A local radio talk show reflected on that shortage recently. Turns out they really said “shortage of corn” and were talking about how dumb it is to make biofuels out of the food on our table.
It’s worse than that.
Using just 10% ethanol-based “gasoline” decreases real world fuel economy by about 7% compared with burning 100% gasoline. (Using 85% ethanol-based fuel decreases real world fuel economy by about 37% compared with burning 100% gasoline. Fuel injection systems in FFVs are built to inject about 40% more fuel.)
Ethanol corrodes the ferrous materials and aluminum it comes in contact with. It eats rubber hoses. It is particularly nasty on some fiberglass fuel tanks in boats.
I reckon that means you get leaks.
That thrills me. Dripping a $4/gallon liquid from my 1980 Keyscar next to a person smoking in a parking lot (because no one can smoke inside anymore) is going to get exciting.
Ethanol doesn’t work with the capacitance-based fuel gauge sensors many auto manufacturers now fit in gas tanks. It causes sparks and increases internal wear in the electric fuel pumps most modern auto manufacturers also fit in gas tanks.
As an aside, doesn’t it seem really really really stupid to put something that makes sparks inside a jar full of high explosives? And they do it on purpose?
Mileage is going down here in the Keys as the Homestead, Florida-based Dion’s Mobil gas station/quick stop chain is now switching to E10 across the board. I think they are the first in Florida to do so. All other fuel distributors in Florida will follow suit.
Dion Oil CEO Sue Banks said she knew of no problems for cars running E10, although there was no cost savings to be had for the switch. She did say the change would cost distribution companies and station owners. Ms. Banks also doesn’t know if the ethanol-based fuels will bump consumer prices.
Swell. I get to pay more for something that corrodes my car, delivers lower mileage, and was promised to us as a way to save money. After all, corn is cheaper than dead dinosaurs.
Ms. Banks said the fuel switch is a mandate by the feds but darn it I can’t find anything to back that up.
For an oil company exec, Ms. Banks seems, um, underinformed.
Fortunately, there are _some_ other peeps noticing the drop in heating value: www.floridastategasprices.com
All this in April, the time we know know as Financial Literacy Month.
Earlier this month, Germany cancelled that nation’s proposed 10% ethanol fuel mandates.
I wonder what Germany knows that we don’t?
EPA has revised its methods for estimating MPG to better represent current real-world driving conditions.
The 2008 C1500 Silverado FFV with a 5.3 liter V8 and automatic transmission is a case in point. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) produce the Fuel Economy Guide. According to the guide, that truck gets 11/15 mpg on E85 but 15/20 mpg on regular unleaded gasoline. Since E85 is supposed to cost less, EPA says that means a $2,768 annual fuel bill on E85 v. $2,849 on plain gas. Of course this is based on 15,000 miles driven on $1.71/gallon E85 or $2.80/gallon gasoline. The Chrysler Sebring Convertible with a 2.7 liter V6 and automatic transmission is rated 13/19 mpg on E85 but 18/26 on regular unleaded gasoline. EPA claims a $2,401 annual fuel bill on $1.71/gallon E85, $100 more than the $2,306 bill with $2.80/gallon gasoline.
Naturally, there is no such thing as $1.71/gallon E85, let alone $2.80/gallon gasoline despite a 54-cent per gallon federal ethanol subsidy. In fact, don’t forget that Ms. Banks might charge more for the ethanol blend than for straight gas.
The Business Week Ethanol: A Tragedy in 3 Acts is good additional reading.