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Big Oil Behind Blocking Use of Ethanol? Say It Isn’t So!

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Big Oil Doesn't Like Ethanol. No, Really!
Big Oil Doesn’t Like Ethanol. No, Really!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), higher percentages of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are to be blended in the national fuel supply, but it seems that Big Oil might play a part in making it difficult.

While fuel-efficient vehicles use less fuel overall, one might think this is a good thing for American energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions tied to the transportation sector. On the other hand, reduced petroleum consumption also cuts into Big Oil’s bottom line. Add to this the RFS requiring ethanol and biofuel blends upwards of 15%, and today’s vehicles use even less petroleum-derived gasoline, further cutting into petroleum utilization. Interestingly, in a reversal of the original RFS biofuels blending requirements, the EPA actually has proposed a reduction in ethanol blending, but at whose bidding?

Big Oil companies have repeatedly spoken out, saying the RFS doesn’t work, but how can they say this when Big Oil is responsible for offering it to the public? This is the argument that a couple of Corn-Belt Senators, Chuck Grassley and Amy Klobuchar, have made regarding Big Oil’s influence on the sale of ethanol blends and even on the EPA, saying “Big oil interests can’t argue for repeal of the RFS because it doesn’t work when they’re the ones responsible for ensuring that consumers don’t have the choice for higher ethanol blends.” A recent study by the Renewable Fuels Association shows that independent gas stations, as opposed to Big Oil branded gas stations like BP, Shell, or Exxon, were more likely to carry ethanol blends. Independents were up to six times more likely to offer E85, and forty times more likely to offer E15.

Grassley and Klobuchar have been pressuring the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for over a year to investigate possible Big Oil antitrust violations in the way these companies make ethanol inaccessible due to needlessly expensive contracts or outright lies regarding ethanol, the environment, and automobile engines.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Too funny. Of course, a technician who specializes on Hybrid autos would post something on a biased “green” website. Unfortunately, what he neglected to mention is the FACT that the AUTO MAKERS specify the MAXIMUM allowed ethanol to use in their own vehicles because anything higher will likely cause mechanical failure (engine manufacturer and E10 warnings). Even Toyota specifies the majority of the vehicles they sell to operate efficiently on E10 or E15 max (EPA.gov). The EPA makes the statement that E85 produces approximately 20-30% decrease in fuel economy and it is pretty close to accurate. I am also a veteran mechanic, but I work on every other make and model, excluding hybrids, which are not built the same as the majority of other vehicles, but I do work on automotive unleaded, diesels, marine, and small engines. At any rate, I’m sure “big oil” loves to keep the money rolling in, but I’d rather pay them for pure gasoline than to have to buy a new $362.00 carburetor for my lawnmower every year, or worse, a new lawnmower. What our “hybrid” mechanic who works for Toyota also made no mention of is the damages to fuel systems caused by ethanol. Toyota’s own “i-force” V8 has the susceptibility to have the throttle body become gummed up and stick and the maximum percentage to prevent VOIDING the Toyota warranty is 10%. Well, Toyota’s techs will make more money if they get more vehicles in the shop to repair. After all, they do still pay commission, right? I’ve arrived at hard-working customer’s houses and had to advise them that they needed to replace the entire engine of vehicles before because the carburetor float gummed up in the open position and the fuel filled up the cylinders and bled into the engine oil. They knew nothing about it, but suspected a fuel leak, so they put more in the tank and cranked it up, only to lock up the engine. Even 10% ethanol, when stored, separates and begins the formation of acids which eat away at the metals in the fuel system. The Ford Model T was not a vehicle designed like today’s automobiles and it cannot be compared. Most of today’s cars have aluminum blocks, heads, or whatever to keep a lower weight and therefore get better fuel economy. Aluminum does not fare well with acid or any form of alcohol. Investigate the issues Ford’s Triton engine has had with the throttle body gumming up. Most of the time, it cannot be repaired and costs a pretty penny to replace. Also, you can feel free to check out the record of mechanical repairs made to engines running on alcohol (heck, take a look at alcohol eating race engines). It’s not pretty. Sure, the fuel may cost a little less, but the big money is in engine rebuilds and engine replacements. Ethanol gums everything up because it can ONLY be manufactured from plants that contain natural sugars (do your research). Anyone ever spilled a coke on an electrical switch in their car or even on the floor at home? Sugar cannot be completely removed from anything. It can only be dissipated. High fructose corn syrup works just like any other sugar. it makes things stick if it is allowed to dry out even once. Keep your gas tanks full or you’ll end up purchasing a new fuel pump and sending unit, but if you let it sit for any real time, drain it all or you can either buy your own parts, or pay Mr. Hybrid Toyota Tech to fix it for you. I was ranked the highest in customer satisfaction of any small engine service technician in the southeastern US because I advised my customers honestly. This may look “biased”, but I could care less what “big oil” takes home because I’m not an investor. I care if someone’s car won’t start in the morning because my job has always been to make sure what I did was right the first time and if it was something that could be prevented, I would always advise my customers. It’s their hard-earned money and they still come back.

  2. @J Matthis Ethanol blends between 5% and 10% have been in the fuel system for years. the result being somewhere between 3% and 8% reduction in gasoline consumption. Considering that national ethanol-blended gasoline consumption for 2013 was about 134.51 billion gallons, and 10% of that was ethanol, that’s theoretically a 10% cut in petroleum imports. On the other hand, I think I read somewhere that US-owned petroleum reserves are providing more of our petroleum than ever before.
    As I responded to another commenter: “it’s OUR addiction to fossil fuels. Big Oil is just our enabler”

  3. newpapyrus Well, corn isn’t the only source of biofuels, to be sure, as practically any fast-growing plant can serve the purpose, and it’s not exactly new, either. The Ford Model T got 26 mpg on ethanol, albeit slower than today’s transportation.
    Personally, I don’t think the problem is biofuels or gasoline, it’s OUR addiction to fossil fuels. Big Oil is just our enabler.

  4. Using food to make fuel is simply a bad idea. Using urban and rural biowaste to make methanol makes more sense. Plus bio-methanol can easily be converted into carbon neutral gasoline. 

    Marcel

  5. I have no love for big oil but I may love less using food stock to produce a product that is bad for the planet. Face it folks the use of ethanol was done to give farmers another revenue stream at the expense of the american people. I’m not saying farmers don’t have a hard time they do but most of it is caused by big government in the first place. There is a simple reason why I don’t want ethanol in my gas. First I’ll point out that water and gasoline do not mix. The gasoline will float on top of the water. Gasoline stations know this and the tanks that hold the gasoline are designed with this in mind. When you purchase gasoline it does not come from the bottom of the storage tank. All fuel tanks sweat and water condenses and sinks to the bottom. Now with the introduction of ethanol blended with the gasoline you actually end up with a higher octane equaling compound, this in and of its self is great but the result outside the lab is very different. On one end of the ethanol molecule you have the gasoline but on the other you have water. The water that was in the bottom of the tank, the water that condenses out of the air etc, etc,.so where in the lab it’s all great but in reality you are just buying more water. The result actually is the fact that your car runs like crap and doesn’t go as far on a gallon of fuel (because it’s got more water in it). So the premise that big oil resists the blending of ethanol is a big joke. They actually sell more fuel because of the ethanol, because once it’s mixed with the water it becomes a poor substitute for plain gasoline. I’ts a facade in order to take advantage of the american people, people believe by using locally grown biofuel  they are reducing green house gases and our dependence on foreign oil. Wrong it’s just a scam it will not have any affect on either one. Because we use ethanol without the proper infrastructure (storage tanks) we will purchase more foreign oil to compensate for the loss in efficiency. Water doesn’t burn well in my engine how about yours?

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