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Subsidizing Sabotage

There's a move on to introduce a gasoline blend called "E15" in the US. This is a standard gasoline that is "blended" -- "diluted with" or "cut with" would be a better term -- with 15% ethanol. This, in theory, will cut emissions and reduce our dependency on foreign oil, as the ethanol is domestically-produced. The EPA has approved its use on a limited basis -- which means that, shortly, it will be required to be offered by most gas stations.

And it's yet another triumph of stupid-headed theory over simple reality.

The main limitation will be on engines newer than 2007. And despite the stunning success (sarcasm intended) of "Cash For Clunkers," there are a LOT of older vehicles still on the road. (I drive one of 'em -- Mongo II is an SUV of 20-century vintage.)

Popular Mechanics (not noted for political activism or hysteria) recently did a report on just how useful gasohol is as a fuel -- and it's not pretty. 

The makers of gasoline-powered home and yard equipment are already having enough trouble with the current "E10" blends -- and don't want anything to do with higher levels of ethanol.

And don't even think of bringing up ethanol issues with certain owners of certain older vehicles -- especially BMWs. They'll be more than happy to give you an earful about how methanol corrodes certain key engine components -- and how BMW warranties won't cover damage from too-high methanol levels in gas.

And here in New Hampshire, we know all about federal meddling with gasoline blends "for our own good."  We had a LOT of problems with MTBE leaking out of tanks not designed to hold it and seeping into groundwater, and the government to tell us to not worry about our drinking water smelling and tasting funny as a consequence. And we were far from the only state.

But all that doesn't matter. Ethanol is politically palatable -- more than it's palatable to most cars.Its backers like the subsidies to buy it and use it, farmers like having the new market for their crops, and the green idiots only think about how it burns a skosh cleaner than straight gas.

That it tends to wreck the engines that burn it... well, you can't make omelets without busting a few eggs. And people shouldn't drive such old, inefficient cars or expensive, inefficient cars. Consider it a "sin tax" for those people for their conspicuous consumption and inefficiency.

(Hat tip: Rob Port)


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Comments (20)

Only idiots would burn food... (Below threshold)

Only idiots would burn food stocks as an engine fuel. Not to mention that you burn MORE ethanol to accomplish the same amount of work as 1 gallon of gasoline.

I had to rebuild my lawnmow... (Below threshold)

I had to rebuild my lawnmower and weedeater carburetors this summer due to issues with ethanol blend gas. The ethanol stiffens rubber parts (gaskets, floats, membranes, fuel lines, etc.) which causes them to fail. I was fortunate because I have some mechanical skills and the parts are not expensive. But to have this work done by a shop would have run about $100 per carb.

Always use 100% gas in your small engines, and use fuel stabilizer in anything (like a portable generator or snow blower or garden tiller) that you don't use very often.

Failing to do so can cost you a lot of money.

Isn't fermentation ethanol ... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Isn't fermentation ethanol as fuel a less than break-even proposition thermodynamically?

Distilling a dilute ethanolic solution to obtain the ethanol-water azeotrope requires vast amounts of heat because of all the water (with its high heat of vaporization) that must be boiled off first.

Ethanol from hydration of ethylene is another matter entirely, except that the ethylene comes from...petroleum feedstocks! So no joy there.

"Only idiots would burn foo... (Below threshold)

"Only idiots would burn food stocks as an engine fuel."


JT, I heard the environment... (Below threshold)

JT, I heard the environmentalist groups are now against this gasahol. Another stupid idea from a stupid government. ww

It turns out we aren't givi... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

It turns out we aren't giving enough billions to Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, and other large corn producers - as food prices rise and worldwide shortages loom?

IF ethanol were the answer, or "an" answer, or even part of an answer, we could be importing it cheaply - it is most cleanly and efficiently and environmentally-safely made from sugar, not grain. We don't, because it isn't.

It's not about fuel, energy, or environment. It's about paying off Iowa and the Midwest.

People are basically suckers - they got all mad about TARP, which will all be paid back, but this systematic looting of the Treasury has been going on for decades now, with seldom so much as a peep from the peeps.

"There's a move on to intro... (Below threshold)

"There's a move on to introduce a gasoline blend called 'E15' in the US. This is a standard gasoline that is 'blended' -- 'diluted with' or 'cut with' would be a better term -- with 15% ethanol."

I was in Las Vegas in late November. The car I rented took E15 and many of the gas stations there carried that blend. Although I haven't seen E15 in Illinois or Iowa, it is probably on its way, especially given the pro-ethenol stance of Iowa's Senators Grassley and Harkin, who managed to get a multi-billion dollar ethenol subsidy into the recently passed tax rate continuation/unemployment benefit extension bill.

Not only will is ethanol co... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Not only will is ethanol costly to produce simply the presence of E15 in the market will drive up gas prices at the pump.

As there are currently so 57 different grades of gzasoline used in the US adding blends will decrease the relative market share of each blend. As market share decreases the cost of manufacture per gallon increases as fixed costs of refining are spread across fewer gallons of gas.

Illinois uses 13 different grades of gasoline depending on the air quality of the county in which they are sold (Yes, I will not sport with your intelligence to discuss how it is that air in Illinois is not shared across county lines). Having that many different grades is one reason why Illinois boasts some of the highest gas prices in the nation.

Yeah, Kalifornia is doing a... (Below threshold)

Yeah, Kalifornia is doing all it can "to clean up the air" - which comes from China. Just wait until Kalifornia starts charging you folks back east for all the "clean air" we're sending you.

F Iowa and F Nebraska and F... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

F Iowa and F Nebraska and F the Megafarmers and F anyone else who gets these Corn Welfare subsidies.

The first candidate that promises to end this Cornhole Payoff Scam during the Iowa primary will get my support. I'm sick of every candidate that goes there and panders to them. And the rest of us have to pay for it.

Now they want to screw up our vehicle engines even more? No. Hell no. Most of the country is struggling to get by in the Great Recession and they want to pile expensive repairs on top of everything?

This will be another good test for the incoming Tea Party Congress. Stop the Scam.

Ethanol is bad stuff. None ... (Below threshold)
Paul Hooson:

Ethanol is bad stuff. None of my motorcycles like it. It separates into water and it's bad for the rubber carb parts.

As there are currently s... (Below threshold)

As there are currently so 57 different grades of gzasoline used in the US adding blends will decrease the relative market share of each blend. As market share decreases the cost of manufacture per gallon increases as fixed costs of refining are spread across fewer gallons of gas.

Look at the cost of 100LL aviation gasoline - in a 40 mile circle the LOW is $4.25, with a high of $7.70. It's a relatively niche product, so the cost of producing it gets spread across a smaller customer base. (Of course you could argue that if you could afford a plane, you can afford the gas... leading to the old saying that an airplane is a hole in the sky you throw money into.)

Someone tell me again why we're ignoring the oilfields we have here in the US in favor of throwing wads of money overseas at people who hate us to buy the oil they produce... and THEY control the price of?

You are missing the point. ... (Below threshold)

You are missing the point. Destroying engines is a feature - not a bug. Just think everyone will have to by new cars from GM and Chrysler now.

Ethanol is bad stuff. No... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Ethanol is bad stuff. None of my motorcycles like it. It separates into water

No, it doesn't. Ethanol and water are miscible in all proportions. Ask any bartender.

And if you're referring to combustion products, both hydrocarbons and ethanol produce water on combustion. No difference there.

OTOH, ethanol may damage seals and such, that's entirely possible.

Bottom line: ethanol is for drinking, not for motoring!

"Bottom line: ethanol is... (Below threshold)

"Bottom line: ethanol is for drinking, not for motoring!"

Drill Here, Drill Now - Save The Booze and Drink Later!

This is a give away the new... (Below threshold)

This is a give away the new COngress could destroy. It seems unlikely they will, but it is one measure of common sense versus greed and power.

You're assuming that in my ... (Below threshold)
John S:

You're assuming that in my new Obama reality I will be able to buy a new vehicle. My 20th century truck, bought with Clinton stock bubble dollars, is the last vehicle I will ever buy. Part-time minimum wage jobs don't leave much money for new $40,000 GM products.

There's many good comments ... (Below threshold)

There's many good comments on the destructive effects of E-10 to internal combustion engines.

All true. The fuel injectors on my big ol' Suburban could tell stories.

There's even mention to the sub par thermodynamic properties of burned E-10 compared to E-0 (straight gasoline). IE: it takes more ethanol to get comparable energy VS E-0.

All this spells bad policy, bad economy, and bad sense in big letters which, of course, lead all the way back to bureaucratic demons (republican & democrat) residing in D.C.

Worse, all this corn to fuel B.S. has caused world food prices to sky rocket; working poor and children hardest hit.

Just remember, corn ain't for just tortillas. Corn is an integral food product for live stock all over the world, which effects what you pay for a pound of burger at the butchers.

These warning bells were going off in 2007, and reiterated in 2009 by none other than that blow torch of far right wing hate speech - Huffy Poo.

But, wait. There's more!

As far back as 2002, studies concluded that ethanol was worse for the environment than gasoline.

All I know is that I smell bullsh*t.

Ethanol does for gasoline e... (Below threshold)

Ethanol does for gasoline engines what Barry does for the economic engine. Over hyped benefits that cost dearly and destroy an otherwise working machine.

Two area often overlooked i... (Below threshold)

Two area often overlooked in regards to ethanol in gasoline: boating and aviation.

Ethanol plays havoc in a marine environment, with phase separation being the rule rather than the exception. Over the past two summers I've had to replace the fuel filter/water separator on my boat three or four times each summer because of phase separation. I now have to carry a couple of spare filters and a filter wrench on my boat.

In aviation you will never see an ethanol blend. Why? Because if aircraft start using it the number of accidents and fatalities will climb, as will the number of wrongful death lawsuits. In aircraft, phase separation kills.

One thing we must remember: MBTE and ethanol were added in an effort to reduce emissions on non-fuel injected vehicles (meaning those using carburetors). Neither additive helps with tail-pipe emissions on fuel-injected vehicles. The American motoring public is being sold a 'fix' that doesn't fix anything and being stuck with the bill for the fix and the damage it causes.






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