Myths about ethanol

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A Questions and Answers about ethanol Q: Can all of the vehicles on the road use ethanol?

A: It depends on the vehicle. According to R.L.Polk, there are 227,000,000 vehicles on the road. Over 5 million of those are diesels. Ethanol cannot be put into diesel engines. Diesel has their own renewable fuel called bio-diesel. There are over 4 million flex-fuel vehicles registered in the United States. Almost all 218,000,000 vehicles made since 1986 that are on the roads right now can only take 10 percent ethanol. No matter how much ethanol America can produce, those vehicles can only take 10 percent ethanol. Right now we have over 4 million vehicles that can take 85 percent ethanol. As automobile manufacturers make more flex-fuel vehicles and America makes more ethanol and oil companies put more E85 pumps in their gas stations we will have more options. If we used 10 percent ethanol in all 218,000,000 vehicles and 85 percent ethanol in all 4,000,000 vehicles we would keep almost $100,000,000 a day of the $800,000,000 a day we spend on imported motor gasoline.

Q: Do we have to worry about all the corn being used for fuel and there wont be any to eat?

Only 14 percent of the corn produced in the United States is turned into ethanol. Besides, most the corn used for ethanol production is field corn typically used to feed to livestock.

Q: Are there subsidies involved in ethanol?

There are plenty of subsidies. The farmers get subsidies for their corn. The middleman selling the ethanol gets a 51 cent gallon subsidy. And dont forget the oil companies; for every E85 pump they put in their gas stations they will get a $30,000 tax credit. According to the Department of Energy, Per gallon of gasoline or diesel, the oil subsidies would not be larger than the ethanol subsidy per gallon of ethanol.

Q: The farmers would get a subsidy for the corn even if they didnt make ethanol with it. Do the farmers benefit from producing corn into ethanol?

MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) was a reformulated gas that was culled by the oil company to solve air pollution problems. MTBE solved the air pollution problems but created serious water pollution problems. The oil companies supplied the MTBE, creating more revenue for them. The ethanol formulation sends that money to the farmers and suppliers and out of the hands of the oil companies. A January 2005 study by LECG found that the ethanol industry powered the U.S. economy by creating more than 147,000 jobs, boosting U.S. household income by $4.4 billion and reducing the U.S. trade deficit by $5.1 billion by eliminating the need to import 143.3 million barrels of oil.

Q: What benefit, besides money, does ethanol bring to the gas tank?

  • For older cars without oxygen sensors and feedback loops, ethanol adds oxygen to the fuel, thereby raising the air/fuel ratio for more complete combustion and generally increased performance.
  • Adds oxygen to the fuel, thereby raising the air/fuel ratio for more complete combustion and generally increased performance. Ethanol is a very high octane fuel.
  • E-10 Unleaded is compatible with all fuel system components that have been manufactured in the last 15 years.
  • Prevents burning of engine valves because ethanol burns cooler than gasoline; Q: Is ethanol the best source of energy for our vehicles? Theres a saying, “the best is the enemy of the good”. The best, according to many, not all, is hydrogen. Hydrogen, for a mass market, is not available and wont be for many years. We dont have an infrastructure for hydrogen fuel. Diesels are 25 percent better in fuel economy than gasoline and 67 percent better in fuel economy than ethanol. Diesels are all the rage in Europe where gasoline is $6 a gallon. Howe’ver, diesel fuel here is loaded with sulfur and wont be clean till September of 2006. Once our diesel fuel goes from 300ppm of sulfur to 15ppm of sulfur you will see more diesels on the road. Diesels will need a de-noxing system such as the one the 2007 Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec will have. The system will reduce Nitrogen Oxide (NoX) by 80 percent, according to Mercedes-Benz. Right now we have gasoline which we are using at rate faster than we are resupplying. We are including in the amount of recoverable reserves tar sands which have three times as much greenhouse gas emissions and takes twice as much electricity to produce than the sweet crude we have been purchasing. And we have ethanol.

    We have ethanol now and am on the way to cellulose ethanol. Cellulose ethanol uses the corn cobs to make electricity that the production plant will use to make ethanol. That will feed all the gasoline vehicles and the flex-fuel vehicles. We can also start turning to diesels. Shell GTL has already started producing gas-to-liquids in a diesel property. Shell has a process that converts coal (CTL) to diesel properties and Biomass (BTL) to diesel properties. The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. We could sequester CO2 and produce all the diesel fuel we need out of coal to run our cars if they were diesel. We could do the same with Biomass.

    Were a brilliant nation with the ability and technology to be self-sufficient. We spend $800 million a day on imported gasoline. If that money stayed in the United States it would decrease the trade deficit by 36 percent and allow a serious trickle down effect for a free market.

  • About the Author:

    Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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