By on September 5, 2014

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The Senate of Brazil has just approved the law permitting that an additional 2.5% of anhydrous ethanol be put into what is sold as gasoline in this country. After an increase in 2013 from the previous 20% limit to 25, now cars will have to adjust to the new limit of 27.5%. Now, gasoline cars, made to run on fuels with much less ethanol content, will now have to perform with as much as 30% of ethanol in their fuel.

This time around, the National Association of Autopropelled Vehicle Makers (Anfavea, which encompasses most car manufacturers present in Brazil) openly criticized the measure. According to Anfavea’s president, Luiz Moan, the government asked for the association’s input and they conducted a study that came back with some rather alarming info,

“Our engineers point out that there will be a 20% increase of aldehyde pollutants emissions and 75% of NOx emissions. We are very worried, because this will reduce clients’ levels of satisfaction and will be a negative for the environment.”

Besides this, Mr. Moan highlighted that even though flex fuel cars are not affected, gasoline only powered cars, which make up 38% of this country’s fleet, estimated at 14.4 million, will have firing issues, corrosion problems in metallic parts in contact with the new fuel and that rubber parts should also suffer and face durability issues. Finally, even flex fuel cars will pay for this at the pump as global consumption for all kinds of cars will increase between 2.5 and 3%.

Seeking some confirmation on this, I called my mechanic. He rubbed his hands and said gasoline powered cars will have all sorts of engine problems as more ethanol would affect metallic parts. People will have to change sparkplugs earlier, fuel pumps, especially electric ones, should start failing forthwith and exhaust pipes will be corroded and in need of changing. As to flex fuel cars he said the newer the better, but even some of them could present problems. According to him, even if more resistant to corrosion, flex fuel car parts also face more problems, especially those related to start up and detonation as these parts do tend to go sooner on cars that use ethanol. However, he did point out that, in general, ethanol is burned more efficiently so problems with sludge formation are minimized. Asked what he recommends he said, “Gasoline always”.

However, more acclaimed engineers and professors disagree. Renato Romio, head of the Motors and Vehicles Division of the respected Brazilian research center Insituto de Tecnologia Mauá said that certainly flex fuel vehicle will handle the increased ethanol content without any problem whatsoever, but that for cars built to run on gasoline, things are not so clear. According to him, there are tolerances built into Brazilian cars for ethanol, but that these have varied over time. He stresses that, “roughly-speaking, there should be no problems”, but he does agree that cars built in the 90s, with electronic injection, could present some functioning problems as well as pollute more on a case by case basis.

Franciso Nigro, considered one of the “fathers” of the ethanol powered car, and today a professor at the renowned Escola Politécnica of the University of São Paulo is even more confident of the capacity of even gasoline cars to run well even with the increased ethanol content. He declares that though the buyer will be buying less energy, this should represent only a 1% drop in consumption levels and that there will be no unwarranted wear on the engines,

“Car makers use materials made to be ethanol resistant and we {Brazilian car makers} have been doing this for a long time. The differences are small and the engines make up for it. Increased consumption is almost imperceptible.”

Echoing the experts’ words, the Sugarcane Industry Union (UNICA, which congregates the whole sugarcane industry chain sector) that proposed the measure to the Ministry of Agriculture back in April, 2014, is all for it. Its president, Elizabeth Farina, seeking sympathy for their cause, appealed to consumers’ wallet,

“Any increase in the mix of ethanol into gasoline means the substitution of a component, pure gasoline that costs R$2.4 per liter at the refinery, by another, anhydrous ethanol sold by the producer for around R$1.5. This difference allows for, potentially, a reduction in the final price of gasoline at the pump.”

According to Ms. Farina, raising the mix to 27.5% is a question of coherence, since the government has been controlling and keeping gasoline prices low at the refinery level (a state company, Petrobras, refines almost all the gasoline in Brazil) and causing the sugarcane sector enormous problems. Always according to UNICA’s president, the increase will end up benefitting Petrobras itself as the artificial squashing of internal gasoline prices under production or importation levels has led to an explosion in gasoline consumption. More ethanol in gasoline would not only help Petrobras control its bottom line, it would also be good for the country of Brazil itself since the country’s trade balance would be helped along staying in the black as there would be no need to spend foreign currency reserves on gasoline.

UNICA claims ethanol’s advantages over gasoline in environmental terms are “widely known and profound”. It points to a University of São Paulo study showing that the better air quality obtained with more ethanol usage leads to less hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, less deaths and costs for public health care. Besides that, the use of ethanol would reduce up to 90% the emissions of climatic change causing gases. UNICA even throws in the EPA into their defense, saying that that number has led the American agency to classify Brazilian biofuel as “advanced” and that Brazilian ethanol is the only worldwide large-scale production operation to earn that grade.

Disputing Anfavea’s numbers, UNICA has their own. According to them aldehyde pollutant emissions will increase by only 15% and 20% in the case of NOx emissions. The sugarcane industry entity argues that any damage from that is far outweighed by ethanol burning cars producing much less of other kinds of pollutants, like sulfur oxides and carcinogenic hydrocarbons like benzene (in direct proportion to the rise in ethanol usage), not to mention carbonic gases, carbon monoxides, different organic hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Finally, UNICA claims cars should experience in consumption of only 1%.

As to the government, the official proponent of the rise, the Ministry of Agriculture, cites the need to balance ethanol production and consumption and the need to continue incentivizing the sugarcane sector because of the creation of technology, jobs, protection of the environment, among other factors. Of course, naysayers affirm this measure contemplates other interests, like the need for the government to control inflation, most especially in an election year.

Depending now just on the authorization of the Minister of Mines and Energy, Brazilians will soon be using more ethanol in their cars, unsure of what the final impact of this decision will be on them directly. Dependent as always on the currents and countercurrents of the big boys’ games, they feel like so much flotsam on a dirty beach.

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60 Comments on “Dispatches do Brazil: Ethanol Levels in Gasoline, Car Killer or Life Saver?...”


  • avatar
    George B

    Marcelo, what percentage water does Brazil allow in vehicle fuel? If I remember correctly, Brazil allows more than the US does for E-10 and E-85. I’d be more concerned with corrosion of metal parts from moisture in the fuel than the effect of additional ethyl alcohol on rubber and plastic parts.

    As a consumer in the US I’d prefer gasoline without ethyl alcohol added. Repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and give consumers the choice not to buy ethyl alcohol in their gasoline.

    • 0 avatar

      According to what I’ve read, the ethanol that goes into gasoline is of the anhydrous kind. In that case it’s 99.3% ethanol and 0.7% water. That is what most major ethanol produces claim they use, though government guidelines admit as much as 1% water in the make up.

      In the pure ethanol used as fuel in Brazil, it’s 96% ethanol and 4% water.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and give consumers the choice not to buy ethyl alcohol in their gasoline.”

      Seconded. Oh, but what about the children!

      • 0 avatar

        That is the question isn’t it, 28?

        I’m on the fence on this one because the land used to grow sugarcane could be used to grow human food for example. As to the climate change problems I tend to think modern cars aren’t that bad. As to the human health issues, those are of course serious and to me is the most pressing question.

        However, there are so many interests behind this and so much obfuscation, it’s hard to see exactly what is right or wrong. Anyway I think that some ethanol in gasoline is in the end a good thing. How much is the question. I also find it highly interesting that Anfavea, the car makers association opposed the increase. Though they could be protecting their own interests as adapting cars to the new reality could mean they need to spend more, I think it’s a revealing attitude.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Sugarcane is 8X more efficient in ethanol production than corn.

          Corn ethanol uses more energy in production than it displaces, so it’s lose lose.

          Even Gore, who cast the tie breaking vote for the above legislation, admits he lied about corn ethanol because he planned to run for prez. Gore now says corn based ethanol is not a good thing.

          • 0 avatar

            Corn at least is better than the sweet beets the Europeans use…

            Even if sugarcane is better than corn, it still loses as gasoline is cheaper. Seems that the next wave could really turn this around. All over the world, but here too, lots of research is being done to make the by products of ethanol industrialization produce ethanol, too. If that happens, ethanol would suddenly be financially competitive with gasoline without any need for tax breaks and incentives. Researching for this article, Brazilian scientists think they are near a breakthrough and are talking of a 2 year horizon.

            Let’s see.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Corn ethanol is energy positive if you actually count all of the energy that it produces. It not only produces fuel, but it also provides byproducts that can be used for animal feed. Cows need to eat, you know.

            It’s not exactly an energy bonanza, but it’s nice to get the facts straight.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            @Pch101: Thank you for reminding everyone of that. Not everything that comes out of an ethanol plant is ethanol–there’s also DDG and WDG, which are both valid feed additives for cattle, hogs and other livestock. Which we’re gonna need a lot more of as long as the growing middle class of China, India, et al. keeps demanding more meat.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Wow, a post from the Thorn that I agree with! Corn fuel is a boondoggle that benefits no one except big Aggro.

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            Pch101 is wrong. Just because some artificial industry – one that wouldn’t exist w/o mandates – states some ever shifting rational for its existence, doesn’t mean it’s true. Many believe the entire ethanol scam is a way around treaties that limit agricultural price supports. Ethanol artificially raises corn prices.

            Most academic studies agree that corn ethanol is a loser net net net. Here’s one from Berkeley
            Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One

            “”In terms of renewable fuels, ethanol is the worst solution,” Patzek says. “It has the highest energy cost with the least benefit….All told, he believes that the cumulative energy consumed in corn farming and ethanol production is six times greater than what the end product provides your car engine in terms of power”
            “http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050329132436.htm

            Plus no one really wants the crap. Not to mention the environment damage that expanded corn production has done.

            The whole scheme raised the cost of grain everywhere, causing great harm to the Worlds’s poor. Substitution effect.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            About a third of the energy that comes from ethanol production is in the form of food byproducts. The studies that find ethanol to be energy-negative ignore those, which is intellectually dishonest.

            In addition to using distillers grains for animal feed domestically, the US exports several million tons of the stuff each year. It’s not an irrelevant byproduct of ethanol production.

            I’m not particularly a fan of corn ethanol, but lying about it reflects badly on those who are doing the lying. If you can’t use facts to make the case, then the problem is with your case, not with the facts.

        • 0 avatar
          turboprius

          Climate change/global warming doesn’t exist.

          The idea of ethanol is nice. My old neighbor had a 2007 Yukon that got pretty good gas mileage because of E85.

          • 0 avatar

            Are you sure of that? I’m pretty sure global warming, freezing and climatic change happen all the time and are the norm for the planet. I’m just not sure we can do much about it as of yet or affect it any way. I’m pretty sure though that ethanol reduces some of the noxious gases spewed from cars and that helps on a more human level, the health issue and pollution. Which is what worries me more about pollution, getting people sick.

            Are you sure your neighbor’s Yukon got “good” gas mileage because of E85 and not in spite of it? That pretty much flies in the face of what everyone believes and perceives.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            Funny the mileage on my ’07 Chevy Tahoe drops 30% when I run it on E85. Even though E85 is significantly cheaper than regular ethanol blended gas, it actually costs more to run. It also means more trips to the gas station due to the reduced range.

          • 0 avatar

            Carlson Fan, dropping only 30% is what is expected. Here we have E25 (before the latest change) and E100. The rule of thumb is, if the price of ethanol is more than 70% of the gasoline price, it makes no sense (financially) to use ethanol. So I guess your car does as expected. Turboprius’s neighbor’s car is a scientific miracle, they should call the makers and the EPA and whoever else is interested to investigate!

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            My remark was tongue-in-cheek to TurboPrius that a car/truck could get better mileage running E85. It contains less energy per gallon so you have to defy the laws of physics to accomplish that.

            Minnesota was the first state in the union to mandate ethanol blended fuels and it is pretty common knowledge around here that even at 10% you see a slight reduction in fuel economy over straight gas.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Carlson Fan, yeah, I know, what I was trying to do was indirectly “educate” the other commenter. I want his neighbor’s car!

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    Are we talking about cars in the U.S. being affected?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      What happens in other major countries tends to happen here (well, at least all of the bad stuff).

    • 0 avatar

      Nope. But all cars sold in the US can and do burn some ethanol mixed into the gasoline. The exact amount they can run, I don’t really know.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Minnesota has a provision on the books indicating that we are required to have E10, although fueling stations around marinas and waterways offer E0.

        • 0 avatar
          James2

          Maybe I need to find me a marina. Here in Hawaii when the governor mandated (!) E10 gasoline my fuel economy immediately dropped by 10-percent.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            What are you driving, a ’69 Caddy?

            [anecdotalevidence]

            We had a ’98 F-250 (non-FFV) that could run on half E-85/half gasoline (so, E-43) with no noticeable drop in MPG, performance, or damage to fuel system/other components.

            [/anecdotalevidence]

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’d love to own a ’69 Cadillac.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            My car suffers the same lack of energy production from burning E10. My wifes car doesn’t care. Neither is a caddy.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @ James, it does vary from car to car some do loose 10% of their MPG when run on E10 while others have almost no real difference.

            @Drzhivago, the change in MPG vs percent of Ethanol is not a linear thing. It does depend heavily on the exact vehicle but in general MPG drops as Ethanol % increase until in the 3x% range where it starts going up again. Somewhere in the 4x% range it often matches that of gasoline while providing more power. Then as you add more Ethanol MPG starts dropping again. Again how much depends on the exact vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            Number6

            2013 2.4L EB Fusion on E0 91 octane gets enough of a mileage gain that it’s cheaper to pay the extra $0.40 per gallon than run that E10.

            Thermodynamically challenged politicians are a curse we all live with. And if I kicked Al Gore in his junk, I’d be the one that went to prison.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          You can find non-ethanol gas all over the Twin Cities. A Holiday station less than a 1/2 mile from house offers it. It’s expensive though. I’ve never once in 25 years had an issue running ethanol fuel in my boats. When I got a 70 gallon tank to fill I’d much rather pay $3.30 at the pump versus $5.50 a gallon on the lake.

  • avatar
    redav

    We make products that are intended for use in corrosive environments. The materials we use work fine and adequately resist corrosion. However, they still fail earlier than if they were in noncorrosive environments. That’s just a fact. The mechanic quoted is correct–components in vehicles designed for use with ethanol will last longer than those designed for gasoline only, but they will eventually fail. Will they last long enough that it is not an issue for the consumer? Probably. But they will not last as long as they would with pure gasoline.

    Given ethanol’s hydrophilic nature and water’s propensity to contaminate everything, there really isn’t such a thing as anhydrous ethanol in the real world. Is it a problem for engines? Probably not–it will pass through the injection & combustion process just fine, but it may exacerbate the corrosion problem & lower energy density caused by ethanol.

    I generally don’t accept the notion of a silver bullet to fix emissions/pollution from ICEs. Ethanol or other oxygenates certain do improve things, but as best as I can tell, they introduce their own, different problems. I reject political movements that naively suggest that more ethanol is some glorious fix to all our problems. Brazil is certainly different than the US because of their sugarcane industry (as opposed to corn) and their history meaning more cars are designed for it. No matter how advanced Brazil’s fuel may be, making it from corn in the US is just plain dumb.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Redav for the input. Another sliver of data for me to make up my mind. It’s very difficult for the layman to discern what is “fact” and what is “agenda”.

      Like there, here things things get political as of course it involves large amounts of money. That further hinders understanding. Alas, things are what they are. I guess in this case it’s a question of degree and ethanol is here to stay as there are some undeniable benefits.

      And yes, there is no magic bullet for anything. Sellers of this kind of solution are modern-day snake oil sellers of days gone by.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The problem with your argument is that in this case they are switching from E25 to E27.5 so the net effect on the vehicle components will be negligible.

    • 0 avatar
      Number6

      Ethanol is hygroscopic, not hydrophilic.

  • avatar

    Any time forested land becomes used for agriculture, a large amount of carbon gets released from that land, aggravating the problem of carbon emissions for many years to come. This so-called carbon debt varies greatly, from a few tens of years to 400 years, based on what was growing on the land prior to transfer into agriculture, and the agricultural product grown after the switch.

    Anyone interested in details email me for my article on this, which appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH.
    HolzmanDC (at) outlook.com.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As in the U.S., when the government gets involved, economic decisions become political decisions. Various interest groups need to be satisfied, and the most powerful interest group needs to be satisfied the most.

    I suspect there’s a certain protectionist element at work here, too. If Brazilian cars are “specially adopted” to Brazil’s unique motorfuel, then competition from imported vehicles is reduced.

    At least in Brazil food is not being converted to motor fuel, unlike the case in the U.S. And there seems to be a respectable case that using corn ethanol is a net loss in terms of CO2 reduction, when you count what’s required to grow and harvest the stuff, and then convert corn mash to alcohol.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, there is that element of protection, too. However it seems not to affect American cars as American cars are already flex fuel though no propaganda is made of the fact. They can’t run on pure ethanol (I think) like Brazilian cars can. Imports from other places have to suffer what is called here “tropicalization”, which means some suspension improvements, but mainly means adapting to local fuels.

      I think ethanol has things going for it for many reasons. The financial side is hard to justify and the argument it is not food like American ethanol is true, but wrong. If all cars used only ethanol, how much land would have to be converted to growing sugarcane? I have also read somewhere that the US has obtained great success in adapting and growing sugarcane there, especially in places like Louisiana and Florida.

      Finally, though it has a dark side, politics is politics and it’s human. Better than shooting at each other. It’s there to oil the disputes in society and very necessary.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Most American cars are made to run on E10.

        Some can run on E85. But in practice, they don’t because E85 has very little distribution; E85 has provided CAFE compliance benefits, so some of the flex-fuel vehicles have been produced even though the odds are close to zero that a drop of E85 would end up in most of their fuel tanks.

        • 0 avatar

          EDIT: A question below in this comment for you Pch, if you would be so kind.

          Thanks Pch, so the limit is 85. And that’s the difference then, Brazilian cars go to E100. Some, like Renaults and some Fiats (which makes sense as they are sold in Argentina, too and there I think it’s E0, as are most other export markets Brazilian makers serve), claim they can go from E0 to E100, others are calibrated to run with some ethanol. IRRC, from E15 to E100.

          EDIT: Just to clarify, most American cars can go from E10 to E85? Because that is what is meant by flex here in Brazil. The cars can go from E0 to E100 or anything in betwee. Just like in the US, right?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Most vehicles are made to run with no more than 10% ethanol, or E10.

            (The EPA would differ and claim that they can run on E15, but the auto industry would disagree and E15 isn’t widely available at this point, anyway.)

            The “flex-fuel” vehicles can run on anything from 0 to 85% ethanol. As noted, they almost never run on E85 because there is almost no E85 available in the US. Most fuel here has somewhere between 0-10% ethanol, and that’s it.

            The funny thing is that Ford made Model T’s that could run on alcohol and gasoline. Ford stopped producing what we would call “flex fuel” vehicles as gasoline became more widely available and there wasn’t much reason for farmers to make their own fuel.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks Pch!

            Wow, the more things change….

            Didn’t know that actually. Well, I knew Ford was a major proponent of ethanol, but I didn’t know the Model T had that capacity. Very interesting.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            The more you read about the Model T, the more you realize it was definitely a workingman’s/rural car than a town car. The tall, narrow tires were for getting through rutted fields and muddy roads, or fording small rivers. Some models even had a belt drive (precursor to today’s PTO). The best modern equivalent to a Model T would probably be a Jeep Wrangler…or a tractor from the early 70’s.

          • 0 avatar
            Magnusmaster

            Argentina I think is actually E7, maybe E10.

          • 0 avatar

            Thank you Magnusmaster. Imported from Brazil I presume?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Environmental protection.. There is that land use issue, you know, the rain forests and so on. And there is that, land that could be used to grow food, issue.
    I understand that Brazil is, if you want to grow cane for bio fuel, the perfect place but the idea gives me a headache, especially when the justification is “environmental”… that’s just obnoxious.
    Brazil could supply the world with sugar, instead, and here in the US they could use that instead of converting corn to that nasty chemical goop they put in EVERYTHING these days.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, the lands used by sugarcane growers is not covered by rainforest, so there is that! Seems like those lands are singularly unsuitable for sugarcane culture, though I’m sure there are researchers hard a work somewhere trying to rectify that…..

      Anyway, I have trouble with the environmental aspects, too.

      Brazil does supply the world with sugar in many ways. And you can thanks Brazilian motorists for that. Whenever there is an upswing is sugar demand, ethanol levels go down, magically. When there is a downswing, we pick up the tab. Seems this latest round was China and India demand flattening a bit.

      s to entering the US, well we play a cat and mouse game in agricultural products. Politics being what it is, it seems little Brazilian sugar reaches America.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        I guess sugar cane is a subtropical plant, not tropical, like where the rain forests are so that makes sense. I think. I know this because they grow a lot of sugar cane on the north east coastal regions in South Africa, a subtropical region. This makes me feel a bit better about the environmental impact.
        High fructose corn syrup, the chemical goop I refer to is HUGE in the US, they put that kuk in everything. I won’t buy anything with it in, just a flat “NO”. I suspect, that lots of money is made from that and so sugar is not as appealing to import any more. If HFCS was not used anymore there would be a great deal more interest in Brazil sugar from the US.
        Thanks for your interesting and enlightening reply.

  • avatar
    jc130

    I guess, on the plus side, eventually new cars in Brazil will be able to run on their plentiful supply of cachaca.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    http://pure-gas.org/

    That’s all I have to say. :) I just wish there were stations in my area for my 67 Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “http://pure-gas.org/”

      On a road trip, I used the site to locate a station along the way. My 2010 Mazda3 normally uses 87 and can get 33-36 mpg on the highway (pre-skyactiv). To get pure gas, I needed to buy 91 octane, so I didn’t expect much improvement for mpg. I put in 10 gallons and easily got 40+ mpg, and the engine felt a little more peppy too.

      I’m sure an engine tuned for 91+ octane will do even better.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    I was delighted to discover that a station in my town now sells E0.

    I knew when I saw George Bush on TV, his hand on an ethanol pump exclaiming that “this is the future”, that alcohol production for fuel would notresult in ANY less petroleum production for his cronies to sell.

    We in the US are the laughing stock of the world for having bought this lie.

    I come from N. Dak. It gets very cold there and they had to launch a huge billboard campaign for “Sure-starting Ethanol” to bamboozle people into thinking that in the very cold weather of that state, that
    ethanol would start a vehicle as well as gas. A car usually will start on ethanol, but just barely as there is less energy density to alcohol.

    Another campaign featured on billboards everywhere in the state showed a good American farmer next to a Middle Eastern oil sheik, and asked the question of whom you wanted to support. Of course now there is
    oil coming out of the ground faster than the farmers can grow corn, and it is a hell of a lot easier to just sell the farm and get the oil money than to sit on a tractor all day and pray for rain.

    I can’t wait to see how much better gas mileage my motorcycle gets
    with the real gas. It has kind of a small tank and 10% more mpg would
    help. Plus it is REALLY expensive to have carb work done on motorcyles
    with all of their gaskets and o-rings.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Question for any chemists reading this:

    Why would NOx go UP with higher alcohol content? I thought that NOx was a product of higher combustion temperatures, and that alcohol lowered combustion temps. This is why we now have high-EGR engines, because higher EGR reduces combustion temperature, and thus NOx.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “Why would NOx go UP with higher alcohol content?”

      This may be the case in Brazil. But I found a report for U.S. vehicles that concluded no appreciable change in tail pipe emissions because engines must conform to federal regulations. Honda engines are very clean — SULEV 1 (tier 2 bin 5). P-ZEV vehicles are even cleaner (Mazda, Subaru) as required by California. So now I am skeptical when I hear ethanol burns “cleaner.” Ethanol would make no difference if you already have a clean engine, and actually costs us in lost mpg.

      Academic paper. I just read executive summary:
      http://web.ornl.gov/sci/bioenergy/pdfs/EffectsIntermediateEthanolBlends.pdf

      A more readable NY Times article: “PZEV’s Are Unsung Heroes in the Push to Clean Up the Air”
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/automobiles/30PZEV.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      An SULEV 1 engine produces 0.07 grams of NOx per mile. A PZEV engine produces .02 grams per mile. Ethanol doesn’t help in that regard, and might actually be more polluting in Brazil.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @heavy handle
      You can run higher compression with alcohol. Compression equals heat.

      I would like to see the average compression ratios of Brasilian cars.

      Maybe Marcelo can help out here.

      • 0 avatar

        Big Al

        an old Uno 1.5 1988 running exclusively on ethanol had 12:1

        a 2004 exclusively gasoline (brazilian) had a rate of 9.5:1

        a 2011, flex fuel, 1.0 had 11.65:1

        a 2014, flex fuel, 1.4 had 12.45:1

        So the trend is that modern flex fuel engines have the same compression ratios as 30 year old exclusively ethanol burning engines. Form what I’ve read, this ratio used today is considered very agressive and functions only because of the high ethanol content in Brazilian gasoline. When flex fuel engines started in Brazil, almost 10 years ago, the ratio would be very close to gasoline only engines, but a bit higher (some Japanese makers still use these low ratios). As time went on, with each new launch, each new car had a number closer to ethanol engines of old. It seems the next generation will be even higher, brushing on 13 or a bit over.

        You guys can all draw your own conclusions from that.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          We used run a V8 car at the drags in the early 80s, 13.5:1 compression, ran it on methanol.

          Good stuff, except expensive and you use lots more of it to make the horsepowers;)

          Oh, and you had to strip down and inhibit the fuel system after every use!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I would hazard to guess that this is more than just economics here.

    I really thought there was some oil off the coast of Brasil.

    How good is this for the Brasilian economy? Money must come from the economy to support the use of ethanol. So, is the economy better off not having to construct infrastructure that requires subsidization, or import fuel?

    The US is similar with the corn farmers and ethanol. They receive massive protection and subisidies, for example, Brasilian ethanol imported into the US is taxed at 56%. The corn farmers are receiving an average of $125 000 per farm per year.

    At the end of the day this is good news for the Australian cane farmers. But, at the expense of growing food for people.

    Another green wasteful idea, like EVs, Hybrids, irresponsible CNG use, windfarms, solar, etc.

    Maybe we should just use nuclear reactors. That’s the cleanest and best energy. That’s what powers Sol, can’t get more natural than that.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Big Al!

      Of course there is more to this than economics…But economics is part of the reasoning that helps each side pull the debate this way and that.

      As to money better spent importing oil, I don’t think so. The money spent importing oil would just have been burned by cars and then so much smoke. Putting money into this, even if at a high cost, means, more road construction, trucks bought and sold, more energy demand and thus plants, creation of technology to use the stuff in cars, jobs, university courses, professors, students, and so and so on. So, you got that in this industry’s defence.

      As to oil on the Brazilian coast, yes lots. Just being tapped into now. Having a flex fuel car base gives the freedom, in future to export oil or burn it ourselves depending on market conditions. Some years ago Brazil gas petrol sufficient. Now, with the explosion in consumption, Petrobras is having trouble refining the quantities needed (some refineries under construction), so soon we will have to much petrol and could become a major exporter. Not to mention the major deposits already found in the Amazon, the São Francisco River basin and other places. From a country without a drop of petroleum in the 50s, we could soon be a major exporter (this experience could probably be replicated elsewhere).

      And agree, we need more nuclear power here. The second plant is being built, the third plant is being drawn up. The recent energy shortages we have been experiencing should spur that along nicely after the election is over.

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