Is this a viable alternative?
Bumped into recent discussions
Sure, if you own a farm it’s a very good deal (farm welfare).
Only if you own a Flex-Fuel vehicle…
No. It costs as much as regular gas, but delivers 25% less fuel mileage. Plus, it causes the price of corn to increase, which makes food more expensive. It’s pretty much a ‘feel good’ tree hugger ‘solution’ which causes more problems than it solves. Actually, I think the only benefits are slightly reduced oil use and slightly cleaner emissions. But when you have to go through more of it to go the same distance, it pretty much negates the ‘uses less oil’ benefit.
Where are they going to get that much ethanol? At this time, total ethanol production in the US isn’t large enough to make all gasoline into E-10, let alone E-85.
It’s a fad, it will go away in a few years.
Yes and no…or more precisely not yet. It is less efficient than regular gasoline. You get fewer miles per gallon with E85. However, it pollutes less than regular gas. Also, the processes for converting products into ethanol are not very efficient currently. However, the processes are being improved to use less energy in ethanol production and new processes are being developed to make ethanol from farm byproducts that are normally thrown away. So check back in a couple years. E85 will probably be more viable at that time.
Like the hybrid cars?
E85 might last a little longer than hybrids (more investment in infrastructure), but not much longer. Someone said, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time…”
Alternative to what?
If you are asking if it is a good alternative to oil, I would say “Not Yet” and maybe “Not Ever” Right now it is not cost effective, all considered and the jury is still out of pollution as well.
If you have a car or truck designed for it (you can’t just use it in any car) and you want to try it, go ahead. You will get a little less mileage, but all else should be fine.
Yes, it delivers less mileage, but it delivered plenty Republican votes in the Corn Belt. The National Geographic had a special on Biofuels a few monts ago. Ethanol from corn is a disaster; it takes too much energy to make and uses a valuable food product. Ask any Mexican tortilla maker! Ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane, however, makes a lot of sense. Theyhave been making that for years. I suport ethanol from cellulose (grass, corn STALKS, etc.) and methanol from wood. These are good biofuels.
George Bush was prepared to grant E85 cars full credit for low emission fuels and thus exclude them from the CAFE calculations. GM thought this was a good dodge (no pun intended!), and went ahead with it, even though the fuel is not availble in most places, and probably never will be! No one in Congress is that stupid to fall for this.
To the credit of the agricultual community they’ve over the years developed profitable and viable markets for all their products including their waste products. Production of ethenol to any significant extent would require increased agricultural production, possibly increased capacity. Perhaps if the government stopped paying large segments of the farm community to NOT grow product in order to control supply and keep prices up there’d be enough capacity…
E85 is a sham IMHO. There’s more politics than good sense involved.
Cellulose-based ethanol is still in the lab. It will take several years before it makes it to the pilot plant, let alone full-up manufacturing.
In my travels, I see E-85 only in the farm states. I can’t imagine paying a premium for a flex-fuel vehicle so I could use a lower energy. more expensive fuel with questionable environmental advantages. I also think this is nothing but a (not so thinly disguised) farm give away program. Unfortunately, it may well cause the cost of food (mostly animal feed) to rise.
You might as well build cars that can use E-100, Indy car fuel, which is about 140 octane. Now compression ratios can be raised to 14 to 1 or so and the fuel mileage and power brought back up so it equals or exceeds gasoline engines. The high octane benefit is lost in “Flex-Fuel” engines because they still must be able run on 87 octane gasoline…
Maybe, but the heating value (energy content) of E85 is only something like 72% that of gasoline (E100 would be even lower). I’m not sure that you could increase the efficiency enough to make that up. You might as well just run bio-diesel in conventional diesel engines and skip the whole flex-fuel vehicle step. I guess corn farmers must have more political clout than soy farmers.
I don’t believe flex-fuel costs any more than the normal engines, but I haven’t priced that many vehicles with it. About the only vehicles it seems that has this is trucks/SUVs anyways.
We will need ALL kinds of alternative transportation fuels to spread the load around. Diversify the Fleet! We can no longer afford to keep importing all this petroleum. All non-petroleum fuels need to be explored and if possible, brought to market.