What The EPA Didn’t Tell You About Ethanol


August 30, 2011 | By: Lowell Anderson

Back in 2005, the Energy Policy Act penned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was put into place ensuring that gasoline sold in the United States has a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Ethanol is considered a renewable fuel.

After 2005, many automotive manufacturers complained to the EPA about the damage caused by adding ethanol to fuel, but to no avail. The EPA plans on doubling the amount of ethanol in fuel by 2012, yet it doesn’t appear they’re too concerned about the problems ethanol can cause to your engine. More than 16 billion gallons of ethanol were mandated for use under the guise of a Clean Air Act last year, and you’d think this would have prompted a dramatic drop in gas prices. Instead, fuel prices have continued to go up since the introduction of ethanol.

Recently, the EPA proposed a bill to increase the amount of ethanol in your fuel to 15 percent. A few years back, the EPA approved the use of gasoline with a 10 percent ethanol mix, and if you go to your local gas station, you can probably find this fuel. It’ usually cheaper than the regular gas and that might just be enough to persuade you into buying that fuel mix.

But what the EPA failed to do was inform the public about the problems that ethanol can create. It didn’t mention that the fuel mix is only approved for certain vehicles. It didn’t mention that putting this fuel in your lawn mower, weed whacker, leaf blower, ATV or motorcycle also has the potential for damage. The EPA failed to inform the consumers that ethanol attracts moisture from the atmosphere. If you leave a can of ethanol gas out for a day or two, you can see water form and separate. That means you’re burning a fuel/water mix, which can cause some serious engine problems.

Ethanol also tends to age rapidly. This means the fuel can break down quickly, losing octane and other properties that your engine requires to run properly. This results in poor fuel combustion, hard starts and engine knock — all damaging your engine.

In addition, it takes more energy to produce ethanol than it produces. Ethanol only produces two thirds of a mile per gallon gain when compared to conventional fuel. The introduction of ethanol as a fuel also has an effect on the price of food. Now we are growing fuel instead of food, which causes the cost of food to rise. All these problems have been overlooked and sold to us as the “myth” that we are saving the planet.

So, here’s some advice: Avoid putting ethanol in your engines. That goes for your motorcycle, ATV or anything else for that matter. I certainly don’t want you to take my word as gospel. Do the research for yourself. And if you find yourself in a situation where you have to use the ethanol blend, dump some fuel stabilizer in your tank to help resolve some of these issues before they damage your engine.

And finally, you can go to the American Motorcyclist Association website’s Issues and Legislation section and read about what the AMA is doing to support a bill that will prohibit the EPA from authorizing use of gasoline containing greater than 10 percent ethanol.

Comments (10)

Never have used Ethanol mixed gasoline,never will ! I knew it was just a cheap filler ever sence they put it on the market! Just another way the Goverment trys to make us feel like the gov. “really cares” What Bull Shit! Rage Against The Machine/Goverment. First they take the lead out of our gas, now they try to take the lead out of our bullets!(starting in Calliforna!).

I have ridden a 62 Pan for over four decades almost daily and year round. I didn’t realize ethanol was being added and the Pan started running erratically. I adjusted the valves, changed the dual points, and plugs, timed it, and adjusted the Linkert carb while going down the road (original dyno tune) then changed all the electrics and nothing cured the hesitation and erratic gaps in acceleration. To add to insult, it started hyperextending my knee since it is a kickstarter with the erratic hitting thing. I figured out the tiny sticker on the fuel pump said 10 percent ethanol and as soon as I put a full tank of 100 percent gasoline before I could get it in fourth gear, it completely smoothed out. I took the plastic and brass strainer out of the tank petcock and the proof is in the deformed plastic of what ethanol will do. Ethanol is a crock!

I really don’t know at this point if Ethanol makes sense. A lot depends on whether a non-food biomass can be found.
Also the energy used to produce it varies depending on what lobbist you talk to. One estimate used the energy used by a worker to climb a ladder in the plant!
I wonder if the costs of the military aid given to the corrupt Arab regimes in the oil rich countries are included at the pump?
All I can say is that yes, Ethanol is a solvent and can effect vulnerable fuel systems. It can lean out an engine that is on the lean side already. It will phase separate the water if too much water is present in the tank. I keep the tank full on my bikes during storage so condensation is kept to a minimum, you could drain and run the carb dry also. I always use stabilizer.
A while ago a oil company rep told me in a phone conversation that “gas is too cheap” when I mentioned that oil supplies will run out one day.
Biodiesel may be the way to go, if not then start raising horses.

Biodiesel is indeed a good (albeit not terribly low pollution) way to keep cars and trucks on the road. Electricity will be slow to replace the average American commuter vehicle. In fact, I believe that biodiesel vehicles or Hydrogen engines are more likely in our future. Electricity has storage problems, is ultimately a source of air pollution (gas and coal produced in much of the world) and BIG OIL needs to keep a dog in the hunt. If some type of pumped fuel remains the primary way vehicles get around in America, big win for big oil.

I dont mind E10, especially if it does the intended job of reducing emissions, and we knowing use it as an extra cost additive to our fuel to lower pollution. We have been living with it for a long time. Is it good for older vehicles? No. Is it better for the environment? Jury is still out on that one….It takes so much fossil fuel to produce, it simply cannot be worth it in simple terms to go over the current 10%. The available 85% to me is idiotic.
To me the EPA has the power to just write laws which never get challenged.
I live in the middle of corn country, I burn corn for heat in the winter, and always support the American farmer. To me the only logical use of corn for fuel is to burn it after it has been dried properly. If used as a heating source, then yes it is a renuable resource. But if it has a negative energy benefit, how can it be considered as such? With $7 a bushel corn right now, prices at the pump cannot go anywhere but up. Maybe the EPA figures that people will drive less with increased fuel prices, thus reducing pollution? That is the only reasonable explanation I can think of increasing to E15 or E20

I build custom bikes using new Mikuni carbs. Lately I’ve been having to replace the floats on fairly new carbs (less than a year old) and I’m told it’s because of the ethanol blend in the gasoline can saturate the floats.

It’s funny how things turnout. I first found-out about Ethanol at at the Atco, NJ dragstrip. Mark Thomas was running his Alcohol funny car on an Ethanol blend. At the time I was encouraged that the future of motorsports would not always be tied to fossil fuel. Thomas actually started running motor-oil made from renewable (biomass) sources.
It sounds tough to knock “treehuggers”. A little education goes a long way. Some may remember that alcohol (usually methanol) is a Racing Fuel ! Ethanol is the kind of alcohol that you drink. It is less corrosive than methanol ,but has slightly less btu.
Ethanol entered the gasoline supply as replacement for MTBE which was toxic and started to end up in water.
The 10% blend or E10 gas was sold in the metropolitan NYC area for years. I never had a problem with my ’98 S10 truck. It was used as an oxygenate, alcohol has chemical oxygen that allows the cleaner, more complete burn of gasoline .
So Ethanol is a high octane racing fuel, it is not toxic ( when consumed responsibly) and we can make it as long as we can grow biomass! I don’t know about anyone else, but I love the sound of the internal combustion engine.
Having said that I am aware of the politics. The energy ratio to produce ethanol has been the most spun issue.
The oil and gas industry has an interest in keeping Ethanol out of the market. Perish the thought that American farmers should start growing a crop that could help them survive. Where is the cry when the farmers go under? FarmAid by Willie Nelson was pushed
to the back burner. Who cared about food prices when farmers went bankrupt?
With R&D a new non-food Ethanol “feedstock” may be found. The manufacturers make vehicles that are ready for E85, have been for years. The technology is there. Just my 2 cents.

One of the problems I see in the use of ethanol is the misunderstanding that so many have about exactly what “octane” is. Octane is just the volatility rating of a fuel – ie how easy it is to ignite. Higher octane does NOT mean more energy.

The energy content of a fuel is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). Ethanol has LESS energy in BTUs than gasoline. So when you burn ethanol, you actually LOWER your mileage because it takes you MORE gasoline to get the amount of energy required to move your vehicle a given distance.

You also get less bang for the buck. You get about 1/2 the mileage from ethanol over straight gasoline so your double screwed. I wonder if the EPA bases the window sticker MPG ratings on new vehicles on straight gas or blends?

Thanks for putting the Truths out here.

Aside from all the other things this stuff does,

2 oz of StrongArm per tank in the bike will boost octane and stabilize gas, and work as top oil and make the engine run with the efficiency on the stems that it did when there was leaded gas, which is great for the antique motorcycles especially. Import bike rides in Canada are already onto this.

JP Part # 351-646 link to the item is above.

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