- "Does the average citizen understand what this means?
In from 10 to 20 years this country will be dependent entirely upon outside
sources for a supply of liquid fuels paying out vast sums yearly in order
to obtain supplies of crude oil from Mexico, Russia, and Persia."
-- Yale Professor Harold Hibbert, ethanol promoter, 1925
- More than one major transportation-based industry in
America besides Detroit is on the ropes. For the fourth time in our history
the ethanol industry has come undone and is quickly failing nationally.
Of course it's one thing when Detroit collapsed with the economy; after
all, that is a truly free-market enterprise and the economy hasn't been
good. But the fact that the ethanol industry is going bankrupt, when the
only reason we use this additive is a massive government mandate, is outrageous
- Then again, the ethanol lobby and refiners have a solution
to ethanol's failure in America: Hire retired General Wesley Clark as your
point man and lobby the government to increase the amount of ethanol in
our fuel to 15%. The problems with that proposition are real -- unlike
- Where's the Logic?
- First, the primary job of the Environmental Protection
Agency is, dare it be said, to protect our environment. Yet using ethanol
actually creates more smog than using regular gas, and the EPA's own attorneys
had to admit that fact in front of the justices presiding over the Third
Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995 (API v. EPA).
- Second, truly independent studies on ethanol, such as
those written by Tad Patzek of Berkeley and David Pimentel of Cornell,
show that ethanol is a net energy loser. Other studies suggest there is
a small net energy gain from it.
- Third, all fuels laced with ethanol reduce the vehicle's
fuel efficiency, and the E85 blend drops gas mileage between 30% and 40%,
depending on whether you use the EPA's fuel mileage standards (fueleconomy.gov)
or those of the Dept. of Energy.
- Fourth, forget what biofuels have done to the price of
foodstuffs worldwide over the past three years; the science seems to suggest
that using ethanol increases global warming emissions over the use of straight
gasoline. Just these issues should have kept ethanol from being brought
back for its fourth run in American history.
- Don't let anybody mislead you: The new push to get a
15% ethanol mandate out of Washington is simply to restore profitability
to a failed industry. Only this time around those promoting more ethanol
in our gas say there's no scientific proof that adding more ethanol will
damage vehicles or small gas-powered engines. With that statement they've
gone from shilling the public to outright falsehoods, because ethanol-laced
gasoline is already destroying engines across the country in ever larger
- Got a Spare $1,000?
- Last July was bad enough for motorists on a budget --
gasoline prices had shot up to more than $4 a gallon. But for some the
pain in the pocketbook was about to get worse. At City Garage in Euless,
Tex., for example, the first of numerous future customers brought in an
automobile whose fuel pump was shot. A quick diagnosis determined that
that particular car had close to 18% ethanol in the fuel. For that unlucky
owner, the repairs came to nearly $900. The ethanol fun was just beginning.
- City Garage manager Eric Greathouse has found that adding
ethanol to the nation's gasoline supply may be a foolish government mandate,
but it has an upside he'd rather not deal with. It's supplying his shop
with a slow but steady stream of customers whose plastic fuel intakes have
been dissolved by the blending of ethanol into our gasoline, or their fuel
pumps destroyed. The average cost of repairs is just shy of $1,000.
- It gets better. Scott Morrison is the owner of the City
Garage chain in North Texas and he related the story of his technical director's
run-in with ethanol; in December he filled up his E85 Flex Fuel Chevy Suburban
at the Exxon station in Ovilla, just south of Dallas. His Suburban died
on the spot, because even an E85-equipped vehicle will not run on the 100%
pure ethanol that Exxon station was pumping that day. In that case it was
not Exxon's fault but a mistake at the distribution center, and Exxon (xom.)
quickly made good for the cost of repairs.
- On Jan. 16 of this year, Lexus ordered a massive recall
of certain 2006 to 2008 models, including the GS Series, IS and LS sedans.
According to the recall notice, the problem is that "Ethanol fuels
with low moisture content will corrode the internal surface of the fuel
rails." In layman's terms, ethanol causes pinpoint leaks in the fuel
system; when leaking fuel catches your engine on fire, that's an exciting
way to have your insurance company buy your Lexus. Using ethanol will cost
Toyota (tm.) untold millions.
- An Unpublicized Trend
- Though the media is ignoring it, one can easily find
many stories on BMW (BMWG.DE) blogs relating similar problems with fuel
systems damaged by the use of ethanol. Certainly that was the case with
Christi Jordan and her 2007 Mini. For weeks it was difficult to start;
Moritz BMW in Arlington, Tex., inspected it and found severe carbon buildup
inside the engine. On her second trip to the mechanics they decided to
test the ethanol content of Christi's fuel and found it was much higher
than the federally mandated limit of 10%. This time the fuel pump had been
destroyed by the ethanol. The repair bill came to $1,200: As in all cases
where vehicles are damaged by ethanol, legally the factory warranty no
- Jim Keppler, Moritz's fixed operations director, said
he's had at least 10 other cases of ethanol poisoning in Minis over the
past six months. Christi was one of the lucky ones; Moritz covered her
repairs. But there's no telling how many motorists across the nation have
had to pay for fuel pumps, or fuel systems, that ethanol damaged. Most
were probably unaware of the real culprit behind the breakdown, because
virtually no repair shop tests the level of ethanol in the gasoline when
these fuel system problems occur.
- And there are active lawsuits from boat owners; ethanol
broke down the resins in their fiberglass gas tanks, destroying their marine
engines. Additionally, those who deal in small gas engines for lawnmowers,
edgers, and weedeaters have quickly learned that, as Briggs & Stratton's
(bgg.) Web site warns, "Ethanol-blended gasoline can attract moisture,
which leads to separation and formation of acids during storage. Acidic
gasoline can damage the fuel system of an engine while in storage. B&S
strongly recommends removing ethanol-blended fuels from engine during storage."
- Like motorists, if landscaping tool owners put gasoline
with more than 10% ethanol in their small engines, that immediately voids
any factory warranties. In the case of the Lexus recall, using just a 10%
ethanol blend was found to be destroying many of these engines also.
- Another Government-Mandated Mistake
- It now appears that in just a few years since the government
forced ethanol use on the country, engine and fuel system failures caused
by ethanol are causing major damage to more and more new and used vehicles.
This means the hapless owners are not only paying for snake oil in lower
fuel efficiency and more smog, but pay again when it damages their vehicles
and lawn mowers.
- We seem to have forgotten, but the promise of turning
over farmland for fuel production was to reduce our nation's demand for
imported crude. But until this massive economic slowdown, as Gusher of
Lies (PublicAffairs, 2008) author Robert Bryce pointed out, even while
the ethanol mandate was being ramped up we were increasing our imports
of foreign oil.
- Translation: The entire politically stated purpose of
using ethanol had already been proven to be a false one before the program
even got fully under way.
- No surprise there. The premise that ethanol could give
America the freedom to one day stop importing oil has always been fraudulent.
Another fun fact: If we outlawed gasoline and diesel, thereby removing
every last car, truck and SUV from our highways -- no vehicles anywhere
on any road in the country -- America would still have to import oil because
we would still use more crude than domestic production can supply.
- Why is that? Crude oil is also used to make fertilizers,
aviation fuel, home heating oil, and many other products. Not to mention
polyester suits for car salesmen.
- Comment Now, Public!
- Pushed into it by the corn growers' and ethanol refiners'
lobbying organizations, today the EPA is starting to go through the public
comment phase on increasing the level of ethanol in our gasoline from 10%
to 15%. Time and time again we have heard from these groups, who now claim
that there is zero scientific evidence that a 15% blend of ethanol would
do any damage whatsoever if the mandate for ethanol were raised. As with
all statements made by vested interests, few outsiders have actually taken
the time to look and find out whether this statement was true.
- In fact, it's false.
- Not one mechanic I've spoken with said they would be
comfortable with a 15% blend of ethanol in their personal car. However,
most suggest that if the government moves the ethanol mandate to 15%, it
will be the dawn of a new golden age for auto mechanics' income.
- One last thought: Most individuals who have had to repair
their fuel systems in recent years never had the gasoline tested to see
if the ethanol percentage might be the problem. Today most repair shops
and new-car dealers are still not testing for ethanol blends. They're simply
repairing the vehicles and sending their unhappy and less wealthy customers
on their way. But, where dealer and repair shops are testing the gasoline,
ethanol is becoming one of the leading culprits for the damage.
- Sadly, when a truly bad idea is exposed today, Washington's
answer is to double-down on the bet, mandate more of the same, and make
the problem worse. Only this time around motorists will be able to gauge
the real cost of ethanol when it comes time to fix their personal cars.