By on July 3, 2009

From the High Plains Journal:

Nationally, gas prices have risen nearly every day for the past 42 days. Some analysts expect that a return to $100 oil–and $4 gas–isn’t far behind. But Nebraska drivers are already saving money by filling up with E10.

“Nebraska drivers have already saved over $4.5 million in 2009 by buying E10,” said Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “If all the fuel sold in Nebraska in the past five years was E85, Nebraskans would have saved $2.6 billion.”

Or not.

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28 Comments on “E85 Boondoggle of the Day: Nebraska’s Parallel E85 Universe...”

  • avatar

    And the big question: how much are the taxpayers contributing to Nebraskans’ alleged savings, and why does the High Plains Journal think that Nebraskans are fueling up with anything that’s different from anywhere else in the US, and where is the evidence for savings? (E10 costs me a couple of MPG compared with the pure stuff). I wish I could fuel up with the pure stuff (petrol, not etoh).

  • avatar

    Right, except I would have helped pay for the subsidies that make it affordable. I would rather not have the cost of all that ethanol coming out of my pocket.

    In other words, if it’s so good and affordable I shouldn’t need to help support it anymore. Let’s just eliminate those agricultural subsidies and see how many people are interested in it.

  • avatar

    The article leaves more questions than answers. And the “comment” link seems broken, now (a “David Holzman” left a comment :-) ) but the “recommend” link is still working. Odd how that works out, huh?

  • avatar

    I hold a contrarian opinion on ethanol.

    While E85 really is a boondoggle, E10 and heading higher may well be the most economical available source of high octane feedstock for gasoline as the quality of available crude oil declines.

    I don’t think big agriculture is powerful enough to take 10% of the oil company’s business, with all the hassles in shipping ethanol by tanker cars instead of pipeline, simply as a political sop to ADM and a few midwestern Congressmen.

  • avatar

    The real reason Ford isn’t going Ch. 11… They have a secret project that makes E85 look downright silly.

  • avatar

    Its too bad whoever snapped this picture already selected the E10 Regular. It would have been interesting to see all of the prices for all of the different blends.

  • avatar

    CR reported on the E85 boondoggle Oct 2006.
    My average of their tests is 1.4 gal of E-85 for the same mileage as 1 gallon of gasoline. No basis stated for the state claim of 4.5 mil saved with E-10. No basis not believable. For E85 to match gasoline, compression ratio’s need to be 12 or more.

  • avatar

    Its too bad whoever snapped this picture already selected the E10 Regular. It would have been interesting to see all of the prices for all of the different blends.

    And that’s undoubtedly why they selected E10 before shooting

  • avatar

    By the way, if you click on the link to the High Plains Journal, it’s very easy to leave a comment there, where you won’t be preaching to the choir

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    If we mis-fuel a gasoline car with ethanol, it will show an even greater loss in mileage than can be calculated just from the simple difference in energy content of ethanol vs. gasoline. That’s because the gasoline car’s fuel system and engine are designed, calibrated, and optimized for the energy content and combustion characteristics of gasoline, not ethanol. One example is compression ratio, which can be much higher in a vehicle designed to run on ethanol — this extracts more energy from the fuel, reducing (but usually not eliminating) the mileage deficit.

    Gasoline contains about 115,000 BTU per U.S. gallon, LHV. Ethanol contains about 75,700 BTU per U.S. gallon, LHV. That means ethanol contains about 66% of the energy that gasoline contains.

    E10 — gasoline with 10% ethanol — contains 111,070 BTU per U.S. gallon (3.4% less energy than straight gasoline; 19.3 mpg instead of 20 mpg).

    E15 — gasoline with 15% ethanol — contains 109,105 BTU per U.S. gallon (5.1% less energy than straight gasoline; 19 mpg instead of 20 mpg).

    E85 — ethanol with 15% gasoline — contains 81,595 BTU per U.S. gallon (29% less energy than straight gasoline; 14.1 mpg instead of 20 mpg).

    Let’s plug in some pump prices from last summer and see the effect of E85 upon walletary negative cashflow:

    $2.85/gallon for E85 means $2.85 for 81,595 BTU of energy. That’s $3.49 per 100,000 BTU.

    $4.10/gallon for gasoline means $4.10 for 115,000 BTU of energy. That’s $3.57 per 100,000 BTU.

    The visually enormous difference between $2.85 and $4.10 per gallon, does it actually deliver big savings? No, you’re paying all of six cents less per hundred thousand BTUs by buying E85 instead of gasoline. And that’s without factoring in the cost (in money, time, and nuisance) of the damage being done to a fuel system not designed for high concentrations of alcohol. And don’t forget to add in the additional driving (with attendant exhaust, tire wear, and engine oil consumption) caused by more frequent trips to the gas station — both your trips and the supply trucks’ trips.

    A large Federal study was done of the effects of ethanol-blended gasoline in cars and small engines. They didn’t test cars older than 2001 or so, but the highlights of the findings are pretty revealing: significant loss in fuel economy and small engines ran progressively worse and hotter with increasing ethanol concentration in the fuel. They didn’t see any driveability problems in cars because they didn’t look; they do note no “cold” starting problems when tried as “low” as 50°F. Given those findings, it looks disturbingly like the contradictory conclusion (hooray for ethanol, let’s add more of it to our gasoline!) was prescribed before the “study” was carried out. That’s disappointing, but not terribly surprising given the large and very successful ethanol lobby.

    And burning ethanol doesn’t even reduce car exhaust toxicity, it just changes which toxic chemicals come out of the exhaust pipe.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    E85 has 3/4 the energy density of gasoline. When pure gasoline is $2.80/gal, E85 has to sell for less than $2.10/gal.

  • avatar

    All those options, and still no 93/94 octane?

    What’s a pistonhead to do?

  • avatar

    The High Plains Journal piece is almost certainly an ethanol-industry PR release. It’s relentlessly one-sided.

    Gee, why would there be folks in Nebraska that are all rah-rah about ethanol? Hint: NU’s football team is called the “Cornhuskers.”

    And corncobs aren’t the only things getting shucked.

  • avatar

    Despite my usual posts complaining about the underpowered future of the American automobile, I actually do own an efficient vehicle. A scooter. I have to ride out of my way to fuel it though as ethanol would spell an untimely death (well an expensive trip to the shop anyway). Most places here don’t even mark the pumps as having ethanol in it.

  • avatar
    instant rebate

    If E-85 and whatever is so good, why are we taxpayers subsidizing the corn end of this whole mess? Give me a break!

  • avatar
    instant rebate

    Eliminate the 15% gas that is put into E-85 and I’ll just drink the rest of the corn liquor. Bet I can get more MPG than the rest of you then! Well, maybe not but who cares after a couple jugs of the stuff!

  • avatar

    I live in Omaha, Nebraska. According the the web site, there are only five stations in Omaha that sell E85. I’ve never seen an E85 pump, personally. It’s not like E85 is the fuel of choice here.

    A typical station has regular, premium and E10. At most of them, E10 is ten cents a gallon cheaper than regular. Bigger stations will also have a diesel pump. The station I patronize also has an off road diesel pump with dyed fuel. They sell E10 for the same price as regular so there is no reason at all for me to buy E10.

    I wonder when this photograph was taken. Current prices are in the vicinity of $2.50 per gallon.

  • avatar

    And since we use more to go the same distance, we pay more fuel tax. Oops, they dont want us to know that, do they?! Did I let something out of the bag?

  • avatar

    We have E10(gee thanks, EPA) here in the D/FW Metromess, and I don’t see where it’s saving me any money.

  • avatar

    Saves a great deal of money when they charge about the same for ethanol and gasoline, even though ethanol is ridiculously subsidized, so I’m paying for it whether I buy it or not, and it has less energy content. Man can you smell the savings.

  • avatar

    I live in central NJ and I’ve yet to see an E85 pump anywhere. Contrast that with diesel – every station I go to has at least one diesel pump.

    Gasoline and diesel are fine for the short-term. For the long-term, we should be building nuclear power plants, and subsidizing battery research, not corn farmers.

    By the way, I just went for a ride in a Tesla – wow – unbelievably fun car. Too bad I can’t afford one.


  • avatar

    Several E85 stations popped up in my neighborhood several months ago. When they debuted, regular gas (which is now universally E10 around here) at the E85 station was $1.89 and E85 was $1.49. As of two days ago, E10 was $2.59 and E85 was $2.49.

  • avatar

    So now that regular gas is made with 10-20% ethanol almost everywhere, I saw a station selling “clean diesel” that is 10-20% biodiesel.

    Anyone seen this?

    About a week ago I saw a station that offered diesel or 100% biodiesel….

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Do any of the turbocharged cars make good use of the higher octane provide by E85? Building a variable compression ratio engine is extremely hard, but changing the turbocharger characteristics might provide a path towards optimizing the combustion of E85.

  • avatar

    John Horner: “Do any of the turbocharged cars make good use of the higher octane provide by E85?”

    That’s really a good question; along with direct injection and VVT, a turbo or supercharger could be set up to wring more efficiency from the stuff.

    There must be a technical hurdle that we’re unaware of. (?)

  • avatar

    Do not like.

    At least its honest in that the pump clearly says the gasoline contains ethanol. It annoys me that a lot of gas stations write it in the smallest print possible, but if I can see it before I fill up, I’ll drive to next gas station. Selling E10 gasoline without clearly labeling it as such is one of the most annoying scams I can think of. I refuse to put that crap in my car.

    These hippies piss me off. More filth is emitted into the environment if it takes more fuel to go the same distance.

  • avatar

    As for engines designed to use the (potentially) higher octane of E85:

    As for the Tesla being fun to drive: go try the Lotus doner vehicle … sweet stick shift, better handling (lower weight), makes nice vroom vroom sounds, and half the price. If 0-to-jail acceleration times are your cup of tea, the Mercedes C63 AMG is ahead of the Tesla with room for 4 people and luggage and half the price.

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