Hello, My name is Brian and I’m and Ethanholic.
I’d always been a supporter of Ethanol as a fuel source in this country. It’s not terribly surprising. I live in the center of the Midwest corn belt and there are at least a half dozen ethanol production plants within a 20 mile radius of my home. A fair percentage of the jobs in this area are based on ethanol production (most of the rest are heavy equipment manufacturing, we’re also the home of Caterpillar) I bought into some of the arguments for ethanol usage.
1. Ethanol use reduces the demand for foreign oil by the 10% that’s mixed with our gasoline.
2. It provides an additional market for corn and other crops helping farm income.
3. It provides JOBS in this area.
4. It’s cheaper than gas (at the consumer level).
However, I recently went “green” and found out that Ethanol isn’t such a great fuel after all. You see my wife and I recently replaced a vehicle with a newer (not new) Chevy Impala that was “Flex Fuel” capable, meaning I could fill it with the E85, a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, that some stations offer in this area. That WASN’T the primary reason we purchased that car. The salesman didn’t even mention the Flex Fuel capability when we were talking to him. BUT being a conservative, I’m always looking for a way to do things in a more economical manner. Since regular gas prices were hovering around $4.00/gallon when we bought the car and a gas station that I pass regularly was offering E85 at $3.29 I started using the E85… Oh I knew that Ethanol didn’t hold as much energy/gallon as gasoline and knew that Ethanol wouldn’t give me as good an MPG as gas, but I figured for a $.70/gallon difference I could live with a little lower MPG.
One nice thing about most modern cars is the offer a vehicle information computer. The Impala has one that can tell you all sorts of information including instant and average MPG of the car. I was surprised to find that the car was only getting about 19 MPG (it’s used for commuting and has a roughly 80/20 mix of highway/city use), but as long as the gas was $.70 more than the E85 I figured I was still ahead of the game.
Recently, when gas dropped to about $3.50/gallon I decided to check the mileage with a tank of “regular” gas. It’s actually E10 with a 10% Ethanol mix, but pure gasoline is rare in this state…. I was surprised to find that the car seemed to immediately have more power. I hadn’t even noticed the poor performance with the E85. I was even more surprised to find that the gas mileage improved to 23.5 MPG.
That’s a 20% difference from the E85! I haven’t really been saving any money after all!
In order to have saved money with a 20% difference in MPG, I’d have to pay at least 20% less for E85 than for regular gas. That means I would have had to pay $.80 less than the $4.00/gallon for Regular gas. I was only “saving” $.70/gallon. In other words I was losing about $1.50 a tank by using the “cheaper” E85 than I was by using the “more expensive” regular gas.
I feel cheated.