“Gas” is about to become another 5 percent less so.
President Trump just issued a fuhrerbefehl – a Fuhrer Order, as it was styled back in you-know-where, by you-know-who – directing the EPA to change its befehls (orders) to infuse the nation’s “gas” supply with 15 percent ethanol (E15), year ’round.
Up to now, the limit of ethanol-adulteration – in most places, most of the time – has been 10 percent (E10).
But what’s the problem with ethanol?
Ethanol-adulterated fuel is several percent less energy dense than 100 percent gas.
Which is why cars burn more of it to go a given distance than they would a gallon of not-adulterated, 100 percent gas.
15 percent ethanol (E15) will decrease the distance your car can go on a gallon by another noticeable percentage.
But, wait a minute . . . isn’t the government “concerned” about fuel economy? Well, Trump is also concerned about re-election. And ethanol is of great concern to the agriculture cartels which are politically puissant in Iowa and other “corn” states where the crops which are transmuted into ethanol are grown.
Hence the new ethanol-friendly befehl.
One of the reasons the economy cars of 30-plus years ago – back in the early ‘80s – were as or even more fuel-efficient than the economy cars of today, even though they had none of the many engineering advantages of today’s cars (such as computer-controlled port fuel injection) was due to the fact that their fuel was more efficient.
It was 100 percent gas – not 10 or 15 percent something else.
A gallon of unadulterated gasoline contains the equivalent of 116,090 BTUs of energy.
A gallon of ethanol contains 76,000 BTUs of energy.
Put another way, a gallon of ethanol contains about two-thirds the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas that’s just gas. You can see where this is headed – or just watch your fuel gauge.
With an exception, kind-of, sort-of.
Ethanol is an octane enhancer. If you own a car with an engine that has a high enough compression ratio (or is turbocharged, which has the same effect – increasing the pressure inside the engine’s cylinders) the higher-octane of ethanol-laced gas can compensate for the lower energy content of the fuel by enabling the engine to run more efficiently – and make more power.
This is one of the reasons why the car industry supports higher-octane/ethanol-doped “gas.” The car companies are installing very high-compression or turbocharged engines in almost every type of vehicle made, in order to up their fuel efficiency in order to comply with the other government befehls.
But the same effect could be achieved with higher-octane gasoline sans the ethanol – and you wouldn’t be making up for lower-energy-content fuel. A gallon of 94 octane gas would take you farther than a gallon of 94 octane E10 or E15 while also enabling the high-compression/turbocharged engine to make more power. But, the high-octane stuff does cost more – negating the efficiency advantage – which is why (until recently) most cars did not come with high-compression/turbocharged engines.
And if your car hasn’t got a high-compression engine, the higher octane (ethanol-enhanced or not) doesn’t provide any benefit regardless. In fact, too high an octane can have a negative effect on mileage, because the high-octane fuel does not combust optimally in an engine not designed for it.
There are millions of such cars in circulation.
The majority of cars made before the mid-2000s do not have high-compression engines, or turbochargers – which used to be found almost exclusively under the hoods of high-performance cars and high-end luxury cars. People who buy such cars buy them because they are more powerful than family cars and commuter cars and are willing to pay extra not only for the additional power, but extra for the higher-octane fuel necessary to make it.
For everyone else, high octane fuel – ethanol’d or not – is just another unnecessary expense. They will see no benefit in terms of power from E15 fuel – but will notice a reduction in mileage, because the E15 hasn’t got as much energy per gallon.
If the ethanol were cheaper per gallon than straight gas, that would make up for the decreased MPGs – but it’s not the case. The ethanol costs as much or more than straight gas – which is why ethanol has to be forced on the market via “renewable” fuels mandates. The ethanol lobby is very much like the electric car lobby. What it sells requires coercion and without coercion, couldn’t be sold or would sell a lot less.
There’s another, more worrisome angle to this story, too.
Almost all vehicles made before the early 2000s (except those specifically made to be “flex-fuel” compatible) are not designed to safely operate on fuels with more than 10 percent ethanol content. Alcohol is corrosive and there is an increased risk of fire in vehicles not built with ethanol-compatible fuel systems, among other problems. The owner’s manuals – and warranty documents – of these older vehicles warn specifically not to use fuels with more than 10 percent alcohol content.
It’s interesting that the safety issues regarding the use of E15 in millions of still-in-service vehicles is considered unimportant by the same government which ululates saaaaaaaaafety whenever it is otherwise a convenient as a pretext for imposing something upon us – and especially for separating us from our money (and liberty).
And it’s odd that the government is pushing more ethanol into the fuel supply at just the moment in time when the United States is one the verge of producing enough oil within the U.S. to meet its needs – and on track to become a net exporter of oil within the next five years
Until you realize that – as is invariably true – ethanol isn’t about “renewability” or any other virtuous thing. It’s just another con – with the only meaningful difference between it and the kind of con that goes on in back alleys and crooked pool parlors being you can’t decline to be a mark.
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