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Ethanol in the fuel supply

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This is a followup to a statement in another tread: "A recent story that no one has mentioned was of the Obama Administration’s approval of an increase in the ethanol concentration in the nation’s fuel supply, and how the current program has been a “raging success.” I guess if you consider causing all gasoline powered vehicles and devices endless problems, increasing the cost of both fuel and food, causing people in other countries to starve, and actually using more oil in the production of ethanol than the supposed savings a success then hip hip hooray!"

​There are 3 levels of ethanol in the automobile fuel supply: E10, E15, and E85. The number represents the percentage of ethanol in the fuel. All vehicles in the US are able to use E10 fuel, and only flex-fuel vehicles can use E85. Most vehicle manufacturers have not rated their non flex-fuels vehicles to be able to use E15, although some newer vehicles are entering the market that can.

​The legislation (Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007) was established by Congress (ie. before Obama) and set targets for how much total volume of ethanol in the nations fuel supply, and last year Obama made changes to the legislation that lowered the amount of ethanol below those targets. In May of this year he increased from what he set last year, but still below the 2007 set targets. Note that none of this changes the percent of fuel in the above grades, it is all about total volume.

Ethanol is problematic for many reasons:

  • The fuel will degrade over time. This is generally not a problem for vehicles that are regularly driven, but it does show up in seasonal equipment (lawnmowers, snowblowers, etc.).
  • Ethanol only has about two thirds of the energy ontent of gasoline by volume. The end result is E10 gasoline will have about 3% lower fuel economy than petroleum only gasoline.
  • Ethanol has a high cost of production. Some have argued there is a net loss of energy, while other have argued there is a net gain. The US department of Agriculture shows a 67% gain.
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There are actually many different ethanol blends used/mandated around the world, regardless of what happens in the United States.

Partisan ethanol groups and their lobbyists have run out of gas in the U.S.

Edited by bush_cheney2004
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Ethanol in gas is so very bad for my favourite hobby. I love restoring vintage dirt bikes, especially Motocross bikes. The Ethanol really wreaks havoc on those old engines. Lately I've been riding my 1981 Honda CR125R, whenever I do I try to use gas with as little Ethanol as possible. There are stations that do sell gas with less, or no Ethanol in it. Sadly, the closest to me is about a two hour drive away so I'm stuck putting crap gas in my baby. Of course I could use VP racing fuel but that can be as bad in its own way as Ethanol gas, plus it's about $10.00 a liter. Hopefully we wont see an increase in the Ethanol content, that'll just make life a little harder since I build my bikes to ride, not just show.

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Ethanol as fuel has driven up food prices. Much of the corn acreage in the US is now feeding ethanol production, and the price of corn based products has risen dramatically. This has been well documented for the impact it had on Mexico, because the price of tortillas doubled after the RFS came into being. Feed for animals also got more expensive, so the price of beef and pork rose quickly too.

Ethanol is also not a net CO2 reduction, vs. Gasoline. The energy input to make fertilizer, fuel for machinery, losses in fermentation, etc, and the lower fuel economy (since the heating value of ethanol is low), results in a breakeven, at best, on CO2 emissions. In the US, the RFS is largely a subsidy to corn farmers.

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