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May 05, 2008

Ethanol fuel and gas mileage

My car hates ethanol. I used to get 40 mpg on the highway in my Toyota Corolla. With ethanol made from corn and blended gasoline, I only get about 35. That’s a drop of over 10 percent. Many other people have reported similar results. Theoretically, mileage should only drop 3 to 4 percent with E-10 (10 percent ethanol), as reported in Steve Everly’s article “Does Ethanol measure up?”(4/27, A-1).

America’s ethanol policy is contributing to food shortages and starvation around the world. New data shows that ethanol is not green after all, but is damaging the environment in many ways. Since ethanol is not what we thought it would be, America’s policy must change. People are beginning to learn the true cost of using ethanol.

If our government repeals our ethanol policy now, they can treat the whole thing as a failed experiment. If they delay, it will be viewed as failed leadership.

Chris Luhnow
Prairie Village

Oil prices have hit $120 a barrel, and yet we continue to hear critics fretting over the negligible energy difference between conventional gasoline and ethanol-blended gasoline. Underinflated tires, fuel temperature and erratic braking put a bigger dent in our fuel economy than using E-10, and still we act as though the ethanol industry is robbing us blind.

In fact, using E-10 may cause a 2 percent decrease in fuel-injected cars. That means a car that would normally get 30 miles to the gallon on the highway would instead get 29.4 mpg using E-10. That’s a difference too small for the average consumer to notice.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that ethanol is offered for reasons in addition to performance. Energy independence is at the forefront of domestic concerns, and ethanol has opened the door to homegrown energy sources. Ethanol isn’t the silver bullet, but unlike other fuel alternatives still years down the road, ethanol-enriched fuel is available now.

In the big picture, that seems a lot more important than a possible 2 percent dip in gas mileage.

Robert White
Director of operations, Ethanol Promotion and Information Council
Omaha, Neb.


Taobao agent

* be happy together is good enough. I am not asking for things that I could never get.


None of us should take ourselves too seriously. While I once had highly honed technical skills they no doubt are now obsolescent. My favorite joke definition of an engineer is: A person who, before something is invented, can tell you in detail why it can never be done and after it is invented can tell you in detail just how it works.


The algae idea is interesing but it would seem that a very great pond surface area woild be required to produce a significant quantity. And of course sunshine hours per year and required product storage to balance out would also become a problem. But I am frustrated because I just can't believe that someplace on the net there isn't a collection of the formulas of the various ethanols and rhe equations on their combustion. But seriously I don;t think I have ever valled you " an anti-business socialist, after all". Why I haven't even called you a #*8@*# bike riding traffic obsticle! ;-)


Technically, engineer, you are correct (which I guess shouldn't be too surprising that an engineer is technically correct...which reminds me of the old joke about Microsoft technical support...but anyway...).

All ethanol is produced from the sugars of whatever biological substance you're making it from, of course. However, I was using sugar in the generic sense, as in the stuff that comes from sugar cane. To be honest, I don't know the chemical formulas for any of the varieties of ethanol. I've read articles from a variety of sources indicating there is greater energy content in sugar cane sugar as opposed to corn sugar, making sugar cane a suitable fuel source while corn is not. I also have a friend who has done post-doctoral research at UC-Berkeley on projects studying the energy content of algae-based ethanol (of course, I'm talking about the sugars in algae here as well). From him, and several articles I've subsequently read, I understand algae ethanol has comparable energy density to sugar cane ethanol in addition to the benefits of very rapid growth cycle and minimal land-use issues. This seems to be the best direction for ethanol to go based on everything we know right now. As soon as some of the start-ups start going public, I'll be looking for a new place to invest the money I've made investing in solar [you know, since I'm an anti-business socialist, after all ;-)].


What is the difference between "corn based ethanol" and "sugar based ethanol"? After all "corn" ethanol is produced from the sugar in corn. How do the formulas for two differ? The sugar content in cane is higher and no doubt you can get more gallons per acre. We do have some highly subsidized areas of cane in the US and there are large areas where it was once raised and isn't any more. I have been googling but can't find the formulas.


So, like 9 out of 10 new businesses if you believe the adage, it turns out the corn-ethanol idea was probably a failure. Hopefully we learn from it and move on. Simply removing the tariff from sugar ethanol would immediately give us an ethanol source that is cheaper than gasoline and just as efficient. And last I checked, Brazil doesn't pose a major terrorist threat to us. Granted, it's a small fix because the increased demand if we removed the tariff would almost immediately drive the price right up to where gasoline is at. But at least it's a start. Unfortunately, the agri-biz lobby is going to fight that tooth and nail.

One highly promising alternative is algae-based ethanol. It packs the same kind of energy as sugar ethanol, but without the troubling land-use issues. Growing algae requires neither crop-land nor the clearing of rain-forests. Undoubtedly, some of what we've learned from the corn-ethanol project is transferable. Plus, we have a lot of vehicles on the road now that already run on ethanol. So the corn-ethanol experiment hasn't been completely fruitless.

Wow, NMMNG, you're just grasping at every straw to dis Obama aren't you? Obama's the only candidate to oppose the gas tax holiday, the only candidate to say environmental responsibility starts with the public and not big oil companies, and he's been willing to admit corn-ethanol is not an optimal solution (despite coming from a major corn growing state). Seriously, WHO is the candidate making unreal promises? I used to respect McCain for his lack of political pandering, but his support of the gas tax holiday has put a big dent in that IMO.


"food shortages are related to wheat and rice shortages. These are not used to make ethanol."

Right. The rising costs of corn due to the government's ethanol subsidy, doesn't impact the food supply, despite the fact that we use it for everything from animal feed to Coca-Cola.

But, you know, few people actually use facts to make political decisions.


Ethanol was a start. I personally have used E-10 for years without seeing any large reduction in performance or MPG. Maybe I'm just lucky.

Okay, it's not the magic bullet. At least with corn. But they had to learn to do it with something. Now it's time to start asking, "What will work better", take the knowledge gained from the development of corn based energy, and move on to something better.

Isn't that what we used to do in this country?

Stifled Freedom

Actually the former secretary of agriculture said on CNN that food shortages are related to wheat and rice shortages. These are not used to make ethanol. Corn is used to make ethanol. But few poeple actually use facts to make political decisions.

Then you must ask yourself, who would you rather see your money going to? American Farmers and American businesses OR big oil companies and OPEC. Which do you think will most likely use that money to fund terrorist attacks on you?


Looks like Obama and NMMNG are essentially on the same page regarding ethanol:

"Corn-based ethanol is not optimal. I've been a big supporter of corn-based ethanol. I come from a corn state -- Illinois -- and it's a good transitional technology, but the truth is, it is not as efficient as what the Brazilians are doing with sugar cane."


Wonder how NMMNG feels about that?

Joe Barone

Our car has gone from 30 miles to the gallon on the highway pre-ethanol to 26 miles to the gallon post-ethanol. That's a considerable drop for a tax subsidized and government mandated additive.


Sugar ethanol yes, corn ethanol is by far to expensive to use as a blend. We are seeing that cost passed along to the consumer. Obama says you can eat your cake and have it to. Be prepapred to operate at a permanent loss, Obama will set the standard for your margins so that consumers can pay what they FEEL is fair not what market determines. Less mpg and higher priced fuel, so that is what the liberals want? I get 10-15% less mpg with E-10.

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