QOTD: Ethanol? Or Ethanot?

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?

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Getting Out the Corn Vote: Trump Proposes Lifting Summer E15 Gasoline Ban

If you’re like this writer, seeing “may contain up to 10 percent ethanol” at the gas pump leaves you frowning, then reaching for the premium nozzle. It’s not just that 91 octane helps my tiny turbo run better — I don’t like paying through the nose (as I do for all grades) for slightly less energy by volume.

Should President Donald Trump move forward with reported changes to U.S. ethanol laws, you can expect to see more corn alcohol at your local gas station. And I don’t mean Jim Beam.

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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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No Fixed Abode: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For CO2?

Arthur C. Clarke is perhaps best-known as the fellow who wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but he is notorious among science-and-engineering types for having once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This statement is, of course, entirely relative. The vast majority of human beings in this or any other era can be easily confused by everything from a torque wrench to the weight difference between a pound of bricks and a pound of feathers.

The news that came out of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory last week, however, is going to blur the science/magic boundary for most of us. A group of scientists there discovered a way to turn water that has been saturated with CO2 into ethanol using nano-spike catalysts. At room temperature. It’s (not quite) as simple as this: You apply a lot of electricity to the water in the presence of this material, and it turns into ethanol.

This is going to cause a lot of problems.

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New Study Claims Biofuels Harm the Environment Worse Than Fossil Fuels

A new study from the University of Michigan adds (bio)fuel to the growing backlash against supposedly clean and green fossil fuel substitutes.

The study claims that the environmental benefits of ethanol and biodiesel — championed by both the federal government and the lucrative biofuel industry — are based on completely false assumptions, the Detroit Free Press reports.

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Inspector General Confirms EPA Broke Law, Failed to Study Environmental Impact of Ethanol

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, the Obama Administration has failed to live up to its legal obligation to study the environmental impact of blending ethanol with gasoline.

Those findings, the result of an inspector general audit, confirm what the Associated Press reported back in late 2013, prompting the audit.

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was and signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush. Among other things, the 2007 legislation increased the Renewable Fuel Standard that mandated biofuel production, primarily ethanol, and the blending of at least some of that ethanol into the gasoline supply.

The law also stipulates that the U.S. EPA must conduct studies every three years and report to Congress on the air and water quality benefit, or lack thereof, by adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline. The purpose of that part of the law is to make sure solutions to the country’s energy needs don’t adversely affect the environment.

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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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News Round-up: Nikola Motors Mirage, Mexico City Experiencing Shanghai Noon, and Nissan Gets Corny With Fuel Cells

Is this big rig the real life? Or is it just fantasy?

Nikola Motors, the company that recently sprouted out of the proverbial ether to announce a $350,000+ turbine-electric-powered Class 8 truck, claims it’s taken in $2.3 billion in pre-orders. Say what now?

That, the air in Mexico is thick with pollution, Nissan is bridging the gap to hydrogen with a corny solution, and BMW has solved the leasing bubble … after the break!

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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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Piston Slap: E15 and The Kiss of Death?

Robin writes:

Sajeev, here is a possible line of discussion: ethanol fuel. It’s hard to find straight gasoline now and impossible in the more populous counties of Texas. E15 is around the corner. My old D21 is still running strong at over 200K (previously discussed here and here —SM) but I fear that adding E15 might be the kiss of death for its early ’90s system.

Additives, alternatives and a point of discussion?

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Beer-based Ethanol is the Best/Worst Idea for Car Fuel

A New Zealand chemist has found a good use for spent yeast normally discarded after brewing beer, Popular Mechanics is reporting (via AutoFocus).

It’s not the first time beer-based ethanol has been used to power cars, but New Zealanders can fill up on 98-octane (!) booze-fuel for a limited time. The mix is 90 percent gas to 10 percent beer ethanol.

(Note: I covered parts of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and remember the Coors-powered cars in Denver and think it’s the best imaginable use of Coors Light)

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Gov. Scott Walker's Changing Ethanol Stance Sign Of Greater Issue For GOP Hopeful

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s flip-flop on the issue of ethanol may be just the tip of an iceberg that could affect his chances for the 2016 GOP hopeful.

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Republican Presidential Hopefuls Discuss Ethanol In Iowa

A handful of Republican presidential hopefuls converged upon Iowa last weekend to discuss the pros and cons of ethanol.

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  • Kcflyer Guess we know who didn't give enough bribe money (aka campaign contributions) during the latest cycle. Got to pay to play boys and girls.
  • Ima65688420 I'll consider an EV when it can do what my ZR2 diesel can do with similar range and refuel times.
  • SCE to AUX Irony is everywhere:[list][*]The mfrs come to Washington asking for a steak, but get a burger instead. Gov't says "we gave you a meal."[/*][*]The alleged purpose behind EV subsidies is to clean up the air, but domestic content requirements means it's really an American nationalist agenda.[/*][*]Tesla lobbied against more subsidies on philosophical grounds, but got them anyway.[/*][*]Rebates on used EVs will drive up the price of used EVs.[/*][*]EV startups necessarily start with higher models, then work down-market. The new rules shut out Rivian and Lucid just as they are trying to get traction. But maybe - as with Tesla ca. 2018 - they won't lose high-dollar customers over a 'few bucks'.[/*][/list]What a mess.
  • Ajla Much like with CAFE I think the new MSRP limits should be set to a single level instead of $55K for cars and $80K for "trucks".
  • Bullnuke There was an interesting comment from the chief of a fire department made today concerning EV fires. "They're like trick birthday candles. They look like they're out and then they're on fire again.". I haven't noted a special subsidy or funding for the nation's fire departments regarding fire suppression training or equipment to combat "trick birthday candles".