E85 Boondoggle Of The Day: Burn Baby Burn!

For some time now, firefighters have warned of the challenge of extinguishing ethanol fires. Because ethanol cannot be piped due to its corrosive properties, large quantities are delivered by tanker truck or rail car. Pure ethanol can burn at a temperature as low as 55 degrees F (12.8 degrees C). Even when highly diluted in water ethanol remains flammable at higher temperatures. Since oceanic quantities of water would be required to extinguish a large ethanol fire, special retardant foams are generally used– but not readily available (= hours) to many fire departments. Even with that foam, a big ethanol fire can take days to extinguish; the holding tank often burns to the ground. (At least pure ethanol burns cleanly, leaving behind just water and carbon dioxide.) A NIMBY situation arose this spring in the heart of highly populated Alexandria, VA. (FYI, that’s communist country per First Brother wannabe Joe McCain.) Ethanol rail cars started offloading their cargo back in April 2008, but local fire departments didn’t get the appropriate flame-retardant foam for another month afterwards. There’s lots of finger pointing going on, with the city of Alexandria blaming rail company Norfolk Southern for slipping ethanol shipment in without notification.

Norfolk Southern claims that city officials didn’t communicate properly, and federal law allows railroads to move freight across state lines without much regard to local governments’ say in the matter. Needless to say, this matter has gone to court. So, what to do if you’re involved the unlikely event of an E85 fire? E85 is not as dangerous due to gasoline dilution, the flash point (temperature of combustion) being higher, but too should not be fought with water. Guidelines here suggest chemical extinguishers marked B, C, BC, or ABC.

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  • AJ AJ on Oct 27, 2008

    Think of the carbon footprint of those ethanol fires! Please, someone save the children! Really... unfortunately ethanol is not about solving our energy needs (if so, why the tariffs on cheap sugar-based ethanol from Brazil?). It seems that American ethanol is more about government hand-outs and vote buying in corn growing states (my own included), and as well taking advantage politically of creating higher food prices. Of course with oil prices coming down, it must be those evil oil companies in a plot to keep us all hooked on oil! Again, save the children!

  • Theodore Theodore on Oct 27, 2008

    The article doesn't say that Norfolk Southern is blaming city officials for failure to communicate, it says that city officials are blaming each other and themselves for failure to communicate. The railroad did what it was supposed to - it notified the city of what was going to happen. If the city was slow to take the appropriate precautions, that's on the city. NS should have been checking to make sure the city was doing its job - and they may very well have done so - but NS can't be expected to hold the city's hand, either.

  • 285exp I am quite sure that it is a complete coincidence that they have announced a $7k price increase the same week that the current administration has passed legislation extending the $7k tax credit that was set to expire. Yep, not at all related.
  • Syke Is it possible to switch the pure EV drive on and off? Given the wonderful throttle response of an EV, I could see the desirability of this for a serious off-roader. Run straight ICE to get to your off-roading site, switch over the EV drive during the off-road section, then back to ICE for the road trip back home.
  • ToolGuy Historical Perspective Moment:• First-gen Bronco debuted in MY1966• OJ Simpson Bronco chase was in 1994• 1966 to 1994 = 28 years• 1994 to now = 28 yearsFeel old yet?
  • Ronnie Schreiber From where is all that electricity needed to power an EV transportation system going to come? Ironically, the only EV evangelist that I know of who even mentions the fragile nature of our electrical grid is Elon Musk. None of the politicians pushing EVs go anywhere near it, well, unless they are advocating for unreliable renewables like wind and solar.
  • FreedMike I just don’t see the market here - I think about 1.2% of Jeep drivers are going to be sold on the fuel cost savings here. And the fuel cost savings are pretty minimal, per the EPA: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/PowerSearch.do?action=noform&path=1&year1=2022&year2=2022&make=Jeep&baseModel=Wrangler&srchtyp=ymm&pageno=1&rowLimit=50Annual fuel costs for this vehicle are $2200 and $2750 for the equivalent base turbo-four model. I don’t get it.