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Advantages or disadvantages of E-85 fuel?

What are the advantages of Ethanol or Ethanol based fuel? Its cheaper, yes, but what impact does it have on our environment? Less CO2 being released into the atmosphere? Possible replacement of petroleum? I know countries like Brazil use it frequently. A subsidiary of GM, manufactures cars down in Brazil that are designed to run off ethanol but its made from corn and I wonder if more ethanol was used to fuel vehicles would that affect the world’s food supply of corn? I know I can’t use Ethanol Based fuel in my car because it doesn’t have the Flex fuel option and it specifically states in my owners manual not to use E-85 or it could cause damage to my fuel system thus voiding the warranty on my car. All this new technology. New cars with new technologies. It’s very interesting.

Too much politics for me. I would favor more research into other alcohol based products for cars only. I just wish we had a premium pump option for straight gas for guys and gals with lots of gasoline powered toys and tools.
I don’t worry about cars as it’s economically feasible to make all cars in the future, flex fuel ready. It’s a crap shoot now knowing if your car is presently unless stated that way. I think many would be surprised how many vehicles are presently flex fuel, including e85 capable though their manuals state otherwise.

E85 DOES pollute less.

It also has far less performance and worse gas mileage.

And it raises the cost of Corn (or any other agricultural product used to make Ethanol).

Not all ethanol is made from corn. Much of Brazils comes from sugar cane and other sources which require less fuel to grow and transport than corn. E85 gets much poorer gas mileage in most cases and is one downfall of it. Even though you pay less per gallon for it you loose what you saved in mileage.

You might do a search over on the Scientific American web site, they’ve had several articles about how corn-based ethanol is a bad idea (Al Gore has admitted his mistake in backing corn-based ethanol). Right now fully one-half of the US corn crop is used for ethanol production, a huge waste of a valuable food crop, along with all the fertilizer and water needed to produce it.

But it’s great for farmers, and politicians know that. For example, the early Iowa caucuses give the farm lobby a huge advantage in getting pro-ethanol legislation passed.

Today’s biofuels are, in the words of one European expert, “a crime against humanity”. A great example is biodiesel. When European governments mandated biodiesel use to reduce greenhouse gas production, guess what? Farmers in Indonesia cut down thousands of acres of rainforest to plant palm oil plantations. OOPS!

And corn ethanol lobbyists will claim it’s a ‘transition fuel’, to help us get to whatever replaces it: cellulosic ethanol, algae fuel, whatever. Nonsense, today’s corn based ethanol production uses the same basic technology used in the last failed attempt, back in the 1980s. No ‘transition’ needed, if a new process works, fine, build it, but it’s not benefitting from corn ethanol production.

It also is doing a great disservice to wildlife and their habitat. Many farmers are now growing corn “fence row to fence row”. Now that they are not paid for “CRP” acres theres no incentive NOT to put idle acres into corn, doing so at the expense of wildlife and habitat.


  1. politicians get agricultural votes, particularly from the ethanol producers, and free junkets from their 54-producer lobby.
  2. Agribusinesses get rich and fat from the revenues.
  3. The oil companys get a $6 billion annual subsidy to mix it with the gasoline


  1. it pollutes. The process of growing, harvesting, and processing the product has been shown to add more pollutants to the environment than the ethanol saves.

  2. it’s expensive. Especially when you include the many hundreds of millions of our tax dollars that the government has been paying in subsidies to the ethanol producers and the $6 billion annual subsidy that the government has been paying the oil companies to blend the ethanol into the gasoline. That money comes from our pockets. The government takes it from us and gives it to them. Fortunately, these subsidies are being discontinued as a part of the new federal budget.

  3. your car’s performance suffers. Ethanol has less energy per gallon than gasoline, so your performance will suffer and your mileage go down.

The smoke and mirrors, curtains and shell games that keep politicians and their friends wealthy keeps us puzzled and hungry. The oil money in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma has picked up the mid-western corn belt states as allies. And WE lose.

E85 will give you poorer gas mileage, about 85% of the miles with normal non-ethanol fuel.

Nearly all ethanol in Brazil is made from sugarcane; it grows fast without fertilizer, the whole stalk is used and the rest is cattle feed (the spent yeast) and fuel for the boilers that distill the ethanol. The land does not compete with corn-growing acreage, and needs no irrigation. It also creates a lot of jobs! Altogether an elegant solution designed during the first energy crisis in the 70s. Even though Brazil is now energy self sufficient, it has made it into an exporter of oil.

Growing corn in the US for ethanol is very inefficient, creates nearly as much greenhouse gasses as it solves, and has driven up the price of corn for human consumption. The US exports a lot of corn to Mexico, and the result has driven up the price of Mexican tortillas by a large amount.

In short corn for ethanol borders on immoral but assured a lot of Iowa votes for George Bush. Most environmentalists are not smart enough to think through the unintended consequences of their herd mentality.

It’s a subsidy program to benefit corn farmers and a few corporate mega-businesses more than anything else.
That’s what their lobbyists and politicians in a pocket are for.

Corn took off around here not too many years ago and what’s not only sad, but disgusting, is that a number of these fields are never even harvested. The corn stalks are rotted and have fallen to the ground where they remain to this day. In a month or so these fields will be plowed under and the process repeated.

Corn takes an obscene amount of water to grow and here in OK it’s hot, dry, and with very little rain in the summers. Very, very few fields are irrigated and it’s a 99%+ bet if you plant corn and don’t irrigate it the corn will be fried beyond recognition by July.
(My oldest son is a Climatologist and told me that each stalk requires on average 1.6 Liters of water per day. Do the math when figuring how many stalks are in one acre.)
Does it stop anyone here? Nope, they plant it anyway knowing full well it’s already toast and they’ll get paid anyway.

This program also drives up the cost of many food products. Corn syrup prices are way up (used in many food stuffs) and note the price of meat at the grocery. Corn is diverted to Ethanol and in turn that runs up the price of corn fed to livestock, cattle feed, and so on.

You guys are right on the money on this. Read this

When you buy fuel, any fuel, you are buying BTU’s. Heat. That’s what makes your car move. So you should judge fuel by it’s cost per BTU…How much heat energy are you getting for your money?? While ethanol is frequently bad-mouthed, if E-100 is used in an engine with 14 to 1 compression, which E100 will support, it suddenly looks much better…Burning it in vehicles with 9 to 1 compression wastes most of its potential…

Perfect example, oldbodyman - just because somebody wants it (cellulosic ethanol in this case) doesn’t mean it makes sense, or is even possible. It’s painfully clear that our society only has a limited amount of money to spend on basics, and wasting billions pursuing pipedreams is a baaad idea.

When I traveled cross country, I was caravanning with my mom and stepdad and when we drove through Kansas a lot of the Gas Stations offered E-85 fuel at the pumps. Well it was cheaper than regular gas and my stepdad kept insisting on me filling my car up with E-85 and I kept telling him that I can’t use that in my car but he was being a jerk about it so I put that crap in my car and I noticed that I went through gas pretty quick which is highly unusualy for my car (I have a 2010 Nissan Versa) and I told him that if this fuel causes any damage to my engine he’s forking over the money for repairs because warranty won’t cover that kind of damage. Unlike him and my mom, I read the user manuals on any product I buy. He kept saying he uses it in his and my mom’s truck, but they have a Nissan Armada with Flex fuel option on it. I’ll never drive cross country with them ever again!

Yep, big trucks and SUVs were the prime Flex fuel models - know why? The automakers got huge MPG credits for every flex fuel vehicle made, and big trucks and SUVs generated the biggest credits. Just one more example of government causing more problems (higher fuel use by ‘flex fuel’ SUVs that never see a gallon of E85) than they solve. Nuts.

I bought a new gas cap for my lawn mower engine and it has a symbol within a circle of a gasoline pump. On the gasoline pump is E-85 and there is a line through the circle which means “No E-85” . Apparently, Briggs and Stratton small engines are not supposed to use this fuel. Even though hate mowing, I won’t use E-85 in the mower which I have used since 1992–19 seasons and I certainly won’t risk it in my 2011 Sienna which isn’t set up for this fuel.

The lawn mower I have is a craftsman with a briggs and stratton engine and I have the same exact symbol on top of the gas cap as well. No E-85! They should put that on top of gas caps for newer cars that don’t have the flex fuel option as well.

Katidid79, you should have handed your stepfather that book from your glove box;

“Do not use E-85 fuel in your vehicle.
Your vehicle is not designed to run on
E-85 fuel. Using E-85 fuel can damage
the fuel system components and is not
covered by the NISSAN new vehicle limited

The Armana flex fuel is a good example of a bad idea, operating on E-85 the fuel economy rating is 9 mpg city, 13 hwy.

You’re right, I should’ve handed my stepdad that manual lol. But of course he’s “so much” smarter than I am because he finished college. I read that in my owners manual and once we got to Nevada, I showed it to him and told him that if the E-85 fuel caused any damage that he’s gonna pay for it. 9 mpg city and 13 hwy on the Armada on E-85? Wow…I thought that was the normal mileage on the Armada lol. Now once or twice a year I’ll put 91 octane gas in my car, just to keep things clean because I think fuel additives are a waste of time and from what I understand most manufacturers, Nissan claim fuel additives are a waste of money.

Caddyman"... if E-100 is used in an engine with 14 to 1 compression, which E100 will support, it suddenly looks much better...Burning it in vehicles with 9 to 1 compression wastes most of its potential"
The increased thermal efficiency at 14::1 compression ratio is not much greater than at 9::1 compression ratio. For an idealized Otto cycle engine the thermal efficiency at 14::1 is ≈ 65%, while at 9::1 it is ≈ 58%.

See …… A graph of efficiency of an idealized Otto cycle engine is given in Fig. 3-11. The expression for efficiency is given just above the graph. If you want ro check the graph, use a value of 1.4 for gamma, the ratio of specific heats of diatomic gases. Actual efficiencies are lower, but the relative values are similar. The math is what it is.

The calorific content of C₂H₅OH is about 70% that of gasoline. Multiply that by the minor increased thermal efficiency at 14::1 compression ratio and ethanol is still left far behind gasoline as a viable alternative to gasoline.