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Confessions of an Ethanaholic.

Hello, My name is Brian and I’m and Ethanholic.

Tarnished FlexFuel logo

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.

Brian Hibbert
Midwestern conservative, Precinct Committeeman, county GOP Executive Committee secretary and currently a candidate for the Board of Trustees at Illinois Central College. It's amazing what can happen if you just show up and put in a little effort.

8 COMMENTS

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Brian! Nice write-up; sorry the numbers didn’t work out better for you. I’ve run them the other way, using ‘pure’, no ethanol gas in my 6-banger Chevy. There is a station up Springfield Road that sells it. I experience no more than a 15% mileage increase when using it. Although I didn’t check his price today, locally we’re paying about $3.54/gallon; the pure stuff is always something above $4.00-$4.50, so basically for me there isn’t any savings, it comes out as a wash. [My alternative this time of year is heavy use of the Goldwing (40mpg) or the Suzuki Burgman (70 mpg). Running up over 2400 miles on the Burgman in the year I’ve had it has saved a couple of bucks, especially on the Washington to Normal commute to work. It’s almost enough to overcome my embarrassment of being a 60+ year old tooting around on a little 400cc scooter!]

    • Hi Mark,

         Is that 15% increase over the standard E10 Ethanol or compared to E85?  If it’s 15% over standard ethanol then I should expect about 27 MPG if I switched to it.  

      Brian

      P.S. Keep riding!   I’d take my Harley given a choice, the Impala’s actually my wife’s commuter car.

      •  It’s using the standard E10. My Equinox gets about 20 mpg (large V-6) on standard E10, but creeps up to maybe 23 or so using pure gasoline. The price point for the pure stuff is where it gets dicey: $3.54 * 1.15=$4.07, any higher than that, I lose…

  2. E85 is an interesting thing. You are absolutely  right about it in terms of normal consumer use. It is totally NOT a wash, it is in fact a net negative in all three topics that matter in the Left-driven argument – it does not save the consumer money, it is not better for the environment (ozone, global warming hoax, pick your greenie Nazi tree-hugger theme de jour), and it increases, rather than decreases the demand for petroleum, since more fuel is consumed in making it than you actually save. 

    But I have to point out another side to E85, that appeals greatly to me (and probably not very much to the treehuggers that love those stupid little “Smart” cars, aka road kill).  If your engine is tuned for it, and set up hardware-wise (high-compression cylinders, some interesting timing and stroke adjustments, extra fuel pump pressure, and so on), you get a boost in horsepower by up to 30%. 30% is not a typo. You can kick your 300hp SC300 up to 390hp. That is what scientists, engineers, and computer geeks call “non-trivial”,   

    But the flex fuel stuff won’t do that. You have to dedicate your engine to go all E85. And if you go that route, don’t look to be saving money, saving gas mileage, or saving the planet. Do it for speed, do it to catch fast women, whatever.

    Love me some E85, bro.

    • Remember that failed “Midwest Rising” in St. Louis I reported about last summer? It was interesting to find out the lefties aren’t really tree-huggers in the ethanol stuff. They went after Monsanto, yes, because of ethanol. But because they believe that corn should only be used for food, NOT fuel. One of those nutjobs I talked with on the phone even advocated tearing down the entire inner city of St. Louis, freeways & all, to plant a huge corn farm so the folks of St. Louie could reap the benefit of this and “sustain themselves.”  Can’t make this stuff up.

  3. Brazil uses sugar cane for ethanol although I have no idea what kind of MPG they get. It’s a little different down there though to evaluate, because most drive stripped down cars: no AC, no radio, no leather, no automatic seats, mostly stick shift because most can’t afford cars that have any more than a seat belt and tires. 

  1. Hi Brian! Nice write-up; sorry the numbers didn’t work out better for you. I’ve run them the other way, using ‘pure’, no ethanol gas in my 6-banger Chevy. There is a station up Springfield Road that sells it. I experience no more than a 15% mileage increase when using it. Although I didn’t check his price today, locally we’re paying about $3.54/gallon; the pure stuff is always something above $4.00-$4.50, so basically for me there isn’t any savings, it comes out as a wash. [My alternative this time of year is heavy use of the Goldwing (40mpg) or the Suzuki Burgman (70 mpg). Running up over 2400 miles on the Burgman in the year I’ve had it has saved a couple of bucks, especially on the Washington to Normal commute to work. It’s almost enough to overcome my embarrassment of being a 60+ year old tooting around on a little 400cc scooter!]

    • Hi Mark,

         Is that 15% increase over the standard E10 Ethanol or compared to E85?  If it’s 15% over standard ethanol then I should expect about 27 MPG if I switched to it.  

      Brian

      P.S. Keep riding!   I’d take my Harley given a choice, the Impala’s actually my wife’s commuter car.

      •  It’s using the standard E10. My Equinox gets about 20 mpg (large V-6) on standard E10, but creeps up to maybe 23 or so using pure gasoline. The price point for the pure stuff is where it gets dicey: $3.54 * 1.15=$4.07, any higher than that, I lose…

  2. E85 is an interesting thing. You are absolutely  right about it in terms of normal consumer use. It is totally NOT a wash, it is in fact a net negative in all three topics that matter in the Left-driven argument – it does not save the consumer money, it is not better for the environment (ozone, global warming hoax, pick your greenie Nazi tree-hugger theme de jour), and it increases, rather than decreases the demand for petroleum, since more fuel is consumed in making it than you actually save. 

    But I have to point out another side to E85, that appeals greatly to me (and probably not very much to the treehuggers that love those stupid little “Smart” cars, aka road kill).  If your engine is tuned for it, and set up hardware-wise (high-compression cylinders, some interesting timing and stroke adjustments, extra fuel pump pressure, and so on), you get a boost in horsepower by up to 30%. 30% is not a typo. You can kick your 300hp SC300 up to 390hp. That is what scientists, engineers, and computer geeks call “non-trivial”,   

    But the flex fuel stuff won’t do that. You have to dedicate your engine to go all E85. And if you go that route, don’t look to be saving money, saving gas mileage, or saving the planet. Do it for speed, do it to catch fast women, whatever.

    Love me some E85, bro.

    • Remember that failed “Midwest Rising” in St. Louis I reported about last summer? It was interesting to find out the lefties aren’t really tree-huggers in the ethanol stuff. They went after Monsanto, yes, because of ethanol. But because they believe that corn should only be used for food, NOT fuel. One of those nutjobs I talked with on the phone even advocated tearing down the entire inner city of St. Louis, freeways & all, to plant a huge corn farm so the folks of St. Louie could reap the benefit of this and “sustain themselves.”  Can’t make this stuff up.

  3. Brazil uses sugar cane for ethanol although I have no idea what kind of MPG they get. It’s a little different down there though to evaluate, because most drive stripped down cars: no AC, no radio, no leather, no automatic seats, mostly stick shift because most can’t afford cars that have any more than a seat belt and tires. 

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