I was going to write a piece about ethanol but The Daly Planet beat me to it.
So I’ll just add a few things I’ve found regarding ethanol.
E-15, unfortunately. is also part of a Federal law. The Renewable Fuels Mandate is mandating more alcohol mixed into gasoline, and sadly, it even destroys small engines too. NASCAR is having to buy the E15 that's part of this stupid law. So don’t think they’re doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or for their genuine concern for the environment. One thing that was mentioned to me was that it shouldn’t cause any problems with the fuel lines. If the lines are purged both before and after the race with gasoline like the Indy cars do, then it won’t be a problem. But once again, will NA$CAR and the team owners ensure that the purging is done? And even if the lines are purged, you still have all the ethanol that’s trapped in the sponge-like material inside the fuel cell. So the problem with the NA$CAR vehicles isn’t totally solved unless the fuel cells are broken apart, the inside materials removed, and then replaced by fresh material. Just think of how much cost that will add up to after a 36 race season. Not to mention how much gasoline will be used in the purging process. Not very “green” is it?
By the time the grain is planted, grown, harvested, and made into ethanol, that it takes about 1,600 gallons of water to make a gallon of alcohol. Not so good when you consider water run-off from fertilizers, some of which use petroleum by-products, and especially not so good if they’re doing this in an area where there’s a water shortage, like southern California for example.
E-85, ethanol, biobutenal, etc, contain alcohol which requires use of ColdFire or similar special agents to put out fires, since they burn much differently. I’ve seen footage of alcohol fueled cars on fire and outside of the waves of heat produced by the burning alcohol, the flame itself is not visible. Some of the drivers did the old “stop, drop, and roll” because they were on fire despite the flames not being visible. It took a fireman who was closer to the driver than the wrecked race vehicle to realize what was going on and he extinguished the flames on the driver. Are NA$CAR’s all volunteer firemen at each track going to be able to extinguish the ethanol flames or to recognize the fact that a vehicle or driver is burning? A dedicated traveling safety crew would like what the IndyCar Series uses. And since there don't seem to be any provisions right now for a fireman in each pit stall, what NA$CAR should do is take the former catchcan personnel and have them spray water or ColdFire on the the fuel inlet and overflow valves to reduce the odds of a fire on pit road after refueling takes place.
Ethanol also is creating a lot of problems with outboard motors and well as two stroke engines, like dirt bikes, weedeaters, and other products. One thing that’s mentioned in the link is the problems that ethanol pose to aviation fuel and why it can’t be used. The problem being that of water, which I stated before. In aircraft, the water will freeze in the fuel lines causing the aircraft to run out of fuel and if the pilot isn’t good or lucky enough, the plane will crash. Ethanol also increases the risk of injury to the passengers in the event of a fire because they cannot readily see the flames and avoid them.
The late Don Hamm and myself were checking our gas mileage after the switch came to the current E-10 ethanol mix. I lost 4-6 mpg. That may not sound like a lot but when you’re driving 700 miles one way that 4-6 mpg can be the difference between me arriving safely at my dad’s home or running out of fuel on I-95 in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. If we’re forced to use E-15, we’ll lose about another 2-3 mpg. This means a loss of 6-9 mpg if and when E-15 becomes mandatory for passenger vehicles. So just how is that saving fuel and the environment when you’re having to burn up more of it? It’s not.
Then there’s a question nobody in the media seems to want to ask. Ethanol is being passed off as an American product. Is it really an American product made totally from American alcohol mixed with American petroleum, which would make it an American product, or is it American alcohol mixed with Saudi petroleum products, which would make it an American-Saudi product? In order for it to be a totally American product, the petroleum would have to come from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas, or California. And having done some reading of the Wall Street Journal, I haven’t found where there’s been an increase in the production of American crude to be used to make this supposed American ethanol.
Here’s hoping everyone has a great 2011 and always keep our service members in your prayers because without them we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we do.