from Sustainable Ethanol

The era of cheap oil is over and America is increasingly dependent on imported energy. In our search for energy security and sustainability, is ethanol a viable option or a dead end? Is it truly renewable? Is it good for the environment? In short, is ethanol good for America? This book goes beyond the headlines in search of answers to America’s ethanol questions.

Most North American automobiles run on gasoline, and this will not change quickly. We need ethanol in the near term because it can be used with gasoline in existing vehicles. Soon, new technologies could improve the fuel economy of ethanol-powered vehicles. Ethanol could also be used in combination with electric motors, fuel cells, turbo-chargers, and hydrogen technology.
Critics of ethanol often implicate current farming methods. Today’s ethanol is mostly made from corn grown in an unsustainable manner, with large amounts of petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides. However, a growing number of farmers are transitioning to more sustainable practices. Higher fossil fuel prices will accelerate this trend. Farmers are getting better yields with fewer fossil fuel inputs and less soil erosion. (continued below)

Ethanol producers are using fewer fossil fuel inputs as well. Some are even using renewable “process fuels” in place of natural gas or coal. Before long, they will be making cellulosic ethanol, butanol, and biogas from prairie grasses, crop residues, and various organic waste materials. The way we make and use ethanol can be improved dramatically. We are just scratching the surface of ethanol’s potential. Ethanol is not a perfect fuel. There is no such thing. But ethanol is preferable to imported petroleum, and ethanol production is getting more efficient. This book is about the technologies making ethanol make sense. These technologies and the people behind them are why we believe ethanol is good for America. --from Sustainable Ethanol

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Gary Dikkers said...

Find out about new technologies that could eliminate the ethanol fuel economy deficit in Flex-Fuel vehicles and discover why E10 (10% ethanol) actually boosts miles per gallon in some cars!

I am leery of your claim that E10 raises fuel economy in some cars. It certainly hasn't in mine.

I drive a four-cylinder truck with a manual transmission, and have repeatedly checked my fuel mileage over the last four years. When I use straight gasoline, I get about 32 mpg on the highway. When I use E10, the mileage drops to 29 mpg.

That means to drive 320 miles I could use 10 gallons of gasoline, or 11 gallons of E10. But, when I use E10, 90% of that fuel is gasoline. And guess what? 90% of 11 is 9.9 gallons.

Whether I use gasoline or E10, I burn almost exactly the same amount of gasoline.

Considering the energy needed to make the 1.1 gallons of ethanol in 11 gallons of E10, I consume (and must buy) more energy when I burn E10.

Based on my experience, I now buy E10 only if I must refuel and have no other choice. My experience isn't isolated. I've talked to others who have experienced the same.


Gary Dikkers

Jeff Goettemoeller said...

Thanks for your post, Gary. Lots of people have had the same kind of experience and it gives ethanol a bad reputation. It is why I think car makers need to optimize for ethanol. The key word in the statement you doubt is "some." If you believe a controlled study done by the EPA on several cars, E10 does indeed create equal or better fuel economy in some cars as compared to ethanol-free gasoline. The study also showed, however, that some other cars actually suffer from a substantial lowering of fuel economy. Your car apparently falls in that category. We discuss the study in "Sustainable Ethanol" and give the data. Our main point is that the favorable results in some cars show that car makers can build cars that take advantage of ethanol's properties to get better fuel economy on E10. They've already done it! It's unfortunate that your vehicle and others are not so good with E10, but this is no reason to give up on ethanol. It is a reason to encourage engine optimization for ethanol. As for the energy balance issue, we address that in the book as well. Here again, the good news is that ethanol is doing better all the time in that department while the energy balance of ethanol-free gasoline is not so hot itself. It takes energy to refine petroleum into gasoline, after all.