It’s back to the ethanol grind. I keep reading more and more about the downsides of using ethanol, but the same old arguments pertaining to the benefits get rehashed time and time again, with no change. Anecdotal evidence is increasing against its use here in Maine, but I have doubts as to whether or not the state will listen to the people who pay taxes in this state, and thus their salaries. Perhaps it’s time we cal these people into the office and put them on notice that their jobs are at stake here?
I came across an article from July in the International Herald Tribune[i] called “Backlash brewing against ethanol in United States” Several comments were made regarding this issue. Here are a few comments from that article;
· “What we’re hearing is that the boats are starting, but then they start to sputter” and quit, she said. They are also hard to restart, Massey said, adding that her own weed-whacker sputtered and died with E10 but revived with conventional gasoline.
· “I don’t see any good point to ethanol,” said Gordon Razee, owner of a shop that sells and repairs motorcycles in Rhode Island. “As far as it pertains to the motorcycle industry, all it has done is create problems, so that we’re constantly working on carburetors.”
· “We have seen an increase of primarily fuel problems, fuel-related problems – carburetion, fuel lines, fuel pumps,” O’Connor said, calling it “highly coincidental” that such problems are arising at the same time ethanol has been introduced.
· If E10 is left in the engine, evaporation can leave varnish and deposits. And when E10 is first run through an engine, alcohol’s tendency to clean out old deposits can cause problems. Foster advised consumers to follow the instruction manual, and properly store fuel and maintain equipment.
These are but a few comments from just one article, but there are many more. Click on the title to read the entire script.
Ethanol is actually an alcohol (ethyl alcohol) made from biomass, usually sugarcane or corn. On an international basis, ethanol from sugarcane is the norm, while sugar beets are becoming increasingly used as feedstock for the process of distillation. Newer cars, from about 2000 on up are specifically made to use alcohol fuel, but it isn’t necessarily a good idea. It is also recommended that it not be used in marine engines. Here in Maine, we use a blend called e10, which is a blend of ten percent ethyl alcohol blended with ninety percent gasoline. Its usage should generate a decrease in your mileage, and estimates range from ten to fifteen percent. E85 is said to reduce mileage by roughly thirty to forty percent.
One of the reasons that there has been little protest from the fuel companies that wholesale gasoline is that with a reduced mileage, you’ll be filling up more. But a bigger reason is the fact that the taxpayer subsidizes the manufacture and addition of ethanol to the nations fuel supply. Here in Maine, the subsidies total about 58 cents a gallon. While gaining usage across the US, it is doing so under forced conditions. Cheaper at the pump doesn’t mean it is a cheaper fuel. Without these subsidies, ethanol would not be able to compete against straight gasoline in the market. We pay for it through higher taxation and lower standards of efficiency, or a loss of mpg.
What does e10 really cost us here in Maine? A lot more than you think it does. Colder weather is coming and we’ll see what the reaction is in February when we get our deepest freeze of the year.
[i] Kate Galbraith, International Herald Tribune, Backlash brewing against ethanol in United States, 25 July, 2008