By on October 15, 2018

Ethanol Gas Pumps Iowa, Image: http://iowapublicradio.org/

Sure, let’s start with week with a political question. Why not? It’s not like we’ve never had an opinion or two around here (that goes for both the writers and readers).

Last week, noise was being made and digital ink was being spilled concerning the issue of ethanol. What do you want to see in your tank?

It’s a thorny issue, for certain. On that, and only that, both sides of the argument seem to agree. Beyond there, each camp has staked a claim and appear ready to vigorously defend it.

Proponents of making E15 (fuel containing a blend of about 15 percent ethanol) available year-round say it would increase the demand for ethanol, which is made from corn in most instances. This in turn would increase the demand for that crop, raising its price and helping farmers, some of whom are struggling to make profits this year. E15 also generally costs 3 to 10 cents a gallon less than normal gasoline with lower amounts of ethanol, reducing the cost of a fill up.

Those opposed to the stuff will quickly point out some farmers are in the bind mentioned above thanks to tariffs created by the very same administration. It cannot be argued that ethanol packs less energy per gallon than gasoline, reducing efficiency and wiping out the cost savings. They also argue that corn should be produced to eat, not to make fuel, and it’s a really bad idea to burn your food.

Ethanol’s effect on the atmosphere is hazy, with some sources claiming its evaporation creates smog while others saying it is cleaner burning than pure gasoline. I didn’t do well enough in science class to have an opinion here.

Right now, sources approximate that America devotes one-third of her corn crop to ethanol production. In 2000, that number was just five percent.

What’s your take on the ethanol puzzle?

[Image: iowapublicradio.org]

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103 Comments on “QOTD: Ethanol? Or Ethanot?...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I work in ag, but I absolutely detest ethanol in my fuel. Nothing more insane than turning a food source (livestock feed, granted) into a fuel source when we’re surrounded by vastly more efficient traditional resources, and very promising electric tech.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      Here’s a somewhat related question.

      A few gas stations here in Denver have pure gas pumps in addition to the 10% ethanol blends. Pure gas is only available in 87 octane and cost about $0.20/gallon more.

      Which should I chose — 87 octane pure gas or 91 octane 10% blend at the same per-gallon price?

      I drive a 1998 BMW 328i, manual with 168k & it still runs like new. Shops have told me high altitude can get by with lower octane.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I’d be tempted to try out the 87 pure gas for a few tanks. If the engine seems happy (no pinging up hills under load) then I’d stick with that.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        If BMW’s cool with regular, use it. Denver doesn’t have many options but driving out on I80 from Chicago, you can find no-ethanol premium at Phillips, the Gulf in North Platte, and a handful of Cenex stations in Iowa and Nebraska, though some Cenex stations don’t offer premium so you have to stop and check.

      • 0 avatar
        f1tifoso

        That’s a great question actually –
        Older cars (Pre-2008) were largely designed to run on pure gas, especially European vehicles – the ethanol will cause problems down the line, and if it is only 0.20 more then it’s well worth difference to keep your car going into classic age! If you need higher octane (higher alt. and no turbo means you shouldn’t) just add some lucas in

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I know my car (and other older vehicles I’ve had) seem to do better on pure gasoline. So long as its an option and I can afford it, its what I choose.

          No pure gas alternative available on today’s road trip (yes I’m in another state working, and yes I drove my Taurus lol), so I filled up with Shell V power. That’s only the second time I’ve put higher octane in it, but despite spending many miles over 80 mph, it seems to be getting decent mileage. I’m only at about 100 miles on this tank thus far (sitting at ~3/4 mark), and the rest will likely be city mileage instead of highway (I am at my destination, so I’ll just be driving from the hotel to the plant and back), so not expecting much over the entire course of this tank.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        @twotone – “I drive a 1998 BMW 328i, manual with 168k & it still runs like new. Shops have told me high altitude can get by with lower octane.”

        Yes, I’ve noticed on ski trips that premium gas is just 2 cents more than “plus” (89 octane). The locals know that at high altitudes and thinner air, knocking is less likely to happen.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        Really ? Where are they? A few years ago I was looking for non ethanol fuel and could not find any, I’d love to try a few tanks full and see if the difference is noticeable, primarily miles per gallon difference.
        I also an surprised these are in Denver where there are some legal regulations concerning vehicle emissions.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        It’s the exact opposite in the southern Twin Cities, MN. We can get E0, but only by using premium and it’s a fair bit more expensive than 87 ($0.60 or thereabouts). Mileage is definitely better. I’ve been tracking every tank since forever and have found my tanks using 91 E0 to be much better than those using 87 E10.

        I typically only measure my combined mileage and with 87 E10 my combined mileage is 28ish while with 91 E0 it’s 35ish. This is done with volume divided by distance and I don’t rely solely on the onboard computer.

        I had 1 long distance run, about 110 miles mostly highway with a little stop and go with a computer indicated 45mpg. Factor in the margin for error and that was probably closer to 42.

        2017 Mazda6 Touring 6MT

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          28 to 35? That would imply the cumulative mileage on my 2016 Prius would go from 62 to 77mpg ! Seems a bit unbelievable. Smug, fuel efficiency geek me would have an MPGasm with that kind of efficiency.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Worth at least trying to see what you get.

          • 0 avatar
            285exp

            If it seems unbelievable, it’s because it’s unbelievable. Adding 10% ethanol to gasoline results in a blend with 3% less energy content. There is no way that that will result in a 25% difference in fuel economy. There have been independent controlled scientific tests done that show that the power and fuel economy from using ethanol fuel blends decreases proportionately with the decrease in energy content. If it were true that the loss in fuel economy from using E10 was anywhere close to even 10%, the evil oil companies would have blown the lid off this boondoggle a long time ago. Even accounting for the slight increase from using higher octane, a 20-25% increase from using E0 is not believable.

            I’ve tried the stuff too, using 89 octane E0 instead of the usual 87 octane E10, and got about 4% better fuel economy over 4 tanks and 1300 miles. All it did was cost me more money.

            There are plenty of valid arguments against using E10, but significantly decreased fuel economy isn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      gtem, for someone who works in ag, you don’t know much about ethanol.

  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    Basically corn ethanol is worse for the environment than burning gasoline, takes away farmland from food production, and costs the taxpayer money.

    Corn ethanol only gets back 1.3 units of energy for every unit that’s put in during production.

    Out of that one unit that’s put in, the majority of energy is input into diesel-burning farming equipment which really have very little emissions control. This offsets completely any clean burning properties of E85.

    Ethanol from other sources makes a lot more sense. It’s really a great fuel, but the corn production method is a terrible idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Sugar cane makes a much better ethanol than corn because that ethanol comes from the sugars in the crop. Corn may be sweet, but not nearly as sweet as sugar cane.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Spot on Vulpine. There is work on cellulosic ethanol that will use more of the corn plant or less nitrogen/resource intensive specieis like willow, or switchgrass, etc. But sugarcane was definitely a much easier case for the folks in Brazil, there was’t this big tech gap to achieve the needed efficiency.

        • 0 avatar
          cammark

          I don’t know specific quantities, but I know most of the sugars from corn-based ethanol production comes from enzyme conversion of starches.

          but I think what you’re really saying, Vulpine is that you prefer rum to whiskey…

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Believe it or not, cammark, I do prefer rum. But I’ve been aware of Brazil’s ethanol business for years as sugar cane grows at a surprising rate and can be harvested much more quickly than corn. And the energy per acre of sugar cane to corn is several times higher as well.

          • 0 avatar
            volvo

            In response to Vulpine. Using average numbers Brazil is 10 degree south latitude and the US is 40 degrees north latitude. Solar energy/acre over a year would be significantly higher at the equator. How well does sugar cane grow in parts of the US that have enough rainfall to support this crop?

            Perhaps sugar cane to ethanol would be a support for the Hawaiian economy?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Sugar cane can and will grow in the Gulf states, up to and including coastal regions of Texas. Interestingly, a lot of this land, especially in South Carolina, Georgia and even parts of Florida is taken up by tree farming for lumber and pulpwood.

          • 0 avatar
            Advance_92

            Volvo, with volcanoes and the ocean, Hawaii and Iceland should become hydrogen economies.

      • 0 avatar
        cammark

        oh, here are some numbers from a Stanford University research paper,

        “producing ethanol from corn (which is the method used in the US) is approximately 5 to 6 times less efficient than producing it from sugarcane.”

        good call.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      At $1.77/gal for E85 this morning there is no other source of 104 octane for that price.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I am just relieved to hear that the energy yield is positive. I feared that for all the fuel input for farming and processing that it was a wash, or even net negative, and that the whole ethanol thing was just another crony capitalist scheme foisted on the public for the sake of profit.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      The food argument is a red herring. If we wanted to free up cropland to feed people, we would. Instead we grow a lot of feed corn for livestock, somewhere on the order of 90+ percent animal food, less than 10 percent human. Would you like to speculate on how efficient feed corn inputs are for growing beef, versus grass?

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I don’t have a problem in principle with blending ethanol, but let it stand on its own.

    No mandates
    No subsidies (not a big fan of oil company subsidies either in fact)
    No bans on E0 (Thanks NW Indiana)

    The corn lobby knows that given an equal playing field no one would willingly pay more for less energy, while also paying extra for their food. So we have the naked handout of a mandate, compounded by the rigged presidential primary system giving disproportional weight to the concerns of Iowa farmers. Thus ensuring the issue is a third rail and nothing will ever change.

    If corn farmers can’t hack it without price supports, then let them go out of business. The romanticizing of the “rural life” and “family farm” that bears no resemblance to how agriculture is actually done in this country needs to go. This isn’t Ma and Pa in 1900 just trying to scratch a living off the land. Between ethanol mandates, crop insurance subsidies, etc. it seems like it would be impossible for anyone to actually lose money growing corn. If they manage to fail anyways, it shouldn’t be on the taxpayers and car drivers of America to bail them out.

    • 0 avatar
      Chi-One

      Jack4X,

      My wife and her three sisters inherited the family farm from their parents. They grow corn and soybeans, about 1600 acres in IL. The farm dates back to the 1800s on her father’s side. It is a family farm.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’ll agree with your first paragraph completely, but will disagree with much of the second paragraph. Yes most food produced now is on large scale/corporate farms, the family farms these days are an awfully hard way to make a living, and God bless the guys that are sticking it out, especially young guys that choose to continue the family tradition and stay on the land despite the incredibly tight margins of modern row-crop farming (I’m focusing in on the midwest/corn belt). Perhaps we need to reevaluate what our current subsidies are driving: 90% of our produce is grown in water-starved California (there are reasons for that, a non-trivial part of which is access to cheap Maxican labor). The vast majority of our corn/soy crop is feed grade to raise livestock and keep meet prices low which is what we’re used to, we also export to China which has a growing middle class that wants to eat more protein.

      I think food security is a fundamental part of national security. I don’t mind subsidizing that any more than I don’t mind a (reasonable) amount of military and infrastructure spending. But I do think it’s time to reevaluate what crops we grow where, and in what quantities, and for what purpose. Perhaps I don’t know enough, but I’d love to see more produce grown in the Midwest. I also think that technology like lab-grown meat is not terribly far off, and could force this shift away from massive land use for animal feed-crops. Get farmers growing higher value produce which could help their bottom line, and reorient the subsidies towards that and grains that go directly to human consumption. The role of mechanization (historically) and automation in Ag is a whole ‘nother interesting discussion that is all part of this as well. Just my musings for the morning.

      • 0 avatar

        @gtem: A farmer friend of mine used to grow primarily corn and soybeans, rotating those crops for best results. He now is planting some of his acres with peas/green beans (for someone like GreenGiant or BirdsEye). I know others that are diversifying more also. It seems to be changing in my area (Central Iowa) but it is a slow change. This seems to fit in with your thoughts in this area. Be encouraged.

    • 0 avatar
      gkhize

      “it seems like it would be impossible for anyone to actually lose money growing corn” – stated by someone who obviously doesn’t farm.

      “rigged presidential primary system giving disproportional weight to the concerns of Iowa farmers” –
      1. Come visit some time, there’s a lot more to Iowa than farmland.
      2. The concerns of Iowa farmers aren’t unique to Iowa, they are shared by farmers across the country.

      Applying your ‘just let them go out of business’ logic to every subsidized industry in this country would make the Depression pale in comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        I actually like Iowa quite a bit and have family from there. I know they care about more than just farming.

        That said, when every presidential hopeful visits Iowa for months and years before each election, and talks up farmers and ethanol consistently, it’s hard to see the fairness in that. It’s political suicide for anyone considering higher office to seriously question the mandate, because they will get no support in Iowa and fall off the map. If Iowa was a bit more representative of the whole country, that might be more defensible, but that is not really the case. A fair schedule where either all the primaries take place on the same day, or the order is rotated so that other regions can have some input would be preferable.

        I truly believe there would be a chance to repeal this if not for the quirks of the primary schedule. And in my opinion that should not be a justification for keeping a law on the books.

        • 0 avatar

          In my mind the only reason “hopefuls” visit Iowa prior to primaries is due to the fact they’ve bought into the lie that they MUST do well there. I live in Iowa and we have no more input into that process than many other states due for the most part to population.

          On the ethanol question, I use it in my 98 Stratus for no other reason than cost. I understand all the downsides, but price trumps the downsides. I still get around 28 mpg on it – 35 on the highway which works for me. I will admit that some of the B&B’s comments are tempting me to move back to E0 for a bit to compare. The money end of things speaks loudly though.

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      Archer Daniels Midland and Conagra and Monsanto don’t appreciate Jack’s comments.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I only put a 100% gasoline in my car, don’t try and force me to subsidize corn farmers. I live in a rural corn producing area, when ethanol became law many years ago you’d think they all won the lottery. Now, it’s become the only crop farmers grow here

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    While I do understand the cost savings, you lose fuel mileage with the ethanol additive. The difference in economy almost exactly matches the price differential, at least to E-15. I’ll admit I don’t know what the fuel economy would be with E-85 as shown in the photo above.

    Then again, where I live the fuel prices haven’t approached the $4/gallon yet, even for premium.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    I agree with all of the above statements, well said! Even for 10% ethanol, it creates problems for vehicles clear up to the 90’s, and virtually all small engines, so it’s been a bad idea from the start.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The ethanol mandate was at least arguably justifiable when it came about. The first mandate was passed in 2005, then drastically expanded in 2007. Recall what oil prices were doing around that time. Spiking 30% a year. Worse, domestic oil production was half of what it is now so nearly all of that money was going to third world thugs. They had to do something. For all of its evils, corn ethanol was something.

    But today? It’s all of the corrupt and inefficient market distortion that it was before, and protecting us from the depredations of Texas and North Dakota. Not Venezuela and Iran.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I am in the ethanot camp. All the small gas engines in my fleet use 100% gasoline exclusively for the last several years now. Coincidentally, carb rebuilds equal zero since my switch to pure gas. A small gas engine retailer close to my father has become a pure gas evangelist and even went so far as to print up a bunch of pure gas facts…likely straight from an industry association.

    I run pure gas in my vehicles when I can. The closest pure gas station is about 10 miles away from me and I can’t always coordinate my fuel level with other errands. My vehicles have seen varying degrees of fuel economy loss when running ethanol. My experience has shown that 10-15 year old Fords seem to suffer greater loss of economy with ethanol…about 5-10%.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I agree, my older Ford doesn’t like ethanol, that much is clear by running without it and watching the fuel needle drop a lot slower. But, it isn’t just Fords, I’ve seen the same in other older vehicles. And if it’s carburetor equipped? Fuugheettaboutit

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Use a little fuel stabilizer and don’t let the fuel sit for a year, small engines are just fine with ethanol. The carbs on my small engines are clean as a whistle, with E15.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        My small engines on equipment such as chain saws, trimmers, the chipper/shredder, etc., all run fine on E-10. The problem is the disintegration of the polymers in the fuel delivery/storage systems on these pieces of equipment and accelerated corrosion of some of the metallic components due to alcohol during the season when being used and not just due to off-season idle storage. Some of the OEM polymer fuel lines and priming bulbs disintegrate within a couple months of replacement from the last disintegration event.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I see some appeal to E85 when an engine is actually tuned to take advantage of the higher octane rating. On the GM 4.3L and 5.3L tests show that they are both about .5 seconds faster 0-60 and through the quarter mile when on E85 compared to “regular” 87. For the 3900 and 6.0L the gain was about .25. Some aftermarket performance shops also offer “E85 conversions” for non Flex Fuel vehicles.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    But what is the fuel economy for those E-85 burners? Getting great performance is nice, but if it’s at half the fuel economy (which is what the pricing above suggests) then is it really worth it?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I can’t say for the aftermarket conversions, but for factory FFVs the EPA does provide an E85 rating.

      On the Silverado 5.3L 2WD 6A on “regular gas” it is rated 19 and on E85 it is rated at 14. So using the prices in the picture and assuming 12,000 miles a year it is basically a wash on cost. Now you will have less fuel range on E85, but I’d live with that for the improved acceleration.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        As I noted below, ajla, my 2019 Colorado specifically prohibits Ethanol in quantities greater than 15% by volume and recommends against even that much.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The problem with the E85 ratings is that they are not based on any testing. They are calculated based on the different BTU content of regular and E85. The problem with that is not every flex fuel vehicle is optimized to run on E85 even though it can. It goes back to that adaptive timing thing I mentioned below. Some MFGs just adjust the fueling to run on E85 and does not change timing tables based on ethanol content. So they will see much larger mpg drops than say a Ford or GM vehicle that utilizes different timing tables and the adaptive timing as part of the fuel learning process and thus can extract more of the energy contained in the E85.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Gas is cheap and both our cars work fine with what’s offered at the pump. I don’t care what’s in my fuel.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Interesting item: In my Brand New 2019 Chevy Colorado, the owner’s manual specifically prohibits E-85 and recommends AGAINST E-15. It also recommends a MINIMUM Octane rating of 87, suggesting better performance and economy at 89 or higher.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That’s the dirty little secret (or easter egg, depending on your views) of a lot of newer high compression V6 motors, especially when you see that same exact motor in a marque’s premium line (Buick or Lexus) with a premium requirement and slightly higher HP rating. Put premium in the regular-rated Toyota/Chevy with that same engine and there’s a good chance you’ll pick up a bit of power and fuel economy, the engine will advance the timing a bit running that fuel.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @gtem: … Yet people insist that there is literally no difference in performance or economy between 87, 89 and 91-Octane gasoline.

        Why is that?

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Because the majority of vehicles on the road do not have adaptive timing and thus can not take advantage of the higher octane. Even if the same engine says premium recommended in one application do not think that putting premium in the application that says regular will help with power or mpg. The programing has to be there to take advantage of it.

          Now if you put regular in a car that recommends or requires premium you will definitely see a drop in MPG.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “The programming has to be there to take advantage of it.”

            And that’s where I think there is some variation between manufacturers on how they handle that.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I would agree with all of the above… except that I’ve seen it in every car I’ve owned for the last 20 years, up to and including my ’96 Camaro.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “except that I’ve seen it in every car I’ve owned for the last 20 years”

            If you’re always seeing a positive difference with higher octanes then go for it. I’ve played around with octanes/fuel brands with just about every vehicle I’ve owned. Sometimes it has made a difference, sometimes it hasn’t.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          87 has more ‘bang’ than 91 – and a lot more than 104. Octane is a bang-inhibitor. It’s only required for higher-compression engines that, you guessed it, compress the air/fuel mix more. Typically around 10:1 and up.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Not arguing that, Tele, but my vehicles also realize better performance and better economy off the higher Octanes as well.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    No to ethanol.

    It’s a crime that 1/3 of US corn production goes toward ethanol. It’s bad for fuel economy, bad for the air, bad for food production, and bad for the economy.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Good for my turbo-4, smells good, and cleans the DI soot off of the shiny tail pipes.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Your comment has me curious. Could ethanol content, or non-ethanol content, have an impact on the carbon deposits with DI engines?

        I don’t know the chemistry or physics behind how the engines work precisely and would be interested in finding out.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Ethanol production creates both fuel and animal feed. Why do we constantly forget that?

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        “Ethanol production creates both fuel and animal feed.”. Also, here in Western Ohio (where a poor ethanol-farmer is very, very rare), ethanol creates very brisk business for recreational vehicle dealers, Cadillac/Lincoln/Daimler-Benz dealers, high-end watercraft dealers, and real estate agents. Ask me how I know – I’ve lived with these folks and am acquainted with many of ’em. I had never seen corn planted on corn four to five seasons in a row before the year 2000. Now it’s routine for some of these guys. “Just gotta git yer chemistry right.”, one told me…

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        we should, since we shove that corn down the gullets of animals which aren’t meant to eat corn.

  • avatar

    Certain cars made until fairly recently were only designed to run on E-10. and most non road engines were only designed for E-10. The power sports and marine industries have been pushing hard to prevent E15 as they engines were not designed to handle it. Seems like trouble waiting to happen and not that particularly helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As a boat owner the horrors of ethanol are well known. My boat would be much happier on a diet of pure gas.

      So NO ethanol for me! If we are going to use some kind of food or other organic products as fuel it should go into bio diesel. While I’m not a fan of drilling holes all over this planet just to drive a car if the oil is down there already doing nothing we might as well suck it up and use it. Growing corn just to make fuel is terribly inefficient at this stage. The required fertilizers and pesticides being used are slowly poisoning everything and everybody. Not to mention the water wasted by the process.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Why can’t the corn lobby be content with sitting back and getting paid to grow nothing?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Ignoring the environmental and engine damage consequences and simply look at the economics: Corn farmers want high corn prices. Ethanol producers (and oil companies that are forced to buy ethanol) want low corn prices. Ethanol mandates raise corn demand and corn prices = farmers happy and ethanol producers unhappy.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I don’t want E-anything beyond regional requirements for cold weather blends as needed.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Here is my take.
    1 – Create stiff regulation for ethanol producers.
    – use of herbicides and fertilizers should be banned if corn produced for ethanol
    – no forest should be destroyed in order to create fields where corn for ethanol will be grown.
    2 – (if we care about clean air, resources, etc) Tax the displacement and cylinders. And I don’t mean tax via gas tax. Tax annually. Want 6 cyl – pay $500 per year per cylinder over 4 – you can have it. Exempt – business owners when vehicle is truck or work van.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Displacement/cylinder taxes don’t make much sense.

      A Camry XSE V6 is rated 26 MPG, a Lexus GS300 2.0T is also rated 26. A GMC Yukon 5.3L is rated 19, a Mercedes GLS450 3.0T is also rated 19.

      Why penalize vehicles for different engineering when they have the same consumption?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        It’s not always the fuel economy that’s being taxed but rather the emissions from a certain engine size. Typically, a four-cylinder engine puts out fewer emissions (of all types) than a V6 or larger.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          So basically you make the point – typically is not always when means some engines are punished needlessly on displacement alone.

          If we’re going to carbon tax, electric vehicles should be taxed for carbon generated at the powering source and what the prevailing fuel source is at the point they plug into the grid.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            As I recall, they used the engine size just as a simplifier in Europe. Anything larger than 2.0 is automatically taxed extra, just because (Luxury tax, I believe they called it. Rated more on bhp than emissions.)

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        ajla,

        you just answered your question. When someone will pick GLS450 with 2L instead of 3L because they don’t want to pay $1000 annually, hey, you just won 7mpg right there

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          A “GS300” and a “GLS450” are not the same. I was comparing a Toyota V6 sedan to a Lexus 2.0T sedan and a Chevy V8 SUV to a Mercedes 3.0T SUV.

          A *hypothetical* Mercedes GLS with a 2.0T is very unlikely to get 7 MPG better than the current V6 version. If we use the Audi Q7 as an example the fuel savings from the smaller engine will literally be zero as the 2.0T and 3.0T have the same economy ratings for MY2018.

          Plus, that still doesn’t answer the question on if we already have fuel consumption and emissions information available, why not tax based on that instead of on tangentially related attributes?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So, you pine for a day when every vehicle on every car lot has a 2.0L Turbo? Because that’s what the result would be. Its fine in a Malibu, its not cool in a Tahoe.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    And…
    All you Ethanol haters. It would be much more useful that instead of writing here you would write you your representative

  • avatar
    volvo

    Taxes on displacement started in Europe when there was sort of a linear relationship between displacement and fuel efficiency. Turbos and computers have changed the playing field so perhaps fuel economy taxing extending beyond the current “gas guzzler” fee would be appropriate. And of course extend that to light trucks and commercial vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Taxing simply by displacement was a horrendously stupid way to increase fuel economy/efficiency, made worse by no regard for emissions, diesels especially.

      When that’s combined with high fuel taxes, and lax emissions regulations/enforcement, you end up with the clusterfuk disaster otherwise known as Europe.

      We may criticize CAFE and its problems, but I’m sure if Europe could go back in time, and not been so desperate to create its own version, overly simple, purposely not CAFE compatible, they’d have a carbon copy of CAFE regulations/rules for their own.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    In metro Detroit, which brands are “pure gasoline” (no ethanol)?

  • avatar
    Zipster

    It is curious that the self-identified Trumpsters are silent about Sphincter Mouth proposing this in Iowa just before the election.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    The more options the better. I wish we had pumps like that.

    I’d pick the E0 87.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    We’re not growing corn for ethanol “instead” of food. Corn prices have been depressed for several years now because of oversupply.

    Why not plant less?

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Ethanol and other bio fuels has been corrupted, by a bunch of interests from big Ag to chemical companies. Back during the mid 00’s there were a number of companies that were working on cellulosic ethanol to replace corn based ethanol. There were several companies working with the auto companies, but after the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, much of that research was dropped.

    Today’s engines tuned for small percentages of alcohol get respectable fuel consumption, and the software and the hardware can make it work rather well. But E85 cars are a compromise, although, as Norm notes, with a tune specifically for E85 a car can really build power. The compatibility with gasoline is what holds them back. (IIRC, cars have been alcohol compatible since the 1980’s with the advent of sequential fuel injection.) Granted, there are cold weather driveability issues with pure ethanol, but it can be mixed with other fuels to minimize it. Google bio-butanol for some interesting reading.

    But with the onslaught of electric and hybrid cars, I don’t see much of a need to ramp up production of ethanol or other alcohol fuels. I see a need to ramp up production of lithium however…

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      My kid’s Evo has a piggyback with both E85 and regular gas tunes. He put in a fuel cell that fits in the spare tire well for regular gas if E85 isn’t available. He drilled and tapped the manifold for another set of injectors as well. One switch, easy peasy. Works pretty well, it makes 325ish at the wheels on 91 and God knows how much on E85. A bunch.

  • avatar
    brn

    WTF TTAC??????

    It’s been a whole SIX DAYS since your last “let’s get people fired up over ethanol” article. Nice click bait.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The soya farmers need to make a living, why subisidise and protect them. Nothing like fair trade.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would feel better about ethanol if it were not forced on us right away. Having to junk a perfectly good vehicle and power lawn equipment to throw the farmers a bone after hurting them with a tariff war with China is more political. I think if we are going to use ethanol for environmental purposes we should either make ethanol out of crop waste or grow something like switch grass instead of using a crop that is a direct source of food. Maybe someone could find a use for sea weed which has become a real problem in coastal resort areas. There is a never ending source of sea weed and it is a problem to dispose of it. Better to use a waste product which would solve multiple issues.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Ick! Don’t get me started.
    Ethanol is bad news for most engines. To take advantage of the fuel the engine needs a higher compression ratio. I know there have been some variable compression engines made, but I don’t think there are any currently for sale.
    There are all sorts of subsidies for ethanol production, and AG in general, in the USA. One of the largest is for water. In California 90% of water used in AG comes from taxpayer subsidized projects; the Central Valley Project, the California Aqueduct, the All American Canal (and Coachella Canal) and many other canals and dams. AG pays a bare fraction of the cost of those works that make the Roman aqueduct look like a kid’s ditch project. Most of the cost is borne by ratepayers and taxpayers in cities and suburbs. Many of whom do not get any water from those works.
    There is also subsidy for the pumping of water out of the Ogalalla Aquifer. All over the Mid Western states from South Dakota to Texas there are pumps running on subsidized electricity or diesel.
    BTW the guy that repairs my chain saws, weed wackers, leaf blowers, etc. makes a good profit on selling Ethanol Shield which mitigates the bad effects of the E10. No 100% gasoline available in California unless you go out of your way to buy race gas or Av gas. There are the special fuels for outdoor equipment without ethanol, but they run as high as $40 per gallon. Sold by the quart.
    If California goes the E15 route I predict a similar rash of failures as when the “oxygenated” fuel first started about 30 years ago. There will be fuel leaks, fires, and poor running/stalling vehicles.
    I see a few vehicles here with a “Flex-Fuel” or E85 sticker on them. I checked and the nearest place I could find to buy that stuff is 40 miles away.
    Yep the E10 reduces emissions on vehicles for the first moments before warm-up and CAT function take over. That’s less and less time as the fleet gets newer. Most vehicles built in the last 25 years of into closed loop in less than a minute.

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