Ethanol trickling to pumps

Discussion in '2006 Archive' started by Ben W, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. Ben W

    Ben W
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    Considering the recent threats of Iran's leader, maybe he might like to read this?


    Ethanol trickling to pumps
    MICHAEL ELLIS
    Knight Ridder Tribune News Service

    Drivers soon will have another choice at the pump beyond regular, premium and diesel.

    This year, thousands of filling stations are expected to begin selling E85, a blend of gasoline and ethanol made from corn or other crops.

    Advocates of E85 tout the fuel as a made-in-America alternative to imported oil that cuts dirty tailpipe emissions, boosts performance and, in some cases, can also save a little money.

    Millions of vehicles already on the road can burn E85, but most owners instead fill up with regular gasoline because of a shortage of filling stations offering the alternative fuel.

    "You may have an ethanol vehicle in your driveway and not even know it," said Anthony Pratt, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates. "It was kind of the dirty little secret of the auto industry."

    In years past, automakers made many of their trucks capable of burning E85 to comply with federal gas mileage regulations. But they didn't widely promote ethanol use, so consumers were unaware it was available.

    That will likely change in 2006 with gas stations installing more pumps, U.S. automakers stepping up their marketing of E85, and more states such as Michigan supporting a fuel that helps farmers.

    Currently, there are only about 500 filling stations, including four in Michigan, that sell E85, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, which promotes ethanol use. But by the end of the year, that number will rise to about 2,500, as filling stations take advantage of new tax credits for the costs of retro-fitting pumps and tanks, said Michelle Kautz, director of communications for the group.

    "There seems to be a sea change in people's interest," said Beth Lowry, vice president of environment and energy matters for General Motors Corp. "Everybody has different reasons why they're interested."

    Interest in E85 has surged along with the surge in gas prices. The war in Iraq has also attracted some consumers hoping for an alternative to imported oil.

    The costs of E85 vary widely, but at times last fall, it cost 50 cents to 70 cents less than a gallon of gas, Kautz said.

    But usually the cost is close to gas prices, and any price advantage is usually lost because vehicles usually burn E85 quicker than regular fuel, Pratt said.

    Ford Motor Co., as part of its effort to put more innovative features in its vehicles, has set a target of building as many as 280,000 vehicles this year that can run on either E85 or regular gasoline.

    http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/13624100.htm
     
  2. billwald

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    Will cause a large cut in MPG (20%?) unless compression ratio is raised because alky has less BTUs per gallon.
     
  3. Johnv

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    Is this really news? Here in CA, we've used ethanol mixtures in gasoline for at least 10 years that I can remember, with reasonable success. It is more expensive, but it has positive environmental benefits.
     
  4. Hope of Glory

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    It also has to be subsidized, or it's a lot more expensive. It also takes a lot of energy to produce. Beyond that, my car specifically says not to use ethanol, and I've had other vehicles in the past that made the same statement.
     
  5. Ben W

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    You may have had an Ethanol Mixture John, but have you had it as high as 85% Ethanol - E85?
     
  6. Ben W

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    Did you know Bill that if you drive a modern Toyota that its onboard computer is able to detect the octane rating of different fuels and adjust the timing of the engine accordingly? A Toyota can reset the timing once every two seconds. Hence when a modern Camry is filled with E85 it automatically adjusts the tuning to get the best economy from it.
     
  7. fromtheright

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    bill,

    Will cause a large cut in MPG (20%?) unless compression ratio is raised because alky has less BTUs per gallon.

    Thanks, Bill. That explains why I had to take my car into the shop a few weeks ago after it was hesitating and why the shop said to switch from cheap/ethanol gas to 89 octane.
     
  8. Johnv

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    Okay, ya got me there [​IMG]

    Of interest is that, in 2001, the Disneyland Resort switched from diesel trams (that shuttle visitors from the parking structure to the park entrances) to propane. The cost of each tram was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the environmental and other savings over time was more than that.
     
  9. fromtheright

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    Ben,

    It doesn't appear that "newer Toyotas" includes my '97 Camry.
     
  10. Scott J

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    That's not entirely true of ethanol in general.

    If I remember what I read a few months ago correctly, ethanol production costs (BTU for BTU) are actually now lower than gas. A local company has even started selling 10% blend for less than regular even though the octane rating is 2 points higher.

    Further, the US Ag Dept currently pays farmers millions each year to "not farm" acreage. I bought 10 acres of CRP myself... and get a check for almost $700 every fall. The retired farmer that owns the CRP land around me is making somewhere in the neighborhood of $25K to not farm. Many if not most farmers around here are subsidized for what they don't market in corn or soybeans.

    In short, the potential to produce the needed grain is currently bottled up in gov't subsidies. Unleash it and both the farmer and ethanol user will benefit.
     
  11. Scott J

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    Besides that, I would simply rather pay midwest farmers who will turn around and contribute directly to our tax base and economy than some mullah who is secretly sponsoring terrorism against my country and its allies. I believe the overall economic equation would work to our individual favor even if the price "at the pump" were a little higher.

    I know it would take a significant factor off the table in mideast diplomacy.

    Finally, even the realistic threat of such a transition will drive oil and gas prices down. It will convert this seller's market to a buyer's market very quickly.
     
  12. billwald

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    The engine efficiency is limited by the compression (actually expansion) ratio. An engine on 100% alky could run 12 to 1.

    Noted elsewhere that using food for fuel will run up the price of food. Who will this hurt? the rich people or the working class?
     
  13. Hope of Glory

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    The production of ethanol is subsidized, as is the actual production of corn: Ethanol Subsidies

    This does not mean that other farmers are not paid to not produce crops. I have family that falls into that category. (Although I question the validity of such, I also see the need to keep people in the farming business, even if they can't make a profit, just in case of national emergency.)

    Gasoline production, if I'm not badly mistaken, is not subsidized. They do get some tax breaks, but letting someone keep what is already theirs is not the same as giving them subsidies.

    So, it's not surprising that ethanol is as cheap (or cheaper in some places) as pure gasoline. But, many cars cannot run on it, and using it in hot weather is a bad idea, as well.

    I'm curious if they add anything to the 85% stuff to make the flame visible. Alcohol flame is nearly invisible, and that's one reason that its use is banned in many forms of racing.
     
  14. Scott J

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    It is narrow minded not to take economies of scale into consideration. Greater demand will bring efficiencies to the market. BTW, there was no mention of how much these subsidies actually amount to... If they were very significant, oil companies would be jumping into the business and we would be seeing much more pressure for 80/20 blends.
    I suspect that price supports of this nature outweigh the costs of subsidies. Putting this land back into production would probably be no worse than a wash... the resulting market equillibrium would not cause a rise in food prices as was suggested earlier.
    I use 10% in all three of my vehicles with good results. If I understand correctly, most if not all cars could run on 80/20. Cutting US gasoline demand by 15%-20% would be a major accomplishment... and put downward pressure on world oil prices.
     
  15. Hope of Glory

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    I would challenge this assumption. I would say that some cars can; perhaps even many. But, I doubt that most can, and I know for a fact that not all can run properly on a mix. I currently own one right now that specifically will not, not to mention the '97 Camry mentioned earlier in this thread, and my Honda motorcycle specifically cannot.

    But, beyond that, what about the ones that cannot? Do we just require everyone to buy new cars that can just to support some kind of feel-good legislation?

    How about this: Let's use more domestic oil, and develop higher efficiency, while letting the free market decide? This has proved very effective in relation to the hybrid vehicles. Compare this to the disaster of the government mandated electric vehicles of a few years back.
     
  16. Scott J

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    Absolutely not. You'd have to make it progressive like the switch from leaded gasoline was.

    Most gas stations already have pumps that would allow them to carry both products for as long as necessary.

    First, even as a libertarian, the environment is one area where the Feds belong. I can do damage to the environment that directly results in damages to you or your property. One state can emit pollution that has a direct impact on another. The unique evergreen trees of the high peaks of the Great Smokies of NC and Tenn were almost wiped out a few years ago by industrial pollution originating primarily in Ohio.

    Further, the market has never really been in force in the oil or automobile industries. The corporations themselves amount to a trust and with OPEC an out and out trust... There is minimal chance that an oil based economy can ever be effectively left to the market.
    Hybrids are not seen as a direct threat to the oil companies or car companies.
     
  17. Hope of Glory

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    I forgot to add the fuel cell vehicles.

    But, creating a car that gets 85 MPH using gasoline will use far less oil than a gasahol car that gets 45 MPH, and it doesn't have to be subsidized.

    BTW, how long do we require stations to carry both kinds of gas? The car I'm currently driving is 17 years old and has 318,000 miles on it. I have a friend whose car is 24 years old and has 64,000 miles on it. Cars are lasting a long, long time.

    I used to own a motorcycle that required leaded gasoline. I had restored it 100%. The only reason I don't own it today is that it was stolen and totalled. However, I could add leaded additive to the gas. How do I remove the damaging ethanol?
     
  18. Scott J

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    Maybe you know. What is preventing this technology from being popular? The economics seem to work after the initial investment especially for home power supply.

    You don't. These changes take time. There will be some immediate impact in new car sales then a protracted shift.

    BTW, my car is 9 years old. We usually buy 'em and drive them til they die.
     
  19. hillclimber

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    Just the latest unbelievably brash try at being seen as politically correct and environmentally sensitive. It will never be cost effective, as long as there are oil producing wells, unencumbered by political struggles. In the first article I Googled it states that fuel consumption will be 5-20% greater. Not on their best day will that happen. I bet it will approach 50%.
     
  20. Hope of Glory

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    The fuel cell technology is still somewhat unreliable and still terribly expensive. I also suspect, that as with most new technologies, most people will let others test out the hybrids for a while before purchasing them. (The price will probably come down as well.)

    Oh, another drawback to fuel cell technology is the attraction of the corner hydrogen pump to a terrorist.
     

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