We Need A Lasting Solution To The Lies Told By Big Oil and API

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A Response to Jack Gerard and the American Petroleum Institute

 

By Marc J. Rauch 
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher 
THE AUTO CHANNEL

 

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Marc J. Rauch

Yesterday, June 14, 2018, my very good friend - the president and CEO of American Petroleum Institute (API) - sent me a letter headlined "We Need a Lasting Solution to the Broken Renewable Fuel Standard."

I say "my very good friend sent me a letter" because the email was addressed to me specifically, and the letter itself starts with the words "Dear Marc."

Anyway, the first paragraph reads, "Without reform, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is headed down a path that could limit consumer choices, raise their fuel costs and could even damage their vehicles."

I thought to myself, "Hallelujah, Jack Gerard and I finally agree on something!"

Not only was it Flag Day, but a special "ENERGY INDEPENDENCE FLAG DAY!!!"

If the American flag outside my house wasn't already flying high and proud I would have run out and run it up the flag pole.

Yeah baby, we need to reform the RFS, to extend consumer choice, lower our fuel costs, and stop using that garbage (gasoline) that has been shoved down our throats for more than 100 years. Let me say it again: "HALLELUJAH!"

But then I read the second paragraph; my buddy Jack writes:

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"Based on decade-old fuel consumption projections that have missed the mark, the RFS forces increasing amounts of ethanol into the fuel supply each year, regardless of market realities..."

"Unless ethanol volume requirements are adjusted to reflect actual fuel consumption trends, we could end up breaching the blend wall..."

"The problem: Almost three out of four of vehicles on the road today are not manufacturer-approved to use higher ethanol blends like E15 (15 percent ethanol fuel)..."

"Extensive testing by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) -- the gold standard in vehicle research -- has determined E15 could damage engines and fuel systems..."

"When the RFS mandates were developed more than a decade ago, the mandated use of corn-based ethanol seemed to some like a viable option to lower fuel costs and imports while reducing emissions. Now that the United States is the world’s largest producer and refiner of oil and natural gas, we’re in a new era. We’ve transitioned from a net importer of refined petroleum products to a net exporter, and U.S. carbon emissions have reached 25-year lows due primarily to greater use of clean natural gas."

So instead of Hallelujah, I now think, "Oy Vey."

Then it dawned on me that this letter wasn't simply a personal message from one friend to another, it was just a form letter and it probably went out to API's entire list of people named Mark, but who spell it with a C instead of a K.

On second thought, I realize the letter was probably sent to everyone on API's email list, regardless of their name and how they spell it.

Now I get it... Jack was just trying to butter me up before launching into the same old despicable ignorant lies that the oil industry and the American Petroleum Institute have been telling us for decade after decade. Yeah, yeah, CEO - Chief Equivocation Originator. No wonder his name was at the bottom of the letter, it's a fitting title.

Well, while the job title may be correct, nothing else in this letter was. The RFS doesn't "force increasing amounts of ethanol into the fuel supply each year (regardless of market realities)." The Renewable Fuel Standard called for the use of a biofuel to be added to gasoline for non-flex fuel vehicles of about 10%. Ethanol didn't have to be the biofuel, it just happened to be the best, the safest, and the least expensive to use. And between the time that the RFS was enacted and today, the mandated percentage has not changed. Therefore, the words "force increasing amounts of ethanol into the fuel supply each year" is a lie. And since ethanol did not have to be the biofuel used, it's an exaggerated lie; and since market realities could have impacted the use of 10% ethanol in the primary internal combustion engine fuel supply, it's an exaggerated lie with a rotten cherry on top.

Jack is worried about "breaching the blend wall," but the blend wall is a scam. It doesn't exist: It's a scam, wrapped in deceit, inside a fraud - created and perpetuated by the goons who work for the petroleum oil industry and API. Every single gasoline-powered passenger vehicle on the road today can safely and reliably use E15, E20, E25, E30, E35, E40, E45 or E50 or higher. The only engine and fuel system issue that might occur is that the Check-Engine light might illuminate, or that the ethanol does such a good job at cleaning the gunk-goo-crap off the engine walls (formed from years of gasoline use) that a filter might have to be changed. So if all gasoline-powered passenger vehicles can use blends between E15 and E50 (or higher), then the pretend E10 blend wall isn't just a figment of someone's imagination, it's a delusional nightmare propagated to keep us addicted to the poison known as gasoline.
            SEE: The Figurative Ethanol Blend Wall is a Fictional Ethanol Blend Wall

Jack claims that the "extensive testing" done by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) is "the gold standard in vehicle research." Yeah, if the gold is fool's gold. He says that the CRC has determined that E15 could damage engines and fuel systems. You know what can and does cause damage to every single gasoline-powered engine? Gasoline. Making a broad statement like "E15 could cause damage..." is as pointless as saying that "If you go outside without an umbrella and it rains, you might get wet." On the other hand, there is no equivocating over my statement that every single gasoline-powered engine has been damaged by gasoline; it's a fact!
        SEE: Every Spark-Ignited Internal Combustion Engine Ever Produced Has Been Damaged By Gasoline

I guess no one ever told Jack that the extensive testing of ethanol by true 24kt gold labs and research teams (that were not connected to the oil industry) have proven again, and again, and again that ethanol is beneficial to engines and does not harm engines and fuel systems (certainly not to any degree more than the damage caused by gasoline or petroleum diesel in diesel engines). I know this for a fact because not only do the reports from these organizations tell me so, but the oil industry itself has said so:
            SEE: The Hypocrisy of Big Oil
            SEE: Ethanol Special Motives

Next, Jack writes about why the RFS mandates were developed more than ten years ago and suggests two incredibly dopey things: First, that the biofuel mandates aren't needed because the U.S. is the world's largest producer and refiner of oil and natural gas; and second that U.S. carbon emissions have reached 25-year lows due primarily to greater use of clean natural gas.

But what good does it do us in being the world's largest producer and refiner of oil and natural gas? Gasoline prices are still high, we still have to import a sizable amount of foreign oil, and we still embroil ourselves in the affairs of other countries because of their petroleum oil resources. The only thing that can really be said for our production and refining capabilities is that we may once again be the world's largest provider of poison to the world. "Hey world, looking for a little more respiratory illnesses, autism, and wildlife disasters? Look no further than the good ol' U.S. of A." But this distinction is not something to brag about.

As for the claim that U.S. carbon emissions have reached a 25-year low due to greater use of clean natural gas, I just have to laugh. The overwhelming largest contributor to carbon emissions is the burning of so-called fossil fuels (abiotic fuels) that includes gasoline, petroleum diesel, natural gas, and coal. While it is true that natural gas produces less carbon than coal, and the switch from using natural gas to generate electricity is helpful, the worst cause of air pollution in cities like Los Angeles was/is the result of the transportation use of gasoline and diesel. The reduction of harmful vehicle emissions is not due to any increased use of natural gas, but the use of catalytic converters, improved MPG efficiency, and ethanol blended with gasoline. Natural gas, in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) could have played a larger role in reducing harmful vehicle emissions, but API's denigration of CNG as a vehicle fuel was so successful that engine conversions from gasoline to CNG was (for all intents and purposes) made illegal and uneconomical, and all regular production of CNG-powered passenger vehicles for the United States ceased several years ago.

In the meantime, the number of vehicles on the road using gasoline or petro diesel continues to increase. To continue making significant reductions in harmful emissions requires a significant lowering of emissions from the vehicles currently on the road in a sensible time frame. This can only happen by increasing the percentage of ethanol used in the fuel to power these vehicles. The move to E15 and beyond is the only realistic, quick, and workable solution - for the next several decades at the least.

Consequently, this puts Jack and I back to agreeing on something: A change in the RFS is needed...a change that increases the percentage of ethanol blended into every gallon of fuel used in every internal combustion engine vehicle.

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Gasoline exists simply because it got this big head start on the alternatives. It has maintained its dominance due to its high energy density, and due to the enormous amount of detailed technical development of the engines that use it.  Other than that, let us remember that oil is, when reduced to its fundamental characteristics, nothing more than an inconvenient mineral slime. 

Meanwhile ethanol exists because corn farmers out in the Midwest of the USA have disproportionate political clout in the US national elections.  No politician wants to do anything to offend or thwart the corn grower crowd, for fear of the wrath at the polls. 

Is ethanol the premium drop-in fuel?  Probably not.  What is?  I dunno.  Bet let's remember, the alternatives are snuffed out not because of some technical insufficiency, but because they were late to the race, and do not have a developed political constituency. 

(Personally, I think an auto or bus with a flywheel inside is the optimal solution, but hey, that's just my personal prejudice. Chacun  à son goût.)

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We also need a lasting solution to the lies told by Big Ag.

Let's face it, they both spin and twist facts and data to suit themselves.

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I agree with much of what you say, Jan. The exceptions are the points you make related to energy density and the farmer's political clout. 

Energy density of fuels used in internal combustion engines is irrelevant. It's a very simple thing to build an engine that optimizes lower-density ethanol, which would perform comparable or better to an engine that optimizes gasoline The engine would cost no more (a diesel engine optimizes bio-diesel with no optimization changes versus petro diesel). The oil industry does use the notion of higher BTU to pretend that gasoline and petro diesel is better, but it's just a marketing gimmick.

Yes, farmers do have lobbyists, but if they had any real political clout (as compared to the oil industry) then ethanol fuel would have been in significant use in America shortly after the repeal of Prohibition - there was a movement funded and supported largely by Henry Ford, but it fizzled out. And when the country (and Congress) finally had enough of tetra-ethyl lead, ethanol - not MTBE - would have been the first replacement for TEL.

Also, if farmers had any real political clout, there would be no haggling over should we, or shouldn't we be using E15 nationally; we'd already have E20 to E40 in regular ubiquitous use with automaker recommendations for which blend works best in their specific vehicles, or all new internal combustion engine passenger vehicles would be optimized to run on E85 to E99 - without using a gasoline-cold start additive.

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(edited)

Hi Refman-

I don't know of any lies told by the AG industry, but I'm genuinely interested to hear what you think are lies that they tell. My company and I have no stake in supporting the ethanol industry or farmers outside of our belief that it is the right thing to do for America and our fellow Americans. Our belief is founded on research, study, and personal hands-on experimentation. We didn't grow up in farm country, we don't own a farm, and we have no relatives who are farmers or in the AG community. Consequently anything you say won't be taken personally.

If there are lies comparable to the denial of the how poisonous tetra-ethyl lead or aromatics are, I'd love to hear it. If there are lies related to American involvement in foreign wars because of AG interests, I'd love to hear it. If there are lies related to the cover up of some environmental disasters, I'd love to hear it. Whatever it is, I'd love to see it; and if you can document the information I would be happy to publish it on TheAutoChannel.com - if you would like me to.

Fair enough?

Edited by Marc J. Rauch
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@Marc J. Rauch

https://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/ethanol-mandate-environment-energy-tax-gas-prices/

Marc, 

I came across this article that runs contrary to your claims.  Big Oil is promoting the RFS mandate to hurt the small- and medium-sized refiners they compete against.  

The articles you've written have taught me many aspects of the history of ethanol and gasoline fuel that I otherwise never would have learned.  

At the same time, you have to take into account how much energy is used to grow, process, and transport ethanol fuel.  I've heard arguments that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol provides.  That means that ethanol is more of just an anti-knocking agent and octane booster than a replacement for refined petroleum products.  That being said, I would still rather have ethanol in my fuel than tetra-ethyl lead, nickel, or MTBE.  

As for the complaints from 2003-2005 regarding sulfate salts from ethanol ruining engines, I'm curious what physical differences existed between flex-fuel and non-flex-fuel engines that allowed the flex-fuel engines to not have this problem, especially compared to much older non-flex-fuel engines.  I'm also curious to compare the chemistries of today's ethanol blends with those of the past.  Do you think mandating a lower sulfur content in fuels would prevent the build up of sulfate salts?

And then regarding engine maintenance, ethanol cleans the gunk in the engine that gasoline doesn't.  Does this deeper engine cleaning result in more frequent oil changes?  If so, what is the best way to calculate how often you replace your oil filter, being that most cars tell you when to change the oil by measuring the amount of miles you drove since your last oil change, but with the assumption that you're using gasoline?

I am not anti-ethanol, but I am also not anti-oil.  I'd love to know your thoughts on some of my questions.  

-Bradley Silva

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6 hours ago, Marc J. Rauch said:

Energy density of fuels used in internal combustion engines is irrelevant. It's a very simple thing to build an engine that optimizes lower-density ethanol, which would perform comparable or better to an engine that optimizes gasoline The engine would cost no more (a diesel engine optimizes bio-diesel with no optimization changes versus petro diesel). The oil industry does use the notion of higher BTU to pretend that gasoline and petro diesel is better, but it's just a marketing gimmick.

 

Marc, I suspect you are missing the drift of what I intended.  The energy density of fuels is "relevant" in terms of both the weight and the volume of fuels needed to be carried.  Alcohol and gasoline should be close enough in specific weight: figure 6.5 lbs/gal.  Now if ethyl alcohol has an energy density of 60% of gasoline, you will need to carry another 50% in fuel volume, and weight, for the same range.  That is not insignificant, as you would also have to provide for a fuel tank 50% larger, with added weight and consuming more scarce real estate underneath (or taking away trunk volume).  Or, the vendor simply has to announce that his model will travel only 60% of his competitor's gasoline model. YOu see the problem.  

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Hi Brad -

Thanks for your comments. I'm out power washing my backyard so I don't have much time at the moment. However, here's a report from Forrest Jehlik, Research Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory: https://www.wired.com/2011/06/five-ethanol-myths-busted-2/

I have more references and links I can post later today, if you'd like. Let me know.

 

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Jan - You're right, I did miss the point you were apparently making. I think I understand now, but I still may not be getting the full gist of it. So after reading the following, if I'm still off, let me know.

A gallon of ethanol can produce a comparable or better MPG result in an internal combustion engine than a gallon of gasoline, therefore - in terms of volume - no additional space is required (this is different than comparing CNG to gasoline where the tanks to hold a comparable volume of fuel needed to produce a comparable MPG result are larger than gasoline tanks). This leaves the question of weight difference between ethanol and gasoline. Let me see if Wikipedia can tell me...

From what I found, both gasoline and ethanol weigh about the same (a little more than 6 lbs per gallon), depending upon type of gasoline and possible water moisture content. So, generally speaking the energy expended to transport one gallon of ethanol would be roughly the same as the energy expended to transport one gallon of gasoline. Now, I recognize that we're not talking about transporting one gallon of gasoline/ethanol, we're talking about transporting thousands and thousands of gallons, which means that even a slight difference can add up to a lot. (Right, so far?)

Therefore, if a gallon of ethanol weighs 1/4 of a pound more than gasoline then it probably could be said that it takes more energy to "bring the ethanol to market than it does gasoline." This being the case (if I'm correct, so far), then it seems like someone could build a formula that shows that ethanol is more energy-costly than gasoline.

But, this would only be the case if we're dealing with comparable transportation distances, which we are not. Firstly, ethanol should not be transported long distances via truck, train, ship or pipeline. The ethanol business model should follow the dairy industry business model where local raw materials are used (local cows) to create the dairy products that are then shipped to local retail outlets. Ethanol should be locally produced from whatever the most abundant and affordable raw materials are available. Many specialty dairy products are shipped long distance, but this retail cost normally reflects this, and the buyer excepts it - fuel is looked at differently.

Second, crude oil is not available everywhere, nor are oil refineries located everywhere (on the other hand, distilleries can be located virtually anywhere). Some crude oil has to travel great distances, like from the Middle East, Africa, South America and Canada. Even for crude that comes from domestic U.S. wells, the crude may have to travel to a refinery located a fairly long distance away, and then to local retail outlets.

Consequently, I think that any difference in weight per gallon of finished product is "outweighed" by the distance in shipping.

I hope I have now responded to the correct point you were making. If not, and I'm being too obtuse, please let me know and I'll either try again or throw in the towel.

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Marc just read some of the press releases from Bob Dinneen at the RFA..

Personally I am in agreement with using ethanol, due to it lowering our oil requirements. However, much of those efforts are wasted on cars tuned for E0. The RFA really needs to be reworked as RINS, while well intentioned is a debacle.

 

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INTERNATIONAL OIL PRICES SHOULD BE PEGGED AT NOT MORE $65 PER BARREL WHICH IS REALISTIC & GOOD FOR EVER BOXY

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11 hours ago, GeoSciGuy said:

@Marc J. Rauch

https://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/ethanol-mandate-environment-energy-tax-gas-prices/

Marc, 

I came across this article that runs contrary to your claims.  Big Oil is promoting the RFS mandate to hurt the small- and medium-sized refiners they compete against.  

The articles you've written have taught me many aspects of the history of ethanol and gasoline fuel that I otherwise never would have learned.  

At the same time, you have to take into account how much energy is used to grow, process, and transport ethanol fuel.  I've heard arguments that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol provides.  That means that ethanol is more of just an anti-knocking agent and octane booster than a replacement for refined petroleum products.  That being said, I would still rather have ethanol in my fuel than tetra-ethyl lead, nickel, or MTBE.  

As for the complaints from 2003-2005 regarding sulfate salts from ethanol ruining engines, I'm curious what physical differences existed between flex-fuel and non-flex-fuel engines that allowed the flex-fuel engines to not have this problem, especially compared to much older non-flex-fuel engines.  I'm also curious to compare the chemistries of today's ethanol blends with those of the past.  Do you think mandating a lower sulfur content in fuels would prevent the build up of sulfate salts?

And then regarding engine maintenance, ethanol cleans the gunk in the engine that gasoline doesn't.  Does this deeper engine cleaning result in more frequent oil changes?  If so, what is the best way to calculate how often you replace your oil filter, being that most cars tell you when to change the oil by measuring the amount of miles you drove since your last oil change, but with the assumption that you're using gasoline?

I am not anti-ethanol, but I am also not anti-oil.  I'd love to know your thoughts on some of my questions.  

-Bradley Silva

thanks for such an unbiased comparision of ethanol and oil. There is a reason why world runs on oil.

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(edited)

Brad - I didn't hear back from you yet but I'll jump in with some more information regarding the question of ethanol's EROEI (energy returned on energy invested).

This entire issue is based largely on the studies conducted by David Pimentell and Tad Padzek (paid for by the oil industry). The studies took information into account and that was out of date, untrue, or out of context. Their reports were soundly rebutted almost immediately after publication. I've written about this in greater detail in Part 5 of my 60+ page report titled "TRUTH ABOUT ETHANOL." Go to https://www.theautochannel.com/news/2013/06/11/082057-gusher-lies-book-review-and-reply-to-robert-bryce-pt.html, and then scroll down to the section headlined EROEI.

Regarding your question about sulfate salt, the National Renewable Energy Lab report that I cite in my article "The Hypocrisy of Big Oil" doesn't refer to flex fuel vs. non-flex fuel vehicles, it refers to E10 that would have been used in both engines. And it took place at the initial stages of the RFS biofuel mandate taking effect. The implication of the report is that these sulfate salts (which had not been found in engines previously, nor since) were the cause of complaints about the use of E10. However, 10% ethanol blends had been used intermittently in America, and regularly around the world for many years - as my article states. My conclusion is that the sulfate salts were deliberately put into the E10 blends to defame ethanol at this critical point in time.

Regarding the build up of engine deposits that turn into the gunk or goo, or whatever you want to call it: This is caused by gasoline, specifically by the thermal inefficiency of gasoline when it burns. This is what causes the black smoke and debris particles as seen in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6qKa8X6o1w.

Over time this debris builds up and cakes on engine walls and clogs or fouls various engine parts. As it sits in the engines and mixes with gasoline it becomes gooey...gunky. The engine eventually has to be cleaned, and spark plugs and fuel filters changed. This problem has existed for as long as gasoline has been used in internal combustion engines, and it has occurred in all engines that ran exclusively on ethanol free gasoline. It's why detergents had to be added to gasoline.

As the video shows, ethanol doesn't cause the same build up of debris because ethanol burns clean. This is why all the gasoline company advertisements in my Hypocrisy story cite cleaner burning as a benefit of ethanol.

I don't know if any studies have been done to say that engines using ethanol blends need less frequent oil changes, but it is generally acknowledged that engines can go significantly longer between oil changes than the 2,500 - 3,000 mile intervals that had been recommended for so many years. Is this because of ethanol blends? I don't know. However, when you consider comments made by engine manufacturers, such as Mercury Marine (the world's largest manufacturer of marine engines), that if you clean your engine after exclusively using gasoline and then switch to E10, your engine will stay cleaner longer. This happens because ethanol is a very good solvent.

At the beginning of your post, you cite a story from Investors Business Daily, written by Peter Ferrara - who is associated with Heartland Institute and Cato Institute. I had not seen this editorial, which was just published on Friday, and I'm not familiar with Mr. Ferrara. I am, of course familiar with both Heartland and Cato. Thank you for alerting me to it. I will write a rebuttal and publish it on my website, this website, and as a comment on the Investors.com website.

I just read through the story quickly. It is nonsense; it is rehashed nonsense. A quick search of Peter J. Ferrara is that he is an attorney and a policy analyst. I found no information to suggest that he has any knowledge of cars, engines, energy, or fuels. He most likely wrote this story because he was told he would receive some money from the oil industry for doing so. I guess he figured he would pick up a few extra bucks for summer spending. To better understand what I mean, please see these stories:

Unmasking The Gas Roots of Contemporary Ethanol Opposition - http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2017/04/17/370177-unmasking-gas-roots-contemporary-ethanol-opposition.html

Unmasking The Gas Roots of Contemporary Ethanol Opposition - Round 2 - http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2017/04/21/372019-unmasking-gas-roots-contemporary-ethanol-opposition-round-2.html.

I hope I addressed your questions. If not, or if you have others, please let me know and I'll try to reply as soon as possible.

Edited by Marc J. Rauch

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Hello again Refman -

I must say that I'm disappointed that you didn't offer any juicy lies that you think the Ag industry has told, but I am glad to read that you've read some of Bob Dineen's articles. Bob does know a lot about the subject.

Regarding cars tuned for E0, it doesn't matter, ethanol blends are still better. I point this out in my paper titled "The Hypocrisy of Big Oil." The oil industry itself stated that ethanol-gasoline blends were better than ethanol-free gasoline, and the cars they're talking about were vehicles that were not tuned for anything other than E0. See:

https://www.theautochannel.com/news/2017/12/20/478776-hypocrisy-big-oil.html

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11 hours ago, Marc J. Rauch said:

Jan - You're right, I did miss the point you were apparently making. I think I understand now, but I still may not be getting the full gist of it. So after reading the following, if I'm still off, let me know.

A gallon of ethanol can produce a comparable or better MPG result in an internal combustion engine than a gallon of gasoline, therefore - in terms of volume - no additional space is required (this is different than comparing CNG to gasoline where the tanks to hold a comparable volume of fuel needed to produce a comparable MPG result are larger than gasoline tanks). This leaves the question of weight difference between ethanol and gasoline. Let me see if Wikipedia can tell me...

From what I found, both gasoline and ethanol weigh about the same (a little more than 6 lbs per gallon), depending upon type of gasoline and possible water moisture content. So, generally speaking the energy expended to transport one gallon of ethanol would be roughly the same as the energy expended to transport one gallon of gasoline. Now, I recognize that we're not talking about transporting one gallon of gasoline/ethanol, we're talking about transporting thousands and thousands of gallons, which means that even a slight difference can add up to a lot. (Right, so far?)

Therefore, if a gallon of ethanol weighs 1/4 of a pound more than gasoline then it probably could be said that it takes more energy to "bring the ethanol to market than it does gasoline." This being the case (if I'm correct, so far), then it seems like someone could build a formula that shows that ethanol is more energy-costly than gasoline.

But, this would only be the case if we're dealing with comparable transportation distances, which we are not. Firstly, ethanol should not be transported long distances via truck, train, ship or pipeline. The ethanol business model should follow the dairy industry business model where local raw materials are used (local cows) to create the dairy products that are then shipped to local retail outlets. Ethanol should be locally produced from whatever the most abundant and affordable raw materials are available. Many specialty dairy products are shipped long distance, but this retail cost normally reflects this, and the buyer excepts it - fuel is looked at differently.

Second, crude oil is not available everywhere, nor are oil refineries located everywhere (on the other hand, distilleries can be located virtually anywhere). Some crude oil has to travel great distances, like from the Middle East, Africa, South America and Canada. Even for crude that comes from domestic U.S. wells, the crude may have to travel to a refinery located a fairly long distance away, and then to local retail outlets.

Consequently, I think that any difference in weight per gallon of finished product is "outweighed" by the distance in shipping.

I hope I have now responded to the correct point you were making. If not, and I'm being too obtuse, please let me know and I'll either try again or throw in the towel.

Yup, Marc, you are still missing the point. Let's try again. 

1.  -   Take a look at the situation in Brasil, which has a very active sugar-cane industry manufacturing ethanol on a vast scale.  All cars sold in Brasil are built to run on both fuels.  It seems that when fuelled on pure ethanol an auto will develop about 60% of the fuel mileage of one filled with gasoline, so drivers carry around little pocket calculators and compare the prices on the two pumps to see which fuel they are going to purchase that specific day.  The producers of refined gasoline and refined alcohol are in stiff competition for the retail dollar.   All well and good. 

The point I was focusing on is the observation that the ethanol in those autos only develops about 60% of the mileage of gasoline.  The conclusion is that the "energy density" of the two liquids varies by some 40% or so.  That would in turn mandate a larger fuel tank for an auto fuelled with ethanol than one fuelled with gasoline, if you wanted the same range per fill-up.  Now you are stating (above) that ethanol has a slightly higher energy density (and hence range per gallon) than gasoline.   Those are inconsistent results.  I suspect you might be able to get the ethanol result if you build the engine with a higher compression ratio, something like 10.6:1 or even higher, otherwise I do not see how you can extract the same or greater energy out of ethanol than you can from gasoline. Today's gasoline in the USA is set at "regular" with a lowered 87 octane, so to avoid engine knock you would have to drop that compression ratio down to below 9:1, possibly 8:1, and you give up a lot of energy extraction by using that lower compression ratio. My guess is that those Brazilian cars are all running on low-compression engines and that is costing a loss factor when running on alcohol. 

Do you have data on the upper limit of compression that alcohol can run on? 

Remembering that diesel oil engines can run on 24.5:1 compression ratios  (the VW Jetta diesels did that), those engines can extract a huge amount of energy out of the oil, and thus get fabulous mileage.  I recall that the VW Jetta diesel sedans could achieve well over 50 mpg routinely. 

2. -  The ethanol business model should follow the dairy industry business model where local raw materials are used (local cows) to create the dairy products that are then shipped to local retail outlets. Ethanol should be locally produced from whatever the most abundant and affordable raw materials are available.

Absolutely true.  It makes zero sense to manufacture alcohol and start shipping it vast distances in special containers, which is the current practice, brought on by politicians who have no idea what they are doing. 

3.  -   (Right, so far?)

I was not raising that issue.  I was referencing the Brasilian experience of their alcohol fill-ups generating on 60% of the mileage of their gasoline fill-ups, and adjusting the price accordingly. 

Yes, it might cost slightly more to ship a denser fluid, but not enough to make any practical difference.  

4.  -   (on the other hand, distilleries can be located virtually anywhere) 

Absolutely true.  That is a big advantage of alcohol. 

The disadvantage of oil is the refining aspect, and also that refineries have to get set up for a certain oil-molecular-weight of the feedstock.  Thus you have these large shipping distances built in into the business model, which is rather silly.  Alcohol can be distilled just about anywhere.  Where alcohol will really take off is when it can be manufactured from switchgrass, a process now being actively researched.  At that point, the cost profile so heavily favors alcohol that I anticipate vast amounts of oil production will be abandoned and shut-in.  Alcohol is a classic substitute good. 

5.  All that said, you seem to be totally gung-ho on ethyl alcohol, to the disregard of all the other alcohols.  I am surprised by that.  I should think the larger drop-in fuel would be methanol.  I predict that methanol will be the drop-in fuel for the heavy marine industry, after the IMO mandates ultra-low sulfur fuels that are not going to be available, at 2020. Those big-ship guys are not going to go to a middle distillate as it will be too expensive. 

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@Marc J. Rauch 

Marc, 

Thank you for addressing my questions.  The Wired article was very informative.

As for the article I posted, you disregarded it as nonsense without any arguments as to why.  

Small- and medium-sized refiners often go bankrupt due to the expenses of the RFS mandate.  If they can't afford to blend ethanol in their fuel, they are legally required to buy RIN credits from larger refiners.  RIN prices have gone up drastically, as Wall Street and other speculators bidding on them raise costs for these small and medium refiners.  Big Oil likes the RFS mandate, because they can afford to blend ethanol while smaller refiners struggle, preventing these smaller refiners from gaining market share.  

If the RFS mandate was truly put in place to maximize ethanol production, then small- and medium-sized refiners should be given incentives, subsidies, or tax credits to help upgrade their refineries and compete with Big Oil.  

Trump's plan to provide RINs to ethanol exports would not hurt corn farmers at all, but increase the quantity of RINs available, lowering costs for small- and medium-sized refiners.  Why would anyone be against this, other than to support Big Oil by keeping RIN prices high?  

I assume you are going to address all these questions within your rebuttal, which I am very interested in hearing.  

-Brad

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Brad -

Thanks again for your comments. I dismissed the Ferrara IBD story because I wanted to write a full rebuttal. That's why I wrote in my last comments that I would be publishing it on my website, this website, and other places. This is the email that I just sent to Peter J. Ferrara, author of the article:

Hello Peter -
 
I just finished reading your June 15th article for Investor's Business Daily, "Republicans Can Pass Another Tax Cut ... By Killing The Ethanol Mandate," (https://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/ethanol-mandate-environment-energy-tax-gas-prices/), and I want to congratulate you on getting such a fantastic payday of $6.3 million. WOW! Growing up, did you ever think you would get SIX MILLION DOLLARS for writing just one short article? And perhaps you didn't even have to write the article, you probably just signed your name to it. Man-O-man, that's like Hollywood movie star compensation numbers.
 
You did get $6.3 million to put your name on this story, didn't you? 
 
I assume you did get paid a lot, and I assume it was $6.3 million because that's what Jack Gerard (president and CEO of American Petroleum Institute) gets paid every year. I can't imagine that a man with your background and credentials would get paid less than what Mr. Gerard gets paid. I realize that there's a difference between a year's salary and the writing of one article, but you're still putting your entire career and reputation on the line for the one story. I can see where $6.3 million is a fair price to pay to get you, an attorney, former Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States, former General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, professor at George Mason University School of Law and Director of its International Center for Law and Economics, to front for this Investor's Business Daily story. Even if it sullies your degrees as a Harvard and Harvard School of Law graduate, and even if it ultimately interferes with your affiliation with the Heritage and Cato Institutes, getting paid $6.3 million for one article was well worth it.
 
Peter...you did get paid $6.3 million didn't you? 
 
I just had this horrifying thought that you didn't get $6.3 million to throw away your entire career; maybe you did it for something like $100,000. A hundred grand is nothing to sneeze at, if that's what you got paid, but it can't be worth destroying your reputation as a scholar and professional author, can it?
 
Oh, no, Peter, don't tell me you did it for less than $100,000?
 
You did, didn't you, you wrote (or at least allowed your name to be used) for less than $100,000? Oh, for Pete's sake, Peter... (pun intended).
 
Well, at least you did it for a good cause; at least the article is truthful and righteous; at least the article didn't present any of the usual oil industry lies about ethanol - that has to salve your conscience for chucking out your integrity, right?
 
Hmmm, the problem is that the article contains some lies, some invented misinformation, and some out-dated and out-of-context data. Peter, Peter, Peter, what did you do?
 
Ya' know, Pete, if the article just stuck to criticizing the idiotic Renewable Identification Number system designed to protect the RFS from oil industry fraud, you could have gotten away with saying that it's "your opinion" as a tax-policy kind of guy. Then it would be just one needle-nosed tax analyst against another, if you were ever called on the carpet to explain your involvement. But why did you have to start the article with the preposterous food-versus-fuel argument?  Didn't anyone tell you that there's nothing to this? Didn't anyone explain the numbers...how American farmers pretty much grow as much corn now for human consumption as they ever did, and that the great bulk of corn used for ethanol doesn't deprive anyone of their fair share of tortilla chips or movie popcorn?
 
Let's pretend for a moment that you wrote the article - or at least read the contents before agreeing to put your name on it - didn't anyone tell you that corn is not just used as a direct food source for cattle, pigs and fowl; but that dried distillers' grains - the protein part of the corn kernel left after distillation - is also used to feed the animals that we then eat? Therefore, in the opening sentence of the article when you (or they) wrote "... that roughly 40% of America's corn crop goes to manufacture ethanol added to gasoline...that is more than the second largest use of corn ­ as feed for cattle, pigs and chickens ­ which consumes 36% of the annual corn crop" that you could pretty much add together the 40% and the 36% to say that that's how much of the annual corn crop goes to feed the animals that we then eat? Did you take any math classes at Harvard?
 
Do you think that feeding people Fritos corn chips is better than feeding them beef, pork or chicken? And since when did you become a bleeding-heart activist worrying about feeding a hungry world? I found no paper ever authored by you that offers any sympathetic mindset; is this a new you, Peter?
 
Oh, and in the second paragraph it mentions people rioting. People riot for all kinds of reasons: basketball fans sometimes riot when their team WINS a championship; people in third world countries often riot because their dictator tells them to. You know this, or at least you should, so why even make it an issue?
 
And then the article makes two incorrect statements about prices. First you say that corn prices have risen because of its use for ethanol, and then you say that world prices for oil and (natural) gas have sunk. Corn prices haven't risen because of ethanol use, they rise because of commodity speculators and transportation costs related to oil prices. And world crude oil prices for 2018 are the highest they've been in four years.
 
As I said above, why did the article begin with such puerile and easy to refute statements? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it did, but do you and whomever paid you have such little respect for the American public that you think you can get away with this nonsense?
 
You then launch into the real meat of the article, a contrived double-talk explanation of the RIN system that is worthy of Professor Irwin Corey. The RIN system itself is double talk contrivance to try and keep the oil industry honest - as if it was possible to keep it honest. And your article concludes that the RIN system is "killing" smaller refineries.
 
You know what kills, Peter? The oil industry kills. Their products kill. The dead includes hundreds of millions of humans and unfathomable numbers of animal wildlife. On top of that are the inestimable number of persons with respiratory illness, autism, and Alzheimer's disease. Now that's some kind of killing!
 
Your article ends with the sentence "The American people would welcome another pro-growth effective tax cut, further boosting the economy." It makes me laugh to think that you think you know what the American people want. I could agree that many or most Americans might want another pro-growth effective tax cut, but that's as simple of a postulation as saying that most American people would like to get paid $6.3 million for doing nothing more than writing a stupid magazine article.
 
However, I'll tell you what I think most Americans would like: We would like to not have to listen to windbags spout off on subjects that they know nothing about.
 
In doing some research on whatever else you may have written (or supposed to have written) that's related to fuels and energy, I noticed that you got snookered into co-authoring a piece with Joseph Bast (co-founder of Heartland Institute) titled, "THE SOCIAL BENEFITS OF FOSSIL FUELS." Bast did you no favor - if it was his idea to include you and your name in the story. The story stinks, and I mean New Jersey refinery-style stinks, of Alex Epstein's absurd contention that there's a moral case to be made for fossil fuels. You should take whatever it was that you were paid for writing the Investor's Business Daily story and stay far, far away from any issue dealing with fuels, energy, or transportation.
 
But I hope you've had a great Father's Day.
 
Patriotically yours,
 
Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL

Brad - you may wish to see another article I wrote regarding the RFS RIN issue at https://www.theautochannel.com/news/2018/05/17/567304-ethanol-criticism-polluted-by-oiliness.html

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Jan -

Thanks again, in fact two thanks: One for hanging in and trying to make your point clear, and the other thanks for showing me that I didn't miss your point on the first go 'round. However, you either didn't read the links I suggested or you didn't get my point.

The difference in so-called energy content between gasoline and ethanol (or more correctly, the energy content of diesel, gasoline, and ethanol) is completely irrelevant in internal combustion engines. You say that cars in Brazil are tuned to run on E27. Although this statement is largely untrue (the vehicles are the same as vehicles sold in America or in the countries in which they are produced), the fact that you recognize that a mechanical "tuning" can equalize or improve MPG means that you are aware that engine optimization, and not energy content, of a fuel is the key.

In my earliest reply to you (on this thread) I provided the link to my story "The Hypocrisy of Big Oil." This story details how ethanol-gasoline blends of up to E30 were used for about 6 decades in Britain (and other countries) in vehicles that were ostensibly "tuned" to run on E0. The promotional announcements that are contained in that story clearly state that the ethanol-gasoline blends deliver better mileage, not less mileage. These promotional announcements (print and TV advertisements) were produced and used by the gasoline companies, not alcohol producers.

The second link that you should visit is my story "The Irrelevance Of BTU Rating - Big Oil's Gimmick To Hoodwink The Public" can be found at http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2015/10/19/144405-irrelevance-btu-rating.html. I thought I had posted this story on OilPrice.com a couple of weeks ago, but maybe not. In any event, this story explains my entire position on energy content, as well as the position of a number of other people.

I hope this does the trick. if not, that's okay because I don't mind the interaction with you.

My business partner and I do like other alt fuels, particularly methanol and CNG. We also like butanol. But we focus on ethanol because it is the only fuel that can be made by anyone, anywhere in the world, from a variety of raw materials. In this regard, it is the most "democratic" of all fuels. It is also the safest. There has been quite a bit of press about butanol recently. The problem is that butanol, regardless of its source material, is highly dangerous and poisonous. And if corn or another so-called "food crop" will be the source of bio-butanol, and therefore be subject to the same lunatic food-vs-fuel criticisms, then we might as well just stick to using the corn for ethanol.

As a matter of interest, you may wish to read my paper on the subject of alt fuels from 2008, before Obama was nominated: https://www.theautochannel.com/news/2008/06/23/090705.html.

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