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More on Ethanol Scam

Oregon's ethanol requirement lowers vehicles' miles per gallon
Because the biofuel has less energy, the state's 10 percent requirement means drivers are buying more gas
Thursday, May 22, 2008
GAIL KINSEY HILL
The Oregonian
When ethanol began flowing into Oregon fuel tanks early this year, its costly little secret was scarcely mentioned: It packs one-third less explosive energy than gasoline and so reduces vehicle mileage on the road.

Good news: The Oregon requirement calls for just a 10 percent blend with gasoline, known as E10, and cuts into mileage an estimated 3 percent, according to official estimates. But that costs you an additional $73 a year at the fuel pump, based on today's prices for regular gasoline.

Bad news: Many Oregonians don't believe the 3 percent figure and maintain the drop is 10 percent or more, raising out-of-pocket costs much higher. It's enough to throw into question the real cost of cleaner air from ethanol use and reduced dependence on fossil fuels.

When Oregon lawmakers enthusiastically passed the alternative fuels bill in 2007, they barely mentioned ethanol's lower energy content. Instead, they emphasized E10's benefits: cleaner air and a healthier economy.

Now, record-high gas prices have thrown the mileage gap into sharp relief. Tapped-out consumers are scrutinizing every penny they have to shell out at the pump and track any discernable upticks. Drivers are finding that their mileage has dropped far more than 3 percent.

"It's just not fair to anyone who drives a car," said Ron Spuhler, a retiree who lives in Gresham and now gets 21.5 miles per gallon in his 1999 Buick, instead of prior, ethanol-free readings of 24 miles per gallon.

That's a drop of 10 percent and an extra $7 every time he fills the tank.

Plenty of factors influence gas mileage, so it's hard to carve out the effects of ethanol alone. Government, academic and industry experts point to a scientific principal to back up claims of slight reductions: ethanol contains about two-thirds the energy content of gasoline, gallon for gallon.

That means a gallon of pure, corn-based ethanol would reduce mileage by 30 percent and a 10 percent blend -- as Oregon now requires -- by about 3 percent. Gasoline can vary a bit, batch to batch, so a drop of 2 percent to 4 percent is a safe estimate, these experts say.

"Energy content is the critical issue," said Don Stevens, a senior program manager with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a regional research arm of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Comprehensive studies that rely on actual road tests for mileage comparisons are few, but they generally support the science-based data. A study by the American Coalition for Ethanol, a trade group promoting ethanol's development, tested three vehicles and came up with an average reduction of 1.5 percent.

How's your driving?

If ethanol isn't to blame for the larger mileage gap, then, what is? Stop-and-go driving, speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour, underinflated tires, faulty oxygen sensors and clogged fuel filters can affect gas mileage, sometimes significantly, government energy analysts said.

"Some individuals may well believe their mileage is dropping by 10, 20 percent," Stevens said. "But the difference is from some other factor, not ethanol."

Mark Kendall, a senior energy analyst with the Oregon Department of Energy, agreed, saying painfully high gas prices may be pushing consumers toward faulty conclusions.

"They're looking for the devil," he said.

But E85, which contains 85 percent ethanol and is used in flexible-fuel vehicles, is a different story. It can pull down mileage by more than 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Spuhler, like so many Oregonians, is unimpressed with the government's account.

He insists the truth comes out when the rubber meets the road. Decades as a truck driver taught him the ups and downs of gas mileage, he said.

Besides, he said, his Buick has a computerized mileage read-out and "it doesn't lie."

For years, gas stations in the greater Portland have pumped E10 in the winter months to meet federal clean air requirements. "I noticed it every time," Spuhler said.

Spuhler said he has complained to state and federal officials but "it's like talking to a brick wall."

James Bong, who lives in Milwaukie and drives a 1994 Ford pickup to and from work in Oregon City, has channeled his frustration into trips to Vancouver, Wash. There, at a 76 station off Mill Plain Boulevard, he fills up on ethanol-free gasoline.

That station, owned by Sherman Harris, is one of the few without ethanol. Harris said an "amazing number" of Oregon drivers seek him out.

"They say they're noticing a huge difference," Harris said of his Oregon customers. "If they're driving from Oregon, across the bridge, they should know what they're talking about."

Washington stations must pump at least E2 -- a blending with 2 percent ethanol -- by Dec. 1 of this year, with increases to E10 if certain conditions are met. Many already have made the switch.

Bong said his truck gets 13.9 miles per gallon with the Washington gas but just 10 miles per gallon with E10. That's a wallet-pounding difference of 28 percent.

"I'll do anything to shave a cost," he said.

Bong said he takes good care of both his vehicles -- he also owns a four-wheel-drive pickup -- and has compared mileage over like terrain. He rejects officials' arguments that poor maintenance or inconsistent driving behavior is to blame.

"They can say what they want, but those of us who use cars and observe what's going on, we notice a big difference," Bong said.

The big picture

State officials say motorists shouldn't lose sight of the big picture: that ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline -- fewer smog-causing pollutants -- and reduces the country's dependence on foreign oil.

Another plus, they say, is that ethanol is cheaper than gasoline. In the Northwest, ethanol was selling for $2.09 a gallon, compared with gasoline at $3.25 a gallon, a difference $1.16. That's pure ethanol. E10 blends, then, would dampen prices by almost 12 cents.

If ethanol's contribution to the country's overall fuel supply is taken into account, the savings are larger -- between 29 and 40 cents a gallon -- say researchers at Iowa State University. Ethanol currently accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. fuel supplies. If it were pulled from the mix, demand for gasoline would spike and so would prices, these researchers concluded.

That's of little comfort to consumers watching pump prices as they climb toward $4 a gallon. When a customer from Oregon drove into Harris' station one day last week to ask for a fill-up, he pointed to a big barrel in the back of his pickup. He wanted that filled too.


Gail Kinsey Hill: 503-221-8590, gailhill@news.oregonian.com For environment news, go to http://www.oregonlive.com/environment

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Old 05-22-2008, 10:04 AM
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The lower energy content of ethanol has been widely discussed here on PPOT ever since it has been en vogue.
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:07 AM
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Yeah...but think about it...state goes "green"...drivers get lower mileage, yet the gas tax doesn't drop. Who's the real winner here? BOHICA!
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:09 AM
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US Postal Service switched all their vehicles to ethanol in 1996 and are finding mileage is substantially less and in many cases ethanol is not available.

Not only that but farmers are growing corn for ethanol, not food and so food prices have skyrocketed.

It's going to take a revolution to bring this to and end!
Old 05-22-2008, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pwd72s View Post
Yeah...but think about it...state goes "green"...drivers get lower mileage, yet the gas tax doesn't drop. Who's the real winner here? BOHICA!
Got it now. Looks like the tax collections go up as Orygun goes green.
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:17 AM
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BS all around. Horray, ethanol is cheaper! But wait......ethanol blended gas costs exactly the same as regular gas. Where do you suppose that savings goes?

I'm glad that people are up in arms about this, ethanol is finally being revealed for the farce that it is. Like ethanol PRODUCTION pollutes significantly, including carcinogens. Food costs go up because farmers plant more corn in place of other crops, then the corn gets converted to fuel. Dependence on foreign oil does not change, because there's not enough farmland in the entire country to meet even a fraction of our needs. But hey, it sure made the farm lobby happy, and isn't that all that matters?

I'm glad I still have a choice in KS. When I see the label showing an ethanol blend at the pump, I just keep on driving.
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
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Got it now. Looks like the tax collections go up as Orygun goes green.

And that's not the whole story...state tax money, "economic development tax money" is involved in the financing of Oregon's ethanol plant. Ka-ching! Follow the money.

(edit) The corn used in this plant is shipped in by rail from the midwest...I grind my teeth watching an Indy Car race, the announcers touting the "green" ethanol fuel used...
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:53 AM
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Not only that but farmers are growing corn for ethanol, not food and so food prices have skyrocketed.
Ethanol is a scam, but hasn't raised food prices. Transportation costs have driven up food prices.
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Old 05-22-2008, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
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Ethanol is a scam, but hasn't raised food prices. Transportation costs have driven up food prices.
The first statement is wrong, the second statement is partially true.

I can see corn and soybeans from my office window right now. Every single arable acre is being planted right now. Because less farmland is available to grow food (it is being used for ethanol) it has decreased the supply of food and driven up the price. And yes, that more expensive food is also more expensive to transport.
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Old 05-22-2008, 11:14 AM
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In truth, ethanol is not cheaper than gas. It might clost a little less because of the government subsidies to the farmers and ethanol refiners, but we still have to pay.
Old 05-22-2008, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
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Ethanol is a scam, but hasn't raised food prices. Transportation costs have driven up food prices.

Wrong, it's not only raised food prices but raised the cost of growing and harvesting anything from the ground. Farm implement business is through the roof and fertilizer sales is as well. Just look at Potash stock price (POT), it is based on sig increased demand and price.
Old 05-22-2008, 11:56 AM
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"James Bong, who lives in Milwaukie and drives a 1994 Ford pickup to and from work in Oregon City, has channeled his frustration into trips to Vancouver, Wash."

A great name. Should live in the Pacific NW and smoke much bud..
Old 05-22-2008, 12:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaijin View Post
"James Bong, who lives in Milwaukie and drives a 1994 Ford pickup to and from work in Oregon City, has channeled his frustration into trips to Vancouver, Wash."

A great name. Should live in the Pacific NW and smoke much bud..
There is a Milwaukie, Oregon...
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:28 PM
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I blame the Corn lobby.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:51 PM
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The farmers will love it. Driving around all day in their diesil (sp) tractors looking after the subsidised corn fields.
Old 05-22-2008, 04:34 PM
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I read an article in Scientific American about some guys who are developing microbes to turn ethanol into gasoline.

No I am not kidding.

What food prices are going up exactly ? My McDonald's happy meal is the same.
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Old 05-22-2008, 04:54 PM
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I blame the Corn lobby.
Nothing new..Corn filler, corn starch, corn syrup, corn meal etc, etc. It's always been their thing. The worse thing to ever happen to our food sources was the use of corn for animal feed. However that's a whole different topic so I digress.

From what I have I read, it takes about 20% more Ethanol to run the same mpg as gasoline.
Old 05-22-2008, 05:07 PM
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Nothing new..Corn filler, corn starch, corn syrup, corn meal etc, etc. It's always been their thing. The worse thing to ever happen to our food sources was the use of corn for animal feed. However that's a whole different topic so I digress.

From what I have I read, it takes about 20% more Ethanol to run the same mpg as gasoline.
\\

Ethanol = 75,670 BTU's per gallon

Gasoline = 115,400 BTU's per gallon

These figures from a sidebar in the original article. I'll let the math whizzes here figure the % age...the sidebar says that a gallon of pure ethanol will take you 66% of the distance a gallon of gas will.

I gotta wonder how much Archer-Daniel-Midlands donates to political campaigns...?
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"Now, to put a water-cooled engine in the rear and to have a radiator in the front, that's not very intelligent."
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Old 05-22-2008, 05:23 PM
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Wait till you see how well ethanol ethanol dissolves the oil film between the compression ring and the cylinder liner - synthetics or mineral based, no matter.
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Old 05-22-2008, 05:24 PM
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You Lubmaster!

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Wait till you see how well ethanol ethanol dissolves the oil film between the compression ring and the cylinder liner - synthetics or mineral based, no matter.
Mike? You know of any additive that could help? Go back to Marvel Mystery oil or something? Add 2 stroke oil with every fill up? Bozo Orygun politicians are trying to kill off the auto, put everybody into mass transit. Fine for Portland, but that dog won't hunt in rural areas, like where I live.

(edit) I guess they expect Cindy & I to walk or bicycle 12 miles round trip (minimum) to the closest mini-mart...do ALL our shopping there.

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Last edited by pwd72s; 05-22-2008 at 05:44 PM..
Old 05-22-2008, 05:31 PM
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