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Illinois story on ethanol and cars
Aug 24, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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We're getting many questions these days about ethanol, including what's involved in converting cars to run on it, availability of E-85, etc.

This article, from a small paper in Illinois, has a very good explanation of many of the issues. (We too don't recommend using 50% ethanol in cars that haven't been designed to accept it.) It also includes comments by one of PHEVs' new champions, Senator Obama. (Given its local orientation, it focuses only on corn ethanol.) You can find a few links to other ethanol-related information, including a refutation of the recent widely-noted Pimentel & Patek report criticizing all forms of ethanol, at­globalwarming.html­articles/­2005/­08/­24/­news/­local/­news3.txt
Daily Review Atlas, Monmouth, IL
Wednesday, August 24, 2005 2:21 PM CDT
Staff Reporter

Area motorists using '50-50' ethanol/gas blend

A local proponent of ethanol is not alone in using a "50-50 blend" of ethanol and gasoline.

"I burn that in my three vehicles all the time, and so do my sons. We've been doing that for several years," said Ray Defenbaugh, who farms in the Kirkwood/Biggsville area, and is also president and CEO of Big River Resources Ethanol Plant in West Burlington.

Defenbaugh said using a half-and-half blend of gasoline and ethanol has apparently made no difference in the functioning of his three vehicles - a Chevy and two Fords.

"It can affect gas mileage a little, but that's not offset by the price savings," he added. "I'm not recommending it or promoting it. I'm just doing that in my vehicles. It's an individual decision. I know farmers that have E85 tanks on the farm and are blending it 50-50 with gasoline and putting that in their tractors, and pickups, and cars."

However, Michelle Kautz, director of communications with the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC), does not recommend blending E85 and gasoline.

"We only recommend a maximum of 10 percent ethanol in gasoline-only powered vehicles," Kautz said. "We don't recommend blending 50-50 for liability reasons, and also because auto manufacturers don't recommend that, it would void any warranty, and may cause problems with the vehicle."

Riverland FS Fuel 24 in Roseville is the first - and so far the only - fueling station located in Warren County to offer E85, which is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. E85 sales have been gradually increasing at the station, since it first began pumping E85 in mid-May, said Randy Mowen, manager.

"It's getting better and better," Mowen said of sales, adding that he recommends E85 to people who drive Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). Mowen said he wouldn't be surprised to see more FFVs if gas prices continue rising. As of Tuesday, E85 was selling for $2.24 per gallon, and regular unleaded gasoline was $2.68 in Roseville.

While he has had no complaints about E85 from motorists driving FFVs, Mowen said about a dozen of his customers are using a 50-50 blend of gasoline and E85 - on a regular basis - in conventional gasoline-only model vehicles. He said these customers have reported a slight loss of mileage and smoothness in the way their vehicles operate using E-85.

"Some say they have noticed a small difference, but nothing drastic," Mowen said.

Mowen noted that only a "very small percentage" of his customers are filling their tanks with a 50-50 blend of gasoline and ethanol, and those that do are "guessing at it."

The availability of E85 at retail service stations and fleet operations is improving throughout the country. According to information posted on the NEVC website, this expansion is made possible by both installation of new equipment or the simple conversion of existing petroleum equipment.

"As the price of premium gasoline has approached $2.50 per gallon, its sales have dwindled. For many retailers, E85 has become a more profitable option," according to the website.

A grand opening was conducted Saturday at the new Fast Stop FS in Williamsfield, where E85 is also sold. This is the first Knox County fueling station to offer E85. There are currently 64 E85 stations in Illinois, and about 440 in the United States, not counting military and NASA sites that contain E85, Kautz said.

"There's a tremendous amount of interest right now for the E85, due to expensive gasoline and what's going on Iraq," Defenbaugh said. "I'm involved in the manufacture of ethanol, so I promote the use of my product. It's good for the community and the regional area, as it's manufactured here. Corn right now is at depressed prices, and this is one way of buoying up the price of corn. With the drought it's difficult to pencil out a profit on the farm. This is probably the most expensive crop we've put in the ground, and we're looking at lower yields because of the drought and depressed prices. So when people buy ethanol they are propping up the price of corn because that's what ethanol is made from. People are helping themselves when they do that...Ethanol is capturing and keeping that value right here in our communities, and people recognize that now."

Defenbaugh said he is also aware of farmers who are using 500-gallon tanks to store E85, and blending it into their gasoline farm tractors as well as their pickup trucks and cars.

"They're interested in using a home grown fuel," he said. "It's clean-burning, and less expensive. It's currently at $2 and less per gallon in the Burlington market. Anyone interested in pursing this can contact FS headquarters in Knoxville for the location of E85 stations in Henderson, Warren, Knox and Fulton counties."

According to the NEVC, ethanol not only burns cleaner than conventional gasoline, it is also a completely renewable, domestically-produced, environmentally friendly fuel that enhances the nation's economy and energy security. Today the United States imports nearly 60 percent of its petroleum, and our overall consumption continues to increase. By supporting fuel ethanol, and its use, U.S. motorists can help reverse that trend.

The Flexible-Fuel Vehicle system allows the driver to use any combination of gasoline or ethanol - from 100 percent unleaded gasoline to 85 percent ethanol. A driver can therefore use unleaded gasoline if E85 is not available.

The primary difference in an FFV compared to a regular gasoline-only model is the fuel sensor that detects the ethanol/gasoline ratio. A number of other parts on the FFV's fuel delivery system are modified to ethanol-compatible. The fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel injectors, computer system, and anti-sifon device have been modified slightly. Alcohol fuels can be more corrosive than gasoline; therefore; fuel system parts have been upgraded to be ethanol compatible.

When manufacturers offer a Flexible-Fuel engine as an option in their vehicles, there is little to no additional cost. In model year 1998 manufacturers began making Flexible-Fuel engines standard equipment on certain makes and models.

On July 29, U.S. Senator Barack Obama voted in favor of the comprehensive energy bill, saying it will help Illinois, and start America down the path to energy independence by doubling ethanol use, greatly increasing the availability of E85 ethanol pumps, and investing in combination plug-in hybrid and flexible-fuel vehicles, as well as clean-coal technology. However, he warned that bolder action is required if lawmakers are really serious about dealing with the high energy costs that are plaguing American consumers.

"This bill, while far from a solution, is a first step toward decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil," said Obama. "It requires that 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol be mixed with gasoline by 2012. That's 7.5 billion gallons of fuel that will be grown in the cornfields of Illinois, and not imported from the deserts of the Middle East. The bill will also help triple the number of E85 ethanol fueling stations in the next year by providing a tax credit for their construction. This will help the millions of people who already drive flexible-fuel vehicles to fill their tanks with fuel made from 85 percent ethanol that is 50 cents cheaper than regular gasoline.

"I am also pleased that the bill includes funding I requested for research into combination plug-in hybrid and flexible fuel vehicles that could travel up to 500 miles per gallon of gasoline, as well as more investment into clean-coal technology."

The Energy bill will do the following:

  • Create a Renewable Fuels Standard that will nearly double the amount of ethanol used by 2012.
  • Provide up to a $30,000 tax credit for the construction of E85 ethanol fueling stations.
  • Provide a $1.8 billion tax credit for investments in clean-coal facilities.
  • Provide $85 million to Southern Illinois University, Purdue University, and the University of Kentucky for research and testing on developing Illinois basin coal into transportation fuels.
  • Provide $40 million for research on combined plug-in hybrid and E85 flexible fuel vehicles that have the potential to drive 500 miles per gallon of gasoline used.
  • Provide incentives to promote biofuels from agricultural resources.

While voting for the bill, the Illinois Senator also said he believes that the legislation still falls short of what could and should be done to put America on the path to energy independence.

"Although this a step forward, it's not a very big step," said Obama. "The Department of Energy predicts that American demand will jump by 50 percent over the next 15 years. Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation says this bill will do virtually nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it won't reduce the price of gasoline paid by hardworking Americans. Even President Bush and supporters of the bill in Congress concede as much.

"We could have done more today, and we should do more in the future. We must accept and embrace the challenge of finding a solution to our dependence on foreign oil as one of the most pressing problems of our time. It won't be easy and it won't be without sacrifice, but we owe it to ourselves and to our children so that we can bring down gas prices, protect our environment, and strengthen our national security. This should be one of our top priorities in America.

"So, I vote for this bill reluctantly today, disappointed that we have missed our opportunity to do something bolder that would have put us on the path to energy independence. This bill should be the first step, not the last, in our journey toward energy independence."

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