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By Russ Finley on Apr 22, 2012 with 7 responses

Why is the Gov’t Mandating E15 if Big Ethanol is Unwilling to Back it?

The Domestic Fuels Protection Act RacketRuined Gasket

Just classic. According to Consumer Reports, the corn ethanol lobby has introduced legislation that would:

 “ … leave consumers on the hook for any product damage caused by E15 …Rather than trying to solve the problem of preventing damage from E15 and easing its transition into the marketplace, this bill would simply sweep aside all liability for everyone but the consumer,”

That picture of a decomposed  gasket is an example of what happens over time when an improperly engineered component meets a corrosive compound at elevated pressures and temperatures. In this case, the compound was coffee in an espresso machine.  Click here to see a gasket destroyed by ethanol in a gasoline engine.

It’s only a matter of time before the corn ethanol lobby goes after the laws protecting our air and water as well. From the Star Tribune:

A Minnesota ethanol plant has been hit with an $800,000 pollution penalty, the latest in a multi-year regulatory crackdown that state officials say appears to be changing the industry’s ways.

Bushmills Ethanol Inc. of Atwater, Minn., was fined for illegally discharging salt-laden wastewater into a ditch and then lying about it, the state Pollution Control Agency said Friday.

It is the third-highest penalty against a Minnesota ethanol producer in six years, a period when 13 of the state’s 21 plants got caught polluting the air or waterways, and sometimes both. Altogether the penalties have exceeded $5.1 million.

For those of you out there laboring under the mistaken impression that the corn ethanol industry is the good guy fighting evil big whatever, think again. They break the laws when they can afford to, try to change the laws when they can’t afford to break them, and export ethanol when it is more profitable to do so. Corn ethanol isn’t about protecting the environment or decreasing oil imports. It’s about money.  Everything else, including the title of this latest legislation, is a smokescreen.

Photo courtesy of  Expresso Hobbyist via Flickr.

  1. By Robert Rapier on April 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    This is just an example of why — short of a mandate — that I have predicted that E15 will get little to no traction. I have always thought that the industry would be far better served to pursue an E85 strategy for the Midwest.

    RR

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  2. By CarbonBridge on April 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Lots of apples and oranges herein.  Political issues with the batch fermentation EtOH lobby/industry are not the same as rotting gaskets and sludge buildups in electrical generators via the slideshow URL link from Italy.

    Ethyl alcohol is a solvent.  It can deteriorate gaskets and elastomers in fuel systems produced prior to the 1981-83 era.  Since then, bastard neoprene has been replaced with real neoprene which doesn’t weaken in the presence alcohol solvents.  Most fuel system elastomers in cars, motorcycles, trucks, weed eaters, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, jet skis and electrical GENERATORS have been alcohol-tolerant for nearly 30 years.

    I view the Italian slide-show as pure disinformation and fear tactics.  [Personal opinion.]

    Because alcohol/gasoline blends dissolve sludge and hydrocarbon varnish build-up in the fuel tanks, carbs or fuel injectors – a EtOH/gasoline blend works to clean and keep such fuel storage and delivery systems clean.  Gunk as illustrated in the slide show isn’t gelled EtOH, it is varnish and sludge deposits from hydrocarbon gasoline.

    In my own experience storing lawn and garden engines over a very cold winter period, I either A) drain the gasoline and run the engine until it runs out of fuel (storing it dry for the winter) OR B) I add extra levels of fuel alcohol – like 50% volume levels, run the engine for several minutes and then let this alcohol-gasoline blend sit idle for an extended cold spell.  I’ve found that this technique works very well and that the stale gasoline mix still fires easily months later in the next summer season. 

    I’ve shared this same experience with many others who have experienced similar success in storing small engines in the cold weather for an entire winter season.  And yes, from the electrical generator standpoint – larger utility back-up generators are typically stored with a full tank of gasoline so it is ready for emergencies when needed.  I also own a larger, 7,700 watt electrical generator.  It is twice the size of the gen-set illustrated in the Italian slide show and keeping it tanked-up with alcohol blends works in a very positive sense, not a negative result at all.

    Alcohol/gasoline blends and elastomer/gasket issues have nothing to do with the politics of the corn ethanol industry wishing to make top dollar.  Batch fermentation of agri-ethanol isn’t a very efficient mechanism to produce C2 fuel-grade alcohol.  This is another issue all-together which has been discussed in considerable detail on this blog over the past several years.

    -Mark

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    • By Russ Finley on April 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      If refiners of Jet A were introducing legislation to limit their fuel’s liability, I’d be a little concerned. The only fuel refiner I’m aware of that is trying to limit their liability is corn ethanol. If there is no need to limit liability, they wouldn’t be trying to limit it. The very act of trying to limit liability is all the evidence anyone needs of the fuel’s potential to harm some consumers.

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  3. By JohnJames on April 23, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    You might want to change your inaccurate title. The word “mandate” has never been mentioned with the fuel blend E15. It is simply another choice for consumers with non-flex fuel vehicles 2001 or newer. The blend offers those consumers the opportunity to save additional money, support American jobs and to further reduce their emissions. 

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    • By Russ Finley on April 24, 2012 at 12:21 am

      JohnJames said:

      You might want to change your inaccurate title. The word “mandate” has never been mentioned with the fuel blend E15.

      Fair enough. I’ll alert  my editor. So far, they’re not pushing to increase the mandate to 15%, but if they are successful at limiting their liability, there will be little to stop them from moving to the next level, a 15% mandate.

      The blend offers those consumers the opportunity to save additional money, support American jobs and to further reduce their emissions.

      I fail to see how allowing the sale of a 15% blend will create jobs, unless you are referring to mechanics repairing damaged fuel systems.

      Historically, on average, ethanol has tended to cost as much or more than gasoline. The present glut is the result of forcing a product onto a market that does not want it, and is not sustainable. When refineries start going into the red it means they are selling below cost.

      Here’s an article demonstrating why ethanol presently has greater emissions than gasoline: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/slyutse/as_i_discussed_here_last.html

       

       

       

       

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  4. By notKit P on April 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Long before there was E-10, people were having problems with fuel in ICE that are not frequently used.  This is a particular problem for small emergency generators and ICE on small boats.  

     

    On the second issue, environmental regulation is very complicated.  I was talking to an environment compliance manager in another industry.  He showed me the 17 volumes of regulations that he was responsible and part of the problem is there are conflicts between different regulators.   

     

    Of course when I read the rest of the article that Russ linked, I found what I knew I would find out about Russ.  Russ failed to tell the rest of the story. 

     

    “In 2008, it completed a $2.2 million water treatment plant, hoping to solve one of the industry’s common problems — high levels of salts and other pollutants in its effluent.”

     

    Sounds to me like the company was trying to solve the problem!  Having a problem with meeting regulations will get you in trouble, trying to cover it up will get you into big trouble.

     

    In any case, Russ certainly has not made a case for accusing a whole industry of systematically not trying to protect the environment.  For those who read to the end of an article,

     

    “”There are many companies that follow the rules to protect our air, water and land, and we applaud them,” he said. “But when companies break the rules they not only harm our natural resources, they get an unfair competitive advantage and they must be held accountable.” ”

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    • By Russ Finley on April 24, 2012 at 12:50 am

      Kit P said:

      Of course when I read the rest of the article that Russ linked, I found what I knew I would find out about Russ.  Russ failed to tell the rest of the story.

      He’s baaaaaaaack! The rest of the story, Kit? You want me to repeat in full the entire article found at the end of my link? You think a refiner is absolved of wrong doing just because they installed pollution control equipment four years ago in an attempt to meet regulations, like all other companies do?

      In any case, Russ certainly has not made a case for accusing a whole industry of systematically not trying to protect the environment.

      Nice strawman.  I’ll repeat my actual case here:

      For those of you out there laboring under the mistaken impression that the corn ethanol industry is the good guy fighting evil big whatever, think again. They break the laws when they can afford to, try to change the laws when they can’t afford to break them, and export ethanol when it is more profitable to do so. Corn ethanol isn’t about protecting the environment or decreasing oil imports. It’s about money.  Everything else, including the title of this latest legislation, is a smokescreen.

      The corn ethanol industry is perfectly willing to destroy jobs, increase pollution, increase oil imports via ethanol exports, and dump liability on American citizens, all to increase profit margins. And it strives to charge as much as it can possibly get away with for its product. It’s just another for profit industry. The endless attempts to sugar coat corn ethanol by wrapping it in flags, non-existent environmental benefits,  and inflated jobs claims is really wearing thin.

      It’s just another for-profit industry, being kept solvent by government mandated consumption.

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