By on November 1, 2010

Last week, I reported on my decision to use E85 fuel in my 2009 Town Car for a week or so. How’d it go? Well, as it so happened, I accidentally veered off the road while texting and killed a

pretty solid “sexting” session with one of automotive journalism’s most prominent, and beautiful, distaff contributors. (I apologize for the placement of the “jump” there, but I’ve been told to “get my clicks up” or something to that effect.) Back to the math.

In the original article, I indicated that my “target mileage” to break even with E85 usage was 17.8mpg, based on my gasoline mileage of 21.4 average and the $2.29/$2.79 pricing of E85 and 87 octane fuel. The first tank was very promising; I averaged 18.1mpg with no difficulty.

The second tank was still $2.29, but gasoline was $2.63. This made my target mileage 18.6mpg, but from the moment I refilled the mileage began dropping precipitously, eventually settling at 16.4. Worse yet, twice during my morning commute I noticed a low-speed stumble. Was it because I had fuelled up at a different E85 station?

Over the course of the first 28.5 gallons, I averaged 16.4 mpg total. My third fillup, still priced at $2.29 but this time facing a gasoline price of $2.87, came just as temperatures in Ohio fell to the 45-degree Fahrenheit range. A Halloween weekend of serving as a designated-driver taxi for some female friends found me pulling into my driveway at 3:05AM, having burned thirteen more gallons and lowered my overall mileage to 15.7. There was a persistent smell of alcohol in the car, but this turned out to be due to the “to-go cup” of Abolut Apeach that somebody spilled down her costume. It turns out there was no cotton between her and the seat to absorb the drink, but I’m told that vodka can sterilize almost anything, including corrected-grain leather.

Today’s commute, done with the windows down just in case I got pulled over by the Ohio Highway Patrol, raised the average back to 15.9 and burned all but a gallon or so of fuel. I’m now sitting in a corporate cafeteria doing the math. A rough total of 42.5 gallons, purchased for $97, carried me approximately 675 miles. Assuming there would have been negative temperature effect for using standard gasoline, something of which I am not completely certain, I would have needed 31.5 gallons of gasoline to cover the same distance. Averaging out the cost of gasoline over the past eight days, I would be looking at about $87.

This is the kind of sample size and scientific methodology that probably makes Michael Karesh vomit directly into his pocket protector, but if you want some genuine, peer-reviewed literature, I suggest you read Social Text. The raw numbers indicate that it cost me ten bucks to run E85.

The intangibles aren’t as clear-cut. Using E85 decreases my range, shortens my refuel interval, and possibly causes the Townie to be a bit upset in the mornings. On the other hand, it raises the price of food, and I’m told that’s about all this country exports nowadays, so that’s a positive thing. right?

I’m semi-tempted to keep running the yellow-handle fuel for a week or so more. I will probably go through another 30 gallons or so before I leave for Toronto on Friday for another weekend catastrophe. If I can find an E85 station in Buffalo I might be able to run the Lincoln on corn for my entire trip and purchase no fuel at all in tax-rapacious Ontario.

I will leave the last word to one of my Halloween party pals. When informed that her short-wheelbase limo for the evening was running on alcohol, she frowned for a moment: “What are we going to drink, then, if the car drinks all the good stuff?”

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34 Comments on “Born On The Cob: 680 Miles With E85...”

  • avatar

    Another story busts the laughmeter!!! Thanks for my morning mirth.

  • avatar

    Nice jump placement.

  • avatar

    Wait, I thought all Panthers got 30mpg?

    • 0 avatar

      Plus they never break down and (if they did), they actually pay you to take the spare parts, and you can install them with just a ballpoint pen and some chewed-up juicyfruit.

    • 0 avatar

      Juicy Fruit?

      Oh, wait…

      *grumble* Lucky guess.

      Unless Psar is also being facetious, 30 mpg is imperial units.  But like with anything, YMMV.

      Kinda like with how far I get with my jokes, actually…

  • avatar

    I don’t think I ever thought E85 was to save money… I always thought it was another tool for the Greenies to show the World how conscientious they are at saving us from oil dependence.

    If that’s the case, only 15% of E85 is gasoline. Therefore only about 6.4 gallons. (.15*42.5) was used to travel the 675 miles.

    And anywhere from 28.4 to 31.5 gallons would have been used for regular gas fill-ups. (28.4 assuming 10% ethanol for some scrubby stations).

    I think it is obvious that E85 is not currently as efficient as regular ole unleaded, but it does dramatically decrease the volume of actual gasoline used. 

  • avatar

    “On the other hand, it raises the price of food, and I’m told that’s about all this country exports nowadays, so that’s a positive thing.”
    No, the increased cost of petroleum raises the price of food. We use petroleum to transport the grain, we use petroleum as a component in the fertilzer, we use petroleum to move the finished product (whatever it may be). We have been having bumper crops of corn for the last 4 or 5 years. Thanks to W’s law to raise the amount of ethanol in transportation fuels, even with the increased amount of corn used to make ethanol, we are still growing more corn than we can use. (About two weeks ago, in the local paper there was an article celebrating yet another bumper crop of corn in Western Michigan.) Additionally, the spent grains from the ethanol production is used for cattle feed, among other uses.

  • avatar

    The jump didn’t bother me at all, and even if it had the laugh from “no cotton between her and the seat” and the reference to Karesh/pocket-protector, would have been more than worth it.

    In the old days, less than 85% gasoline invited problems with the saran filters in the tanks, the seals in the fuel-pumps, and lots of other issues…  Multi-fuel vehicles have been running around for years now, so I suspect that these problems are all well-resolved … I’m just wondering at what smaller % of gasoline level these old ones, or newly-discovered ones, will (re)appear.

    • 0 avatar

      One who is a male over the age of 13 concerned in any way by a woman who doesn’t wear panties?
      WTF? Are we being invaded by Taliban believing a twisted perspective on Sharia Law?

  • avatar

    I accidentally veered off the road while texting and killed a

    pretty solid “sexting” session with one of automotive journalism’s most prominent, and beautiful, distaff contributors.

    Good Lord JB, your dick’s going to get you killed.

  • avatar

    f you want some genuine, peer-reviewed literature, I suggest you read Social Text.


  • avatar

    On the other hand, it raises the price of food, and I’m told that’s about all this country exports nowadays, so that’s a positive thing. right?
    If you are a corn producer, then yes.  If you are corn consumer, then no.  Taking part of the corn crop and allocating it to fuel production will necessarily increase the price of all corn based products.  This has hurt poor hispanics that rely on corn meal for their food staples.
    There is no reason to use ethanol in gasoline, other than than the contrivance of government.

  • avatar

    I think Corn Ethanol is a sad, lobby driven boondoggle. It isn’t a solution to anything.

    • 0 avatar


      This what it all comes down to. The powers involeved care nothing more for the environment than Al Gore. It’s all about their investments.
      It’s this simple.
      Follow the money…and it is being transfered from lawyer hand to lawyer hand.
      Most of which are former gov officials now working for some pac.

  • avatar

    Fuel grade corn for cows (moooo) differs from corn used to feed humans.
    Referred to as “feed corn” locals in “corn country” know to grab a few ears from a friendly farmers’ field from those farmers growing corn for human eating knowing the corn destined for cattle feeding isn’t nearly as tasty as human-destined corn.
    Kinda’ akin to midwest “ditch weed” that is sometimes used to extend a pot peddlers’ offering in an effort to increase profit but it doesn’t work too well with today’s high-grade stuff such as the attractive fare exported from the Humboldt area, various in-home output etc.
    A couple decades ago outsiders flocked to the “ditch weed” sources in the midwest where hemp grew bountifully but the practice has declined greatly for various reasons.
    “Ditch weed” is noted for a lack of THC content and generally worthless except for various industrial uses (note that George Washington among others grew the product in the past for rope making, sails for sailing ships, etc.).
    Field corn is similar.
    Though I have not researched the matter I have read a few articles here and there about corn specifically grown that has been specifically genetically altered to maximize ethanol output.
    What does have a proven effect is the acreage (and the water supplies used from ever-declining aquifers) devoted to non-human-used/eaten corn types along with the time/effort/costs/etc. associated with agricultural output whatever the source devoted to fuel creation.
    Other fuel sources have and are receiving attention and taxpayer monies.
    As with so many topics much complexity is involved yet it requires time and effort to poke around and educate ones’ self and the typical articles/essays/reporting in various media is woefully lacking in any type of in-depth reporting due to time constraints, journalist laziness, etc.
    Do not expect any/many definitive answers in any “car magazine” or any unbiased reporting in many trade journals etc.
    The written output of this and that farm journal aimed at corn growers growing “fuel corn” and the ethanol industry will likely shun stories not placing their vested interests in a good light.
    I, the Disgruntled Old Coot, huddled in his shanty awaiting fearful economic times and cries of sorrow and fear from a growing portion of the populace, can see a slight shimmer of a proverbial speck of silver within the clouds enveloping the corn-based fuel infrastructure is if/when imported fuels, of whatever type are depleted or cut-off or whatever negatives MAY await We, the People in the future is that with strict rationing and valiant efforts and wise decision making along with good guidance from those in power positions ethanol MAY be a method of evading abject famine by using crop-based fuels to at least power the USA’s agricultural infrastructure and foodstuff transportation systems from field to foodstuff middlemen to end consumers so as at least a minimal amount of calories of varied types to prevent famine and and a varied amount of food types to provide an assortment of incredible edibles to avoid scurvy, rickets and other diseases that accompany a lack of wholesome foods of the needed variety.
    The requisite vittles now found in the dumpsters must have a source to begin with so, perhaps, in the long-term, that ethanol-based infrastructure may be a “saving grace” for the many herd members who will not have the wealth to rely upon imported foods to provide the needed calories conducive to  a healthy life.
    Maybe not a gustatory delightful menu of foodstuffs but at least one capable of keeping the imbiber healthy and with enough calories floating through the digestive tract to allow one to function in a productive manner.
    Heck…. what with the “obesity epidemic” and the ever-growing diabetes rate perhaps if the USA did suffer some sort of semi-famine-like state the communal health rate could actually improve and the multi-billion dollar savings from reduced medical expenditures will result in a huge benefit amongst the wallowing grovelling ill-educated brainwashed herd.

    • 0 avatar

      Economists call this substitution.  Instead of growing corn for humans, farmers grow corn for other purposes.
      We really could use less corn in our diet, though.

    • 0 avatar

      What on earth are you talking about?  You’re saying that feed corn is okay to use in ethanol because it’s not the same as corn we eat?  (I’m assuming you mean sweet corn.)  Because it’s used to feed cows?  What do you think the cows are for?
      It says something about the arrogance of a nation that, despite gorging itself, grows an excess of food (by the good fortune of geography and the weather) and, instead of feeding the hungry, we burn it in our cars.  In order to avoid importing oil?

    • 0 avatar

      Economists also love to speak of “Opportunity Cost” …

      If the incentive is right, an acre of land will be put to use growing corn for ADM and its ethanol project … and this land, assuming it is suitable, which might otherwise be used to grow a different staple crop will be unavailable to grow that other staple crop. 

      Thus, if enough land, formerly used to grow the other staple crop, is given over to growing corn, the cost of the other staple crop will be likely to increase as scarcity of the other staple crop also increases.

    • 0 avatar

      In a steam powered car you could shovel the taxpayer monies right into the firebox and cut out the middleman.

  • avatar

    Leave it to Baruth to make a story about fuel mileage entertaining.  The Karesh line was hilarious!

  • avatar

    Corn ethanol is a gubmint-sponsored sop to the greenies, ADM et al, and the farm lobby.  If you know anything about mixing ethanol production, grain markets, and politics, know this: you’re getting screwed, AND footing the bill.  I’ll spare you all the details about how & why corn ethanol is no friend of the environment or the economy.  It’s long and boring.
    It’s a terrible motor fuel on almost every level (economic, environmental, logistical, btu content, etc.) except for one: political.  It feeds the same need in all those smug greenies and know-nothing urbanites driving around in their Priuses.  What it lacks in common- and economic sense it makes up for in moralistic superiority.
    Least encouraging is the push towards a 15% mandate (from 10%) for ethanol in gasoline.  Your car won’t like it.  Your environment won’t like it.  And your wallet won’t like it.  But your hemp-skirted dandelion-eating neighbors will love it, so at least there’s that.

  • avatar

    JB, run this same test in a Volt, and then MK (as well as all the B&B) will really barf on your Baruthian mathematics.  And therefore your ‘click count’ will certainly increase.

  • avatar

    WOW!!!  Whaddya know!  You go roughly 30% MPG….exactly about how many fewer BTUs are in E85 compared to gasoline….

  • avatar

    Okay…. anuddah aspect as already mentioned but with a real-world exampled.
    Numerous tax breaks given to Cargill Corp, a privately-owned firm, to build a ethanol plant outside Blair, Nebraska and with infrastructure paid for by local taxpayers, etc.
    Despite numerous multiple studies from many sources indicating the long-term benefits to local taxpayers are NEVER recouped when ALL the costs are added and compared to the most long-term gains.
    Admittedly, it CAN be so very complex comparing ALL costs and benefits since not all costs are easily ascertained nor are all benefits.
    One cost that began shortly after construction began was the rise of local housing prices as outside Cargill employees arrived to construct and continue working at the plant.
    As employees were hired locally and locales from outside the area, the influx of higher-than-the-norm locally paid folks felt the impact of existing homes rising in price along with the property tax rates for those houses.
    There was an outflow of people, some making payments and some with paid-off homes who could no longer afford the higher property tax.
    In a state where it is not unheard of for a small 100-year-old 700 square foot nothing special ex-farm house to rate a near-$1,500 yearly property tax many of the typical low-wage-earning residents to be forced out of their homes (high property taxes forced me to leave the state. The only places I could afford to buy a shanty was in the heart of the crime-ridden area where shootings and murders along with lesser crimes were very common and a Gringo/Cracker such as I would be an obvious target….. that IS reality you who are secure in your gated communities and unaware of reality for too many USA denizens.
    Another negative aspect in Blair are the hundreds of semi-trucks traversing the main street in the main business district daily.
    One child killed so far under a semi-s wheels and Main Street firms going out of business due to constant BIG rig traffic and noise and the negatives of semis passing by close to your parked vehicle, splashed water from puddles, snow and slush tossed upon passers-by and other negatives.
    Hundreds-of-thousands of taxpayer dollars spent for downtown “improvements” for naught. People stopped visiting to shop, dine, visit professional services etc due to truck traffic.
    Discounted is the unknown cost of frequent repairs to the roadway due to the MANY trucks passing upon the road, far more than ever before. A constant flood of trucks, night and day, from at least 200-300 miles radius from Blair.
    Quality of life? Greatly reduced.
    Housing? Sent beyond the reach of too many who could once afford to live there.
    Noxious smells from the plant? When the blows the wrong way another quality of life reducer. For rural folks downwind where the wind predominantly blows? Pew!!!!
    Blair is no longer what it used to be but the entrenched power and wealth structure would not nor could not be stopped.
    I noted the MANY lies and half-truths and omission of conveying reality to a citizenry of mainly very conservative all-American “America is NUMBER ONE”  brainwashed sheep so easily led via via rhetoric to OBEY, to do their patriotic duty and support BIG business and assist in making the USA STRONG!!!! by freeing us from those dern feriners’ oil and other obvious to even slightly educated/informed people that is was merely yet another wealth and power grab with the local common taxpayers pay the highest economic cost with little economic return and if ALL the actual costs were lumped together i doubt that the local folks will never experience a return on their “investment.”
    But, it IS the all-American way to do things!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “With U.S. farmers now enjoying the best corn prices in two years amid worries about world crop failures, the plant is also a prime example of how demand for crops to replace petroleum-based products is not just enticing Wall Street but benefiting hard-hit rural economies.”

    Benefit who? Several Cargill mentions at the site. “DO a Google” if interested but good luck finding “reality” out in the land where the locals are not of the ilk to think or behave in an “unAmerican manner” (read to not think as instructed to by their economic and political masters???

    Oh, local private college to close and I would not be at all surprised that at least part of the reason was the BIG increase in off-campus living costs for students who could not afford the cost of on-campus living.

    Okay, enough. If anybody is interested or bored feel free to use various search terms using the ample number of key-words provided in this posting.

  • avatar

    Jack, this is epic stuff. the title is hilarious, and the methodology is very representative of how normal people calculate the difference between the two fuels…

  • avatar

    Wow. I can do 675 miles on 15 gallons of diesel and there’s no corn involved!
    And if you’re in Ontario, don’t use the yellow handle without making sure what it is first. Yellow handles are sometimes diesel. The Town Car probably wouldn’t approve of that.

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