Monday, August 23, 2010

Fed looking to boost ethanol ratio....

Turns out now that the FedGov is now looking to raise the ethanol in our fuel from 10% to 15% to help save the world(?) once again..
I have heard from many people about the problems associated with the ethanol in the fuel as well as the logistics of moving and dispensing this ethanol blend ... And lets not forget the increased food prices or the damage to older equipment from the alcohol in the fuel mix...
And where are the benefits? We have been on ethanol for a pretty good run and where are the reports or studies that show the changes and benefits?....

The Energy Tomorrow plog has a great post on this issue....
"In today's episode, I interview Al Jessel, co-chair of the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) about a plan being considered by the EPA which would raise the amount of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 or 20 percent."

I have found a gas station that still sells 100% gasoline only fuel without any ethanol...
The fuel has higher energy output than the fuel that is cut with ethanol, I get avg 2-3 more miles per gallon so I use less fuel, and the car runs better...


Bill Anderson said...

We should not forget the claims because they are in fact false. We should remember them but with the truth.

Scientific studies of the food price increases show that ethanol had no appreciable impact. Food prices rose far faster and far higher than the price of corn? We had massive shortages due to floods, fires, & changes in Chinese policies raising the price by dropping supply. US production of *food-and-feed* from corn (and grains) rose instead of decreasing. These are all facts not in dispute and not open to interpretation.

I know people think a 10 or 15% ethanol mixture lowers their fuel economy by several MPG. However, according to mathematics and the laws of physics, they are wrong.

First facts:
Gasoline mixed w/Ethanol has less "energy content" than gasoline.
Gasoline mixed w/MTBE or ETBE both have less energy content than gasoline.

in BTUs/gal:
RFG-Ethanol: 111,836
RFG-MTBE: 111,811
RFG-ETBE: 111,745

Now take a look at the difference. Which has the most energy content? Ethanol.
Why is this when either MTBE/ETBE alone has a higher energy content than ethanol? You have to use ~twice as much of the BEs than you do ethanol. You are still displacing gasoline. As a result, you remove more energy. As you can see the difference between the RGS is actually pretty minor. Which means if you use any form of RFG you will not have any measurable-at-the-pump change in fuel economy; any that existed would be in favor of ethanol due to higher energy BTUs.
But how about we compare to the RFGs to conventional gasoline averages for those few who are not in an area that mandates it? RFGs contain *on average* 1.7% less BTUs in summer blends and 3% less BTUs in winter blends.

So, for you to "lose" 2-3mpg" going from a non-RFG to an RFG you would have to be getting 100MPG. I doubt you are getting that. Probably more like 25, which means you would see less than 1 MPG. And guess what? You filling the tank is not accurate enough to see that much. Nor is your dashboard fuel gauge.

Here are some examples of things the EPA has found affect fuel economy:
head wind: Max: 6% / Avg: 2.3%
Acceleration differences: 25% /11.8
A/C: NA/21%
Tire Pressure: 6% /3.3% average
Roar conditions: 50% / 4.3%

So you can see from these above alone, you're not measuring a less than one percent difference between RFGs with vs RFGs w/o ethanol, nor are you measuring the 1.7-3% less than RFGs vs. non-RFGs. But there is something else further compounding your misunderstanding of your own fuel economy. Filling up your tank early in the morning will let you put more fuel in than in the heat of the day? Gasoline expands when it heats up leaving you with less "room" in your tank for fuel 'm sure you understand that. That is a factor in calculating your street-MPG. I'll let you go find the details if you are interested. But wait there is more!

Ethanol take less volume per gallon that gasoline. So you fit more E10 in your tank per gallon than plain gasoline. Not a whole lot (IIRC it is something like 4%. On 10 gallons that 4% increase means .4 gallons. On 250 miles that lowers your perceived mpg by .96 mpg.

That should also give an idea how inaccurate figuring your MPG by filling your tank is. As low as 4% you can be off by a full mile per gallon. You are not that precise. Combine that with being able to put more E10 then G100 in your tank and you can easily see why you *think* you get worse fuel economy.

Fact is, when you take engines into consideration E10, E15, and E20 might increase your fuel economy.

A final note: The BTUs/gallon in "base" gasoline can vary by as much as 3.4% in summer or 4.8% in winter. Meaning that the notion you can expect consistent energy levels in gasoline even from the same station is worthless. Also note that even the low end variance is greater than the maximum variance in RFG fuels, and that the winter variance is almost twice that of FRGs.
[trimmed to fit]

RightsideVA said...

Thanks for the info and I have printed it out so to review it during breaks at work....

RightsideVA said...


Thanks for the info and input and I enjoyed the opportunity to see other views presented....

As far as "scientific" studies showing ethanol not having any effect on food price increases, why scientific? Why Not economic reports? I imagine their views might show that like the oil spikes and fuel spikes a few years back, food prices may have been swayed by a "Speculative" spike by those out there(?).....

There are many factors to MPG and my example is over approximately 12-15 full fuel tank fillings. Fillings all the way to the top where the fuel is visible and not depending on the fuel gauges with many being bogus. Fuel temp and expansion is a important factor considering the fuel coming out of the ground storage tank can be 55 degrees or so, but again the average over 12-15 tanks...

Also we must consider the "Feel Good" factor of believing or hoping that ethanol free gasoline runs better and more MPG than 10%... Wind, drag, and speed are all factors and should be noted but again looking at the average over the 12-15 tanks.....

The issue is increasing 10% to 15% on ethanol and before the studies come back on theffects on the engines and equipment...

I have heard from several mechanics problems with older equipment and the use of ethanol?

Are there any reports showing the benefits of ethanol to air quality or the likes? Its been quiet and if the benefit is we are not placing more carbon into the environment the argument is still out on Carbon no matter what Al Gore says...


Bill Anderson said...

[I'm going to try for shorter, but more replies to keep it easier]

"Why Not economic reports?" They aren't necessarily exclusive. An "economic report" usually comes from people w/o rigorous methods. A scientific economic report is a different animal. It takes into account many factors, publishes the details and data, and adheres to proper analysis methods. Sadly, most so-called economic reports focus on one item and make a pre-ordained conclusion.

I haven't seen a quality analysis done on speculation being the cause. It is difficult for speculation to be the cause of a rise or drop. Speculation is a result of some form of analysis. Those who make guesses soon part with their money and are barely a drop in the barrel. This is true of most any form of commodity. The data shows directly what prices farmers sold at, and prices packagers purchased and sold at. The increase farmers sold at is dwarfed by the increase at that last step. Now, there are many factors and we need to be mindful of concluding that the packagers got greedy and made big profit from that aspect. Nonetheless, the bare facts are that the increase in food prices to paid to the farmer are not near the level of rise in wholesale/retail packaged foods made from those products. The grain industry is a complex one. Shortages in grain A one year will cause a shortage in grain B the next but a rise in grain C; factoring out weather effects of course. The claim that ethanol was a significant driver means excluding 100% of the major known factors.

Now: MPG. Our brain is really good at some things, and poor at others - and often gets the two confused. ;) Normally we figure an average over time is a good measure. Unfortunately we are often wrong, and this is one of those cases. First, in reality you are talking about an average of an average. That's one problem in our calculations but at least it is one shared by all. in some cases we could let that slide for comparisons.

Street tracking of MPG is not one of those cases. The daily factors over 12-15 tanks are far too variable to provide a consistent change. I assume you are saying you run/ran G100 for 12-15 and E10 for 12-15. Unless you are filling up daily (or even better multiple times daily), there isn't a chance of comparing similar factors. Further complicating it is the amount of fuel left in the tank when filling - this the ratio of one fuel to the next. When dealing with such minor difference, this ratio is critical. For example, if the tank is half full of E10 and is filled then with G100 the difference in energy content is less than one percent. We've seen how normal G100 has several % variance. Then also there is the odometer correction factor. Some odometers are quite variable in their accuracy, even among different types of terrain. Some are not.

Yes tires, road, weather, and traffic conditions are all factors. But more importantly their factors are much greater than the potential due to differences in energy content of E10 vs. G100. Case in point: I've been driving my 99 Vette as a daily driver for over 7 years now. On E10 I get an in-town-only average of 19-24. On my rare highway trips I pull mid 30's (at 75-85MPH). When I run G100 I see no measurable change. Surely you wouldn't claim I'd be getting 21-26 in town in a corvette on G100 only? ;) The highway trips are not flat routes, unfortunately. This is combined with an in-car data logger and analysis I can actually compare the driving style, speeds, etc.. However that has only been needed to show the difference in right-foot activity which I've also been able to narrow down how much it affects my economy as a sole factor change.

I also have an E85 powered Suburban. My difference between G100 and E85 in town is about 2.5-3.5MPG. If 85%E makes only a few MPG, 10% can't as well. And if it did, then going from 10 to 15 would make no difference either.


Bill Anderson said...

To be clear, you can expect a possible decrease in fuel economy from G100 non-RFG to E10 or any other RFG. However, that difference will be less than 1MPG in the vast majority of vehicles since it will be less than 2%. However, counterpoints are that it is cleaner burning - though how much difference a few percent makes is still up for debate.

However it is also possible to see an increase in MPG. Various factors explain this from computer control adapting to a better quality fuel to expansion benefits of H2O vapor, to increases in power in undersized motors, and even cars designed to not "just run" on the fuel but to perform well on it. One of the facts regarding ethanol that confounds those who focus on BTUs/gallon is that ethanol promotes a cleaner, more thorough burn. That means that while the specific BTUs of ethanol are lower, you get more of them out. An analogy can be seen with paychecks. You can have 60% of $5000 or you can have 80%of $4000. Which is better? Note that these specific numbers represent the concept not specific values. That said, an engine designed to run E100 will get better economy than one that is designed to run G100.

Regarding engine mechanics and ethanol, the chances are small but still there. The reality is that since 1978 the fedgov has mandated some ethanol be mixed in (usually around 5%).

I would be more concerned with the fuel pumps at gas stations, which are U.L. certified at 10%, and could run fine up to 15% but not 16% which can occur. That said is a counterpoint. (note, I make no commentary either way regarding that site, they just happen to have a decent collection of reports though the majority of them are not scientific reports.)

Overall I've concluded (so far) we are better off working more on the E85 side to push the manufacturers to actually design for it, rather than make it acceptable; it being proven that an engine designed for E100 gets better economy than that same engine in the same car running G100.

That ethanol in a motor designed for it performs better on every level than a gas motor designed for gas is without counter. That we don't run those is not lost. The point is that it isn't the fuel that is the problem. It's the political nature of it, and the tendency for people to blindly assume that less BTUs == less MPG. As long as we the people let ourselves be blinded by both the political based proponents of just adding more ethanol and the equally blind "it has less energy so it is worse" people we will be stuck getting nowhere.

I hope I haven't discouraged you from tracking MPG as that was not my goal. I actually hope it might spur you to taking a greater interest and look into the entire piece. You can get data loggers that track instantaneous economy (the computer knows how much fuel it is using, and it knows how fast it is going), temperature loggers to track temperature, etc.. IMO more importantly armed with these types of things you can learn *your* vehicle and how to maximize it's economy using reasonable methods. For example, my wife gets a full 2MPG worse in the Suburban or Vette than I do because I've learned the nuances of the gas pedal. On the highway it is more pronounced as she uses cruise control and I do not. Again, it is the little variances that taking the time to learn reaps rewards far greater than initially expected. Doing that also demonstrates in real world activities how insignificant the energy content of the fuel is - and thus how dumb and broad the arguments the pundits and politicians use are. ;)

turkey farmer said...

All I know is this- I am very anal about tracking mpg correctly in all my vehicles as an indicator of "engine health"- my wifes bmw gets 2.0-2.1 mpg better on her 72 mile /day work commute.- I remember well my graduate level work-study. You can make figures and statistics say whatever you want them to.

turkey farmer said...

I should add on ethanol free gas, mpg 2.0-2.1 better