Friday, November 15, 2013

Ethanol hits a wall.

I didn't see much about this on the American news sites. I guess they consider it trivia, and not newsworthy. However, the EPA has reduced the mandated amount of Ethanol that must be used in our gasoline next year. Now, predictably the environmentalists are hopping up and down shouting that the Obama administration has sold out to big oil. While they seem to have sold out to big Corn, but that is irrelevant to them.

I have posted many times about my opposition to ethanol, a program that would not exist if the Iowa Caucus' were not the first damn thing we do in the primary series. You can't win in Iowa without ethanol support, that is a proven fact. And if you don't win Iowa, it puts you behind the curve in securing your parties nomination, and that my friends means you don't get to be President.

So what is this wall? Is it that the Ethanol damages the engines? There is probably some of that, but the biggest thing is this, competing requirements. As has been posted on many other sites, but is worth reposting, the BTU equivalent of Ethanol is not the same as Gasoline.

OK, I hate using terms that people don't understand, or that mean nothing to them. So we're going to have to explain something here. BTU is a British Thermal Unit. In other words, how much potential energy is contained in the gallon of gasoline and ethanol.

So the BTU rating of straight gasoline is roughly speaking 114,000. With ten percent ethanol it drops to below 112,000. So you see that there is less energy in the ethanol blend than there is in the straight gasoline right? So what does that mean to you? It means you have to burn MORE gasoline/ethanol mix to get the same energy. You have to burn 1.019 gallons of gasoline/ethanol mix to get the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. Now, I've never figured out how you lower carbon dioxide emissions by burning more of one thing, than another, but we'll get to that later.

Pure ethanol has just about 76,000 BTU's of energy in a gallon. So you would have to burn a gallon and a half to get the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. Again, burning more helps reduce the production of CO2? It seems sort of counter intuitive at the minimum.

So where is the real problem? We have mandated higher mileages for cars called the CAFE standards. These standards say that you must make an average of all the vehicles your company makes, and it must be over a certain number. So how do you hit that higher number when you are reducing the available energy in the gasoline? You obviously can't, not with existing technology.

That is another thing that always makes me laugh. The CAFE standards are raised arbitrarily, and then the car makers ask how, and the Government says invent the technology to make it happen, but also add in a lot of safety equipment that is very heavy. Airbags weight a few pounds, crumple zones mean you have to change the way the metal is set up, and it takes more metal to do it. Side impact resistance, also mandated, and tested, means even more metal. So you have to have a lot of metal, but you aren't allowed as much energy to make the metal move.

Then there is the obvious issue. A bigger car is just safer. It has more metal, which means more mass to absorb the impact of a crash.
 
It is such obvious common sense, I have to wonder how the hell the EPA stumbled onto it.


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