Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ethanol is Evil

I think it is time to end the ethanol experiment. It has been a total failure. Yes, it sounds earthy and like it’s good for agriculture and for lessening our foreign oil purchases. The fact is that it takes farm land out of food production and turns it into a non rotation agricultural strip mine.

A few years ago it took a gallon and a half of fossil fuels to produce one gallon of ethanol. Now that ratio has improved a bit where it takes one gallon of fossil fuel to produce a gallon and a quarter of ethanol. Though the ratio is better it is still not worth the end product.

A big problem with ethanol being added to gasoline is that it harms the fuel systems in cars and equipment. The problem becomes a real big problem with small infrequently use small equipment, like gas powered chain saws and string trimmers. The local John Deere dealer in my area will no longer guarantee any equipment that uses an ethanol blend gas, but in Oregon it is mandated by the Federal Policy Act of 2005 that all gasoline contain 10% ethanol. We can not buy pure gasoline any more and there are no additives to remove ethanol. We are basically screwed by a law that is going to ruin our equipment.

A number of years ago they sold a gasoline/ethanol mix in Portland during the winter months. At that time I was driving a car with aluminum fuel lines. Every time I filed up in Portland I’d have to go through two tanks of local gas before my power returned to my car.

Just the other day I finally got my 2 year old Stihl string trimmer started, but I couldn’t keep it running. I thought about it and realized it is probably the 10% ethanol in my fuel that screwed me. Now I know that I must run all the fuel through the system and store it dry. This goes for my trimmer, chainsaw, and generator.

The ethanol experiment has been a miserable failure and I’m sure the ethanol lobby will be much stronger than the voice of the American people who are now just waking up to this fact. If the ethanol industry wants to continue poisoning our equipment, they should at least pay form our retrofits and upgrades or at least give us the opportunity to have a choice to not use their products when we choose not to.


Blogger Beth said...

Yet another educational (for me) post. I didn't know that ethanol mixed with gas harms fuel systems.

4:54 AM  
Blogger weese said...

I agree. When I first heard about this whole ..running cars on corn thing way back when, my first concern was ...uh... does anyone realize how many cars there are - and how much corn that would take. Anyone crunchin' numbers here?
Do they mix ethanol with gas here I wonder? I got tired of all my little engines gunking up.
So, while we still have the lawn tractor- we trim with a reel mower, battery string trimmer, and I bought an electric chainsaw last year (keeping in mind I don't do alot of tree work).

5:02 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Cliff has ALWAYS refused to use ethanol. I don't know what he'd do if he didn't have any choice in the matter. That's awful.

5:50 AM  
Blogger loopymamain06 said...

We can get some "nasty" cold weather here in michigan( gets to -60 )
Those fuels coagulate in the cold.
da loop

6:31 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Beth, mostly in older cars.

Weese, I have an electric saw as well. It's come in real handy on remodeling jobs when you need to cut a lot of stuff that most saws won't aren't shaped right to cut. It's a lot quicker than a sawsall.

Donna, check with your local station to see if it has been mandated for your area. I know there are some federal regulations around it. You could probably find out on the net as well.

Loop, we don't have the cold here, but we do have the moisture that ethanol just sucks out of the atmosphere.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Zoe said...

I could not agree with you more. I don't understand the approaches we are taking towards alternative fuel sources, or why the real solutions aren't being funded. Politics and money.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous g said...

Well said Guy.
The problem is the technology is in beta stage and they are trying to release it as a stable version.

Kind of like Windows.

6:27 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Zoe & G, I'm thinking Natural Gas, Wind and Solar, though solar is still in beta as well. These are things that just happen and need no refinement or elaborate processes.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Onemuleteam said...

I am going to have to respectfully disagree.

Asking ethanol to immediately solve our energy problems or to be a fully developed technology out of the gate is too much to ask. We didn't reach this point overnight and won't solve the oil crisis quickly or easily.

Ethanol is probably not the ultimate but rather incremental step and its value may be as much symbolic as practical giving people the idea that something can be done. IN the future it may become a part of a responsible energy policy.

Does current ethanol production methods have problems? Of course it does but I just don't see the value in completely torpedoing the technology before it even has a chance to develop. Just my opinion but I think you are suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater. caveat: Foodstock ethanol is not a good idea. Sugarcane would be ok as celluosic ethanol technology advances.

Ethanol does not coagulate in the cold--what happens to Vodka in the freezer? It also does no harm to fuel systems provided they are designed to handle ethanol. Rough running is caused as the ethanol causing accumulated gunk to dislodge potentially causing rough running as well as being hydrophili--it will collect water already accumulated in your fuel system and pass it through the engine. These problems are temporary. I've ran my Dodge Ram 1500 with E10 for over a year without a single issue.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous g said...

I like things that explode myself.

Yep, natural gas it is. Don't be askeered.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

It's also possible to build small engines that run very well on ethanol (I believe Indy car and other open-wheeled racing series' vehicles use ethanol or a methanol/ethanol blend, and I used to have a model plane that burned some kind of alchohol). So the problem is as much with John Deere as it is with the ethanol lobby. We're going to have to move away from petroleum-based fuels eventually, so we might as well start commercially producing engines that can handle it.

That said, I agree completely that it's insane to be wasting food crops on fuel, especially fuel that has such poor energy return for the fossil fuel investment (virtually all of the fertilizers and pesticides used in industrial agriculture come from... oil! To say nothing of the diesel used in the tractors and combines, and transporting the grain).

If we want the things ethanol supposedly promises, we need to be developing technology to use other biofuels. Even sugarcane-derived ethanol would be more energy-efficient than corn, and better still would be the (still being researched) production of ethanol from agricultural waste (corn husks & stalks, wheat straw, etc.) Methanol would be the obvious answer (it's easily derived from low-sugar-content organic matter) but it is so hydrophilic it is even worse for normal engines than ethanol.

Maybe we should start using horses more (again), at least for local transportation. No fossil fuels involved there! I suppose there are still some waste issues to be considered, but at least that's biodegradable.

7:40 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Waste issues, you bet, Frank. We have horses. I think it would be cool to see hitching posts in town again. Also, they produce a lot of natural gas.

One mule, it just seems that if one has to refit older equipment one might as well refit for NG. I haven't had a problem with my truck yet, but my old Geo couldn't take it.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

If we went back to horse power again, we'd have to hang horse thieves. How easy would it be for some meth freak to steal a pony? They need to develop "The Club" for horse owners.

1:35 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

That's easy, you just bring the ones that kick and bite to town ; )

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but in Oregon it is mandated by the Federal Policy Act of 2005 that all gasoline contain 10% ethanol."

Ethanol (E10) in Oregon is not mandated by the Federal Policy Act of 2005, it is mandated by Oregon law HB-2210. It wouldn't make any difference though, the 2007 Federal RFS mandate will now force all states to go E10. Since Oregon has its own mandatory E10 law, there are exceptions for aircraft, watercraft, antique cars, 2 cycle engines, certain ATVs and racing cars under a new state law SB-1079, but you have to find an outlet that sells SB-1079 fuel, not easy to do. Supposedly the Oregon State Marine Board web site has a list here:

Be advised that you have to view both the table of updates and the link above the table:

Non-Blended Gasoline Distributors and Retailers

If you want information on how HB-2210 got through the Oregon legislature, see:

Regards -- Dean

3:52 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Thanks, Dean!

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would jsut like to say that ethanol is not a new thing that just appeared overnight in our gas tanks. All gasoline that has been pumped since 1978 has had atleast 10% ethanol in it. this is mandated by the federal government, also the fuel additives that are used to make for a cleaner burning fuel system all have ethanol in them. Although there are some flaws with the system that is no reason to completely 86 it. if that is the way in which we are to think then the entire american government must also be thrown out the window for its flaws (going to extremes doesn't fix anything). Nobody is expecting all cars to run on 100% ethanol but an E85 blend is not out of the question, and with the new technology in car engines coming up, MIT has created a very nice one, the fuel efficieny of vehicles is expected to go up by 30%, and if this takes root then the gas prices will inevitably fall because it will bring America's dependence on foreign energy down and the niche market that everyone wnats in on will become an everyday item so not every farmer or rancher will be looking to cash in on it.

ok i'm done now i just needed to free write onthis for awhile. i have a paper on ehtanol for my english final due in a couple days and i'm having a little writers block. sorry if i offended anyone and hope maybe i helped understand something very very confusing.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh yet another misinformed opinion

FACT we will some day run out of oil/fossil fuels period...Ethanol will never replace it, but it can supplement it. This as well as the new hydrogen fuel cell electric cars that are currently being produced by toyota and concepts cars in the works by every major manufacturer will be the future of the automotive industry! This and alt. fuels will preserve the oil we have left so that in the future we can drive are soon to be outdated/gas guzzling sports and muscle cars on the weekends.

But getting to your points,

The fact is ethanol produces more not less power then gasoline. Its called btu and stoichiometric look them up and you will find out why 14.7/12.5 and 9.8/6.9 afr makes all the difference.

Ethanol does attract moisture but at such low levels(10%) there are little to no ill effects due to moisture.
What most people are having problems with is products that have been neglected for years and rarely maintained. The ethanol acts as a cleaner dislodging any bits of gasoline varnish and causing it to be stuck or sucked were it is not very welcome.

I run E85 or 85% ethenol in my 1997 mitsubishi tuned to run it oem fuel tank, oem fuel lines and oem fuel problems

12:52 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I am not going to buy all new equipment that was designed to run on a fad fuel. The ethanol industry is dying as we speak. The new plant in Clatskanie is closing. Now I would retool if it were convenient to use natural gas.

5:21 AM  

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