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An Urban Legend Falls

Figure 1. Classical Outlier or Amazing New Discovery?

On November 16, 2007 a study was released that stirred up a lot of excitement in ethanol circles. The study was titled Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation. The study was commissioned by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), and the work was carried out by the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC, a branch of the University of North Dakota) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR, a branch of Minnesota State University).

The study made some remarkable claims. Based on some data points – such as the point corresponding to E30 in Figure 1 above (which is Figure 10 in their report), they claimed that higher ethanol blends could get better fuel economy than pure gasoline. ACE captured their interpretation in a press release:

Study Finds Certain Ethanol Blends Can Provide Better Fuel Economy than Gasoline

“Optimal Blend” Is Likely E20 or E30; Coalition Calls for Further Government Research

Sioux Falls, SD (December 5, 2007) – Research findings released today show that mid-range ethanol blends— fuel mixtures with more ethanol than E10 but less than E85—can in some cases provide better fuel economy than regular unleaded gasoline, even in standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles.

Previous assumptions held that ethanol’s lower energy content should always directly correlate with lower fuel economy for drivers. Those assumptions were found to be wrong. Instead, the new research strongly suggests that there is an “optimal blend level” of ethanol and gasoline—most likely E20 or E30—at which cars will get better mileage than predicted based strictly on the fuel’s per-gallon Btu content.

Some of their “key findings:”

Ethanol’s energy content was not found to be a direct predictor of fuel economy. A fuel’s energy content in British Thermal Units (Btu) is current standard practice for estimating fuel economy, a method that, because of ethanol’s lower Btu value, leads to estimates of decreased fuel economy in proportion to the percentage of ethanol in the fuel blend.

• This research, however, did not find ethanol’s Btu content to be a direct predictor of fuel economy. All four vehicles tested exhibited better fuel economy with the ethanol blends than the Btu-value estimates predicted.

E20 and E30 ethanol blends outperformed unleaded gasoline in fuel economy tests for certain autos.
Contrary to Btu-based estimates of fuel economy for ethanol blends, three of the four vehicles tested achieved their highest fuel efficiency not on gasoline, but on an ethanol blend. Mid-level blends of ethanol E20 (20% ethanol, 80% gasoline) and E30 (30% ethanol, 70% gasoline) offered the best fuel economy in these tests.

• E30 offered better fuel economy than gasoline (a 1% increase) in both the Toyota and the Ford.

• E20 offered better fuel economy than gasoline (a 15% increase) in the flex-fuel Chevrolet.

• The non-flex-fuel Chevrolet more closely followed the Btu-calculated trend for fuel economy, but did experience a significant improvement over the trend line with E40 (40% ethanol, 60% gasoline), indicating that this may be the “optimal” ethanol blend level for this vehicle.

Standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles operated well on ethanol blends beyond 10 percent – All automakers currently cover the use of up to E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) by warranty for standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles. In this preliminary research, the three non-flex-fuel vehicles tested each operated successfully on ethanol blends significantly higher than this 10% ethanol level.

• The Ford Fusion operated on E45, the Toyota on E65, and the non-flex-fuel Chevy on E55. No engine fault codes were displayed until these levels were surpassed.

Of course these results are quite counter-intuitive, and I am always very careful when dealing with counter-intuitive results. Adding to the unusual results was the fact that the research was funded by a group whose purpose is to further ethanol, and the results of the study were certainly to be taken with a grain of salt. Note as well the spin. Look at Figure 1, and then consider the claim from the ACE press release: All four vehicles tested exhibited better fuel economy with the ethanol blends than the Btu-value estimates predicted. This is on the basis of that one point that looked to me like a classical outlier.

But that didn’t stop ethanol boosters from promoting the results. I have discussed these claims on numerous occasions, dealing with comments like these:

Ethanol has an Octane Rating of 113 AKI (compared to 86 for straight gasoline.) This means that even though it’s “energy content” is lower, it can achieve much greater Efficiency than gasoline when burned in a proper engine.

That’s why recent tests, such as the one performed by N.Dakota Univ, and Mn State, show that, when burned in newer vehicles, E20 gave slightly better mileage than straight gasoline in three of four cars tested.

If I had one of these three cars, and access to a blender pump, like they do in areas of S Dakota, Mn, Ia, and Wi, I could choose an ethanol product that would give me better mileage than straight gasoline.

If you can take any other conclusion out of that study You’re not being honest.

Some of my comments in response:

Now, what I would say about the study – but again, this is the objective view – is “That’s an interesting finding. Let’s replicate it in an independent lab that isn’t paid for by the ethanol lobby.”

Look at Figures 10-13. Here is the reality of the tests:

Figure 10. 2007 Toyota Camry, 2.4-L engine – 6 of 7 tests show worse fuel efficiency on an ethanol blend. There is one apparent outlier, which was the basis for the claims. (And it looks like a classic outlier, with almost all of the other points falling as predicted).

Figure 11. 2007 Chevrolet Impala (non-flex fuel), 3.5-L engine – 5 of 5 tests show worse fuel efficiency on an ethanol blend.

Figure 12. 2007 Chevrolet Impala (flex fuel), 3.5-L engine – 8 tests, 2 show better fuel efficiency, 2 show the same, and 3 show worse fuel efficiency on an ethanol blend.

Figure 13. 2007 Ford Fusion, 2.3-L engine – 4 of 5 tests show worse fuel efficiency on an ethanol blend. There is one apparent outlier.

So, what can we conclude? Of 25 data points, 18 confirm that the fuel economy is worse on an ethanol blend. That is 72% of the tests, and these tests were paid for by the ethanol lobby (which is why I suspect the results were spun as they were). The outliers are interesting enough for further investigation, but you have vastly overstated the test results. In reality, if you pulled the results out of a bag, you have only a 28% chance of improving your fuel efficiency on the basis of any particular test. Further, the outlier didn’t always occur at the same percentage, which would be quite problematic even if the result is confirmed.

So the ethanol boosters were perhaps not surprisingly ready to take these results at face value, arguing that it makes sense to boost the ethanol blended into our gasoline. I will say that if you could get better gas mileage on E20 than on pure gasoline, it would in fact be a strong argument in ethanol’s favor. But given that it is such a counter-intuitive result, it needed to be replicated. As a reader recently pointed out to me, NREL tried and failed:

Effects of Intermediate Ethanol Blends on Legacy Vehicles and Small Non-Road Engines

The key findings from the NREL test:

• All 16 vehicles exhibited a loss in fuel economy commensurate with the energy density of the fuel.*

• Limited evaluations of fuel with as much as 30% ethanol were conducted, and the reduction in miles per gallon
continued as a linear trend with increasing ethanol content.

*This result was expected because ethanol has about 67% of the energy density of gasoline on a volumetric basis.

Note that NREL is pro-ethanol, and the goals of blending more ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply would be more easily accomplished had the ACE-sponsored study been confirmed. Instead, the NREL study gave the expected results: As more ethanol was blended, the fuel economy fell commensurate with the energy density as a linear trend. None of the outliers found in the previous study were observed.

My calls for caution on the initial tests were sometimes misrepresented:

I post a test conducted by two fine Universities, and you denigrate the students, and professors who conducted the tests (using the EPA cycle) as Biased.

Of course I never denigrated the students or professors involved. I said that based on the counter-intuitive results, and the fact that a vested interest paid for the research, we needed independent confirmation. There are all kinds of possible sources of error in scientific testing, which is why unexpected results need to be confirmed. The cold fusion fiasco is a perfect example of why we do this. Instead of waiting for confirmation, Pons and Fleischmann took their very unexpected results to the press. This tactic blew up in their face when other researchers failed to replicate the results.

A call for replicating results is not an insinuation that anyone faked the tests; it is instead simply because tests can be wrong for many different reasons. I can tell you that if the American Petroleum Institute conducted a test and found the opposite – that fuel economy dropped more than one might expect – I would expect ACE to denounce the tests and call for more testing.

At this point, I think it would be foolish for ethanol boosters to continue pushing the results of the initial tests. I would still like to see some additional work done in this area, because there is evidence that ethanol can perform at a higher economy than expected if it is used in a high-compression engine. But there is no reason to believe that an ethanol blend in a normal gasoline engine can give better fuel economy than can pure gasoline – which is exactly how the results of the ACE study were spun.

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September 13, 2009 - Posted by | American Coalition for Ethanol, American Petroleum Institute, ethanol, fuel efficiency

144 Comments

  1. This "Comparison" may not show, exactly, what you think it shows, Robert.The N.Dakota/Mn State tests were done with the EPA Cycle, and the posted chart is Highway Mileage.The NREL Test was the LA 92 test, which is, basically, an approximation of driving in L.A. This means more stops, Higher Speeds of Acceleration, etc.I will tell you, right now, that the more highway driving I do, the better the Ethanol performs vs gasoline.Also, if you will look at the 2007 Camry in your test the performance on E10, E20, and E30 look, virtually identical.The main thing, though, is you're comparing "highway" mileage, to "Los Angelos City" mileage. Both tests could, very easily, be correct. In fact, they probably are.

    Comment by rufus | September 13, 2009

  2. Also, if you will look at the 2007 Camry in your test the performance on E10, E20, and E30 look, virtually identical.I meant the NREL test, of course, Not the chart at the top of the page.

    Comment by rufus | September 13, 2009

  3. Also, if you will look at the 2007 Camry in your test the performance on E10, E20, and E30 look, virtually identical.First, it isn't "my test." Second, if you are looking at Figure C.19, that is E0 through E20, not E30. There is a noticeable drop from E0, but the scale is compressed badly. They should have shown the raw data (which I could probably find if I look around).Both tests could, very easily, be correct. In fact, they probably are.On what basis do you conclude this? I know you want the first test to be correct, but are you aware of any independent confirmation? If not, then your bias is showing. You have no more reason to accept these results than you do to reject any of Searchinger's work.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 13, 2009

  4. If not, then your bias is showing.RR ~When it comes to ethanol, I don't think Rufus can be objective. It's obviously a very passionate and emotional issue for him, and he must have some financial stake in the corn ethanol industry.I think his scientific philosophy is: "Say something often enough and people will eventually believe it."

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 13, 2009

  5. Why would I say that? Well, some smart people put a lot of work into both tests, so I'll assume that both tests are probably pretty close to the mark.Wendell, you "ad hom" me for pointing out that these two results are for two different things? One is Highway mileage, and one is Los Angeles City type mileage.

    Comment by rufus | September 13, 2009

  6. If I were going to knock the N.Dak/Mn St test, it would be to question, "why did you only publish the highway mileage," and, "what was the City mileage?"Now, THAT, I figure, was ACE's doing.

    Comment by rufus | September 13, 2009

  7. Another reason I think both test probably accurately describe what they observe is – every result I've seen shows that even in a standard engine higher ethanol blends give a little more Torque.This means an engine running e20, or e30 will not downshift quite as often as an engine on straight gasoline. Staying out of the lower gear is very positive for mileage.I notice you didn't mention the "worse than expected" mileage on e65. This, I don't doubt, either. I'm not a mechanic, but I know ICEs are very complex machines. I'm not at all surprised that one will do "better than expected" on one blend, "worse than expected" on another, and, "about as expected" on still another.

    Comment by rufus | September 13, 2009

  8. Well, some smart people put a lot of work into both testsPons and Fleischmann are by all accounts smart people, and I am sure they put a lot of hard work into their tests. They were wrong.When you have a point that looks like the one in the figure above, you certainly don't base conclusions on that. You get that result confirmed in another lab. There are all kinds of sources of experimental error, even for people who are smart and work hard.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  9. I routinely get 4 mpg better mileage than the fueleconomy.gov website says I should. Who's wrong? Me, or the Gov? Your mileage may vary. Haven't you ever known a "car guy" that informed you that "this" car he had got its best gas mileage at X speed, but "that" car he owned achieved its max. at X +/- Y speed?It's not just fuel mixture; it's a zillion things. Exhaust Flow, and shape of the headers. Plugs. Timing. Shape of Combustion Chamber. ECU Map. Cam. Gearing.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  10. Then there was This Test from the State of Minnesota.They drove 40 Matched Pairs (half on E20 – half on E0.) The employees didn't know which they were driving.E0 beat E20 by 1.6%.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  11. Philippines' Ethanol Production Gets Ramped Up for 2010"The Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines (EPAP) announced that a new ethanol plant, currently under construction, will significantly increase the Philippines ethanol production in 2010.""According to the EPAP, Roxas Holding, Inc. (PSE:ROX), the country's second largest sugar refiner is building a biofuel plant that aims to produce 3 million litres of ethanol a month starting in February 2010." "Initial annual output from the plant is expected to be 27 million litres, approximately 41% of the country's ethanol production.""The new ethanol plant will go a long way to helping the Philippines use more local fuel to fulfill its mandate that all gasoline in the country be blended with 5% ethanol.: "All ethanol produced in the Philippines is generated from sugar cane; currently there is 433,700 hectares of sugar cane planted across the country. EPAP director, Tetchi Capellan, said that providing a better "investment climate for ethanol producers can drive and enable sugar millers to harness their combined capacity to produce 1.7 billion liters of ethanol."—————————Aa I am sure you are well aware Robert, the EROI of sugar cane derived ethanol is at least equivalent to "process-derived" methanol. (correct me if I am wrong)You recently said I was nuts and didn't know what I was talking about in regard to Rentech and the Rialto plant. I beg to differ. I said it was basically a "knock-off" of the Fischer-Tropsch process. If you will kindly take the time, please go to the Rentech website. The very first statement on their home-page is that the Rentech process is based on the Fischer-Tropsch chemistry.John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  12. You recently said I was nuts and didn't know what I was talking about in regard to Rentech and the Rialto plant.I have no idea what you are talking about. I am fully informed about Rentech and their Rialto plant – and have in fact written about Rentech several times. In fact, I have spoken to their CTO about Rialto (he used to be my manager at ConocoPhillips). So I certainly don't understand your reference above. Unless it was a different Robert?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  13. Given our epic supplies of natural gas, which actually seem to growing with new discoveries, would not we be better off going the methanol route? Methanol is made from NG. Ethanol seems fraught with problems. I can imagine that pure ethanol cars might make sense, but the mixing of ethanol with gasoline seems to create problems. It seems like a lot of work to make ethanol, and then add to to gasoline, in which case it lowers mpgs for many cars. This is not a game plan I would choose. Seems like CNG and methanol are better choices. Rufus: Methanol and NG come from North America. Seems like a terrific choice for the United States.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 14, 2009

  14. Okay Robert,Rentech substitutes bio-mass syngas for coal gas. No problem.John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  15. Benny, I'm all for it. I just don't think, in the end, they'll let'em put anything as toxic as methanol in granma's gasoline. I could be wrong.Look, it's ALL about "price." If we're wrong, and the price of gasoline is the same two years/five years, hence, as it is now, then all this brouhaha will have been pretty much for naught.If, however, we're right, and gasoline starts heading above $3.00 next Spring, and shows no signs of relenting, then "Everything" will be on the table.If we're looking at $5.50/gal in 2012, which I think is possible, we'll be pouring any kind of panther-piss we can get ahold of in the jenny.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  16. Methanol is trading at 80 cents a gallon, without any tax credits.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  17. Given our epic supplies of natural gas, which actually seem to growing with new discoveries, would not we be better off going the methanol route? Methanol is made from NG.Benny ~A resounding "Yes," and also methanol from coal.In fact, in my considered opinion, methanol from coal will be our emergency, back-up reserve if a "November Sierra" emergency ever happens that threatens our economy and national survival.We have the coal, and if a real liquid fuels crunch happens, with a 4-5 year or less "crash program" we could be fueling most of our transportation assets with methanol (coal and NG).The enviros wouldn't care for the coal part of that calculus, but the huge advantage is that it's ours, and it's always sitting out there in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah as our "strategic reserve."

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  18. I just don't think, in the end, they'll let'em put anything as toxic as methanol in granma's gasoline. I could be wrong.Rufus~Yes, you are wrong.Ethanol is already poisonous and we have no qualms about using that. I live in a college town and almost every fall some student dies of ethanol poisoning during rush week.Gasoline is toxic and we have no qualms about using that. Who will protest if we start mixing methanol with gasoline? Who will protest if we start mixing blended alcohols from biomass gasifiers into our gasoline? (Only Big Ethanol and Big Corn would object as far as I can determine.)As I just said above, we have the resources to make almost unlimited amounts of methanol from coal and natural gas, and if we ever need to do it — if it becomes a question of our economy collapsing and people walking or burning methanol — not many will object to methanol.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  19. I suspect that if a "real" market were to develop for methanol it would soon be selling for quite a bit more than $0.80/gal. Also, remember, it has about 20% less btus than ethanol.Hey, I'm not against it. I'm just a bit skeptical.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  20. Some woman died from drinking too much water in some sort of a shock-jock radio promotion. Does that make Water "poisonous?"

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  21. Like the "real" market that has developed for ethanol? Looking back, methanol had fallen to about 30 cents a gallon back in March. Produce it from biomass, get a tax credit, and you could seriously undercut ethanol.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  22. I'm assuming Methanol got so cheap because the demand for biodiesel cratered. A little demand came back, and, voila, methanol prices more than double.I don't even know where the present supply of methanol comes from. How limited is it? How much does it, really, cost Sasol to convert coal to methanol?Like I said, I'm on your side; but, I'd like to see a few more numbers.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  23. And, what happens the first time granny gets some on her hands while filling up the carriage, and dies?

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  24. Produce it from biomass, get a tax credit, and you could seriously undercut ethanol.Anon~You could, except Big Ethanol and Big Corn would no doubt get the Corn Belt politicians to step in and put a stop to that.Just look what they've done to stop Brazilian cane ethanol from undercutting corn ethanol.The biggest obstacle to acceptance of methanol and biomass-generated blended alcohol fuels would be Big Ethanol.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  25. Do you die from getting methanol on your hands? As a kid I used to not only pour methanol (intended for use as camping stove fuel) on my hands just out of interest — the evaporative cooling effect was fun — but used to set light to it too. Haven't died yet.I don't know if George Olah's essay that preceded the book of the same name was posted here before, but here it is again: "Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy"

    Comment by PeteS | September 14, 2009

  26. And, what happens the first time granny gets some on her hands while filling up the carriage, and dies?Rufus~Nothing. We already lose 35,000+ a year to accidents from people driving their cars and no one gets overly upset about that.How many each year do we lose to ethanol? About 85,000. In fact, ethanol consumption is the third largest preventable cause of deaths each year in the U.S. And you worry about one granny who MIGHT die from methanol? You are really stretching now in a feeble attempt to preserve the corn ethanol paradigm.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  27. Rufus is giving you a preview of how the ethanol lobby would fight this.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  28. I'm probably giving you a preview of how the "oil" lobby will play this.The ethanol "lobby" spent about $270,000.00 last year. The top 4 oil companies spent over $40 Million.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  29. Okay, then; it's Methanol. Sounds Great to me. Lissen up, Dumbos. I don't care. I hope it works. I'm pulling for you. I have my doubts, but I'm pulling for you.I'm an old retired fart. I'm not against anything except starving, and giving money to the Saudis.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  30. RR~We all know the problems and poor energy return of making oil from the vast reserves of oil shale in the American West.But instead of putting that shale in a retort and trying to cook the oil out of it, would there be any chance of gasifying that stuff into simpler compounds that would result in methanol?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  31. Rufus with his Flex Fuel Impala gets 26.5 mpg on E0, 25 mpg on E20 and 21.5 mpg on E85. If I'm interpreting his comments correctly, that's on longer drives more similar to the North Dakota highway test than the NREL city test.http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/2009/09/biofuel-niches.html#6021474180846561346The NREL study didn't include a Impala FFV, and doesn't show results for blends past E20, but rufus' number seem rather similar to the NREL results for the Accord, Camrys and Golf. Rufus gets better mpg on E0 and E85 and worse on E20 than the North Dakota study did with an Impala FFV as shown in their Table A-3 Going from E0 to E20, rufus' Impala FFV get's a 5.7% drop in mpg, compared with a 16 non-FF vehicle average 7.7% drop in NREL's study and a 15% increase in the North Dakota study for their 2007 Impala FFV. So I have to agree with rufus, that his results were between those of NREL and North Dakota, but it's 10x closer to the NREL results than to the ND results. Rufus' optimum blend is different from North Dakota's for an Impala FFV.

    Comment by Clee | September 14, 2009

  32. Rufus:I hope to join in the ranks of retired old farts! Got about eight more years, minimum. Congrats on keeping an interest up in the world around you. By retirement, the only ethanol I might be interested in is that I am imbibing.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 14, 2009

  33. "the mixing of ethanol with gasoline seems to create problems"It actually solves a couple of problems Benny. It acts as an oxygenate and also boosts octane. Ethanol beats the hell out of MTBE. E10 costs the taxpayer a whole nickle a gallon in subsidies. But,it won't be polluting aquifers. A bargain if you ask me.

    Comment by Maury | September 14, 2009

  34. Wendell:Both oil shale and tar sands can be gasified to extract all of their carbon content as mid-stream synthesis gas.Question is, with what gasifier? There are many makes and models of gasifiers out there. Only a few can handle the enormous amounts of inert slag which would be generated when oil shale or tar sands were the feedstocks in comparison to biomass, tires, sludge, clarified garbage or even coal.Most coal gasification leaves about 10% of the original coal volumes as inert, obsidian-like glassy slags. These slags can be landfilled (won't leach anything into groundwater) or this slag can be sold as a construction aggregate which is stronger than limestone used to produce asphalt or also as a concrete or mortar aggregate.When gasifying tar sands or shales for their intrinsic carbon content, I'm only guessing here – but maybe 60-70% of the throughput volumes would become slag. Most gasifiers cannot handle this volume of slag. Yet there are one or two that can – special low-pressure, gasifier models which haven't seen the media light of day yet – at least in the USA.Cliff

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  35. This discussion already mentioned the non-scientific part in measuring mileage: the driver. The human species have the habit of following habits and having a temper. The accelaration, speed adn braking pattern is depending on the way the driver feels, how much rush is in de drivers head, or anger, nervous, hunger, scared. Suppose that a very stable person was used for this test so this has no influence. Then there is the habit and preference of how the car should respond to the driving and the circumstances. I experienced this when adapting my driving style to the changed characteristics of my diesel car when mixing with sunflower oil. After the adaption period could run 12 kilometers on 1 liter in stead of the regular 11 kilometers. It had nothing to do with improved effiency of the engine, it had to do with better running of the motor at low revs. It invited to drive at lower revs, so shifting up earlier (It was a hand shifted car). Low revs means lower fuel consumption (that's for diesels, not for petrol). I am sure that if the motor-management is adjusted to the engine and fuel characteristics, you can get better performance. A fuel mix has a staged burning that can induce lower vibrations and better efficiency at low revs. It is logical when you think about the way the flamefront will progress. Adaption to that is necessary to see what the change really can do.

    Comment by Mark Dijkstra (europe based) | September 14, 2009

  36. Surprise, Rufus is wrong again and spewing patently false numbers. RE his comment on relative lobbying of ethanol ($270k) vs oil ($40 mil). RFA has spent almost $400k already this year, and spent $600 last year. ACE has already spent $100k in 2009. How much has Growth Energy spent? At least $200k. Just a couple of minutes at Open Secrets will show how wrong his number are. Big Oil is hardly worried about ethanol, and spends virtually nothing lobbying that issue – way less than RFA. They've got many other issues that are much more important. Ethanol is a tiny pimple on their butt. Rufus is probably taking RFA-only disclosures and comparing that to several Big Oil companies? Did the corn growers lobby at all last year? ADM? How much of the O&G $40 mil is for ethanol lobbying vs access vs climate? Let's see, the oil industry is ~500x bigger than ethanol. This confirms his penchant for fully irrelevant comparisons, and scarily, I think he sometimes actually believes his own BS! Clearly the oil industry will spend more on lobbying than the ethanol industry, but please show us some relevant & meaningful information, not just anti-oil venom. I like oil, but I like ethanol and biofuels too. And I like FACTS even more. I've learned to just ignore most of Rufus statements. They take up too much valuable space in this blog. It's too bad because once in a while he actually raises some good points.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  37. I guess the "GOOD" points are the ones YOU agree with.Yeah, I was taking the numbers that were published for what the main lobbying arm, RFA, spent, YTD at time of publishing. I think it's obvious from your own numbers that it won't be anything within a thousand miles of what "Oil" spends.Remember, that $40 Million was just the 4 Largest oil compaies. Clee, I think the most interesting thing about My mileage is that with this car I consistently get well above the DOE numbers both on gasoline, and ethanol.This is the first car with which I've ever accomplished that. Also, of importance, is that my wife drives it more than I. I don't think there's anything in particular going on other than, this vehicle is best suited for our particular driving patterns. Others' mileage may vary.Sometimes I think we get too tied up in the minutaie. If it's close enough to argue about, it's not close enough to mess with. When Gasoline is $4.40, and E85 is $2.40 it's a "Deal." When Gasoline is $2.50, and E85 is $2.10 who gives a whoop?

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  38. The ethanol "lobby" spent about $270,000.00 last year.Rufus~That's an absurdly lowball figure. 240k doesn't even cover the salary of Bob Dinneen and his staff at RFA, not to mention the rent, etc. for their office building on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  39. YTD = Year To Date, Mercky

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  40. YTD = Year To DateWhich is it? Above you said "last year." Now you say YTD.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  41. I changed it on the second comment. What does it matter? A half a million? A million? Total? for the industry?When just Four oil companies spend over $40 Million?Come on.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  42. Would you please study the following:http://www.magpowersystems.com/MagPower Systems Inc. has developed an environmentally friendly non-toxic power source that generates electricity through a combination of magnesium, oxygen and a saltwater electrolyte using MagPower’s patented (and patent pending) technologies. This technology enables the company to build a magnesium-air fuel cell which can be used as a power source in OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products and is potentially scalable from one watt to five kilowatts. MagPower has also investigated several commercial opportunities and developed prototype concept products for the toy, emergency lighting and power industries using the technology. MagPower has also researched, developed and patented a technology to control the detrimental formation of hydrogen through ‘hydrogen inhibitors’ that occurs in electrochemical reactions. Thank you.Gwilym

    Comment by Gwilym Rhys-Jones | September 14, 2009

  43. Both oil shale and tar sands can be gasified to extract all of their carbon content as mid-stream synthesis gas.Question is, with what gasifier? There are many makes and models of gasifiers out there. Only a few can handle the enormous amounts of inert slag which would be generated when oil shale or tar sands were the feedstocks in comparison to biomass, tires, sludge, clarified garbage or even coal.Thank you Cliff. I didn't know that and I appreciate your sharing. This whole subject of gasifiers is fascinating.What if one were to gasify corn instead of going through the energy-consuming process of milling/fermentation/distillation? Could that be more efficient than the current process Big Corn and Big Ethanol use to make fuel ethanol?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  44. Maury–Good points.But I addressing this big issue: Energy independence in a world where oil is controlled by unreliable, and sometimes overtly hostile, thug states. Worse, the thug states actually make more money (short-term, which is the only way thugs ever think) in times of unreliability. The cost is in the hundreds opf billlions of dollars every year for imported oil, and $1 trillion and counting for our ongoing oil war in Iraqistan. Ethanol is not an energy policy–it is a subsidy for farmers, and Republican Senators from farm states, masquerading as an energy policy. It was Bush's major "accomplishment" as President–a radically expanded ethanol program.It was one reason I voted for Obama–and so far I have been disappointed in Obama's lack of cohesive direction in energy matters. It seems hinkingly obvious now we could obtan energy independence, and boost our domestic economy, within 10 years. We have natural gas to the moon, and it can run cars, either as CNG or methanol. Our fleet of cars drinks way too much gasoline. BTW, according to Wikipedia and other sources, methanol is only dangerous if you drink it, not if it splashes on your hands. The methanol poisoing seems to be an urban legend like that of "we are running out of lithium." I wonder how such legendes get started, and if they are planted.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 14, 2009

  45. Ruf, What does it matter, you say? Facts matter Rufus, and you continually play very loose with them. Of course the oil industry spends way more than the ethanol industry because it is ginormous relative to them. Also bet you that they spend a whole lot less per net BTU provided than the ethanol industry. I just would ask that you dial it back a notch. I like to have you posting, because you often provide good info (for example, I agree with your DDG arguments), but do us all a favor and do your own fact checking before throwing clearly false numbers at us. We all like to use RR's fine blog for 'moving the ball forward', advancing our understanding of these complex issues. BS numbers like this tend to generate more heat than light, and serve to make many folks suspicious of biofuel merits, since they will also tend to question other 'facts' you bring forward.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  46. The Financial Times has written quite a lot about ethanol.http://www.ft.com/indepth/ethanol

    Comment by Gwilym Rhys-Jones | September 14, 2009

  47. "Ethanol is not an energy policy–it is a subsidy for farmers"It's a subsidy for the oil industry Benny. It's a "blenders" tax credit. I think the credit should be there,whether it's ethanol,biodiesel,or any other biofuel being blended. A gallon of E10 will be taxed about 40 cents at the pump,so 4 of the 5 cent ethanol subsidy is recouped anyway. Ethanol means cleaner burning gas. I can live with less pollution,even if it costs me a penny a gallon. It's unfortunate that it costs half a MPG in fuel efficiency. But,if it lessens dependency on OPEC,I can live with that too.

    Comment by Maury | September 14, 2009

  48. The only way a difference of 4,00% (on the one end,) and 8,000% (on the other end,) of the amounts spent by just 4 oil companies, and the total spent by ethanol can cause "heat" is if someone is trying to change the focus of the discussion.I was remembering "breathless" press release that someone put out a month, or so, ago, about how the RFA had spent "Two hundred, and seventy some-odd thousand Lobbying" for ethanol. I incorrectly remembered it as being last year, when, I guess, it was Year to Date. Big whoopin deal.If just Four Oil Companies spent over $40,000,000.00 Last Year, how much did The Whole Industry spend?How do we figure the $200 BILLION in the Middle East?Or, the 4,000 Lives Lost?You guys think converting natural gas to methanol is the answer? Great! Sign me up. Let's get started. Where do we start? When? How much will it cost? What will we have to do to our existing fleet to use 10% Methanol? How much will that cost? How Corrosive is it? What about our existing pumps? Can they run 10% Methanol? If not, how about our fuel sytems in our cars?So many questions; not much time. Let's get on it.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  49. That should have read: 4,000%.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  50. It's a subsidy for the oil industry Benny.So Maury, when then is it the ethanol companies – not the oil companies – who scream loudly when there is talk of getting rid of the credit? That tells you who it really benefits.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  51. Robert,if the mandate stays,but the subsidy is taken away….it's very clear who would suffer. Instead of bemoaning the ethanol subsidy,we should be lobbying Congress for equal treatment for all biofuels. There's nothing wrong with preferential tax incentives for biofuels. If ethanol displaces a million bpd of oil,that's $70 million per day we AREN'T sending Hugo Chavez or Ahwannajihad. The subsidy amounts to diddly squat at the pump. A penny a gallon for E10. A hellified bargain imo.

    Comment by Maury | September 14, 2009

  52. (Wendell asked…

What if one were to gasify corn instead of going through the energy-consuming process of milling/fermentation/distillation? Could that be more efficient than the current process Big Corn and Big Ethanol use to make fuel ethanol?)•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••Yes Wendell, Continuously gasifying corn kernels 24×7 would immediately demonstrate far greater efficiencies than batch fermenting corn with acid enzymes and yeasts. Think of all the carbon content still remaining in the leftover corn solids mash sold as DDG animal feed.I've said before that carbon is carbon is carbon as a basic building block, whether producing an oil whereby it's uncombusted emissions then phase separate into this blue planet's water-laden atmosphere as smog — or when producing a BIODEGRADABLE alcohol which dilutes into the same water-laden atmosphere and becomes a free lunch for nature's aquatic bugs and trees. Basic carbon atoms are the building blocks for both liquid fuels. Different mechanisms are used in order to isolate and recombine these carbon atoms such as batch fermentation in contrast with gas-to-liquids (GTL) synthesis via catalysis.Yet only one of these liquid fuels features an Oxygen atom and we DO extract this atom from H2O on the blue planet.So why plant, fertilize, copiously water, weed and annually harvest a carbon atom contained within corn starch when society's waste streams of garbage, sludge and tires or refinery petcoke wastes, coal or other biomass such as beetle-killed pine is so readily available? The buried sources of tar sands and oil shale contain very dense carbon building blocks. Imagine a gasifier without a smokestack isolating carbon atoms from oil shales instead of using a retort furnace or in-situ methods being promoted. Better stop here – getting wayyyy off-topic.Cliff

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  53. You guys think converting natural gas to methanol is the answer?Rufus~Makes more sense than using NG to make synthetic nitrogen, and then using that nitrogen to grow corn on millions of acres that could be used to grow food, and then using much more NG to distill the fermented corn mash into ethanol.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  54. Cool, sign me up.How much nat gas are we going to need?

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  55. Continuously gasifying corn kernels 24×7 would immediately demonstrate far greater efficiencies than batch fermenting corn with acid enzymes and yeasts.Thanks again Cliff.So that must mean that if our politicians insist on making fuel from corn, we would be better off building gasifiers and just clear-cutting corn fields and dumping everything* in the gasifiers, instead of building old-technology stills that need mash fermented from ground corn kernels.Why didn't the ethanol companies know that? Why did they spend all that money building stills instead of gasifiers?Must be an interesting back story here.________________* As well as straw, waste from sugar beets, milo, wheat, oats, fallen leaves in the autumn, lawn mower clippings, etc. Sounds like if it's organic, we could gasify it.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  56. Actually, Corn Plus has been "gassifying" its syrup for 3, or 4 year, now. That's why they only use about 16,000 btus of nat gas per gallon of ethanol.By the way, the "syrup" only adds minimally to the value of the DDGS output.I think they only lose about 20% of their cattle-feeding ability when they gassify the syrup.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  57. And, you CAN'T "Clear-cut" the corn field. You have to leave at least 2/3 of the "Stover" for the soil.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  58. rufus wrote: Clee, I think the most interesting thing about My mileage is that with this car I consistently get well above the DOE numbers both on gasoline, and ethanolI find that hardly surprising. As mentioned before, a lot depends on the driver. Your numbers are just a couple of mpg higher than the old EPA sticker numbers, rather than the 4 mpg better than the new EPA MPG numbers. Your E0 number is just 0.3 mpg better than the average MPG estimates from 9 drivers.http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/2008car1tablef.jsp?id=23434When comparing fuel economy on different blends, the change in economy between the blends for the same driver driving the same way is a lot more relevant than comparing the absolute mpg on a single blend between a driver on real roads, vs the LA 92 cycle vs the EPA highway cycle. If you want to drive your car on a dynamometer for those cycles on different blends, I'd be interested in your results. But given that you drove neither, I compare your percentage decrease in mpg between blends and conclude your results support the NREL conclusions and don't support the North Dakota study conclusions. ND Study Finds Certain Ethanol Blends Can Provide Better Fuel Economy than Gasoline – “Optimal Blend” Is Likely E20 or E30Your best fuel economy was not at intermediate blends. That part is not even close enough to argue about.

    Comment by Clee | September 14, 2009

  59. And, you CAN'T "Clear-cut" the corn field. You have to leave at least 2/3 of the "Stover" for the soil.I've seen farmers clear cut corn fields before the corn matures to make silage. How's that work if you can't "clear cut" corn?Actually, I'm with you on leaving some stover for tilth and soil health ~ although it does appear not too many farmers are all that concerned about soil health as long as they can keep dumping chemicals on their fields.In some corn fields now, the soil is nothing more than a sterile matrix for holding fertilizer, moisture, and chemicals in contact with the seed corn.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  60. Look, here's what you keep missing: Even Ethanol-Critics are now admitting that you only lose about 40% of you livestock-feeding ability when you convert the starch to ethanol.So, since it takes about 25,000 btus of nat gas to produce enough nitrogen fertilizer for a bushel of corn (that number is falling, btw,) at least 60%, or 15,000 btus of that should be "charged off" against corn's primary goal, feeding cattle.That means 10,000/2.85 = 3,508 btus of nat gas for fertilizer should be charged off against each gallon of ethanol. And, that's without taking out, as some are now doing, the .3 lbs of corn oil (biodiesel) that you can get with each gallon of squeezins.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  61. Now, if you operate your biorefinery on corn cobs as Chippewa is on its way to doing you have 3,508 btus of nat gas in a gallon of ethanol.Since a gallon of ethanol will take me about 20 miles, I guess you'd say I'm using (at this point) 3,508/20 = 175 btus of nat gas to go One Mile.So, there's the Bar. Go get'em methanol.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  62. Rufus: I'm assuming Methanol got so cheap because the demand for biodiesel cratered. A little demand came back, and, voila, methanol prices more than double.Dream on, big guy. The biodiesel fraction of the overall methanol market is miniscule. More likely the whole market is down, thanks to the (soon to be reneamed) Great Recession.Rufus: I don't even know where the present supply of methanol comes from.Admitting you need to do some homework, preferably before posting?Rufus: How much does it, really, cost Sasol to convert coal to methanol?Not sure either. I know that SASOL used to get subsidized anytime oil prices dropped below $35/bbl. At the current oil price I have to assume they are raking it in, hand over fist.

    Comment by Optimist | September 14, 2009

  63. Rufus: Even Ethanol-Critics are now admitting that you only lose about 40% of you livestock-feeding ability when you convert the starch to ethanol.But what you keep missing, Rufus, is that we need a whole lot more liquid fuels than we need livestock.Even at current levels the domestic market for DDGS seems to be saturating. DDGS is getting exported. Which works great as long as other countries don't commit the folly of corn ethanol…

    Comment by Optimist | September 14, 2009

  64. You're right, Clee. My guess (one of my guesses would be this:) is that my highway (that result was highway mileage) driving pattern does not match up with the "sweet spot" they happened to run into on their test. I drive between 70, and 75 on the highway, mostly (and, when I'm driving that speed my mileage does go down,) and I'm guessing maybe their test might be closer to 65, or so.BUT, in all honesty, I don't think I could match the N.Dakota results if I tried (and, they let me cheat.) 🙂

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  65. Cliff,Do you have links to more information on that gasification/mixed n-alcohols process? Seriously, it sounds exactly like what Range Fuels are proposing.But as you point out, Range Fuels probably made the decision to target your $tax by calling it cellulosic ethanol and adding separation steps.

    Comment by Optimist | September 14, 2009

  66. Optimist, of course we're exporting DDGS. We export a lot of corn, beans, and other kinds of livestock feed. DDGS are a more concentrated feed. 1/3 of the weight of a load of corn is CO2. Also, as more refineries go to "fractionation," and remove the oil, higher amounts of DDGS can be fed. We're a Long, Long way from saturation.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  67. But, what if, Today, I bought ethanol from Corn Plus? How many btus of nat gas would be in a gallon?Well, first I would have to go back to maybe 50% for my charge-off to ddgs. Remember, I blew 20% of my cattle-feeding ability when I gassified the syrup.So, now I have 25,000 X .50 = 12,500. Divide that by 2.85 and I get 4,386 btus/gal. Add in the plant's 16,600 btus and I get 20,386 btus of nat gas for a gallon of ethanol. 20,386/20 miles = 1019 btus of nat gas per mile driven. That's Today.Next at bat – Methanol.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  68. Rufus~Here's what you need to put in the trunk of your car instead of a still: Wood gas generatorWood gas generator mounted on a tractor

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 14, 2009

  69. Yeah, but what if I get thirsty?🙂

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  70. Rufus said:"what if, Today, I bought ethanol from Corn Plus?"That would be great in theory, but as ethanol is a bulk transport and blended product you can't.So a fairer value would be to use the 2002 USDA report on energy use in ethanol report which states that the "average" value across the industry is a whopping 52,779 btu/gallon energy for ethanol refineries. Plus fertiliser use. (If the USDA has a more up to date figure I'll gladly use it, but its late and I can't be arsed finding the Google hack that sorts date issues out)This brings your analysis to a less impressive 2858 btu/mil(52,722+4,386)/20 milesOnly out by a factor of nearly 3.In the interests of balance, here is the analysis for natural gas to methanolAssume car runs to 30mpg (gasoline, same as 20mpg ethanol car in Rufus's analysis) then the energy consumption would be about 3833 btu/mile (HHV)Gas to methanol facilities are (from memory) about 70% efficient, therefore you get back (as methanol) about 70% of the HHV of the gas input.So 3833/0.7 = 5476 btu/mile.Before you jump up and down and proclaim that ethanol is better, remember that Rufus has ommitted the (not inconsiderable) diesel requirements in his basic energy balance above.Plus methanol requires no aquifier depletion, Gulf of Mexico dead zone, or subsidies to compete.Not many poeple realise that M85 was widely trialled in California in the 80's/90's but was a resounding failure due to low oil prices and lack of consumer awareness. All the technical issues have been long since solved, and if methanol can be licenced for sale in California, then its a safe bet that it can be licenced for use just about anywhere.Personally I would be glad to see Scotland run trials to assess whether our deep coal reserves could be in situ gasified to produce methanol.Andy

    Comment by Andytk | September 14, 2009

  71. Cliff said: "Think of all the carbon content still remaining in the leftover corn solids mash sold as DDG animal feed. I've said before that carbon is carbon is carbon as a basic building block, whether producing an oil … or when producing a BIODEGRADABLE alcohol… Basic carbon atoms are the building blocks for both liquid fuels."Sorry to be questioning your chemistry again, Cliff. (At least I have your name right this time ;-)If a source of carbon was the only thing at issue, why aren't we gasifying limestone? Truth is, it is not carbon we care about as fuel, but stored chemical potential. And if we want our chemical potential in compact, transportable form, we may have to go through several conversion steps, each of which dissipates energy in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. (And that's the physical energy balance even before we start worrying about political factors). So it doesn't follow that available carbon = useful energy.Sorry if I'm being picky.

    Comment by PeteS | September 14, 2009

  72. Actually, the diesel usage is, fairly, inconsiderable.It takes about 5 gallons of diesel to farm, and harvest an acre of corn. An acre of corn will yield, this year, about 160 bushels. Approx 40%, or 64 bushels will be utilized for ethanol. We get 60% of our cattle-feeding use back, remember. So, .40 X 5 = 2 gallons of diesel to produce 160 X 2.85 = 456 gallons of ethanol. 2/456 = 0.004 gallons of diesel per gallon of ethanol. Diesel is about 132,000 btu/gal, so 132,000 X .004 = 528 btus of diesel to farm the corn for a gallon of ethanol.528/20 = 26.4 btus of diesel in a mile driven on ethanol.Oops, we've gotta get the corn to the refinery, and transport the ethanol to the station. 40,000 lbs on a truck would yield approx 2,000 gallons of ethanol. Average distance to refinery, say 20 miles. Truck uses 12 gallons of diesel (round trip.) But, remember, we were going to take the corn to the elevator anyway. So, charge 5 gallons to the ethanol. 5/2,000 = 0.0025 gal of diesel transporting corn for a gallon of ethanol. 132,000 X 0.0025 = 330. Divide by 20, and you get 16.5 btus of diesel used to transport corn to refinery in every mile driven on ethanol.Average rail trip, say 1,000 miles. One gallon of diesel to ship one ton 600 miles. 1.66 gal to ship 303 gallons 1,000 miles. 0.005 gal of diesel per gallon of ethanol. 723 btus of diesel. Divided by 20 = 36.2 btus of train freight diesel in a mile driven on ethanol.Let's add it up. 26.4 + 16.5 + 36.2 = 77.1 btus of diesel in our mile traveled on ethanol. Pretty slim pickins, I'd say.And, why in the world would you use old, 2002 data rather than "current" data? The First Rule of Life Cycle Analysis is to use up-to-date data.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  73. The First Rule of Life Cycle Analysis is to use up-to-date data.The first rule is to use credible, 3rd party data. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  74. Example?

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  75. Benny said, "BTW, according to Wikipedia and other sources, methanol is only dangerous if you drink it, not if it splashes on your hands… I wonder how such legendes get started, and if they are planted."Hmmm, I had to check that.Wikipedia says, "Firstly, methanol (whether it enters the body by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin) can be fatal…"To be clear, I'm not against Methanol any more than Rufas. It is obviously a good fuel in many regards, and already widely used in racing and in China (according to Wikipedia). On the other hand, it has a lower energy density (see subject of this article), takes more heat to vaporize (good for racing), is corrosive to Aluminum (also detailed on Wikipedia), is easily made from fossil fuels (price signals could help), and thus no silver bullet.Back to the subject of this article, David Blume also covered optimization for running on Alcohol in his book. A very simple way is to advance timing (readily available via elecronics) to simulate high compression as standard with high octane fuel — all the way back to the column lever on the Model T. Another is adding enough hydrogen to increase the speed of combustion and allow ultra-lean burning for complete combustion… very important for fuel efficiency. (I learned about that from Roy McAllister almost a decade ago.)

    Comment by jeb | September 14, 2009

  76. Example?I presume that that is directed at me? I have been directly involved in a couple of LCAs. They are looking for independently validated data. So to use something like data from Corn Plus, they aren't going to go with a press release from the CEO as you would be content to do. What they are going to require is a verifying body go in and do certification runs in which they measure all inputs. If they do that, then they would use Corn Plus data provided by the certifying body. Otherwise it is heresay.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  77. Well, RR, you put this Link to NREL Study up a couple of threads, ago.Table 4 shows a plant using 16,000 btus of ethanol per gal of ethanol. That plant is Corn Plus.It, also, shows the average nat gas use/gal in dry mill plants (that's all that's been built for years) at 27,000 btus.If I've misread this chart please inform.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  78. Excuse me, it wasn't NREL, it was Argonne Labs.

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  79. Table 4 shows a plant using 16,000 btus of ethanol per gal of ethanol. That plant is Corn Plus.Those numbers are from energy surveys. That would not be an acceptable level of validation from the LCAs I have been involved with. To do that Argonned would have had to contract with an independent agent to go in and validate. Further, as I have pointed out again and again, you always seem to forget about the inputs for farming. Those numbers from the surveys were from just the ethanol plants.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  80. I just typed my fingers to the bone going over farm inputs.08:1311:46

    Comment by rufus | September 14, 2009

  81. I just typed my fingers to the bone going over farm inputs.But why must you always be dragged back to that? Next week you will once again be using what Corn Plus says they use for their plants as your energy inputs into the entire process. We have been down this road many times.Further, again, if you want to talk about LCA-quality work, they aren't going to take numbers you pull out of thin air. They are going to take documented, verified numbers. This is a world that you are perhaps entirely unfamiliar with.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  82. "Figure 10. 2007 Toyota Camry, 2.4-L engine – 6 of 7 tests show worse fuel efficiency on an ethanol blend. There is one apparent outlier, which was the basis for the claims. (And it looks like a classic outlier, with almost all of the other points falling as predicted)."Where you see "outlier" I see a statistical curve as the additive-to-fuel mix changes.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  83. Where you see "outlier" I see a statistical curve as the additive-to-fuel mix changes.Which might be believable if either the point right before and right after were also trending up. They were right where they were expected to be based on BTU value, and yet this one point pops up high above the line. That looks like a classic outlier.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 14, 2009

  84. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/08/donovan-hydrous-20090830.htmlHere's some information from the evil bias ethanol lobby.http://www.baylor.edu/bias/index.php?id=4556Here's a link the evil MegaOilron had thrown down the memory hole. Maybe contacting Baylor's ethanol experts, er, I mean ethanol lobby stooges, might be useful.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 14, 2009

  85. Anon, your "Baylor" link doesn't work.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  86. Well, Robert, you can't build your whole case on, "They Must be Lying."The man has stockholders. They see the bills for nat gas. How long would he last if he ran around saying, "We've cut our nat gas down to 16,600 btus/gallon" if that weren't true?I mean, you put up a link to counter one of my links, I use YOUR link, and THEN you say it can't be trusted.Ah heck with it. I'm going to bed. Let me know when we get the nat gas to methanol thing working.G'nite.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  87. The man has stockholders. They see the bills for nat gas. How long would he last if he ran around saying, "We've cut our nat gas down to 16,600 btus/gallon" if that weren't true?You think stockholders have a clue about natural gas usages? Of the companies I have worked at, even the people working there don't know what the natural gas usage is. Very few people generally have that information.I mean, you put up a link to counter one of my links, I use YOUR link, and THEN you say it can't be trusted.Honesty is a virtue. Please true to utilize it. I put up a link to show you that an energy survey showed that the usage was much higher than you portrayed it to be. You tried to cherry pick the lowest number instead of the average. The thing about the average is that it does tend to smooth out any extreme values. If you are going to use an extreme value, I would hold that up to a much higher standard.But feel free to continue misrepresenting the situation.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  88. "Anon, your "Baylor" link doesn't work."Exactly. It worked the other day when the hydrous ethanol press release was issued so it was obviously MegaOilron's evil greasy hand at work.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  89. "Which might be believable if either the point right before and right after were also trending up. They were right where they were expected to be based on BTU value, and yet this one point pops up high above the line. That looks like a classic outlier."You do realise you are comparing apples to oranges? A person reading your argument might think 6 out of 7 "tests" of a car running E30 only gets the predicted mileage, rather than coming to the conclusion that you shouldn't use the other gasohol blend rates.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  90. So,how much natural gas has been wasted on chicken feed over the last 40 or 50 years? Why would we use up a perfectly good fossil fuel to feed chickens? Chickens will eat anything…often several times. Still,corn can't use that much NG,since corn is something like a nickle a ton….LOL.C'mon people. We've split so many hairs so many ways,I honestly don't know which side is up,or who favors what or why. I do believe oil would shoot past $100 per barrel overnight if the ethanol mandate were seriously threatened. You guys should be careful what you wish for.

    Comment by Maury | September 15, 2009

  91. Investors, such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, are sitting on billions of dollars in losses after buying into the corn-based ethanol industry that George W. Bush embraced as the ans wer to US energy woes.Six of the biggest publicly traded US ethanol producers have lost more than $8.7bn in market value since the peak of the boom in mid-2006 and the beginning of this month, according to an analysis by the Financial Times. The boom followed a 2005 law requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of the biofuel with petrol.http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8531a8a2-9fa7-11dd-a3fa-000077b07658.html

    Comment by Gwilym Rhys-Jones | September 15, 2009

  92. You do realise you are comparing apples to oranges?No, I am not. I said from the beginning that the first test showed some pretty erratic points and would need to be validated. The tests have yet to be validated. A person reading your argument might think 6 out of 7 "tests" of a car running E30 only gets the predicted mileage, rather than coming to the conclusion that you shouldn't use the other gasohol blend rates.Actually anyone with any scientific training would see conclusions being drawn that weren't warranted based on the tests. They might see enough there to warrant further study, but unless an independent lab can validate that sort of figure I show up top, then what you had was a flawed initial test.As someone said here recently, they heard DOE present their results, and said that they "seriously stress this point as clear refutation of the ND study results." Given that the DOE is pro-ethanol, why do you think they would do that if they weren't quite convinced that the initial study was flawed? Now our retired insurance salesman turned ethanol evangelist Rufus will stress that the initial test was fine, but I would put a little more stock in the DOE's views on that matter.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  93. I can't understand why an investor in big oil would want to kill the goose that laid the golden blenders tax credit Robert. You proseletize as much as Rufus,just from the other side of the aisle. Does ethanol help us import less oil? Does it result in cleaner air? Does the government get 80% of the ethanol subsidy back at the pump? I think the answer is yes,yes,and yes. The time to rail against ethanol is when something better comes along.

    Comment by Maury | September 15, 2009

  94. I can't understand why an investor in big oil would want to kill the goose that laid the golden blenders tax credit Robert.Yet they aren't the ones that lobby to keep the credit. Keep that in mind. The ones who lobby are the corn and ethanol producers. They certainly aren't lobbying on behalf of the oil industry, so that should tell you who the credit really benefits.You proseletize as much as Rufus,just from the other side of the aisle. You are wrong about that. Rufus and aren't across the aisle from each other. His position is simply pro-ethanol. Mine isn't simply anti-ethanol.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  95. Well,a cynic can easily point out why oil companies would fund disinformation campains about ethanol. Suppose Americans adopted PHEV's that used E85. We'd finally use less oil than we produce in the US,wouldn't we? Can you imagine COP trying to turn a profit if worldwide demand for oil plunged 50 or 60%? That's not to say oil companies don't want the blenders tax credit. I'm sure Congress would oblige if they said no thanks.

    Comment by Maury | September 15, 2009

  96. archived baylor link

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  97. RR wrote: and yet this one point pops up high above the line. That looks like a classic outlier.Anonymous 6:28 PM wrote: You do realise you are comparing apples to oranges? A person reading your argument might think 6 out of 7 "tests" of a car running E30 only gets the predicted mileageI have to agree with Anonymous on this one. That "one point" is actually 3 tests of a car running E30 tightly grouped from 27.94 mpg to 28.7 mpg. That does not seem to me to be the definition of a classic outlier. It makes me wonder if rufus' "sweet spot" theory has merit. Of course that's not very helpful to a driver who can't locate the "sweet spot" for their car and thus can't get this vaunted high fuel economy at intermediate blends. Rufus has not replicated the ND results.

    Comment by Clee | September 15, 2009

  98. This is OT, I guess, but in keeping with the general theme the last few days.Coskata says It's been producing Cellulosic Ethanol at its Pa plant for nine weeks.The "Mystery" Company.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  99. I just realized something. These tests may not be in as much "Disagreement" as at first thought.The N.Dakota test showed its improvement with E30. At E20 it showed about a 10% loss against E0.The NREL test did the same. The NREL test Did Not Have an E30 Blend.So,Different Tests – one measuring "Highway" mileage, one measuring "Los Angeles Urban" mileageand,Different Blends – one on E20, one on E30Definitely NOT a "Falsifying" Moment, I think.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  100. Both tests were in pretty close agreement as regards the 2.4 l Camry, and E20.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  101. We'd finally use less oil than we produce in the US,wouldn't we?Maury ~Maybe, maybe not.Oil is a pretty valuable commodity for the petrochemcial and pharmaceutical industries to use as feedstock for making stuff for us to buy.In fact, one can make the case that petroleum is actually too valuable for its other uses to waste it doing nothing more than pushing cars and trucks around.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 15, 2009

  102. Jeb-The Wikipdia article is misleading. "Repeated or prolonged contact of methanol with skin may result indermatitis."This warning is the typical one found when reviewing methanol literature. I think the Wikipedia entry is akin to a warning that you may get cancer from handling motor oil. It is true, if you spend hours a day in motor oil, you may get cancer, and if you work in a methanol factory, and have lots of methanol on you all day long, you may get poisoned, even if you do not drink it.Sheesh, methanol is used in toy airplanes handled by kids, and is common in mtoro racing. You think those guys hustling to get methanol into a race car (Indianapolic 500 style) could use a poerful poison? How about a crah? Methanol is not poisonous to the touch. Don't drink it and you will be fine.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | September 15, 2009

  103. What's going on with the Oil companies ? Are they just "hedging their bets" with investments in algal fuels and cellulostic ?———————————–"Mascoma and Chevron Technology Ventures (NYSE:CVX) have entered into a cellulosic ethanol production agreement.Under the terms of the agreement, Chevron will provide Mascoma with different sources of lignocellulosic feedstock, and Mascoma will then convert feedstock into cellulosic ethanol. Mascoma will send the ethanol and the by-product of the conversion process, lignin, to Chevron.Lignin is really the diamond in the rough of this agreement. Lignin is a high-energy chemical compound derived from woody biomass. It is the key ingredient in creation of coal. Many companies are researching the ability of lignin to act as a feedstock for hydrocarbon-based fuels. Chevron is one of the most active companies pursuing this research. Last year, Chevron announced a joint venture with Weyerhaeuser, Catchlight Energy, to study the production of biofuels from among other things, lignin. With its partnership with Mascoma, Chevron will not only receive ethanol, it will also be given yet another source of lignin to evaluate and test. The agreement between Mascoma and Chevron will last two years."http://www.energyboom.com/biofuels/chevron-and-mascoma-partner-produce-cellulosic-ethanolJohn

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  104. Suppose Americans adopted PHEV's that used E85. We'd finally use less oil than we produce in the US, wouldn't we?Two problems with that theory. First, oil companies are generally also natural gas companies, and until natural gas prices plunged the oil companies were making nice profits selling natural gas to the ethanol companies.Second, at the end of the day oil companies are energy companies. I can tell you that they are doing R&D into just about everything imaginable, include all sorts of variations of ethanol. If they deem ethanol to be a good business model long-term, they aren’t going to sit idly by as ethanol companies go from a tiny fraction of the market to a majority share. Oil companies have all sorts of people dedicated to looking for future opportunities. Right now the scale of ethanol is just miniscule compared to what most oil companies deal with. But if you think ethanol will grow and put oil companies out of business, you are engaging in some serious wishful thinking.That's not to say oil companies don't want the blenders tax credit. I'm sure Congress would oblige if they said no thanks.The oil companies have tried to say “No thanks.” A couple of years ago the CEO of XOM came out and said “We need to get rid of this credit.” Do you know who cried out in protest? Brian Jennings, the Executive VP for the American Coalition for Ethanol:Brian Jennings Double-SpeakSo keep arguing that the tax credit is for the oil companies. Then ponder why ACE is speaking out for something that is for the oil companies. I think you will conclude that the tax credit really benefits the ethanol companies.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  105. That "one point" is actually 3 tests of a car running E30 tightly grouped from 27.94 mpg to 28.7 mpg. That does not seem to me to be the definition of a classic outlier.It doesn’t matter if it was 40 tests of a car. An outlier is a point that is distinctly different from the rest, and it could be there because of a consistent experimental error or a systematic error. That’s why you replicate the test in another lab. As I have said on several occasions, the tests were definitely interesting enough to warrant further investigation, but that needs to be done by an independent lab that isn’t being funded by the group that the results would benefit.Of course that's not very helpful to a driver who can't locate the "sweet spot" for their car and thus can't get this vaunted high fuel economy at intermediate blends.This is another point I made to Rufus when he claimed that if he had access to a blender he could mix up a blend that is just right for his car. Presuming these tests were true, do we really expect people to go and experiment with various ethanol blends to find the one that’s right for their car? One guy needs E15, the next guy needs E25, etc. But they only find what they need by trial and error?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  106. The N.Dakota test showed its improvement with E30. At E20 it showed about a 10% loss against E0.That’s actually not true. It is for the figure I posted, but the results showed different “sweet spots” for different cars that were not consistent; some were at E20.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  107. archived baylor linkThis might be a good time to remind people that I am not in fact anti-ethanol. I am anti-feaux solution. I don’t think most people understand that the vast majority of corn ethanol in this country is enabled by cheap fossil fuels, and if you took those away ethanol would actually become less competitive. Just witness various comments from ethanol producers about their struggles when natural gas prices rise. They are doing OK now because natural gas and corn prices are low.If more efficient ways to produce ethanol are found – and I am all for this and have written several articles on this topic – I will be happy to put ethanol in my vehicle. But I am not happy to put ethanol in my vehicle that is merely enabled by natural gas and subsidies.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  108. "The oil companies have tried to say “No thanks.” A couple of years ago the CEO of XOM came out and said “We need to get rid of this credit.” XOM could very easily not take the credit come tax time Robert. I can't imagine the IRS twisting their arm. Conoco has an operation that turns chicken fat into fuel. The subsidy is $1.00 a gallon. Nobody forced them into the venture. There was no mandate from Congress.Valero wants a loan guarantee from the DOE for a biodiesel plant in Norco,La. that would produce 135 million gallons a year from animal fat. A loan guarantee and the $1.00 a gallon subsidy. I'm all for it. But,let's not pretend oil and gas companies don't want subsidies.

    Comment by Maury | September 15, 2009

  109. My bad. Conoco ended its biodiesel effort with Tyson a few months back,because the subsidy was being scaled back.

    Comment by Maury | September 15, 2009

  110. Methanol is not poisonous to the touch. Don't drink it and you will be fine.Benny ~The toxicity of methanol is about the same as that of gasoline. Handle methanol the same as gasoline and everything will be OK.The only reason methanol has such a bad rep is that some winos and alcoholics have walked into hardware and drug stores and bought "wood alcohol" thinking it was a cheap way to get drunk. They ended up blind or dead.The same would have been true had they drunk gasoline.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | September 15, 2009

  111. Maury said: "But,let's not pretend oil and gas companies don't want subsidies."Exactly.When the oil biz "gets a little help from Congress" that's Okay. When alternative fuels get funded from the DOE. etc., the inevitable cry goes out: "They can't compete".This ignores the fact that: "The playing field is not level"After 150 years of uncontested dominance why do the fossil fuels still need subsidies from the government ?John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  112. Wonderfully informative site-thank you-Betty

    Comment by betty | September 15, 2009

  113. Actually, 3 of the cars in the N.Dak test did best with E30. Only the flexfuel chevy did better with E20.But, the point is, that chart above was for the Camry 2.4 L. Both tests had about the same result on E20. The Camry did best in the N.Dak test on E30, and the NREL test did not go to E30.Also, the N.Dak test was for the EPA Highway cycle; whereas the NREL test was for Los Angeles Urban driving.Pretty danged dissimilar tests, although they did have very similar results for E20 on the Camry (which is the only car they have in common.)

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  114. Maury, as I pointed out in a previous thread, the UK wasn't daft enough to subsidise something that we could simply mandate.Now that there is a ethanol blend mandate in the US, I really don't see why a subsidy/rebate is required.Sure, ethanol blend gas will become more expensive, but since all blenders are tied to the same rules no one will be at a competitive disadvantage.But of course the motorist might notice the jump in price in E5 gasoline and complain…..And of course without the blenders credit E85 would be wiped clean off the map as it wouldn't be able to compete.Andy

    Comment by Andytk | September 15, 2009

  115. RRThe "liquid fuels", their portability, high energy concentration, and other virtues,……….. all fine…..In the end, nothing can compare with electricity and the incredible efficiency of the electric motor.Carnot efficiencies, (even with the best 2 cycle diesels,the HCCI rotary engines, etc.), are at best 60%. When you consider electricity made at efficiencies approaching 90% or significantly above that, you can begin to understand why there is growing interest in electricity as a "fuel", or "energy carrier" (if you prefer) for the transportation sector.Electricity……… " It does scale up"John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  116. In the end, nothing can compare with electricity and the incredible efficiency of the electric motor.I know:Electric Cars versus the ICE RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  117. Refus, reference your comment about diesel use.Harking back to the "ancient" 2002 USDA energy analysis paper, it indicates that energy used in growing plus transporting the corn at approx 25,500 btu per gallon ethanol.Of this they allocate 14,372 btu/gal back to the co products, leaving us with about 11,000 btu per gallon of ethanol.Not all of this is diesel. Quite a lot of it will be propane/natural gas used to dry the field corn prior to storing it in the elevators. It can't be stored wet, and drying it takes some amount of energy. But it is still fossil energy so it needs counting.Again comparing this to your analysis you're only out by a factor of 7 this time.And my data my be old, but it is likely to give a fair view of the agregate efficiency of the corn ethanol industry. And at least no one can claim it is pro or anti ethanol.Andy

    Comment by Andytk | September 15, 2009

  118. XOM could very easily not take the credit come tax time Robert.So you think XOM should pay above market prices for ethanol, put themselves at a competitive disadvantage to all other oil companies, and not have that adjusted via blender's credit? They would like to see the credit disappear, but nobody is stupid enough to make a unilateral move on that. This would simply be XOM – and not the government – subsidizing ethanol.The blender's credit is what drives the price of ethanol. If it wasn't there, blender's wouldn't be interested in paying the current price for ethanol. They would go to the lowest cost producer, which could be from Brazil. But you are still kidding yourself about the nature of the tax credit. What it does is tell oil companies they can go pay a premium to ethanol companies for their ethanol. But,let's not pretend oil and gas companies don't want subsidies.The difference is on the scale, and the fact that oil companies also pay in massive taxes. What is usually called an oil company "subsidy" are often things that are tax credits that other companies (including ethanol companies) can take. Those are only called subsidies when referring to oil companies. There is no comparison to the direct subsidies paid per gallon of ethanol blended. As far as the magnitude of subsidies:http://zfacts.com/p/63.htmlRR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  119. Ah, my mistake, ignore above post, I've double counted the energy in the nitrate fertiliser. If its allocated to the natgas vs ethanol analysis, it cannot then be recounted as "energy used during growing+shipping"Stripping this out, but still using the USDA's numbers I get about 3,941 btu/gallon ethanol of diesel/propane.So Rufus is only out by a factor of 2.5Apologies for my error.As always, happy to be corrected (and admit) if I'm wrong.CheersAndy

    Comment by Andytk | September 15, 2009

  120. Ah, Andy, where to start? First, corn yields were quite a bit less prior to 2002 when this study was done. Let's say 15% less. That would put it about 135 bu/acre. Probably close. Your typical refinery was getting about 2.6 gal/bu, about 8% less than at present. So, that would account for about 1,000 btus, I guess.Now, you seem to have thrown propane for drying in the transportation. Well, I don't think I want to go to war over that one, because some propane is used for drying. It depends on how long the corn is able to stay in the field, and the weather during this time, after maturing, and prior to harvesting, but what the hey.So, I came up with 1,581 btus of diesel, At Present, and and you came up with a number equivalent to about 3,000 btus, adjusted to present. Of course, that's got some "Propane for Drying" added in.I don't think we're all that far "out."

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  121. So just for a review, because I am not that smart to see through all of the spin and opinions here.The first study, by the ethanol people test automobiles with variable timing, electronic ignition and fuel injection and says a car travels farther on 100,000 BTU of Ethanol than on gasoline. Is that right?And then another study by another group tests lawnmowers and "legacy vehicles" with carburetors and shows both travel the same distance with 100,000 BTU of Ethanol and gasoline.And the controversy is what exactly?

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  122. And the controversy is what exactly?Ethanol and gasoline are not sold by the BTU. So the first study made a claim that a volume of gasoline/ethanol could propel a vehicle further than the higher BTU volume of straight gasoline. The second study said "No."RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  123. Well, no – Actually, the first study said that a Camry with a 2.4 L four cylinder engine would get slightly more HIGHWAY miles on a gallon of 30% Ethanol, and 70% Gasoline. *At least, as measured by the EPA.)The second test Did Not Address This.The second test used a LA 92 scenario (this attempts to replicate the type of driving in Urban Los Angeles.In addition, The Second Test did not utilize a 30% ethanol blend.The two tests were informative, and interesting, but Did not measure the same things.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  124. They may not have measured exactly the same thing, but one thing is sure. The second test found no effect in any vehicle tested, on any blend through E20, that was similar to what the first test showed. Remember that the first test did show some anomalies on E20, which the 2nd test did not find. As the 2nd report stated: All 16 vehicles exhibited a loss in fuel economy commensurate with the energy density of the fuel.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | September 15, 2009

  125. Well, on this one car that's present in both tests, the tests did pretty much agree with it's mileage (although, one was EPA Highway, and the other was Urban L.A. on E20.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  126. It seems like a really good idea to do a complete unbiased study. 20 cars, 10 new cars, 10 old cars, Run ethanol up to E-50 in 2% increments 0E, 2E, 4E, 6E, etc. so that any outliers would actually show up as outliers, and not completely skew the study one way or another. That way a definate answer can be made on the results. Isn't this why the US has a Department of Energy?

    Comment by Anonymous | September 15, 2009

  127. None of this is Really, honest-to-goodness, important.We've had a couple of years to judge this, now. It's getting pretty clear.When gasoline prices get to around $3.50ish people start paying attention to the signs promoting ethanol. If they see an 18 – 20% discount they start using the alternative fuel.The same eighteen to twenty percent discount when gasoline is $2.50, or %2.60, however doesn't get nearly as much attention. Nor does a twenty five, or, even, thirty.So, the bottom line, whether we wear out a million keyboards, or go to the ballgame, there will be some E85 around next year. There will be nine, or ten million cars that can use it. If gasoline is over, or around, $3.50/gal, and there is a decent discount some people will buy it.The E20, E30 thing doesn't matter, anyway, because there won't be but a couple of hundred blender pumps, nationwide.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  128. rufus wrote: Actually, 3 of the cars in the N.Dak test did best with E30. Only the flexfuel chevy did better with E20.No, only 2 did best with E30. The non flex fuel Chevy Impala didn't do best with either E20 or E30.I am a bit disappointed that NREL did not publish their E30 results.rufus wrote: the first study said that a Camry with a 2.4 L four cylinder engine would get slightly more HIGHWAY miles on a gallon of 30% Ethanol, and 70% Gasoline. *At least, as measured by the EPA.No, the EPA did not do any measurements for that study. The measuring was done by the University of Minnesota.

    Comment by Clee | September 15, 2009

  129. Such a furore about whether someone got 28mpg on E20 in a 2.4L car! Who cares! Here on the fringe of Europe you'd pay 1,500 USD in tax annually for the privilege of having such a wasteful outsize engine, before you started paying 7 USD/gallon (imperial) for fuel.Tax fuel over ten years until it's 7 USD/gal and you will halve your consumption while ensuring that three quarters of the revenue stays at home (to pay for adjustments in commuting habits).Sounds like plain common sense to me. I can't even think of a way to claim its unconstitutional!

    Comment by PeteS | September 15, 2009

  130. Oh, and with such an iron-clad guarantee of future high prices, you would have every opportunity to investigate alternative fuels without the need for subsidies. Something tells me ethanol wouldn't be at the races.

    Comment by PeteS | September 15, 2009

  131. No, only 2 did best with E30. The non flex fuel Chevy Impala didn't do best with either E20 or E30.Yikes, you're right, Clee. Mea Culpa, Mea CulpaNo, the EPA did not do any measurements for that study. The measuring was done by the University of Minnesota.Ah, come on. They were doing the EPA test. You know what I meant.Later all, I'm going to bed.

    Comment by rufus | September 15, 2009

  132. "Tax fuel over ten years until it's 7 USD/gal and you will halve your consumption … Sounds like plain common sense to me."Ah, Pete! Send me your huddled masses yearning .. to be taxed??? Thank goodness Pangea is not getting put back together again anytime soon.I get the impression that you may be new to these parts, so it may be time to drag out one of those dusty old discussions and beat it to death again. Pay attention, this is not going to happen twice.The fundamental law of the universe, even more basic than the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics, is the Law of Unintended Consequences.Seen through Brit eyes, you guys tax youself massively for gasoline. Hell, you tax yourself not to watch the BBC. And the government gives the money to teenage drug addicts & soccer hooligans. That's the way the world is — or at least has been since the sun set on the British Empire. It is no stranger than a whole lot else that goes on within those rain-swept islands.Meanwhile, across in Mother Russia, Vlad the Impaler is gnashing his teeth. He sells Gordon Brown (or his sidekicks in Beyond Petroleum) a barrel of good black stuff for (say) $70. Gordie the Great then sells it on to his subjects at a going refined rate of $250-300 per barrel. Gordo uses the profits to dredge his MPs moats and otherwise keep himself in power. The average Brit dreams of the day when he will be able to afford decent dental care — but that won't be until the mortgage on his last tank of fuel gets paid off. The world rolls on in well-oiled grooves.Vlad is Mad. This is just old fashioned European colonialism. Those Brits pay off the natives in bangles while they stuff the real profits down their own pants. Why should Gordie's boys hog something like 80% of the economic rent on Vlad's main currency earner. If crazy Brits want to pay $300/Bbl, thats OK — but let them pay it to Mother Russia. Anything else is theft!OK, the above embroiders the tale a little. Swine flu is still addling my brain. But the serious point is that the Saudis have already raised this exact issue about the European neo-colonialist grab for the economic rent on their primary commodity. Needless to say, the Grauniad & the New York Times averted their eyes.My guess is that the only thing which has prevented open conflict on this so far is that the US still has a "normally" taxed market for oil. When the Eurotrash who sit in the US Congress decide to go along with the EUnuchs and tax oil high, the dam of frustration among the oil producers will crack — an Unintended Consequence.Maybe sooner. Time is not on Russia's side, with China on the eastern border and native Russians failing to go forth & multiply. It would not be surprising to see this issue come up at the Copenhagen global climate piss-up this fall. Maybe this winter, Putin will stand at the main gas value keeping EUtopians warm and suggest, very gently of course, that Euro govs start to rebate to Mother Russia half the tax revenue they collect from Russian oil; voluntarily of course. So that Russia will have the funds to invest in keeping supplying the oil & gas that Europe needs.If you are keeping track of these things, the European Union is by far the world's largest fossil fuel importer — in a world of finite fossil fuels. Tick tock.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | September 16, 2009

  133. RR September 15, 2009 10:36 AMBlogger Robert Rapier said… "In the end, nothing can compare with electricity and the incredible efficiency of the electric motor. I know: Electric Cars versus the ICE " RR——————————Thanks for having the foresight or perhaps, courage or common senseto at least consider the idea that there are other solutions to the internal combustion engine dilemma and our myopic worldwide dependence on it,John

    Comment by Anonymous | September 16, 2009

  134. I'd like to make a few observations about these two studies.First, Clee you are wrong, the tests were not done by the University of Minnesota. They were done at Minnesota State University. The pictures in the report looked vaguely familiar, but the campus has changed a lot since I went there.More importantly, the MN State report makes a point of explaining the way the car's computer learns and adjusts to the fuel based on emision sensors. They then say that they followed a specific procedure to let the car learn to use each fuel blend. (section 3.2 pages 16-17) I scanned over the NREL report and didn't see a similar procedure. I don't know if it matters but I think its worth mentioning.I also find it interesting that the E85 car in the MN State report did so well, with all points above the expected line. You might say well of course it did better, it is designed to run on ethanol fuels. But what is the difference between an FFV and a regular vehicle? My understanding is that the differences are very minor. the materials that contact the fuel are compatible with ethanol, but that wouldn't matter. And the sensors and computer are designed to detect and adjust to the ethanol. but it is not a completely different engine.If it is as simple as that, isn't that important. How much would it cost to make this minor adjustment to all new cars? Might be worth it to make them able to adjust to all mixtures of a variety of alcohols.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | September 16, 2009

  135. Annon John saidWhen you consider electricity made at efficiencies approaching 90% or significantly above thatWho is making electricity at efficiencies approaching 90%.I think you can use electricity at very high efficiencies, but make it? If you are running steam through a turbine, you are not getting 90%.For electric cars, it is all about the battery, and that is a very difficult problem.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | September 16, 2009

  136. Kinuachdrach — there's no reason on earth why Vlad or Rasp-Putin or whoever should have an interest or a say in our taxation policies. While you weren't looking we bypassed Vlad to the south (hence that little Georgian caffuffle) and with the Trans-Caspian and Nabucco pipelines we may even be able to ship central Asian fossil fuels without the aid of either Russia or our new BFFs in Iran.On the upside — when you Yanks were weeping and gnashing your teeth last year about the price of filling up, guess who barely noticed the increase? Even the tax is bearable when you keep your cylinder capacity smaller than, oh I dunno, let's say your fridge, or you use the public transport paid for with all that tax. Try it. You might even thank me for it. And then I might get over you mistaking me for a Brit.

    Comment by PeteS | September 16, 2009

  137. Doesn't diesel have a higher mileage when compared to gasoline? How difficult is it to acknoledge btu heating value is only part of the equation?I can see the "but it's the engine" counter-argument, yet even gasoline engines have plenty of margin for real-time modification of combustion quality. The knock sensor essentially turns the modern gasoline engine into a variable combustion engine.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 16, 2009

  138. Dennis Moore wrote: First, Clee you are wrong, the tests were not done by the University of Minnesota. They were done at Minnesota State UniversityAh, my mistake. The title page does indeed say Minnesota State University. I mistakenly believed page 10 (or 18 of 37) where they called it the University of Minnesota.DM: More importantly, the MN State report makes a point of explaining the way the car's computer learns and adjusts to the fuel based on emision sensors. Interesting. I hadn't known that had been standard since the early 1980sDM: But what is the difference between an FFV and a regular vehicle? I've been wondering that too, particularly since the Impala non-FFV behaved quite differently from the FFV version. Rufus seemed to indicate that his Impala FFV knows about fueling events. $100 to $200 is the numbers I've seen thrown around as the extra cost of a FFV. I'd be quite willing to pay that even if I never end up putting E85 in my car. I'd be quite okay with the EPA mandating it on new cars. I'd rather they do that than to increase the ethanol in standard gasoline to 20% now with the chance that using that in my old car will destroy its fuel pump or something else expensive. I think someone said there was a study debunking that. I'd like to see a link to that study.Another question I have is, why are FFV in the US limited to E85? Why not E100? And how much more expensive would it be to make a FFV that can handle the C1 through C6 alcohol blend?

    Comment by Clee | September 16, 2009

  139. If not E100, why not E99 (if they insist on 1% of something else to denature it)?

    Comment by Clee | September 16, 2009

  140. Clee, in moderate climates you need the 15% gasoline for starting. Ethanol burns very cool. Pure ethanol doesn't like to "get up in the morning" when temps are below about 45 degrees.In fact, in wintertime, U.S. E85 is actually E70.

    Comment by rufus | September 16, 2009

  141. Does ethanol help us import less oil? Does it result in cleaner air? Does the government get 80% of the ethanol subsidy back at the pump? I think the answer is yes,yes,and yes.I see RR went easy on you, Maury. In truth the answers would be categorically yes, no and you're missing the point.Does ethanol help us import less oil?You'll be aware that the energy balance on ethanol production is close to unity, with a furious ongoing argument about which side of unity it is. Nonetheless, the point would be that ethanol has marginal environmental benefits, if any at all.As RR has pointed out many times before, ethanol is really an indirect way to replace some of our oil imports with locally sourced natural gas. So we do import less oil. But it is still a cumbersome way to achieve that goal. It would be much easier just to use CNG vehicles.Does it result in cleaner air?It certainly does not. At the very least you'd have to admit that there is another furious ongoing debate about that one.Does the government get 80% of the ethanol subsidy back at the pump?That $0.18/gal you refer to is for road maintenance, not fuel market manipulation. Of course, the prostitutians do this non-sense all the time

    Comment by Optimist | September 16, 2009

  142. Dennis Moore wrote: the MN State report makes a point of explaining the way the car's computer learns and adjusts to the fuel based on emision sensors. They then say that they followed a specific procedure to let the car learn to use each fuel blend. (section 3.2 pages 16-17) I scanned over the NREL report and didn't see a similar procedure.Dennis, check out page A-4, section A.2.1 Test Preparatory cycles"Each vehicle was … driven through three US06 drive cycles… before initiation of testing" Shouldn't 3 US06 drive cycles after changing fuels be enough for the car to learn and adjust to the new fuel blend before test data is taken?

    Comment by Clee | September 22, 2009

  143. New study: Mid-level Ethanol Blend Study: Chassis Dynamometer Study of Flex Fuel Vehicleshttp://www.nebraskacorn.org/publications/mid_level_ethanol_blend_study.pdfThe study shows that in a flex fuel vehicle, you will get better (need fewer) BTUs/mi with E85. EPA sticker numbers on FFVs also reflect that. However, the study doesn't support the urban legend of the North Dakota study that you can get higher miles per gallon on a mid-level blend, such as E20 or E30, than on straight gasoline. The newly published Nebraska study tested E10, E20, E30 and E85 in 3 Ford Taurus FFV, 3 Chevy Impala FFV, and 3 Dodge Ram FFV. The study shows that miles per gallon decreases with increased ethanol content in all three vehicles, though there were some curious data points at 50 mph that were not consistent between cars of the same model. Actually, the Ford Taurus FFV got worse (higher) BTUs/mile on the E20 and E20 mid-level blends than it did on E10 and E85. On all three vehicles they calculated it would cost more $/mi on E20 and E30 than on E10 and E85, though that could change with varying gasoline and ethanol pricing.

    Comment by Clee | October 12, 2009


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