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Ethanol the pros and cons


Ethanol or ethyl alcohol (CH3CH2OH) a colorless liquid with characteristic odor and taste. Ethanol is a liquid gas that is the breakdown of starches and sugars from plants such as wheat, corn, and fruit and vegetable waste.

Ethanol burns cleaner, is easily replenished, and comes right from American soil. Studies show that ethanol blends reduce the amount of emissions by 25% to 30%. It has a higher energy density than some other alternative fuels.

It all sounds real positive but there is has been some new discoveries that show a serious downside to the ethanol craze as well.

As it is stated above, ethanol has a high energy density, so it needs 1.5 times as much as gasoline to go the same distance. To the consumer this means worse gas mileage, which is overcome by the price paid at the pump usually. However demand for crop and production has changed due to government mandates on the use of bio fuels. Some states like Wash. are now at least 10% ethanol across the board. There is still a handful of stations in Idaho where you can get 100% gasoline or at least ethanol free gasoline.

The producers of ethanol are pressing the government harder and asking them to overturn the ruling that limits the mix of ethanol to 10%. These companies are pushing for 15% or higher if they can get it. With the EPA in their back pocket and the full support of the governments “new energy future” it has been a fairly easy row to hoe thus far.

Several studies have shown harmful effects of using of E10 or 90% gas and 10% ethanol. Some but not all of these things have been resolved by newer advances in technology from the automotive industry. E10 has a shelf life that is only 3 months or 90 to 100 days under ideal environmental conditions. When one thinks in terms of owning a car that only gets used during the summer or that lawn mower that gets put away during the winter, it certainly gives you cause for concern. Or how about your chainsaw, weed eater, generator, motor home just to name a few.

Many states still do not require the labeling of E10 gas at the pumps so know your laws or invest in a test kit if you’re concerned about using ethanol.

Older engines (prior to 1998) and several luxury vehicles do not permit the use of alcohol fuels. Many lower priced and high mileage automobiles experience performance problems and part damage from the use of E10 gas.

Fuel efficiency can decrease by 2 to 40% in some cases; remember these are backed by several studies.

Avoid water contamination by choosing a level of octane exceeding 90 for added security. Water contamination can lead to a drop in up to 3 points for octane.

Affects of “bad gas” or what we call adding too much alcohol can cause hesitation on WOT (wide open throttle). More affects are clogged fuel filters and carbs, damage to fuel and VRO pumps, pistons. The disintegration and dissolving of engine parts (especially rubber and plastic). If you’re fanatical about your car you can install a water separator filter, few people know the harm water contamination in your fuel causes an engine. MLR solutions offer a cheap fuel test kit, available on their site www.fueltestkit.com. Check them out, they are a fantastic resource for legislature and fuel studies in general.