Monday, February 25, 2013

Car Engines Last Longer Burning Ethanol

The following video is an interview with David Blume, author of Alcohol Can Be a Gas. He says that it has been discovered in Brazil, where most of the cars are flex fuel vehicles, that a car lasts three times longer when it burns ethanol rather than gasoline. The video is 6:41 minutes long.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

AAA's Condemnation of E15 Debunked

In a recent story on Fox News, the EPA's new approval of E15 (15% ethanol blended into gasoline) was condemned by AAA. The story was also carried by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others. The Auto Channel's Marc Rauch wrote to Fox News and Lauren Fix (the woman interviewed on the Fox story) about the errors they have perpetuated. Reprinted with permission.

From: Marc J Rauch
To: foxnewstips@foxnews.com
Cc: thecarcoach@laurenfix.com
Sent: Thursday, January 3, 2013 3:45 PM
Subject: Melissa Francis' Story on E15

I am writing to you concerning the recent video story that Melissa Francis did with Lauren Fix regarding E15: Warnings Not to Use ‘E15’ Gas in Your Car.

I am co-owner of THE AUTO CHANNEL and THEAUTOCHANNEL.com. We are the Internet's largest automotive information resource. We are completely independent and not sponsored by any fuel producer.

The information provided by Lauren Fix about E15 is almost completely untrue. Lauren's explanation of phase-separation and the food-price argument about corn are preposterously puerile. In fact, if you live in a cold climate and your fuel tank and lines have a tendency to collect condensation (water), which would then freeze and cause real damage, the solution is to put Dry Gas in the fuel tank. Dry Gas is alcohol. Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol "absorbs" the water moisture.

Fuel left in an unused engine for an extended period of time can break down and cause a starting or running problem. This is true of all fuels, including and especially gasoline, which leaves gummy varnish like deposits. Sta-Bil, another product used to stabilize the gasoline left in dormant engines also contains alcohol to help prevent the gummy build up. And again, alcohol is ethanol.

E15 will not damage the engines of vehicles older than 2012. It has been extensively tested. It can be safely used in all modern gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured since the early 1990's, whether they are "flex-fuel" vehicles or not. Incidentally, when the EPA conducted their tests on E15 and gave their "clean bill of health," they also tested E20 and had the same positive conclusions.

I have been test driving vehicles for 25 years and have regularly used various blend levels of gasoline and ethanol with no negative reactions. Furthermore, I own and drive a non-flex fuel 2002 Ford Taurus that I run on high blend levels of gasoline and ethanol. My vehicle suffers from no problems that are not normally associated with all gasoline-powered vehicles.

The misinformation that Lauren Fix quoted is just part of the routine lies circulated by the American Petroleum Institute and other anti-ethanol entities to discredit any viable alternative fuel solution. I would be happy to provide you with, or direct you to correct information.

Regards,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL LLC
www.theautochannel.com 

Marc Rauch also wrote to AAA because it was their original articles (read them here) that sparked the Fox story. He wrote to AAA's public relations manager, Michael Green. Rauch wrote:

Hello Michael -

Yesterday, I was made aware of a video story produced by Melissa Francis and FOX News that was based upon either the above titled AAA editorial written by your organization's CEO, or a very similar earlier AAA editorial that was released on or about November 30, 2012. By the way, please feel free to share this email with Robert Darbelnet and any other AAA staff member.

In the video, Ms. Francis introduced a guest, Lauren Fix, to comment on and explain the "warnings" made in your editorial. Although neither Ms. Francis nor Ms. Fix identified Ms. Fix as an official AAA spokesperson, she seems to have virtually acted in that capacity. You can view the video at: http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2000862202001/warnings-not-to-use-e15-gas-in-your-car/ .

I found almost everything that Ms. Fix had to say about ethanol to be either a gross lie or a recitation of typical bad propaganda that has been spread by the oil industry and its lackeys over the past 80+ years. In a separate email, I made my opinion known to both Ms. Fix and Ms. Francis.

I have been test driving vehicles for 25 years and have regularly used various blend levels of gasoline and ethanol with no negative reactions. Furthermore, I own and drive a non-flex fuel 2002 Ford Taurus that I run on high blend levels of gasoline and ethanol. My vehicle suffers from no problems that are not normally associated with all gasoline-powered vehicles.

Michael, I would imagine that unless you can confirm Ms. Fix as an official spokesperson for AAA that you will not have any comments to make regarding her comments, and that's fine since the point of this email is not to get the AAA reaction to her comments. I'm simply including this episode as background for the questions that I do have regarding the above mentioned AAA editorial.

My questions to you are:

1. What oil-industry-independent "research-to-date" was Mr. Darbelnet citing that "...raises serious concerns that E15...could cause accelerated engine wear and failure, (and) fuel system damage...?"

2. What information do you have, other than unsupported oil-industry claims, that the EPA did not conduct tests sufficient to determine the safety of using E15 in gasoline-powered passenger vehicles manufactured in the past two decades?

3. Does AAA not consider that the independent E15 testing conducted by Ricardo (findings released September 2010) to be significant confirmation that E15 is safe for all modern gasoline-powered vehicles?

4. In paragraph 8 of the editorial, Mr. Darbelnet states that "Some of those supporting E15 admit the fuel may cause damage," and you give the example that "...some underground storage tank systems, both new and used, exhibited reduced levels of safety and performance when exposed to E15." Given that all fuel underground storage tank systems routinely experience problems, what information do you have - other than any oil-industry anti-ethanol biased research - that shows that E15 underground storage tanks experience problems that are greater and/or more frequent than underground storage tanks that are used for diesel, E10 gasoline, E85, or gasoline that contains no ethanol?

5. In addition, in regard to paragraph 8, how does this potential problem relate to vehicle engine damage, and wouldn't it be fair to say that combining the two points is just an irrelevant red-herring warning?

6. Does AAA agree with the overall level of warning that FOX News issued - which they based upon the AAA editorial - about E15, or did they overstate your concerns?

I look forward to your reply and any instructive information you can provide.

Thank you for your time.

Very truly yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President
THE AUTO CHANNEL LLC
www.theautochannel.com
916-273-8320

Michael Green wrote back, but I don't have his permission to reprint his reply, but it wasn't much, and it will become clear what he said from Marc Rauch's response below:

Hi Michael -

Thanks for your quick reply and clarification confirming that Lauren Fix has no official relationship with AAA.

While I look forward to receiving the AAA engineering team's comments, I'm troubled by your response to my question #4 regarding the storage tanks. You wrote, "...the warning regarding storage tanks was made by the Renewable Fuels Association to fuel retailers and was not from research conducted by AAA. They would therefore be in the best position to say why they made that recommendation." However, the AAA story called for the suspension of the sale of E15 because you claim that it damages the engines of most gasoline-powered vehicles, and you offered as part of the proof that the ethanol industry concedes that there are problems. Let's face it, engine damage is the crux of the story; it is, in fact, the salient part of the entire denigration effort by the oil industry and anyone associated with them to stop ethanol: The (false) claim that ethanol damages engines.

RFA didn't issue a warning that consumers shouldn't use ethanol as an engine fuel and then cite a storage tank issue as the reason. The storage issue has absolutely no bearing on ethanol's capability as an engine fuel. AAA took the RFA warning out of context and made a leap that should never have been made. It would be like someone using the warning that's printed on plastic bags (the suffocation warning) to claim that carrying groceries in the bag makes the items being carried dangerous to eat. One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. It is entirely possible that a fuel can be the safest, most efficient and economical fuel to use in an engine, but requires some degree of care when storing. Would AAA recommend that people stop drinking milk because if it's not refrigerated it could render a person seriously ill?

As I pointed out previously, gasoline also requires care when storing, and is far more dangerous than alcohol. Why not issue a recommendation that all gasoline sales be suspended until the explosion/fire/storage/pollution problems related to gasoline are solved? If AAA or Mr. Darbelnet were so unclear as to the issues regarding ethanol underground storage that you can't respond to my question, then it should never have been included in the story, regardless of whether ethanol damages engines or not. If AAA is objective on the overall issue of ethanol versus gasoline, as is alluded to in the editorial, then a big mistake was made.

Regards.

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President
THE AUTO CHANNEL LLC
www.theautochannel.com
916-273-8320 

Marc Rauch has written before about his experiences using E85 in gas-only engines. The letter below, for example, is a response to John Kolak's article, On Using Ethanol Fuels In Unmodified Vehicles. The letter was written by Marc Rauch:

Hi John -

I just finished reading your article and I wanted to add my personal experiences to your compendium of information.

For a few years, whenever I would rent a car or get a new vehicle from a manufacturer to test drive and review, I would manually fill the tank with a blend of regular gasoline (e10) and e85, if e85 was available to me. Depending upon how much fuel I needed to fill the tank, sometimes the blend would give me only about 30-40% ethanol, and sometimes I might have 60-80% ethanol. I did this with almost every make and model vehicle you can think of, and almost none of them were "flex-fuel" vehicles. I did this specifically to see what, if anything, would happen.

Other than the "check engine" light illuminating in some instances, I never encountered a starting, driving or acceleration problem. Knowing that the "check engine" light illuminated merely because the cars' sensors detected something different, I knew that there was no problem with the vehicle. Often, if the test drive or rental period was long enough, and I had the need to fill the tank again — and only had access to regular gasoline — the check engine light would go off, confirming that there was no problem with the engine.

Of course, because the test or rental period was of rather short duration, I knew that my experiments were not really conclusive since I wasn't able to witness what ill effects, if any, might occur from longer, more sustained usage.

With this in mind, about a year and a half ago I purchased a used 2002 Ford Taurus non-flex-fuel sedan to be able to go all out on my test of e85. Because I've never had a situation in which my tank was completely empty, I've never had the opportunity to fill the Taurus fully with e85. However, I've run the vehicle on virtually all other blend levels. Similar to the short duration tests, I have run the Taurus on straight e10 gasoline to as high as 65-80%. Keep in mind that because even e85 might contain only about 70% ethanol (according to the label on the pump), it's hard to really get a blend that's much higher than 80%.

When I bought the vehicle, my friend David Blume — perhaps the world's leading expert on ethanol production and use — sent me one of the conversion kits that he endorses and sells for use on non-flex fuel fuel-injector vehicles. The purpose was for me to test the device and to maximize my vehicle's ability to handle e85. To date I have not installed the device. I've been waiting to push the car to the point where it screams "I can't take any more ethanol." That point is nowhere in sight. This isn't to say that the device is not necessary, it's to illustrate just how well an un-modified non-flex fuel vehicle can perform with e85.

Long before I purchased the Taurus, David and his associates alerted me to the need to transition into using a lot of e85, rather than going cold-turkey and make the immediate shift. The reason, they explained, is that the ethanol will loosen (and clean) the deposits left by the gasoline and that the gunk could clog the system. Because of this, I did transition to high ethanol blends through the first 3 or 4 fill-ups. I don't know if I would have experienced any problems if I didn't heed the advice, but I have not had any fuel line clogs.

In the nearly 18 months, I have driven the vehicle a little less than 25,000 miles  —  enough time and enough miles to make a more enlightened evaluation. I can report that the results are what they were in the short-term evaluations: my car runs fine, as good  —  I think  —  as any 10 year-old car should run. And I have noticed no difference in how the vehicle runs regardless of how much ethanol I use.

At an early stage I did have an interesting experience with Meineke. After watching one of their TV commercials about bringing your car in for a free test if the engine light goes on, I brought the Taurus in for the free check-up. After the test was completed the service manager told me that my O2 sensor had gone out and that it needed replacing (for a cost of about $200). I knew the light was on because I was using e85, I just wanted to see if the test system could discern the reason.

I declined the O2 replacement and told the service manager why I thought the engine light was illuminated. He reacted as if I was speaking Martian; not comprehending what I was saying about using ethanol in a gasoline-optimized engine. He argued a bit with me and warned that if I didn't get the O2 sensor replaced that I was driving an illegal vehicle. For the heck of it, I went through a couple of fill-up cycles where I only used e10 gasoline. As expected, the light went off. I brought the vehicle back into the same shop and told them that I had been experiencing an intermittent check-engine light, although the light wasn't on at that moment. They put the test through what I assume was the same computer test and told me that the vehicle was okay (with no mention of an O2 sensor problem).

Incidentally, I have to tell you that I have never experienced the huge mpg reduction that is typically cited by both ethanol critics and advocates. In my experience I lose only 5-10%. Considering that the e85 costs less 15-30% less than regular gasoline I still get a respectable net savings. Earlier today, May 12, 2012, when I drove past one of the Shell stations that I use to get my e85, I noticed that e85 was selling for just under one dollar less than premium gasoline. That represents nearly 25% savings per gallon.

In closing, I will admit that there is one major drawback to using ethanol, but fortunately it's not my problem, it's the oil companies' problem: They make less money!

Thanks for your time. I hope that this case study helps your efforts.

Sincerely yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
www.theautochannel.com

Watch a video on this same subject: E85 Does Not Harm Non-Flex-Fuel Engines. This ten-minute video shows you a test done on a non-flex-fuel car that burned mostly E85 for over a hundred thousand miles. Not only did it not harm the car, it actually harmed it much less than burning gasoline would have.

Here's an excellent 20-page detailed look at how E85 works in gas-only engines: Ethanol and Internal Combustion Engines (PDF document).

I think the two articles below by Robert Zubrin are relevant here. Zubrin discovered that cars are already designed for flex fuel cars, including having the software installed in the onboard computer, but with the software disabled. Check it out:

A Fuel-Efficiency Wager
Methanol Wins

The following paper from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is also interesting: It's about using "intermediate blends" of ethanol. Apparently normal fuel injector computers handle up to half ethanol before the car starts running poorly (if it is going to run poorly at all). What happens is that the injector automatically adds more fuel if the fuel is partly alcohol, and most cars can do up to 50% E85 with no problems. Every little bit makes a difference. Anyway, here's the link to the PDF file: Effects of Intermediate Ethanol Blends.

Adding to this discussion is the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, Bob Dinneen, responding to an op-ed:

Flint, Mich., is known throughout the world as the birthplace of General Motors. When an economist from Flint gets the facts about motor fuels all wrong, it’s time to assign him some remedial homework.

In an op-ed in The Flint Journal on January 16, Mark J. Perry, an economics professor at University of Michigan-Flint, earned a failing grade in Ethanol 101. Here’s why Professor Perry needs to hit the books about biofuels:

Warning against E15 blends (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline), Perry claims that ethanol “can damage automobile engines and fuel systems.” In fact, E15 is the most tested fuel in history. Coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and its affiliated National Laboratories, the tests have driven the equivalent of six round-trips to the moon and have included vehicle drivability, catalyst durability, fuel pumps and sealing units, outboard diagnostic systems, and automotive fuel system components.

The verdict: The U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has approved 15 percent ethanol blends for cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs built in 2001 or later — approximately 62 percent of the light-duty vehicles on the road today.

While Perry writes that “40% of the U.S. corn crop is used to produce ethanol,” that statement is misleading. Ethanol production doesn’t use sweet corn (which is intended for human consumption), and U.S. ethanol production uses only three percent of the total global grain supply.

Moreover, ethanol uses only the starch in the grain, with the protein, fat and fiber made into animal feed for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, poultry, and fish around the world. In fact, the American ethanol industry generated 37 million metric tons of feed in 2012 — enough to produce seven quarter-pound hamburger patties for every person on the planet.

Perry is also wrong when he contends that ethanol “has increased retail food prices and strained family budgets.” In fact, only 14 percent of the average household’s food bill pays for raw agricultural ingredients such as corn. Eighty-six percent of their food bill pays for energy, transportation, processing, packaging, marketing and other supply chain costs.

Nor is it true that “ethanol costs about 70 cents a gallon more than gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis.” In fact, the use of ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011, according to research by economics professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University. If ethanol doesn’t pack the punch to power our cars, then why do so many professional racecar drivers fuel their  vehicles with … ethanol?

Meanwhile, Professor Perry makes sophomoric mistakes. He writes about “a 51-cent-per gallon tax credit” for biofuels, even though the credit expired, with the industry’s approval, at the end of 2011. He asks policymakers “to halt the production of E15,” even though E15 is blended, not produced, from ethanol and gasoline. (Would he demand no more “production” of coffee with milk and sugar?) And he seems unaware that, in approving E15, the EPA was offering Americans a choice at the pump, not a mandate.

While he concludes that cellulosic (non-grain) ethanol is “still not viable,” at least eight commercial advanced ethanol plants are under construction or commissioning.

U.S. ethanol, including E15 blends, offers our nation’s motorists a cost-saving, American-made, environmentally-friendly alternative to foreign oil, as well as a pathway to the next generation of biofuels.

As for Professor Perry, he needs to take Ethanol 101 all over again.

The following is an op-ed entitled, Who Are You Going to Believe: Big Oil — Or 10,000 Miles of Truth? by Robert White:

The comedian Richard Pryor used to ask, “Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes?”

That question comes to mind whenever I think about the American Petroleum Institute (API)’s study, which claims to prove that 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) will damage your automobile’s engine.

So who are you going to trust — Big Oil or a Kansas motorist who’s driven 10,000 miles on three vehicles fueled by E15?

The oil companies want you to ignore a comprehensive three-year, 88-vehicle, six-million-miles-driven study of E15 conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy using protocols established by the Environmental Protection Agency, and look only at their own American Petroleum Institute-funded study of eight vehicles, some of which had fuel pumps that happened to be under recall.  The only thing one can glean about E15 from the API study is if you test E15 in a vehicle that has been recalled then you just might have some problems.

Surprise!

Now, guess what API and AAA don’t mention when they warn motorists about E15: If you test other aging autos with similar problems — and fuel them with gasoline without any ethanol at all (Call it E-Zero) — you get the same kind of problems. That’s what their study says.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for API to warn motorists against using unblended gasoline — E-Zero. Instead, they want consumers to worry about ever-more-unlikely “hazards,” not only in the long-term but in the short-term, too.

For instance, API and its allies like AAA have warned motorists about the supposed dangers of “residual volumes” of E15 in gas pump hoses. They claim to be concerned that, if you fuel your car with E10, you could really be getting gasoline blended with more than 10 percent ethanol. Why? Because the previous customer fueled up with E15 — and some of that 15 percent blend was left in the hose.

Have they ever tested this theory with a real vehicle and a real gasoline pump?

So what happens when you fuel a working vehicle — not one that’s straight from the showroom, just one that has some miles on it but hasn’t been recalled — with E15?

Since mid-July, I’ve been one of the fortunate customers with E15 available locally — in Eastern Kansas. Once this fuel debuted, I’ve used it exclusively on my three vehicles — a Jeep and two Chevrolets, none of them flex-fuel.

By now, I’ve logged more than 10,000 total miles. Not once has my “check engine” light lit up. Not once have I noticed any drivability or performance issues. Not once have my vehicles acted any differently than they do on E10.

And, despite AAA’s “warnings,” not once did any of my three vehicles break down on the side of the road, leaving me stranded.

Instead, I’ve enjoyed a higher-octane product at a lower cost with lower overall emissions. And I’m proud to be gassing up my vehicles with a fuel that now contains 50 percent more of a locally produced, job-creating, economy-boosting product — American ethanol.

In addition to “warning” motorists about damage to their vehicles, Big Oil has one more scare tactic: If you use E15, it will void your warranty.

In fact, before a claim could be denied, an automaker would have to prove that the fuel caused the damage. That’s provided by federal law — the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975.

Once again, my experience is instructive. I recently had a warranty claim — not fuel-related — on my personal 2011 Chevrolet. Even though my Chevy runs on E15, the claim was processed without incident — and at no cost to me.

So who are you going to believe? Big Oil? Or a motorist who’s logged 10,000 miles on E15?


The following is an op-ed entitled, Ethanol Industry Questions Validity of CRC E15 Study by Erin Voegele:

The Coordinating Research Council (CRC) has released a report outlining fuel test results that show E15 fuel can damage fuel system components. Representatives of the ethanol industry, however, are questioning the testing methods, noting that the CRC seems to be displaying a bias against ethanol. The report is titled “Durability of Fuel Pumps and Fuel Level Senders in Neat and Aggressive E15". The American Petroleum Institute is a “sustaining member” of CRC.

The analysis looked at two types of E15—a regular E15 blend and an “aggressive E15”—in addition to E10 and regular gasoline. According to the report, the aggressive E15 blend was formulated refereeing the SAE specification J1681 to represent the worst case blends of gasoline and 15 volume percent ethanol that might be found in the field.

However, Kristi Moore, vice president for technical services at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), questions the validity of testing the aggressive E15 blend. She said that the test fuel formulation has zero real world relevance in today’s marketplace as it is representative of fuel dating back to the 1990s. “Fuel properties have significantly changed in the three decades since the original aggressive test formula,” Moore continued. She also specified that the CRC seems to have ignored its own 2009 finding that the primary fatal effects to fuel systems can be attributed to the sulfur content of fuels. 

Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, also stressed the results for CRC’s aggressive E15 formulation are not representative of fuels on the market today. In addition, he noted that the report does not specify whether or not the CRC completed the testing with fuel containing the corrosion inhibitors his industry typically adds to ethanol.

The Fuels America Coalition has also spoken out, questioning the validity of the report. “Today’s report from oil-lobby backed research group Coordinating Research Council displays clear bias and ignores millions of miles and years of testing that went into EPA’s approval of E15,” said the coalition in a statement. “CRC’s bias is clear—API is a “sustaining member” of the group—and so it’s no surprise that the CRC is negative about E15. They’re playing right in to API’s misguided ploy to overturn the renewable fuel standard (RFS).”

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol, said that the test results should not scare consumers away from using E15. “This is just another ghost story, told by people who stand to lose market share when consumers finally have access to E15. We shouldn’t be surprised at Big Oil’s latest attempt to scare consumers—they’ve shown no shame in twisting test results to protect their market share. There is a reason that the oil companies don’t want E15 and it has everything to do with protecting the bottom line and nothing to do with protecting consumers,” he continued.

The RFA has also called the study flawed and misleading. “API has absolutely no credibility when it comes to talking about E15,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “That point has never been more clear than in this new study in which they ‘cooked the books’ by using an aggressive fuel mix to try and force engine damage.  This isn’t real testing and this certainly isn’t real life.  Enough already with the scare tactics.  E15 is rolling forward and API needs to get out the way of progress that will result in a stronger country, a stronger economy, and stronger, cleaner environment.  E15 will not be stopped by feet dragging and forecasts of fictional faults.”

“Today’s study is no surprise,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO. “This is a classic example of ‘he, who pays the piper, calls the tune.’ Oil companies are desperate to prevent the use of higher blends of renewable fuels. They have erected every regulatory and legal roadblock imaginable to prevent our nation from reducing our dependence on oil. For Big Oil, this is about market share. To see what’s driving them, ‘follow the money,’ as every gallon of renewable fuel that enters the market reduces Big Oil’s market share. Obviously they have deep pockets in which to fund studies that can at best be described as incomplete and cherry picking.”

Here's what Fuel Freedom Foundation says about the E15 story: Debunking the Myth that 15% Ethanol Will Destroy Your Engine.

In a series of 20 short audio clips, Bobby Likis, the Car Clinic technician, tells 20 facts about ethanol. Click here to listen

Here's a short YouTube video that quotes an oil analyst saying that oil refiners don't make money on ethanol, which is why they don't want it blended into gasoline at a higher percentage:



Can’t We Just Get Rid of Ethanol Ignorance?

By Bobby Likis, originally posted here.

Bobby Likis, president of Car Clinic — Jay Leno is a car guy … and someone I’ve respected for many years. But Jay’s AutoWeek article “Can’t We Just Get Rid Of Ethanol?” makes zero sense to me.

I’m a car guy too. Restored and own a classic 1980 Weisssach Porsche 911. Auto service shop owner for 44 years with over 200,000 vehicles (from classics to hybrids) rolling through the bays. Engine builder. Car-talk host answering more than 100,000 car questions live on radio, television, web and social media.

What I read in the “Rid” article does not sound like Jay Leno, the car guy. Oddly enough, not too long ago at SEMA, Mr. Leno was touting E85 and other ethanol-blends of gasoline with his Z06 ‘Vette. Now, for whatever unknown reason, he’s slamming ethanol. I cannot believe “what Jay said” is “what Jay really believes.” His words smack of otherwise invested horse-whisperers who use personal agendas to sway vulnerable-for-whatever-reason people towards their way.

So as a car guy, allow me to share a few ethanol facts with you.

1) Water absorption: No doubt that ethanol emulsifies and holds water. Yay!! That’s a good thing! In fact, “holding” / suspending /emulsifying water is an ethanol ASSET — not detriment — as gas tanks actually run dryer after the transition from E0 to E10. Mercury Marine — the boat engine manufacturer — states this fact. Specifically with regard to moisture, a gallon of ethanol suspends FOUR (4) TEASPOONS of water per gallon of fuel before phase separation. On the other hand, gasoline suspends only POINT ONE FIVE (.15) TEASPOON (that’s LESS than ONE teaspoon) of water per gallon before phase separation. So PHASE SEPARATION WILL OCCUR 26 TIMES MORE RAPIDLY WITH GASOLINE THAN WITH ETHANOL! This has been demonstrated hundreds of times (including one demonstration I recently saw by Dr. Andrew Randolph, technical director of Earnhardt-Childress Racing), clearly substantiating that gasoline does NOT effectively hold (suspend) water. So with straight gasoline, whatever water is in any tank or atmosphere “phase separates” and falls to the bottom of the tank. In contrast in ethanol-blended fuel, the ethanol will suspend that water during the driving of the vehicle; then, harmlessly carry it through the system to be vaporized by the engine without affecting the engine in the least. The suspended water, vaporized by the engine, produces NO harmful emissions. And one more point: at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent relative humidity, it takes more than two months for even gasoline to absorb water. Since ethanol has 26 times the suspension capability of gasoline, it would take literally months and months before any phase separation could possibly take place. I can state categorically that I own a Classic 1980 Limited Edition Weissach Porsche 911 and have driven it three times in the past three years … to buy fresh gas. I start this vehicle (about every three months) and let it run for no less than ½ hour to circulate the E10 gas.

2) Increased car fires over past three decades: Totally spoken out of context. GM recalled nearly 1.5 million cars as a result of rocker covers leaking oil. Maybe the next article should be “Why Can’t We Remove Oil From All Engines?” Leaking fuel lines allow fuel to hit hot engines and ka-blooooie … really? I’ve operated my own bumper-to-bumper full service automotive repair and service shop for 44 years and had more than 200,000 cars and small trucks come through our doors and not one has ever had an engine damaged by ethanol much less a fire.

3) “The worse can happen”: Not according to studies/research. Hagerty Insurance — you know, THE classic car insurance company — funded a study by Kettering University (known for its reputation in the field of automotive research) on the use of E10 in older cars. Wouldn’t you think if E10 caused damage in the collector cars that Hagerty insures that Hagerty would be the first to say, “Can’t We Just Get Rid of Ethanol?” Instead, after 1,500 hours of testing with E0 (0 percent ethanol) and E10 (10 percent ethanol), general consensus was that “with minor updates and proper maintenance, E10 will not negatively affect your old car or truck.” Ah, the voice of reason … and research. For more reason and research, check out the Renewable Fuels Association’s detailed and facts-forward guide for classic car owners (“Gasoline Ethanol Blends in the Classic Auto”).

4) Renewable Fuel Standard: My head is still spinning with the totally out of context references to ethanol in classic cars, but Mr. Leno’s reflections on the Renewable Fuel Standard should be titled “Can’t We Simply Continue America’s 100+ Year Dependence On Foreign Oil?” Unthinkable. Tossing the Renewable Fuel Standard not only ensures we remain dependent on foreign oil, but also such actions literally cause would-be investors to pause and reconsider their potential investments in our nation’s renewable energy opportunities.

With all due respect for the beautiful, treasured classics in garages and at car shows, let’s clear the smoke about any conclusion — even dead-wrong ones — about E10 in classic cars. How about refocusing on the other 260,000,000 light (non-commercial) vehicles on U.S. roads today? The average age is about 11½ years. So most of us drive cars made in this millennium … not made in the ‘70s or before. “Why Can’t We Just Get Rid of Steak ‘Cause Babies Can’t Eat It?” would be a nice, scare-tactic, demotivator for auto manufacturers worldwide to design, engineer and manufacture future vehicles that optimize the high-performance, environmentally friendly engines that thrive on high-octane ethanol.

Thank goodness the early 1900s best seller “Why Can’t We Just Get Rid of Cars” — written by the horse breeders — didn’t catch on.



Why Is Jay Leno Misrepresenting Ethanol?

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Originally published here.

There are two things that everyone knows about Jay Leno: He's a great comedian, and he's a seriously great automobile enthusiast. Generally, when you become great at something you learn a lot about that subject; even if you don't want to learn about the subject, and you just want to be good at engaging in the activity, it's virtually impossible to not become a great student of the history and mechanics of that subject.

I have no doubt that Jay is a master of comedy history, along with the mechanics of what is funny and why it's funny.

I've watched enough video of Jay and his vehicles to believe that he is equally a master when it comes to knowing about his vehicles and the history of how they were designed. I also know that Jay has been a proponent of alternative fuels and advanced technologies. In fact, we even have a few dozen stories and videos of Jay on The Auto Channel website that feature him discussing these things.

I'm also aware of at least two other media pieces done by, or with, Jay in which he enthusiastically discusses his E85-powered 2006 Corvette. (One piece was a Popular Mechanics text story published in 2008, the other was a video produced in Las Vegas at SEMA 2007.)

In both of the stories, Jay expresses a favorable opinion of the advantages of high-level ethanol gasoline blends versus gasoline without ethanol or even just E10 gasoline (10% ethanol/90% gasoline). Among other benefits, Jay cites ethanol's higher octane rating, cooler operating engine temperatures, lower harmful emissions, and ethanol's engine cleaning characteristics that leave behind no nasty gasoline residue and gunk that clog key engine components, such as pistons and valves.

Well, a few days ago, it was brought to my attention that Jay has authored a new story that appeared in the March 2 edition of AutoWeek magazine. The article, titled "Can't We Just Get Rid Of Ethanol?" basically proposes that the United States end the "Renewable Fuel Standard" (RFS) because of issues related to the use of ethanol fuels in older vehicles. At the close of the story Jay exhorts readers and automobile enthusiasts to write to their legislators to demand action against ethanol.

Clearly there is a difference between old cars and new cars, that is to say "classics" and "antiques," and late model vehicles - like those that make up the overwhelming majority of vehicles on the road today. Therefore, it is understandable for Jay to express two different opinions about ethanol as it pertains to old cars versus new cars.

(For those of you keeping score at home, the average age of all cars and trucks on the road in America is only about 10 years. Keep in mind that since the early 1990's all gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks manufactured for America have used engine and fuel-system components that are resistant to alcohol's solvent properties.)

However, the problem to me is that Jay didn't say "write to your legislators to demand more freedom of fuel choice to give us old car owners easier access to ethanol-free gasoline," he's instead calling for less freedom of fuel choice. More importantly, as much as I hate to say it, Jay is using information to sway the argument that is untrue and misleading. And so, since I think that Jay should know, and does know better, that he is lying in the AutoWeek story.

For example, in the new AutoWeek story, Jay states that "ethanol will absorb water from ambient air...causing corrosion and inhibiting combustion."

Ethanol doesn't absorb water from the ambient air. This lie is one of the oldest and most malicious of the lies created by the oil industry to denigrate ethanol. The only thing new in how Jay used this lie is that he used the word "ambient." I've not seen that before. I've seen quotes that use the word "thin" to denote ordinary air that we normally breathe, but not "ambient." Regardless, this is not what occurs.

It seems many years ago that some clever oil industry person must have learned that ethanol (alcohol) is a hygroscopic substance, and that the general dictionary definition for a hygroscopic substance is that it can attract moisture from its environment. What the oil industry wag then did was to substitute the word "attract" with "absorb," and "air" for environment. Thus, attracting moisture from its environment magically became absorbing water out of thin air.

To keep with a Jay Leno comedian metaphor, let me offer a classic Abbott & Costello routine that presents a startlingly clear analogy at how silly Jay's hygroscopic statement is:

Costello tells Abbott that a loaf of bread is the mother of the airplane. Abbott tells Costello that he's crazy. Costello asks Abbott if he agrees that necessity if the mother of invention. Abbott replies yes. Costello then asks if bread is a necessity; Abbott says yes. Costello asks is the airplane is an invention; Abbott says yes. Therefore, exclaims Costello, if bread is a necessity and the airplane is an invention, then a loaf of bread is the mother of the airplane.

What I'm getting at is just because you can play semantic word games with the definition of "hygroscopic" that doesn't mean that the result of the game is relevant and correct.

To prove that alcohol will not absorb water right out of the thin or ambient air, I always offer this simple at-home experiment: Fill any open container halfway with alcohol and place it on your kitchen counter. Allow it to sit for one or more days. If alcohol absorbs water right out of the air, then when you check the level of liquid in the ensuing days you would find that it has risen. If you find that the level of the liquid in the container has risen (without any manipulation, change to the environment of your indoor kitchen, or interference to the natural process) and you can document it, I will pay you $1,000.

Incidentally, cotton is also a hygroscopic substance. So just as additional proof that being a hygroscopic substance doesn't mean that it absorbs water right out of the air, place a ball of cotton on the other side of your kitchen counter and see if it gets saturated with water from just sitting out in the open.

Moving on to one of Jay's other points, if you were to pour a gallon of water in your gasoline tank your vehicle will probably have great difficulty starting. But that's not how water gets in your gasoline tank, unless you're very, very drunk when you go to the filling station. You can get water in your fuel system because of condensation. So what do you do if you have some water in your fuel system? Do you stick a straw in and suck it out? No, you add a product like Dry Gas. Dry Gas is ethanol, meaning that you use ethanol to solve the problem of water in your gasoline tank. That's right, to solve the problem!

Ethanol doesn't actually absorb the water, it breaks the water molecules down so that ignition and combustion of the gasoline can take place. The water molecules are then expelled in the exhaust. In other words, ethanol aids combustion, not inhibits combustion as Jay stated.

Jay goes on to say, "It gets worse. Ethanol is a solvent that can loosen the sludge, varnish and dirt that accumulate in a fuel tank. That mixture can clog fuel lines and block carburetor jets." The sludge, varnish and dirt that Jay is referring to is caused by gasoline. So ironically, the cleaning characteristic that Jay is now criticizing is the same beneficial cleaning characteristic that he previously championed when discussing the benefits of ethanol.

Then Jay writes, "Blame the Renewable Fuel Standard (for these problems). However, that's not where the blame lies. The blame lies with gasoline; the liars in the gasoline industry; and the politicians who forced us to use gasoline, which resulted in gasoline becoming the dominant and default vehicle fuel. Ethanol cleans the gunk, gasoline causes it.

Even if ethanol is never introduced into a fuel system the time will come when the engine must be cleaned. The engine repair industry didn't spontaneously arise with the advent of E10 or E85 gasoline. Engine repair, maintenance and replacement is a natural result of the internal combustion process. If we can have a fuel that (as Jay previously wrote) burns 100 percent, leaving behind no nasty residue and leftover gunk that clogs key engine components, why shouldn't we have that fuel readily available? Shouldn't that fuel be our primary default engine fuel?

Jay talks about damage that ethanol has caused to the fiber diaphragms in the fuel system of one of his Duesenbergs. I think he's probably correct about this. But is this the reason why America should abandon the RFS and return to gasoline that contains poison?

If you watch the video that Jay did in Las Vegas in 2007 he says something very interesting; in response to the question of how he selects which vehicle he is going to drive to work on a given day, with great humility he acknowledges that there are greater problems in the world to worry about. That was a correct, very modest response. So in keeping with that recognition, I suggest that the fiber diaphragms in his or anyone else's Duesenbergs have no significance in our national decision on what is the correct engine fuel to use.

As a person who has owned classic cars (although I've never owned more than one at a time, and they weren't especially valuable), while I can appreciate his concern over his vehicles, I suggest he suck it up as a noblesse oblige sacrifice that he must make.

For some inexplicable reason Jay also throws in negative comments about ethanol producers and the "food vs. fuel" argument. This inclusion made me think that perhaps Jay didn't actually write this article - that it was actually written by some API stooge and Jay just signed off on it. Jay refers to some ethanol producers as "giant agri-businesses," and its mention is couched within a paragraph that is meant to demean the producers and the overall effort to make us energy independent. Admittedly, some ethanol producers are large corporations, but when you compare them to the giant oil companies they are virtually mom and pop businesses.

For example, in the same year that ExxonMobil reported their fiscal fourth quarter profit as $40 billion, Archer Daniels Midland reported their fiscal fourth quarter profit of $372 million. Although $372 million is nothing to sneeze at, it’s less than 1% of ExxonMobil’s profit. So if there's a picture being painted about huge greedy companies looking to take advantage of the American consumer, the illustration is of ExxonMobil not ADM. And we must remember that the ethanol we use in America is produced here in America by Americans. No American military man or woman has ever died defending domestic ethanol production and distribution.

As for "food vs. fuel," Jay might as well claim that the Earth is flat. About 10 years ago, The World Bank issued a statement in which they claimed that increased corn-based ethanol production was causing food prices to rise. Since that time, The World Bank has twice rescinded that earlier claim based on new and better studied information. The fuel-related culprit they acknowledge as causing food prices to rise is gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum oil products that are used in packaging.

I think that Jay was irresponsible for writing, or signing off on, this article. However, the bulk of the responsibility for letting this misinformation come to the light of day belongs to AutoWeek magazine. Regardless of what Jay Leno had to say, they should not have allowed it to be published, or at the least they should have published it with some considerable disclaimers. I guess that AutoWeek's decision was predicated upon the hope of increased advertising support from the oil industry, and that the reason they chose to embellish the headline title of Jay's story on the online version of the story with "Jay Leno hates ethanol" was to make sure that they were kissing enough ass. I also presume that Jay made the same decision to create the story based on the potential of getting oil company sponsorship for his new automotive content ventures. If I'm correct then there is little reason for this magazine article to have been written and published.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gas Prices Rise For 32nd Consecutive Day

The Wall Street Journal: "The national retail gasoline price has risen 43 cents, or 13%, to $3.73 a gallon since Jan. 17, according to the Automobile Association of America. Refinery shutdowns have 'led to tighter supply, which also has driven up prices,' said AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter."

Whenever gas prices rise, rising unemployment rates follow:


As more money is spent on gas for the same amount of fuel, less money can spent for other goods and services. When less money is spent for American goods and services, American companies must let employees go.

None of this has to happen. We can strip oil of its strategic status and allow our economy to thrive by introducing fuel competition.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What do AT&T and Big Oil have in Common?

The following was written by Zana Nesheiwat, originally published on Fuel Freedom. Republished with permission.

An expensive long-distance cell phone call in 1984.
When’s the last time you made a long-distance phone call? Do you even notice the difference between local and long-distance charges? Before 1984, only AT&T could sell long-distance telephone service, making a long-distance call to your great aunt cost $3.00 a minute. That monopoly and unfair pricing ended when a federal judge required AT&T to grant access to any carrier that wanted to sell long-distance services. Within three years, the price of a long-distance call decreased from the staggering $3.00 a minute to 30 cents a minute. Today it’s a mere 3 cents a minute, thanks to competition and an open market.

Without the breakup of that monopoly, which brought forth industry competition and consumer choice, we wouldn’t be enjoying rapid advancements in the communication industry and the ability to watch, listen, play, tweet and stream from one device.

Here’s a lesson from Economics 101: a monopoly has the power to set the price on a commodity. Although there is more than one oil company (Shell, Exxon, BP, etc.), the only fuel they sell to consumers is gasoline. The lack of fuel competition allows “big oil” to set the price. The wide-scale adoption of abundant, domestic fuel supplies (natural gas, methanol, ethanol and electricity) will boost competition and innovation (which we so desperately need), resulting in a wider fuel selection for consumers and lower prices at the pump. This is not to mention protection against resource and price volatility and improved air quality. A transition of this magnitude does not happen on its own. Businesses must invest in innovative ideas; policies must evolve to accommodate a changing world; and organizations must unite to educate, inform and involve the public.

Beneficiaries of an oil-addicted population and economy, or, as many call it, an oil monopoly, will do everything in their power to maintain a situation where they have sole custody over the transportation fuel market. Recent actions from the American Petroleum Institute (API) demonstrate this exact notion. Group Downstream director, Bob Greco, announced that API is “strongly considering” asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case regarding the sale of a high-ethanol fuel blend. Soon after, a press conference ignited news headlines with something along the lines of, “Ethanol destroys cars.” The claims that warn of the dangers of ethanol are based off a research study funded by – you guessed it – the API and automakers. This is yet another representation of API’s attempt to reverse rules and court decisions that are vital to free markets and competition.

Clearly, API is threatened by the “competition” and has good reason to be! The competition – natural gas, methanol and, in this case, ethanol, or any combination of alternative fuels, could cause the oil industry to lose profits, market shares and eventually, their dominant control over the fuel/energy market.

Moreover, the oil industry’s recent investments and interest in natural gas is no coincidence. Natural gas is abundant in America and has the potential to become a dominant transportation fuel. If that is going to be the case, API wants a piece of the pie.

The breakup of AT&T brought forth a new era of technology – multi-functioning phones and affordable long-distance phone calls. Breaking the oil monopoly would give us far more than that – relief at the pump and a thriving future for years to come.

About Zana Nesheiwat:

With a Master of Public Policy degree from Pepperdine University, Zana specializes in international relations, economics and managing cross-cultural relationships. She is an accomplished researcher and communications professional with experience in public relations, advocacy, and program management. Zana served as a policy researcher for Missile Defense and Advocacy Alliance and, more recently, as a public relations associate for Music180, where she designed successful business development strategies and prepared campaign material for press, print, broadcast and social media. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

FuelsAmerica Fights Back

Anything that competes with oil is a target of oil's propaganda machine. One group is fighting back. Check out their first video, sarcastically poking fun at oil for fuel:



The biggest problem with oil is its monopolistic power. It is the responsibility of government to prevent monopolies or break them up. That's what the Open Fuel Standard will do. Read more about that here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Breaking Our Oil Addiction With Fuel Freedom

Dennis Prager speaks with Fuel Freedom co-founder Yossie Hollander on how we can end our addiction to oil by opening the fuel market to American replacement fuels that are cheaper and cleaner. Listen to the audio track here:

The Dennis Prager Show: Breaking Our Oil Addiction With Fuel Freedom

Time: 16 minutes and 23 seconds.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Conspiracy to Rob the World

OPEC made a trillion dollars in 2012
OPEC was created in order to raise world oil prices. Many conspiracies are only theories. This one is a fact. The OPEC nations do quite a bit of dissembling (to confuse the general public), but they act in the open and make no secret of their intentions. The oil ministers of the 12 OPEC nations meet at least twice a year to decide how much to limit their oil production in order to keep the world's price of oil high.

The result of high oil prices is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world — from the free world to some of the worst regimes on Earth (and the wealthiest rulers in history).

The only thing keeping this whole game going is an artificial limit on our cars. Internal combustion engines can burn ethanol, methanol and gasoline in any proportion with a minor tweak to the fuel delivery system. The Open Fuel Standard would make that tweak mandatory, and thus create a free market and break the monopoly.

There may have never been such a small change that could bring about so many significant benefits. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fuel Competition is URGENT

In the book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom, we write, "Saudi oil billionaires have hired American law firms and lobbying organizations to promote their agenda within the U.S. political system. They keep these powerful groups on their full-time payroll. The Saudis alone have 100 lobbyists in Washington (just for comparison, the NRA, considered one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington D.C., has 28 lobbyists). According to OpenSecrets.org, the total number of lobbyists reported for the year 2012 who were working for the oil and gas industry is 736!"

The longer petroleum remains without serious competition, the more money oil companies can spend on lobbying, and the more influence they can exert over our political system. One of their main goals is to prevent any competitors from gaining a foothold in the transportation fuel market. 

Fuel competition is not only a good idea, it is urgent. And we can make it happen. If you want to get started, click here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mayans, Aztecs and OPEC — Monopolies Can Be Broken

Salt sculpture by Motoi Yamamoto.
I'm reading the book, Salt: A World History. It's more interesting than you might think. Because the primary method of preserving food for most of human history was using salt, it was the most important commodity on earth. Milk was preserved with it as cheese. Vegetables were preserved by pickling, which required salt. Meat and fish were preserved with salt. It was vitally important and became more so as time went on, right up until the Civil War, when other ways of preserving food began to become widespread (like canning and eventually refrigeration).

One of the things that surprised me was how many times and places in history someone tried (and sometimes succeeded) gaining a monopoly on salt production or distribution. It was such a vital commodity that tremendous wealth and power could be gained from a monopoly of salt.

As other ways of preserving food became available, salt lost its exalted status. Nobody cares much about who (if anyone) controls the salt market.

The new vitally important commodity is transportation fuel. Everybody needs it. And one fuel dominates. Almost all forms of transportation in the world — 95% of the trains, planes, ships, cars, trucks — run on petroleum. Other viable fuels are available, but the vehicles themselves are made to only burn one. It is a virtual monopoly.

On top of that, OPEC formed a cartel to illegally control the price of oil.

When a commodity is important enough, someone will always try to control it, monopolize it or corner the market in one way or another. The English did it with salt, the French did it, different cities did it back to ancient times, China did it, the Mayans did it, the Aztecs did it. Anyone in power wanted to do it or tried to do it. Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt: A World History, wrote:

The earliest evidence that has been found of Mayan salt production is dated at about 1000 B.C., but remains of earlier saltworks have been found in non-Mayan Mexico such as Oaxaca. It may be an exaggeration to claim that the great Mayan civilization rose and fell over salt. However, it rose by controlling salt production and prospered on the ability to trade salt, flourishing in spite of constant warfare over control of salt sources. By the time Europeans arrived, the civilization was in a state of decline, and one of the prime indicators of this was a breakdown in its salt trade.

The same kind of thing can be found throughout history all over the world. It looks like a fact of life: Someone will try to gain and hold a monopoly on any important commodity. And if we (the people using the commodity) don't want to be the victims of a monopoly, it is up to us to stop it. But how?

Kurlansky wrote, "The Aztecs controlled the salt routes by military power and were able to deny their enemies, such as Tlxalacaltecas, access to salt." Before Europeans discovered America, a tribe in central America — the Tlatoque — refused to participate in the Aztecs salt monopoly. They deliberately avoided using salt.

Kurlansky wrote, "The Spanish took power by taking over the saltworks of the indigenous people they conquered. Cortes, who came from southern Spain, not far from both Spanish and Portuguese saltworks, understood the power and politics of salt. He observed with admiration how the Tlatoque had maintained their independence and avoided the oppression of the Aztecs by abstaining from salt."

We may not be able to abstain from oil, but as Korin and Luft argue in their book, Turning Oil Into Salt, we can certainly add enough competition to break the monopoly and strip oil of its strategic status and thus make the OPEC cartel no longer capable of controlling the price of transportation fuel.

We can become free of oil's monopoly by expanding fuel competition until oil is only one of many viable fuels used by combustion engines, just as salt is now only one of many ways to keep food from spoiling. Fuel competition can free us from the monopoly and its economy-smothering, national security-weakening, pocket-emptying effects. Do you want to see this happen? Start here.