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Still Boondogglin'
There Are Smart Biofuels, and There Are Dumb Ones, Too

To meet mandates set out by a 2007 law, American refineries are blending in progressively larger amounts of ethanol distilled from food crops, specifically corn. On paper, that may sound great—we’re boosting domestic production of transportation fuels through agriculture, a seemingly green process—but in practice corn-based ethanol is a policy disaster. Because it competes with corn’s primary use (feeding people), it raises global food prices, starving the world’s poor. Worse, it’s contributing to greater monocultures in our heartlands, killing off honeybee populations and eroding soil quality. Maybe most damningly, corn biofuels have been shown to actually increase greenhouse gas emissions, destroying their “green” justification. No wonder so many stakeholders want to see this farce ended.

Corn-based ethanol isn’t the only food crop used to create ethanol. Over in the UK, they use wheat to meet their “green” targets. As the BBC notes, a recent study from Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering found that “fuel based on [wheat] was worse for the environment than regular petrol or diesel.” The biofuel boondoggle spans continents, apparently.

But wheat- and corn-based ethanol give biofuels a bad name. There are alternatives, belonging to a so-called “second generation” of biofuels, that don’t rely on food crops. These better biofuels can strengthen energy security while helping the environment. More:

[The] report suggests that renewed emphasis be placed on developing waste. In the UK we produce 16 million tonnes every year, enough to double our current biofuel supplies. A third of that waste is called green waste, a quarter of it is agricultural straw.

The authors believe there is great scope for expansion in the use of unavoidable waste, such as used cooking oil, forest and sawmill residues, the dregs from whisky manufacture, even so-called “fatbergs” from sewers could play a role.

Agricultural waste can be used to create ethanol, but farmers can also do more to grow cellulosic crops on marginal land—that is, land not currently being used for crops. Unlike food-based options, cellulosic biofuels are the real thing.

Decades from now we’ll look back ruefully at this time period and shake our heads at these well-intentioned but poorly thought-out green policy schema. The world’s current approach to biofuels deserves plenty of scorn in the present, though, and the quicker we move away from this shambolic strategy towards one that actually works, the better.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    The policy of corn ethanol no longer has anything to do with ecology or fuel availablity. It is to “keep the economy going” in many rural areas which happen to have turned politically Republican for the most part. Don’t expect a Republican government to reverse this. The likelihood of them doing so is near zero, IMHO, even as fracking has produced more than enough oil to replace the ethanol and replace it “better”.

    • CaliforniaStark

      Goat, were on the same page on this one. Far too many Republican politicians harangue against excess government spending, while at the same time make every effort to protect and continue government subsidies that favor their state. Iowa Republicans are a prime example of this in regards to ethanol and wind subsidies.

      • Andrew Allison

        You don’t seem to understand: the ONLY objective our so-called “representatives” is to get reelected.

        • Jeff77450

          Gave you an up-vote even though I don’t agree with halving the salaries of members of Congress. For someone fresh out of college $175k is an excellent starting salary. But for someone in their thirties or forties, who in almost every case is leaving a successful career *and* who has to maintain two residences, which almost all of them have to do, $175k is not a lot of money. And DC is a high cost-of-living area. I’d like to pay members of congress significantly more but on the condition that they can’t receive income other sources while in office. There would be certain exceptions like payments/royalties from preexisting intellectual property & mineral rights and pensions. One possibility is a housing-allowance comparable to what the military gets but which isn’t factored into their pension.

          • Andrew Allison

            It’s my belief that elected office should be a duty, not a career choice. The Founding Fathers felt the same way. My own experience with elected office (City Council & Mayor) demonstrated to my satisfaction that those who make a career of elected office are in it for the perks, not the benefit of their constituents. There’s a corollary to absolute power corrupts, namely that the corruption is the integral of the amount of power and the time for which it is exercised.

          • Jeff77450

            I wholeheartedly agree. But if elected officials aren’t adequately paid then the result will be that only the rich can serve and we won’t have the benefits that come from a wide variety of backgrounds/perspectives.

            In a variation on term-limits perhaps Congress should have some kind of up-or-out policy comparable to the military. Rank-and-file members of Congress can serve for a maximum of, say, twelve years. Positions like “speaker” and the heads of certain committees can serve longer. Just a thought.

          • Andrew Allison

            Agreed.

          • david russell

            By and large only the rich do get elected. If they aren’t rich going in, they are after they’ve had time to steal their way to the top.

      • FriendlyGoat

        As you are aware, I rail against Republicans all the time for their nefariousness on various issues. Just so you know, I do recognize they are “in a (somewhat accidental) bind” on THIS one. Not so long ago this just seemed more sensible than it does now with abundant $50 oil and the supposed “green” benefits of ethanol having been recognized as not really so “green” after all.

        • CaliforniaStark

          Hi Goat. My observation is that attempting to find virtue in any politician, regardless of political party, is usually a failed venture. In this agree with Andrew, a politician’s chief goal is to get re-elected, and will add it is also often to better themselves financially, which can be achieved by close political association with wealthy friends. As and example, the fact former President Obama has over the last six months spent his time hobnobbing with is billionaire friends at their private resorts/on their private megayachts, makes me uncomfortable. These are individuals who financially thrived and prospered under his presidency, unlike the poor and those evil middle class deplorables. It even disturbs friend of mine who were Sanders supporters.

        • SLEcoman

          To my knowledge the only two presidential candidates over the last three presidential campaigns that campaigned against ethanol during the Iowa presidential primary campaigns were John McCain and Ted Cruz.

          The Obama administration aggressively pushed for higher ethanol mandates. During the 2008 Iowa presidential primary campaign, the ethanol industry provided lots of support, especially ‘in kind’ support, to then candidate Barack Obama.

          “An honest politician is one who stays bought once you’ve paid for him” – Al Capone

          • FriendlyGoat

            As I admitted to California Stark above, I think Republicans are rather caught in a trap on this issue. They simply find it hard to vote for anything that might hurt a farm economy,

          • SLEcoman

            Looks to me like Democrats are in the same boat. To my knowledge, every Democrat presidential candidate going back to at least 2000, has supported ethanol when they were running (Al Gore has since recanted his support for ethanol).

            And let’s not pretend that their wasn’t hypocrisy long before the more recent revelations regarding ethanol’s adverse impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Senator Hillary Clinton, in opposing drilling in ANWR, said that the 1.0-1.5 million bbl/day of additional oil production from ANWR would make little difference for energy independence or oil prices. However, in the run-up to her 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Clinton repeatedly touted the benefits of 12 billion gallons/year of ethanol production for its role in helping the US achieve energy independence and in pushing oil prices lower. Sen Clinton correctly predicted that MSM would not do the simple math to convert 12 billion gallons/year of ethanol into 0.8 million bbl/day of ethanol and ask the obvious question, “Why is it that 0.8 million bbl/day of ethanol does all these great things to enhance energy independence and reduce oil prices when, according to your own words, 1.0-1.5 million bbl/day of crude oil from ANWR would have no meaningful impact on energy independence or oil prices?”

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yes, Democrats are in the same boat. At this time, though, they are not in charge of the government. So, if there is any change in ethanol policy, Republicans would have to lead it. Somehow or other, I predict no change. But you are correct that no Dem in a farm state is eager to knock corn. It’s an “equal opportunity” conundrum, except that two things have changed. There is no shortage of oil and ethanol no longer looks green.

          • david russell

            Math is so retro for Americans, isn’t it?

      • Erocker

        Republican=hypocrites

  • Proud Skeptic

    Both parties rely on this subsidy to buy votes. It is wrong. This program is the poster child for dumb policy.

    • Andrew Allison

      I think it’s a poster child for corrupt politicians. Career politicians are a cancer on the Republic.

  • Fat_Man

    A far better idea would be to abolish the subsidies and the mandates, lease out more federal land for drilling, and remove existing drilling restrictions in coastal waters.

  • Andrew Allison

    Name just one smart biofuel!

    • Tom

      Sugarcane-based ethanol.

      • Andrew Allison

        https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/summer-2015/articles/sugarcane-farming-s-toll-on-the-environment
        http://www.ethanolproducer.com/articles/8434/study-exposes-sugarcane-ethanols-environmental-flaw
        Note that the environmental impacts do not take into account the loss in efficiency (and hence increased emissions) and engine damage due to blending.

        • CaliforniaStark

          Your links are from two bias sources: (1.) And anti-agriculture World Wildlife Fund link which objects to land being used to grow sugarcane, and instead advocates for it to be kept in its natural state; and (2.) a hit piece put together by the corn ethanol industry attacking sugarcane growers who burn their crop because it causes pollution (not a necessary practice). Neither source addresses the merits of sugarcane-based ethanol versus corn-based ethanol; here are two links that do:

          “Sugarcane-based ethanol has an energy balance that is 7 times greater than that of corn-based ethanol. Energy balance is the difference between the energy expended to convert the crop into ethanol and the amount of energy released from its consumption.”

          //biowesleyan.wordpress.com/first-generation-biofuels/ethanol/case-study-brazil/sugarcane-vs-corn-based-ethanol/

          “With sugarcane as one of the most efficient photosynthesizers in the plant kingdom, Brazil’s sugarcane-based ethanol production is far more efficient than the US’s corn-based production. Brazilian distillers are able to produce ethanol for 22 cents/liter, compared to the United States’ 30 cents/liter. [6] The process to obtain ethanol from corn costs more because corn starch must first be converted into sugar before being distilled into alcohol; sugarcane already contains the sugar in the form necessary to produce ethanol.”
          range.

          5http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2010/ph240/luk1/

          Over 90% of the light vehicles sold in Brazil are flex fuel vehicles, which now are 70% of the entire light vehicle fleet – this is remarkable as the first flex fuel vehicles were introduced in 2003, only about 15 years ago. The use of sugarcane-based ethanol now has replaced about 40% of the gasoline need: “Brazilian consumers have a choice at the pump when they fuel their cars and most are choosing sugarcane ethanol for its price and environmental benefits, making gasoline the alternative fuel in the country.

          http://sugarcane.org/sugarcane-products/ethanol

          Given its has taken about 40% of the Brazilian market for gasoline in only about 15% years, I would rate sugar-cane ethanol as a smart biofuel.

          • Andrew Allison

            With respect, while sugarcane ethanol might be a smart biofuel in a country in which 90% of the light vehicles sold can run on either gasoline with 18-25% ethanol or pure ethanol, that’s not the case in the rest of the world. I’m sure you’re aware that US engines can’t handle more than 15% ethanol (and there’s some question as to whether that’s too high). Even assuming that, by for example deforesting the Amazon Basin, the supply of ethanol were sufficient, retooling the world-wide I/C engine production to use it would be extraordinarily costly. Meanwhile, the work is awash in oil which currently SELLS (not production cost) for the price that ethanol costs to produce in the US.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Since the Brazilian government has essentially forced adoption of flex-fueled vehicles through subsidies and regulatory compulsion, the uptake rate hardly qualifies as anything other than an indicator of how effective the government is in compelling their population to obey (answer = not very). You also cite cost, but ignore things like land-use and water consumption, both of which are serious problems with regard to sugar-cane. Finally, discussing costs ignores the differential labor costs in Brazil vs the US, which artificially shows Brazilian production to be more efficient when it is actually just leveraging cheaper labor.

            Sugar cane is a very nasty product under the best circumstances, and using it as a fuel only makes the situation worse.

          • CaliforniaStark

            Without sugar cane you would have no rum. Without rum you might not have the United States:

            “The taxation of molasses, which began the estrangement of Britain from its American colonies, had given rum a distinctly revolutionary flavor. But you need not take my word for it. Many years after the British surrender in 1781 and the establishment of the United States of America, Adams, by then one of the country’s founding fathers, wrote to a friend: “I know not why we should blush to confess that molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence. Many great events have proceeded from much smaller causes.”

            The real spirit of 1776, in short, is to be found in a bottle of rum.”

            http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jul/04/opinion/oe-standage4

          • f1b0nacc1

            Indeed so, but lets remember that nobody was suggesting that sugar cane (or rum, its derivative product) was ecologically friendly….

          • CaliforniaStark

            Agree, but if the choice of using it in a country without oil and natural gas exists, it would keep a lot of money in the country that otherwise would go overseas. Of course, Brazil has ample gas and oil resources, but through mismanagement and blatant corrupt has squandered a major potential revenue source.

          • Andrew Allison

            Um, didn’t your argument self-destruct?

          • f1b0nacc1

            Given the energy storage inherent in ethanol, it is almost never a truly useful fuel unless your sole criteria is that it can keep money in the country. Remember that it takes a LOT of energy to grow and process ethanol, not to mention shipping it, storing it, and building engines specifically to be resistant to the it’s corrosive effects. All of this costs extra money too, but it DOES provide wonderful opportunities for graft from well-connected sugar planters and industrial concerns that require sheilding from the world market. On any rational economic basis, it is a straight lose-lose scenario, with a few elites scooping up the benefits, while everyone else pays the price.

            Of course the only thing dumber than cane-based ethanol is high-fructose corn syrup, so I suppose we in the US cannot afford to be TOO smug…

          • CaliforniaStark

            Where there is adequate rainfall, sugarcane as a grass is fairly easy to grow, and one planting can be harvested multiple times. Unlike corn methanol, it can be cost competitive with fossil fuels. It also needs to be remembered that at times the price of oil and natural gas has skyrocketed. It is low now because of fracking in the U.S., but lets not forget one political party in the U.S. supports major limits, if not an outright ban, on fracking.

          • Ike_Kiefer

            EROI and economic competitiveness no better than corn ethanol. The advantages are myths propagated by the Brazilians. They claimed and EROI of 8:1, but when we tried it in USA, we got the 2:1 equivalent to the best scenario corn ethanol. Civilization needs min EROI of 6:1, so no dice. Of course water and land and fertilizer inputs also doom the scenario.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Sugar cane destroys the soil it is grown in (it is hardly unique in this sense, but that is another matter), and though it can be harvested repeatedly, it is still not cheap to produce. The water requirements alone make it useless to grow outside of very limited regions (hence one reason why Brazil loves the stuff), but even their, it requires excessive fertilizer input that make it unprofitable at best.

            As for oil and natgas costs, the genie is out of the bottle there now, and those prices aren’t likely to rise again massively for some time to come. The greenies might love to ban fracking now, but it is practically a political impossibility, as they would be blamed for the excessive price increases if they did so, and that would be the end of that…

          • Ike_Kiefer

            Brazil’s economy is in the toilet. They focused on farming cane ethanol with slash and burn methods using essentially slave labor and filling their skies with smoke from burning the fields to speed the harvest and burning bagasse for distillation energy, and largely missed out on capitalizing on the offshore oil revolution while the prices were high. They many years ago stopped making new cane ethanol refineries, and are now starting to plant corn for ethanol. This is because their cane farming was not sustainable and required constant expansion to new acreage as the soil was depleted. GMO Corn is more receptive to artificial fertilizer. The miracle of cane sugar ethanol was a lie and it is now being exposed. Trouble is, corn ethanol is also a lie. But you can’t fool thermodynamics.

          • f1b0nacc1

            I hope that you aren’t expecting me to disagree with you…

          • Ike_Kiefer

            Nope. I upvoted you above. Just piling on. 🙂

    • Blackbeard

      Ordinary household solid waste for one. Very widely used in Europe and the more affluent countries in the Far East but the Greens hate it so it’s dying out here. Here’s the last such project I worked on before I retired:

      http://www.swa.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Renewable-Energy-Facility-2-11

      • Andrew Allison

        Thank you. Although the subject of this thread is biofuel, not electricity generation, it’s an interesting link. What’s missing, but which you can hopefully provide, is the cost (including the $672 million cost of the facility) of the electricity produced.

        • Blackbeard

          Your question was about biofuels and MSW (municipal solid waste) is a biofuel or largely one. Per the USEPA it is considered about 65% biofuel.

          As for the cost of the electricity, that’s really not the right way to look at plants like this. The purpose of the Palm Beach facility, and others like it, is waste disposal. Unlike a fossil fuel power plant, where the operator buys the fuel, here waste generators pay to dispose of their waste. The facility gains revenue from waste disposal, from the sale of electricity, and from the save of recyclable materials recovered from the waste. As an electrical generating facility alone you could never get to break even but considering the other revenue streams it provides a cost effective waste disposal alternative.

          • Andrew Allison

            Sorry but biofuel in the context of this thread, is a liquid which goes into a tank to propel a vehicle. Believe it or not, having in a previous life had to deal with the disposal of solid waste, I did give thought to the issue of solid waste disposal. The question remains, what’s the cost-effectiveness of doing what we’ve always done with it (landfill) versus spending $672 million for an incinerator (and whatever it costs to operate)? Just to be clear, I understand the waste-stream benefits of incineration but the question remains, is it smart.

          • Blackbeard

            OK, I didn’t understand that you were using a narrow definition of biofuel here. As for the cost-effectiveness of waste-to-energy (In the field we avoid the term incineration as that refers to an older technology without energy recovery.) the way to think about that is what is the net cost of solid waste disposal (capital plus O&M less energy and material sales) versus the alternative, which, as you say is usually landfill. Since populous, wealthy jurisdictions, which is where these facilities usually get built, often don’t what a landfill at any cost the cost of landfill will include the transport cost, often for hundreds of miles.

            Having said all that I’m afraid the answer is, “It depends.” For New York City for example, the cost of landfill, since they have to go to Ohio and Virginia to landfill, runs around $150 a ton. A local WTE facility could easily beat that price but, for political reasons, a WTE facility cannot be built in NYC. In other areas landfill might be cheaper but decision makers are often concerned about more than just cost, such as the negative environmental externalities of hauling waste for hundreds of miles and the loss of control inherent is using a landfill far away and other which you have no control.

          • Andrew Allison

            I agree.

          • Ike_Kiefer

            The EPA is so desperate for biofuel that they have made unscientific declarations and loosened rules to bring questionable feedstocks under the “renewable” and RIN elibigle umbrella. Most egregious is their unilateral declaration that landfill gas is cellulosic. A step even beyond that is their declaration that the output of any process that takes in 75% cellulosic material is “cellulosic biofuel.” There is no requirement that any of the cellulosic inputs participate in the reaction or end up in the product. This is not only unscientific, but it violates Congressional language in the 2005 and 2007 Acts that established RFS. Quad County Corn Processors are reprocessing their one-pass corn kernels a second time using enzymes that are only good for starch and cannot break down cellulose, yet they are earning cellulosic RINs. Allowing waste handlers to essentially self-declare the fraction of their MSW that is biological in origin, and assuming that much of that mass of watery banana peels or unburnable egg shells is what is contributing to any heat and power outputs achieved is completely irresponsible.

  • Blackbeard

    Cellulosic ethanol has been the next big thing for some twenty years now and the federal law requiring refiners to blend in ever increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline was based upon the assurance, from all the very best scientific minds around, that it was just around the corner. Today, to the best of my knowledge, there is not even one successful large scale cellulosic ethanol plant anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, Iowa produces a lot of corn and Iowa holds the earliest presidential primary, so neither party is willing to change the law.

    • rheddles

      Sounds like fusion. Always 20 years away. In software development we called this constant time to completion.

      • Andrew Allison

        Love it! My own favorite is mirage — something which remains a constant distance away from the observer. In addition to peak oil, the long-awaited Brazilian and African economic miracles come to mind

        • Isaiah6020

          Or the granddaddy of them all, an American President with a plan for Middle East peace. I’ve seen this mirage play out in real time over quarter century. Are we any closer to peace now? Perhaps. But that is due to Israel-Suni alliance, not because of any Middle East conference.

      • Isaiah6020

        I know. Do you think they will so it eventually or is this the philosopher stone of our time?

    • f1b0nacc1

      Remember though, in 2016 Ted Cruz called for an end to the ethanol standard and WON the Iowa primary….perhaps times are changing?

  • LarryD

    I’ll point out that “Agricultural waste” is otherwise known as “silage”, and is used for animal feed. So much so, that farmers build fairly large structures (called “silos”) to store it. And in the old tillage system, it was plowed under, contributing nutrients to the soil.

    City Mice, *harrumph*

  • Erocker

    I think that the corn ethanol mandate has damaged the efforts going forward in government assistance for renewable power. The sooner this awful program ends the better for all of us.

  • Ike_Kiefer

    Sorry, but all liquid biofuels made from cultivated crops are horrible for a host of reasons. The cellulosic pathways are the worst in many respects, the most fundamental of which is that they have a huge negative energy balance — more energy is input to make them than they release as combustion energy output. This is not because of the energy required to grow them as much as the energy to break down and convert the solids of cellulose and lignin (very durable, strongly bonded sugar polymers) into the liquids of marginal fuels (alcohols) or premium fuels (pure hydrocarbons). With the highest yields achievable by modern, intensive cultivation and processing, it would take more than 700 million acres of land to produce enough ethanol to power the nations highway vehicles (3 times all the farmland currently producing crops and more than all the forest land in the lower 48 states). And all that farming and fertilizing and processing and shipping would consume much more diesel and gasoline and natural gas and power grid energy than would exist in the finished fuel, and produce a huge waste stream of nitrate runoff and agri-chemical groundwater pollution and soil erosion. To power modern civilization with all its overhead costs, we need not just a marginal positive energy balance from our fuels, but an Energy Return On Investment (EROI) of greater than 6 to 1. We are fortunate to have historically gotten many times that from oil & gas, coal, hydro, and nuclear; but get much less than that ratio from wind, solar, biodiesel, bioethanol, or other exotic approaches with GMO crops or algae. The water consumption requirements for biofuels are also hundreds of times higher per unit of energy than the oil & gas lifecycle including the water used for enhanced oil recovery and fracking, and our aquifers could not sustain biofuels production at such scales. For a detailed treatment of the subject, see http://wici.ca/new/resources/occasional-papers/#no.4 .

    • Sodakbull

      No one is saying to replace all fossil fuels with bio fuels, but corn based ethanol does provide a good source of cheap octane as an additive for the liquid fuel market. .. Yes cellulosic ethanol is a long ways away from being economical if it ever, but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      • Ike_Kiefer

        Sorry, but ethanol is a bad idea for octane booster as well. There is no need for tetra-ethyl lead, MTBE, methanol, or ethanol. Instead of adding any of these, refineries could simply blend back into their gasoline formula fractions of butane, iso-butane, pentanes, and aromatics that are currently discarded to make room for the mandated ethanol. If they left them in when adding ethanol, the fuel would bust the EPA’s Reid vapor pressure limit designed to limit smog. Interestingly, EPA has written itself a standing waiver for ethanol to bust this limit, so we know that there are political forces at work at EPA that are greater than their duty to reduce air pollution.

        Also, there is no energy or power boost for passenger vehicles with increased octane rating, despite many false claims to the contrary. Octane rating (Pump Octane Number (PON) aka “anti-knock index” (AKI)) is simply a measure of resistance to ignition from compression. The petroleum octane boosters named above have appreciably the same energy density as gasoline overall, so using them does not change the MPG content of the fuel. Octane rating can also be boosted by mixing water with gas (usually accomplished as water injection at carburetor or cylinder). Water has no energy content, so water injection considerably reduces MPG, but its cooling and anti-knock effects allow specially designed aircraft or hot-rod engines to temporarily be run with higher fuel flows and higher chamber pressures for bursts of higher absolute horsepower at much reduced fuel efficiency. Ethanol has only 2/3 of the energy content of gasoline per gallon, and some of the cooling properties of water, so it fits between petroleum and water octane boosters. E10 gas mileage is reduced by about 3%, while E85 gas mileage is about 28% lower than straight gasoline. For an engine capable of dynamically measuring fuel octane rating and also able to dynamically change its compression ratio in response, octane number would be a factor in horsepower. But since mass-produced gasoline engines are all fixed-compression ratio, there is no benefit to using a fuel with an octane number greater than the design point of the engine. And ethanol’s octane boosting abilities are more limited than commonly reported. E10 octane is only boosted by ethanol to 2-3 PON over straight gasoline, and E-85 octane rating is only 94-96 PON, not the 102 or higher often claimed.

        When you compare the current or historical rack (wholesale) prices of E10 and E85 to E0 straight gasoline, you will find that ethanol has never been cheaper than gasoline per unit of energy or mile traveled, despite all the crop program subsidies and VEETC tax credits and RIN blending credits and state mandates. Pump retail prices converted to equivalent energy also reflect this disparity, and are reported quarterly by DOE ( http://www.afdc.energy.gov/publications/search/keyword/?q=alternative%20fuel%20price%20report ).

        E10 compared to straight gasoline:
        no power boost: 3% lower MPG: costs about 20 cent/gal more corrected for energy content: holds 27 times more water in solution: is electrically conductive, greatly accelerates corrosion of metal components, also corrosive of plastic, polymer, rubber, fiberglass, contains oxygen which does not belong in a fuel tank because it causes “oxidative instability” of hydrocarbons that turns them into polymer gels and pastes that block filters. The negative attributes of ethanol are why it is absolutely prohibited in the nation’s oil pipelines and aircraft fuel. The National Academy of Sciences has found and the EPA has admitted that adding ethanol to gasoline has increased air pollution of particulates, ozone, and volatile organics, and is causing the premature death of about 248 Americans per year compared to straight gasoline. Pretty amazing that the federal government can enact a policy they know is killing Americans. Oh, and RFS has also increased greenhouse gas emissions by 21-33% over straight gasoline.

      • Ike_Kiefer

        Sorry, but ethanol is a bad idea for octane booster as well. There is no need for tetra-ethyl lead, MTBE, methanol, or ethanol. Instead of adding any of these, refineries could simply blend back into their gasoline formula fractions of butane, iso-butane, pentanes, and aromatics that are currently discarded to make room for the mandated ethanol. If they left them in when adding ethanol, the fuel would bust the EPA’s Reid vapor pressure limit designed to limit smog. Interestingly, EPA has written itself a standing waiver for ethanol to bust this limit, so we know that there are political forces at work at EPA that are greater than their duty to reduce air pollution.

        Also, there is no energy or power boost for passenger vehicles with increased octane rating, despite many false claims to the contrary. Octane rating (Pump Octane Number (PON) aka “anti-knock index” (AKI)) is simply a measure of resistance to ignition from compression. The petroleum octane boosters named above have appreciably the same energy density as gasoline overall, so using them does not change the MPG content of the fuel. Octane rating can also be boosted by mixing water with gas (usually accomplished as water injection at carburetor or cylinder). Water has no energy content, so water injection considerably reduces MPG, but its cooling and anti-knock effects allow specially designed aircraft or hot-rod engines to temporarily be run with higher fuel flows and higher chamber pressures for bursts of higher absolute horsepower at much reduced fuel efficiency. Ethanol has only 2/3 of the energy content of gasoline per gallon, and some of the cooling properties of water, so it fits between petroleum and water octane boosters. E10 gas mileage is reduced by about 3%, while E85 gas mileage is about 28% lower than straight gasoline. For an engine capable of dynamically measuring fuel octane rating and also able to dynamically change its compression ratio in response, octane number would be a factor in horsepower. But since mass-produced gasoline engines are all fixed-compression ratio, there is no benefit to using a fuel with an octane number greater than the design point of the engine. And ethanol’s octane boosting abilities are more limited than commonly reported. E10 octane is only boosted by ethanol to 2-3 PON over straight gasoline, and E-85 octane rating is only 94-96 PON, not the 102 or higher often claimed.

        When you compare the current or historical rack (wholesale) prices of E10 and E85 to E0 straight gasoline, you will find that ethanol has never been cheaper than gasoline per unit of energy or mile traveled, despite all the crop program subsidies and VEETC tax credits and RIN blending credits and state mandates. Pump retail prices converted to equivalent energy also reflect this disparity, and are reported quarterly by DOE ( http://www.afdc.energy.gov/publications/search/keyword/?q=alternative%20fuel%20price%20report ).

        E10 compared to straight gasoline:
        – no power boost
        – 3% lower MPG
        – costs about 20 cent/gal more corrected for energy content
        – holds 27 times more water in solution
        – is electrically conductive, greatly accelerating corrosion of metal components
        – also corrosive of plastic, polymer, rubber, fiberglass
        – contains oxygen which does not belong in a fuel tank because it causes “oxidative instability” of hydrocarbons that turns them into polymer gels and pastes that block filters
        – the negative attributes of ethanol are why it is absolutely prohibited in the nation’s oil pipelines and aircraft fuel.
        – The National Academy of Sciences has found and the EPA has admitted that adding ethanol to gasoline has increased air pollution of particulates, ozone, and volatile organics, and is causing the premature death of about 248 Americans per year compared to straight gasoline. Pretty amazing that the federal government can enact a policy they know is killing Americans.
        – Oh, and RFS has also increased greenhouse gas emissions by 21-33% over straight gasoline.

        Conclusion: Ethanol in gasoline is a perversion of the highest order.

      • Ike_Kiefer

        When you compare the current or historical rack (wholesale) prices of E10 and E85 to E0 straight gasoline, you will find that ethanol has never been cheaper than gasoline per unit of energy or mile traveled, despite all the crop program subsidies and VEETC tax credits and RIN blending credits and state mandates. Pump retail prices converted to equivalent energy also reflect this disparity, and are reported quarterly by DOE ( http://www.afdc.energy.gov/publications/search/keyword/?q=alternative%20fuel%20price%20report ).

        E10 compared to straight gasoline:
        – no power boost
        – 3% lower MPG
        – costs about 20 cent/gal more corrected for energy content
        – holds 27 times more water in solution
        – is electrically conductive, greatly accelerating corrosion of metal components
        – also corrosive of plastic, polymer, rubber, fiberglass
        – contains oxygen which does not belong in a fuel tank because it causes “oxidative instability” of hydrocarbons that turns them into polymer gels and pastes that block filters
        – the negative attributes of ethanol are why it is absolutely prohibited in the nation’s oil pipelines and aircraft fuel.
        – The National Academy of Sciences has found and the EPA has admitted that adding ethanol to gasoline has increased air pollution of particulates, ozone, and volatile organics, and is causing the premature death of about 248 Americans per year compared to straight gasoline. Pretty amazing that the federal government can enact a policy they know is killing Americans.
        – Oh, and RFS has also increased greenhouse gas emissions by 21-33% over straight gasoline.

        Conclusion: Ethanol in gasoline is a perversion of the highest order.

  • david russell

    Cellulosic ethanol?!!! That’s unicorn territory.

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