealthy populations of the world will happily spend far more on food for luxury purposes like producing far more meat than the human diet really needs. Or making ethanol.

      • by caseih (160668) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @02:21PM (#42388869)

        I actually farm, so I feel the need to step in here and correct you a little bit. The richest soils I know are only 5% organic matter. And while I share your concerns over ethanol production in general, you don't appear to know a whole lot about soil science in general. Continuous cropping of any kind does deplete the soil. But it doesn't deplete it in terms of organic matter (though it can affect that). It depletes the soil of macro and micro nutrients (minerals). And you are wrong about corn being produced by top soil. Crops can grow in soils without any organic matter at all (I know because I've done it), but without organic matter you have to provide 100% of the nutrients the plant needs. N, P, K, S, Cu, Bo, and a host of others. That's part of the core problem with corn ethanol in general: corn is produced by feeding the plants the vast majority of their required nutrients through synthetic fertilizers, which come from fossil fuels (natural gas is the main one).

        High organic matter soils are rich because they have a greater capacity to produce the fundamental nutrients by breaking down plant matter. But no matter how you cut it, if you aren't fertilizing in some way (synthetic or manure) you're just mining your soil of nutrients and eventually you'll run out.

        Crop rotation has little to do with organic matter or soil richness. Crop rotation is almost all about disease and weed management. Corn farmers do rotate for this reason. Usually it's corn, soybeans, wheat, repeat, which is not enough. There is a small benefit to the soil of doing rotation, particularly when you grow legumes, which fix their own nitrogen and replenish the soil's nutrient levels.

        I'm also in a position to comment on your thoughts on food production. The real problem with corn ethanol and food production is that it's driving up costs of all food commodities (wheat, beef, dairy) and inputs at a dramatic rate on a global level. This makes basic food more expensive all across the world. It's now cheaper in Africa to import grain than to grow it themselves, because of the input costs which are priced on a global market (yay for globalization). Not only is this an inflationary cycle, it also directly is affecting starvation in third-world countries who are now dependent on imports and handouts. So while starvation has nothing to do with the amount of food in the world, it's our practices that are directly contributing to it. Hence the criticisms of corn production replacing food production are indeed warranted.

    • by fufufang (2603203)

      The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

      Well, even if those corns are not used to make ethanol, they probably will be turned into high fructose corn syrup.

    • The real issue here is that food is being used to make fuel.

      That depends on what kind of corn is used - there's more than one kind and not all are really edible by humans.

  • Could the additional internal cash flow improve the country's general economy?

    • See: Broken Window Fallacy.

      • by BlueMonk (101716)

        Doesn't applying the Broken Window Fallacy ignore my point that we are currently paying other countries money that could be spent within this country. My understanding is that acknowledging the Broken Window Fallacy only acknowledges that money spent on repairing damage could just as well have been spent on something constructive, but that the overall spending within the system is the same. But we are spending on something external to the country when it could be more internal.

        I had not encountered the Brok

        • I thought you were referring to potential damage since that's the topic of this discussion.

          Damage aside, you're right that it would be better for the local economy to "in-source" some fuel production.

  • Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:50AM (#42386863) Homepage Journal

    There's a lot of irony to this. For starters, the actual change in regulation by the EPA won't require E15 gas. It simply allows individual states to require it if they want. So in other words this is the federal government giving the states more control, which normally is a good thing. However there are states that are so influenced by corn production that they will certainly make E15 the standard in their state, but for all the wrong reasons. So it might be a bad thing for the Feds to give up some control here, which I hate to have to say.

    The second irony is this is the EPA making this decision, and this decision will harm the environment. If the valves and rings in older cars wear out faster from using higher ethanol fuel than they were designed for, then they will begin burning oil, vastly increasing harmful emissions. I thought the EPA was supposed to protect the environment?

    • by cellocgw (617879)

      So in other words this is the federal government giving the states more control, which normally is a good thing

      Rather a large number of us non-TeaBagger US citizens disagree 100% with that statement. IMHO there is no logic whatever in allowing different states to generate contradictory laws.

  • big $$$ for ngk (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    i have found that it generaly fouls sparkplugs, especially in stationary motors (generators -fixed speed)
    around 1/4 plug life.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:55AM (#42386879) Homepage

    Corn Ethanol is the ultimate in greenwashing. It's not green at all. It's not even energy positive. We're not gaining energy here. We're just using fossil fuel based products to grow corn and turning the corn into an inferior fuel without any gain whatsoever.

    Shows the power of the corn lobby, but it's a disaster for the overwhelming majority of the population. If they want an easy thing to cut as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations, all ethanol industry subsidies are a great place to start. They're a total waste of money.

    • First, we are only currently using fossil fuel based products to grow corn. That can easily change, especially with the advances we're seeing with green energy.

      Secondly what research indicates that growing corn for energy on a wide scale would use more energy than it produces? There are many studies that conclude ethanol from corn is Energy Positive [wikipedia.org].

      • by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:05AM (#42387151)

        Any energy gain would be similar to the energy produced by photovoltaic arrays, which have the advantage (over corn) of not needing fertile soil and water.

        • But how easy is it to store the energy produced by a PV array for a long road trip? Chemical fuels still have a higher energy density, as I understand it.
      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @11:19AM (#42387215)

        This research:

        Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2005 doi:10.1007/s11053-005-4679-8

        Which was cited by the article you cited.

        Here is another discussion:

        http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/8/25/221617/881 [theoildrum.com]

        The latter is more interesting because not only does it point out the economic issues, but also that there are other issues such as water consumption, soil erosion, political costs etc. associated with using ethanol for fuel.

        The Oil Drum is a very worthy site because it presents a useful hard economic view of alternative energies. I think it's probably overly pessimistic, however it's probably a lot closer to the truth than a lot of the advocacy positions that appear in the media.

  • by Constantin (765902) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @09:57AM (#42386883)

    The percentage of ethanol is not just an issue for cars... boat owners have reported extreme issues with molded-in-place gas tanks where the fiberglass resin mix wasn't just right, which then led to the resins softening and dissolving into the gas. The resin juices then proceeded to destroy the engines in the boats by coating / clogging the fuel system and the chambers with this juice. Folks were allegedly going up and down the coast looking for gas stations that could guarantee 0% ethanol gas or forced to undertake a $$$ diesel repower of their power boats.

    It's not as if refineries are going to ship a different blend of gas to most ship docks, doesn't make sense, is a distribution nightmare. They're going to ship whatever they have.

    And here's the rub: The ethanol will also result in worse gas mileage because the stuff does not have the same bang per cubic volume as gasoline (i.e. 66%). Thus, the higher the ethanol volume fraction, the lower your vehicle's range is going to be. It's why cars designed to run on E100 in Brazil and elsewhere feature bigger gas tanks than cars designed for use with gasoline, for example.

    At the end of the day, the ethanol debate is one of the best examples of how lobbying results in extreme market distortions, i.e. the adoption of a fuel substitute at the behest of the corn farmers in the midwest and the large corporate interests (ADM, etc.) which profit from the processing and marketing of the stuff. Now that natural gas is too practically too cheap to meter, expect even more fuel conversion efforts of this sort.

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:09AM (#42386921)

      It's not as if refineries are going to ship a different blend of gas to most ship docks, doesn't make sense, is a distribution nightmare. They're going to ship whatever they have.

      Actually in many cases the ethanol is added post blend of the gasoline giving refineries exactly that level of control. A station in some state wants zero ethanol, send them straight gasoline. If they want it blended, dump some into the tank before sending it out.

      Heck in some cases it's not even the refineries themselves which blend ethanol but rather the distribution terminals. Although there is a trend towards making refineries do the blending since they have an in house lab and if they certify the product they can actually hit the octane target. The alternative is having to hit the octane target without ethanol and then adding it after. Since ethanol has a high octane it results in giveaway (product better than spec)

      • by cdrudge (68377)

        Heck in some cases it's not even the refineries themselves which blend ethanol but rather the distribution terminals. Although there is a trend towards making refineries do the blending since they have an in house lab and if they certify the product they can actually hit the octane target.

        Even then there can still be problems. Just see the recent contaminated gas in the Chicago-land [chicagotribune.com].

        • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @08:38PM (#42391189)

          Interesting conclusion by the paper. This is actually par for the course and can typically happen once a week at a refinery the size of whiting. It is the job of the lab to pick this up, and the fuel should have been independently retested after transfer to ship/distribution facility/pipeline etc. That's one of the reasons you typically don't trust the QA certificates when you buy oil / fuel. But it happens all the time. The lab sends through the certificates, a different department plans the load, and then operations lines up the wrong tank to the pipeline and you get off spec product at the other end.

          One of our vendors sent us a case study on a large terminal with 100+ tanks which suffered on average 400+ valve lineup issues each year. Some small picked up quickly, some quite bad. The ones that really cause a shitstorm is when you blend the wrong dye into fuel. So the petrol looks like diesel and then you send it to the other end without noticing and suddenly you have a tank full of flammable liquids which is not designed to hold flammable liquids.

          I can actually give you another problem caused in part by ethanol. It's hygroscopic. The company I worked for released standard unleaded to the local pipeline to send to a terminal, all certificates were in order and all specs met. When it got to the terminal it was put into a tank which had a water layer in the bottom. The ethanol absorbed the water and the terminal's laboratory failed the batch as not meeting spec. Shitfight ensued while both sides were trying to figure out what happened. In this case it was caught and not sent out.

    • when they put diesel in their gas engines.

      Not every change deserves a corporate conspiracy theory. The fuel you use has never been just gas. There's always been many various additives, octane, levels, season mixes, etc.

      High ethanol mixes have been available in many countries without a major collapse in infrastructure. I'm pretty sure we'll do alright as well.

  • by night_flyer (453866) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:23AM (#42386967) Homepage

    Ive been watching the pumps around my area, the E-10 regularly is cheaper than the E-85.

    I dont understand the big push to ethanol anyway (well yeah I do, the big grain growing states get a kickback) it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than 100% gasoline.

    • by kervin (64171)

      That is not true. Corn Ethanol is not the best source of Ethanol but it's still Energy Positive [wikipedia.org].

      • I dont understand the big push to ethanol anyway (well yeah I do, the big grain growing states get a kickback) it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than 100% gasoline.

        That is not true. Corn Ethanol is not the best source of Ethanol but it's still Energy Positive [wikipedia.org].

        I would file both of your answers under the category of neither right nor wrong, but rather not even wrong. The minimum EROI [wikipedia.org] required to sustain a modern civilization has been estimated to be anywhere from 3:1 to 15:1 (with broad variations depending on assumptions of things like what "minimums" might still constitute a modern civilization). If we have to argue the fine details of Ethanol's energy balance to determine if it is energy positive or not, we are already answering the wrong question.

        For small-s

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:31AM (#42387001)

    Ethanol in gasoline fuel breaks specific parts in your car.

    Fuel lines and parts of the fuel circuit that contain rubber. Unless special formulated rubber is used that is ethanol proof, the rubber will deteriorate.

    Fuel pumps and injectors. Some of these are still manufactured from materials that are not adapted to ethanol.

    Carburetors. Older cars that are not using injection systems, may have parts inside the carburetors that dissolve in the ethanol. Most common carburetors will have replacement parts available that are resistant to ethanol, so retrofits can often be done.

    This is mostly a cost issue and for only $100 more or so a new vehicles components can be resistant to ethanol in such a way that you could easily run E85 without problems for the life of the vehicle. Any modern car that is not capable of doing so, is made so on purpose. Even your 69 mustang can be made to run just fine on ethanol, providing you retrofit the carbs with some new floats and seals and replace the fuel pump and fuel lines with something modern too. Corn Ethanol may not be cost effective or "green" in the USA, but in large parts of the world, ethanol is the cheapest and most environment friendly fuel option. Don't hate on Ethanol just because the way it's being done in the USA isn't right. It has it's place and merits, if you do it right.

  • A few things (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:31AM (#42387003) Homepage Journal
    First, any auto manufacture that claims they have no idea how ethanol is going to effect their engine is simply incompetent. The question is what will happen with higher temperatures and maybe increased reactions. This has been around for ove 5 years in the US, and longer in other countries, so the testing has been done. In particular US studies has shown that up to 20% is not going to harm the engine. So what we are saying here is we believe hand waving from lazy manufacturers over data. This kind of cognative dissidence is all to common around here.

    Second, no manufacturer is going to extend a warranty beyond minimum requirements. Can you imagine going to a dealer, after not changing the oil for a year, saying they would fix an unrelated warranty issue? Of course not. The purpose of a dealer is deny as many warranty repars as possible. So why would they say they would warranty a uncovered fuel that might mean even an additional warranty repair. Much better to blame the fuel even if the repair is unrelated. Of course flex fuel cars are warrentied to run on flexible fuels.

    Third, the issue with ethanol is really an issue with corn production in the US as our only crop for such purposes. Corn is about the worst thing one can use for ethanol, but the US has a corn economy. There are many weeds that can be made into ethanol, but little money has been put into developing that technology. Sugarcane can also be used, but the sugarcane economy in the US has been systematically decimated in the US by northern interests who value politics over national security.

    So it is clear that this is just another FUD article to promote the fossil fuel economy. Things are going to change, interests that have become fat and lazy on the backs of americans workers are going to become less fat and lazy, and this simply scares them, so they have to scare us.

  • by kervin (64171)

    Safeguards can obviously be taken if needed. For instance, surprisingly it's also bad for the car to put diesel in your gas engine. Yet just about every station sell both types of fuel. Personally, I'm looking forward to E25 [wikipedia.org], which has been used in Brazil since the late seventies and they seem to be doing ok with that decision.

    • I don't care much about the safeguards, I agree that is FUD. What I do care about is how ethanol is produced, and how Brazil can produce it efficiently with sugarcane, but we can't because of the corn lobby.

      Because of this, I hope E25 never comes on corn, and prefer there to be an E0.
      • by kervin (64171)

        I agree Corn is not the best crop for producing ethanol. But it can be used as a stepping stone since it's readily available here.

        I'm guessing at some point Ethanol producing firms will seriously investigate other crops and challenge the Corn lobby. But none of this will happen until Ethanol becomes a bigger part of our fuel consumption.

  • by sd4f (1891894) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @10:43AM (#42387045)

    Article is pretty bad, of course people know, it's just that no one can say it without boring non-technical people to death. Sounds like this article was written by those pommie top gear clowns, as soon as anything technical related is mentioned, they cut it out and proclaim it dark mysterious magic!

    I think the problem will probably be that the fuel map won't be made to cater for a 15% blend, issue with ethanol is that the stoichiometric mixture requires more fuel relative to mass than hydrocarbon gasoline, since the car can't identify the fuel, and it either sticks to a predetermined fuel map, or uses O2 sensors to adjust, i'm not sure what they'd have selected to do, and i'm not sure what by product gasses you get when you have lean alcohols (being oxygen, hydrogen and carbon). With that said, if the mixture isn't made stoichiometric, then you will be down on power and NOx emissions will go up, which the latter is probably why manufacturers state not to use higher mixtures of ethanol.

    I doubt the engine or other parts would suffer any damage, aluminium doesn't like alcohols, corrodes with them, but i don't think 15% is high enough to cause problems, still, and rubber parts might not last as long if in contact with ethanol, but again, just as before, upping the concentration to 15% won't has serious and immediate effects. Valve and cylinder head issues is completely wrong, all cars made to run unleaded have hardened valve seats and valves as it was the tetraethyl lead that reduced wear in those parts, with that being long gone, manufacturers have been making the engines withstand unleaded, this remain unchanged with ethanol mixes.

    The real drawback with ethanol is that the energy density is about two thirds of ordinary hydrocarbon gasoline, which means operating with stoichiometric mixtures, ethanol engines won't be significantly changed with power, but to do the same amount of work, will consume a higher volume of fuel as opposed to gasoline engines. So from a simple cost benefit point of view, 1 unit of ethanol is worth two thirds of straight, unadulterated gasoline, therefore to get your money's worth, 15% ethanol should be approximately 1.7% cheaper than 10% ethanol, and 5% cheaper against straight gasoline.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      My undertanding is that E15 also eats rubber and plastic quickly, so think all your seals, hoses, fuel pump etc.

      Even if your guess is right (and I am a long way from convinced you're right), that valve seats etc wont get more harmed by burning E15, just the side-effects of long-term running with incorrect timing (i.e. caused by unnig E15 with any ECU not explicitly rpogrammed for it) will surely wear out your engine much quicker.

      As for the potential for damage, you only have to imagine the increased danger

  • I didn't really care about the difference between 100% gas and E10. I thought it was a bunch of hoopla from competing political interests. Then I lost a trimmer and a tiller to ethanol's corrosive powers. Within a couple of weeks of being fueled with E10, both had developed holes in the gas tanks and were dead. Happily my mower didn't suffer the same fate.

    The moral? Don't let E10 sit in your trimmer or other yard equipment. In fact, use 100% gas in them when possible.

  • ethanol is a horrible fuel, less energy dense than gasoline, corrodes and dissolves parts, and is net energy loss. We need to stop this nonsense, our lawmakers are out of control and in the pockets of the wealthy.

  • ....Mostly due to potential engine damage and the fact you have to redesign the fuel-delivery system to take full advantage of E15 fuel--not a cheap option!

  • Those corn farmers refuse to use the stuff in their tractors. Every gas station in farming areas sells 0% ethanol gasoline. Because farmers refuse to use any blends in their equipment due to the damage even 10% causes.

  • by rossdee (243626)

    Why are we still using inefficient hydrocarbon burning internal combustion engines to power automobiles anyway?

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      reality. hydrocarbons have high energy density, while whatever alternative you are imagining we should use does not.

    • Re:Why (Score:4, Informative)

      by faedle (114018) on Tuesday December 25, 2012 @01:53PM (#42388677) Homepage Journal

      Because the power density of hydrocarbon fuels far outweighs any other technology presently available.

      10 gallons of gasoline weighs around 90 pounds. In even a fairly inefficient car (like, say my 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon Camper) that will get the car about 150 miles. Most compact cars easily get twice that from a 10-gallon tank. My other car, a Volkswagen New Beetle (which is diesel), gets close to 40 MPG (easily over if you drive conservatively), and while that's burning diesel fuel, the weight is comparable. So, 150-400 miles on 90 pounds of fuel for your "inefficient hydrocarbon burning internal combustion engine."

      By comparison, the LiIon batteries in many electric vehicles weighs in the range of 90-200 pounds, depending on the car (The Tesla, I'm told, weighs even more). At most, the range of a typical electric is 200 miles, and most manufacturers only promise between 100 and 150 miles between charging.

      CNG weighs a little less (the fuel is significantly lighter, but the tank is heavier). LNG weighs about the same as gasoline. Both will range at the lower end of the MPG figures quoted above. Fuel cells may alter the dynamics a bit, but the best sources of hydrogen for them is still hydrocarbon fuels.. they will just push the kW/gallon energy output higher, potentially increasing MPG if we can get the weight of a fuel-cell generator and electric motors to something close to an internal combustion engine.

      Pound for pound, hydrocarbon fuels provide the most bang for the pound of any power technology we presently have available.

  • Minnesota did extensive E-15 and E-20 studies that completed back in 2008. They didn't find a many problems, which is why the EPA passed the waivers without much fanfare. It's been lawful to sell E15-E20 in MN for some time. Here's the thing though, there's no reason to make a big deal out of the blends. Ethanol can be blended at the pump. Give consumers the choice on how much they want and how much they want to pay.

  • Although it's not in vogue here on Slashdot, many vehicle owners do actually RTM and it generally states quite clearly in the fuel requirements section that use of fuels other than specified, generally 87-95 octane unleaded gasoline with not more than 10% ethanol, voids the warranty . Now I ask you, when faced with a warning sticker on the E15 gas pump about engine damage, what would the average consumer do? This will become like the E85 pumps. Most stations won't even offer it, because almost nobody wants

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