Piston Slap: Corny Fuel Talk From Iowa?

Duncan writes:

My daily driver is a 2013 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec (with about 22,000 miles), making a claimed 429 hp on premium gas (91 octane, I assume). The power dips to 421 hp (claimed) when running on regular. Here in Iowa, we have the luxury of purchasing fuel with no ethanol.

The 87 octane gas w/o corn costs almost as much as 91 with. If it was your money, what would you put in the tank? 87 with no ethanol ($2.40ish a gallon), 87 with ethanol ($2.20ish) or 91 with ethanol ($2.50ish)? Running 87 or 91 without ethanol does improve mileage, whereas I do not notice an increase in performance running 91 or 93 — though it is recommended (but not required) by the good folks at Hyundai.

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Piston Slap: Decomposition of the Fuel Composition Sensor?

Longtime TTAC commentor rrhyne56 writes:

Flex Fuel. I see it more and more. From what I’ve heard, this mainly means the vehicle has a fuel system that alcohol wouldn’t eat up. (Mainly, yes. — SM)

So here’s my question: do the more recent models of these vehicles have the ability to sense what level of alcohol is in the fuel lines and adjust the engine accordingly, to make best advantage of whatever current gasoline/alcohol or alcohol/gasoline mixture is entering the engine? I watched a build on Mighty Car Mods where the Haltech engineer was tweaking just such a system.

I know, I know, I ought to just Google it. But I thought it might make for some lively discussion.

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Kitman Begins His Literary Quest to Find the Truth About Ethanol

One struggles to count on more than one finger the number of fuels debated more than ethanol — in America, corn-based ethanol specifically. Many detractors claim ethanol’s disadvantages outweigh its benefits. Proponents for ethanol in our fuel supply contend the fuel’s geopolitical positives and other factors give ethyl alcohol much needed consideration. Unfortunately, both sides of the ethanol coin have a multitude of reasons for supporting or protesting the fuel beyond the immediately obvious.

Enter Automobile’s Jamie Kitman. The man is looking to separate the corn from the husk in a new multi-part series dubbed “ The War Against Ethanol.”

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New Ethanol Mandate to Breach 10% 'Blend Wall' Satisfies Nobody - Except EPA

Serendipitously, Sajeev Mehta’s post about the possible damage to older cars from gasoline-ethanol blends went up just a few days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new mandate to mix another 700 million gallons of biofuels — including 300 million gallons of corn-based ethanol — into the country’s fuel supply.

The objective of the new mandate: hit a 18.8 billion gallon 2017 target for biofuels.

The move has both critics and supporters of ethanol unhappy.

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Piston Slap: Tolerate the Government's Ethanol Boondoggle?

David writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Is it worth the extra 40¢/gallon to go for 91 octane ethanol-free gasoline based on its durability merits?

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Is This E85's Time To Shine?

The recent fall in fuel prices isn’t just an opportunity for Americans to demonstrate their collective inability to remember the events of even the recent past; it’s also a decisive hammerblow to E85 plants and retailers across the country.

This has to be the case, right?

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For First Time, E.P.A. Proposes Cutting Renewable Fuel Standards' 2014 Ethanol Requirement for Gasoline Blends

While ethanol producers have been lobbying to increase the blend of that alcohol in standard gasoline to 15%, many in the auto industry have opposed that increase, saying that it could damage cars. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has, for the first time, proposed reducing the ethanol requirement in the nation’s fuel supply. Actually, what they are proposing is a smaller increase in the overall use of ethanol, which means that the national standard may not be raised to E15.

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Piston Slap: The Corrosive Effects of Ethanol Laced Gasoline?

Misha writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I’m a long time lurker, first time asker. I was curious about the effects of E85/E90 ethanol laced gasoline. I have read a bunch about how older cars are susceptible to corrosion damage to various parts of the fuel line.

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U.S. Congress Stops Ethanol Subsidies & Tariff on Brazilian Imports

After spending thirty years and $45 billion dollars encouraging the use of ethanol the United States Congress has adjourned for the year without extending tax subsidies to the to ethanol industry. The subsidy currently costs taxpayers $6 billion a year. A related import tariff on Brazilian ethanol was also allowed to expire. With a wide group of critics, cutting across political and ideological lines, the tax break had become unpopular in Washington. Business interests in the food and cattle industry as well as environmentalists opposed the law which paid 45 cents per gallon to fuel blenders to subsidize their costs for producing E10 gasoline/ethanol blend. The subsidy resulting in corn being diverted from feedlots and food processors to ethanol production, raising the cost of many foodstuffs. The environmental movement now opposes corn ethanol as a fuel it because it considers the fuel and its production to be “dirty”, in the words of Friends of the Earth.

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Study Says: EV Drivers Coddled, Flex Fuel Cars Discriminated Against

So what is all this talk about flex fuel being shoved down our the throats of our cars, and EVs driving up Xanax sales due to rampant range anxiety? Bloomberg brings us astounding news:

“Public charging stations for electric autos outnumber outlets for alternative motor fuels by almost two to one, even though there are hundreds of times more flex- fuel vehicles than plug-in cars on U.S. roads. “

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Senate Votes To Repeal Ethanol Tax Credits

Cracks continued to in the ethanol industry’s once-impregnable political vanguard, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Senate has voted to roll back the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) as well as import tariffs on foreign-produced ethanol. This rollback of multi-billion-dollar ethanol credits failed earlier in the week, when the Detroit News reports automakers came out in opposition of a bill that would have required that 95% of all cars built in the US be capable of running 85% ethanol by 2017. The Senate did fail to pass a repeal of a government ethanol blending mandate that underpins the VEETC, however, and funding is moving forward for ethanol blending pumps. Still, the Senate’s repeal of VEETC alone means taxpayers could save over $5b per year on subsidies, and as one expert puts it

“Looks like we’re going to be relying on the biofuels mandates to make sure blenders use biofuels, rather than bribing them to use it with $6 billion,” [Bruce Babcock, professor of economics and the director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University] said.

In fact, Babcock thinks killing the subsidy could help ethanol because it would come out from the stigma of being a subsidized industry. And removing the subsidy may strengthen support for the mandate, and the tariff on imports.

Over to you, House of Representatives…

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Quote Of The Day: The Beginning Of The End Of Ethanol Edition

Over the course of TTAC’s coverage of US ethanol subsidies, I’ve often wondered why nobody made a political issue out of slaying an ever-growing waste of tax dollars ($6b this year on the “blender’s credit” alone). And with the political rhetoric about America’s debt prices rising, I’ve been wondering with more and more regularity when someone will finally take the ethanol fight to the American people, who are already voting against ethanol with their pocketbooks. But just last December, Al Gore explained why not even he, an environmentalist standard-bearer, could oppose the corn juice he knew was bad policy, saying

It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first generation ethanol. First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small… One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.

The Iowa primary is a key early contest in the Presidential election, and because Iowans grow and refine a huge amount of corn ethanol, campaigning against ethanol subsidies in Iowa is a non-starter. At least that’s what the conventional wisdom was before today, when, with nearly nine months to go before the primary, the impossible just happened.

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Bipartisan Bill Seeks To End Cornerstone Ethanol Subsidy

Yesterday evening I directed some ire at President Obama’s continued reliance on ethanol as a major plank of his do-nothing transportation/energy agenda, noting

That extra money for 10,000 E15-capable pumps? That’s because no gas station owner will pay to install a pump for a kind of fuel that only cars built since 2001 can use… and which the auto industry has tried to ban. And why E15 in the first place? Because blenders can’t sell enough E10 to blend the government-mandated amount of ethanol and collect their $6b this year in “blender’s credits” to do so. A subsidy to support a subsidy which in turn props up yet another subsidy (I may have missed a subsidy in there somewhere). You can’t make this stuff up.

The “cornerstone” subsidy that all other ethanol subsidies support is the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or VEETC, or “blender’s credit,” a $6b per year subsidy that directs 45 cents to refiners for every gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline. The VEETC nearly died in December’s lame duck session, only to be revived as a way to buy votes for the President’s tax policy. Now, however, The State Column reports that a bipartisan Senate bill has been introduced that would eliminate both the VEETC and import tariffs on foreign-made ethanol. And with a rash of bad news coming out about ethanol, this could just be the opportunity to kill this wasteful government subsidy with fire.

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What's Wrong With This Picture: Fixing Transportation Edition

President Obama devoted his weekly address to energy and transportation policy this week, speaking to the nation from an Allison hybrid bus transmission plant in Indiana. A White House blog post accompanying video of the President’s speech included a large infographic on “The Obama Energy Agenda And Gas Prices,” the transportation-oriented section I’ve excerpted above. This one section is actually a fairly good representation of Obama’s auto-related energy policy preferences, and illustrates why I often find myself criticizing the president here at TTAC.

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GAO: Government Ethanol Rules Actually Increase Gasoline Use

A massive study by the Government Accountability Office into “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue” has turned up an interesting finding. It seems that the government’s desire to buy more “alternative fuel vehicles” (AFVs) may actually increase the amount of gasoline used by government fleets. Why? Because agencies largely buy E85 ethanol-powered vehicles to fulfill their AFV requirements, and there aren’t enough E85 pumps to actually fuel the fleet, forcing agencies to obtain waivers to buy regular gasoline. Hit the jump for the report’s full findings on this, the latest unintended consequence of America’s ongoing ethanol-subsidy boondoggle.

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  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.