E10, what’s it really cost? (chapter one)

Posted: 28/10/2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,
Ethanol’s dangerous consequences

Back during May and June of this year(“08) I made a few entries regarding ethanol, and its use when mixed with gasoline and diesel fuel. In Watering Down the Whiskey I compared the act of adding ethanol to gas in an E10 mixture to watered down drinks at the bar. You still get fuel, but it now lacks the power it had when drank straight out of the bottle. I also mentioned that there were a lot of other problems, and implied that sooner or later the public was going to start to get wise to them, and then ethanol would begin to fall out of favor.

It hasn’t taken as long as I thought it would, and already the real dangers are coming to light. We’ve already seen the price of food stocks rise over the diversion of food crops of corn and some grains from the crops for food to the crops for fuel categories. Have you bought bread recently? I almost exclusively buy a store brand split top wheat bread at a certain retailer. Last year at this time I was paying about $1.19 per loaf. Last night I paid $1.59 for the same bread. Quite a hike in price for a year’s passage of time isn’t it?
So now it’s starting to get a little colder in the mornings. Anybody notice the car running funny with the E10 mixture if you use it? Fortunately, it’s pretty much restricted in its use so far, but the eventual plan is to have it in every tank in the state.
Did you know that ethanol is much more volatile than even gasoline? I came across an article from The Washington Post that I saved for future notes that contained some interesting points about this fuel. The article goes into some detail as to how the flammable nature of it can cause worse problems than any other fuel, and mentions “A 2006 derailment of 23 Norfolk Southern Corp. tank cars in New Brighton, Pa., sparked a fire that burned for 48 hours and forced the evacuation of seven blocks, according to federal safety officials.” Imagine a few tank cars sitting on a siding in downtown Portland, or even worse, some small junction where there isn’t any full time, well trained fire personnel for miles around. What then? Will it be worth the extra few pennies for every fill up, just so you can line the pockets of a subsidized industry?
The Dems talk about how evil Bush and Cheney have been and the favors they’ve given to their buddies in the oil industry, but nobody seems to be wailing about the same favors and breaks the ethanol industry seems to be getting. But we can fight gasoline fires with a special foam, which most larger departments have. Ethanol requires a different foam, which most do not have in Maine. The use of ethanol is not really widespread enough to justify the cost when put to budgetary testing.
Another accident mentioned in that article is from Baltimore, MD, where “…a tanker traveling from Baltimore to a processing facility in Virginia flipped in Maryland and spilled 6,800 gallons of flaming ethanol, killing the truck’s driver and torching a half-dozen cars. The Baltimore City Fire Department did not have the right foam and struggled to put out the fire, which burned for hours. Crews from Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport eventually helped smother the flames.?
This brings to mind that cute little bend in the freeway running through Portland just at the Washington Street exits. Wouldn’t that be a you know what at 4:45 PM? Especially on a Friday evening! One of the worst aspects is that the alcohol, which is what ethanol really is, mixes readily with water, and still burns. And to make matters worse the flame is practically invisible in daylight, and gives off no smoke. OK for the environment, but what about the public?
Imagine a tanker on Forest Ave breaking open for some reason, spilling the tens of thousands of gallons they carry onto the street. The fuel rushes down the side of the street looking like harmless water in the street gutters, except its burning and the little kid that likes to splash in water can’t see that it is burning. Hmmm. Are we that stupid as a society that we’re all going to buy into the lie of global warming and simply take this stuff without putting up a fight?
Check with your local fire departments and see if they are prepared to fight ethanol fires should one occur. If they are not, find out why not, and then start doing one of two things. Get them the funding and training they need, or start protesting your local government to ban the substance in your community. The danger is simply too great for what little, if any benefit this fuel mixture provides to us as a society.
We have a recurring problem in this country in that we seem to fail to learn from experience. We didn’t learn from the ’70s oil embargo and the resulting gas rationing, and we haven’t learned from Katrina’s wake, and we still haven’t learned from the current economic collapse and last winter’s unprecedented heating and energy costs. Already with the current decline in pump prices the major auto manufacturers are rethinking their leanings towards smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.
Prices will not remain this low for long. After next week’s elections we will see the prices start to climb up again. While I don’t believe we will see last season’s high’s matched, we will climb towards those marks. And in our arrogance, we are going to be just as unprepared as last year. The signs are there, why don’t we see them?

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