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Ethanol Chronicles - SPECIAL EDITION: David Are You There? - Latest Posts


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Lively, Spirited and Sometimes Humorous Repartee Concerning Energy Issues

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


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Marc J. Rauch

In 2015, I hosted a regular weblog on TheAutoChannel.com called "Ethanol Chronicles." I stopped at the end of 2015 because it became rather tiresome to respond to the same ill-informed and often inane questions and comments against ethanol - often from the same people over and over. I guess they thought we wouldn't remember them or that rephrasing an ignorant anti-ethanol comment would stump us. I'm not saying that there isn't a need to keep fighting back, but in 2016 I found enough other venues to present the truth about ethanol.

However, yesterday Bob Gordon and I replied to a series of near-hysterical press releases issued by ethanol-haters and Trump-haters. In response to one of Bob's replies, a reader named "David" wrote to my business partner on DISQUS to attack him and what he wrote. Bob's comments were included in a story titled "How Can Such Smart People Be So Stupid?"

Well, as those who know us, know, Bob and I are from Brooklyn. We discussed David's comments and it was decided that I would be the one to reply. Why me? Because it's never fair to pit a heavyweight against a lightweight, figuratively as well as literally. We didn't want the guy to be completely obliterated.

So for your amazement, amusement, and edification, I thought I would resurrect ETHANOL CHRONICLES for a brief time to present "David's" comments, along with my reply to him. We can only hope that "David" writes back as we can always use a good laugh.


March 15, 2017

DAVID to BOB GORDON:

I read the article that you referenced. However, the writer of that article (you) is the stupid one.

You want to switch our fuel from gasoline with 10% alcohol to E85. The flex fuel vehicles on the road today cannot run E85 without a computer retune and supporting modifications. Non flex fuel (most of the cars) cannot run E85 without extensive (and expensive) modifications. So who pays for this?

What about the fleet of diesel trucks that transport nearly everything we use? They can't run E85. Ask any small engine mechanic and they will tell you alcohol-based fuel is bad news for your lawn mower.

You are wrong about the "facilities in place." Alcohol is NOT sent through the pipeline (causes corrosion), it's blended with gasoline at the time it is loaded on the tankers.

To make the switch as he suggests' would require massive amounts of land to be taken out of food production to provide his "dream fuel." Suppose the midwest, our grain producing area, were to be hit with a 1930's type drought (the climate change lunies are predicting all sorts of calamities like this), transportation comes to a halt.

Since you referenced this article, did you also notice that the comments section on that article were CLOSED TO COMMENTS. Any wonder?


March 16, 2017

MARC RAUCH to DAVID:

Hi David - First, my business partner (Bob Gordon) and I would like to thank you for taking the time to read the article that you're complaining about. We like it even when unknowledgeable people visit TheAutoChannel.com because it shows up as a web-visit and there's always the possibility that you might click on one of the ads we get revenue from.

Now, regarding your comments: You have no idea of what you are talking about. Not only have vehicle owners around the world proven that late model non-flex fuel vehicles can run on high ethanol-gasoline blend levels, I have done it personally for several years with a 2002 Ford Taurus. I've written about this on numerous occasions and testified about it twice in Congressional committee hearings. Here's one link to a story about my Ford Taurus: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2015/08/10/138668-splash-blend-your-own-e15-e20-e30-or-e40-for.html. If you would like more let me know.

It is true that not all late model non-flex fuel vehicles can go straight to E85, but we didn't say they should. Many of these vehicles can use E25 to E50 or more without any modifications. However, for those vehicle owners who would like to go to E85 they can, and they may or may not require any modifications or a conversion kit (that is not particularly expensive). Expensive is the cost that the EPA has forced on Americans who would like to convert their gasoline-powered vehicles to CNG; this costs about $10,000.

You ask "who will pay for it?" (the kit to make the non-flex fuel vehicles capable of running on E85). Why is that a significant question? For those who wish to do it they would pay for it, just like when they decide which set of tires to use or what brand of oil to use; it's an optional choice. If all new vehicles were being built with the ability to run on E85, the cost is built into the sale price, but at that stage it wouldn't really affect the price of a new vehicle at all.

You ask about the fleet of diesel trucks and say they can't run on E85. You're correct, but no one is asking them to do that. They would run on biodiesel made from ethanol. And the best part of this is that no modifications are required to the diesel engines at all. Sometimes you should stop and think about what you're saying.

Next, you ask about small engines and suggest that we speak with "any small engine mechanic." We have done that. We've talked to them and corresponded with them quite extensively. And we've published articles about ethanol and small engines. One example is this: "Why Do Small Engines Suffer From Ethanol Problems?" Here's the link: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2015/09/01/140446-why-do-small-engines-suffer-from-ethanol-problems-video.html.

What I will tell you is that many "auto mechanics" (small and large engine mechanics) know as little about ethanol as you; and like you, they have believed all the bad propaganda spread by the petroleum oil industry. They have confused normal engines problems with problems they claim are caused by ethanol, but in fact many of the problems are caused by gasoline. To this point I will provide another link to a story you should read, and this one is "New Government Lab Research Confirms Ethanol Blend Fuels Are Better for Large and Small Engines." Here's the link: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2016/09/22/286340-new-government-lab-research-confirms-ethanol-blend-fuels-are-better.html.

Next you bring up the issue of transporting ethanol via pipelines. There are two things about this issue that you don't understand. The first is that the ethanol-business model should not be the gasoline-business model. Ethanol should not be piped over long distances, and wouldn't be in a more robust ethanol-fuel environment. Instead, ethanol would be produced locally and 'short' hauled to retail outlets, similar to the dairy industry business model.

The second thing is that you assume that the pipelines used to transport ethanol are not treated to be ethanol resistant. They are. In addition, the great mistake that you and others have made is that you assume that gasoline and oil are not corrosive, and that precautions weren't made over time to make pipelines and tanks resistant to them. However, petroleum oil and the finished fuels are corrosive and an anti-corrosive ingredient is added to gasoline. So it's really business as usual for those who understand how to do this. To people such as yourself it's a surprise.

Ahh, then you introduce the "land issue" to try to show that you are a man of "environmental conscience." Very nice. Unfortunately, for you, the land issue is really a waste of time because ethanol can be produced from so many different materials, including ocean algae and waste. As even you might imagine, using algae and seaweed requires no land whatsoever to grow the necessary crops - they flourish naturally. Using wood chips and other "cellulosic" materials requires no extra land to grow anything.

However, even if you would like to just make this an academic argument for fun and consider only ethanol produced from corn then I suggest you read either David Blume's fabulous book "Alcohol Can Be A Gas," or visit his website at http://alcoholcanbeagas.com, or both. If you wish to just see what else I have to say on the subject you can read Part 4 of my 60+ page report titled, " TRUTH ABOUT ETHANOL - Review and Reply to Robert Bryce's GUSHER OF LIES." The link is http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2013/06/11/082056-gusher-lies-book-review-and-reply-to-robert-bryce-pt.html. But I warn you that when you learn what David Blume will teach you about this issue you will be very embarrassed that you brought it up.

Finally, you make the accusation that the comments section to the article was closed in order to avoid comments such as yours. If Bob or I were worried about comments like yours I wouldn't have spent this much time responding to you. The fact is that we don't use DISQUS on TheAutoChannel.com any longer, we stopped a couple of years ago. We typically use LiveFyre. I don't know how the code for the DISQUS section got placed on the page, but it's now irrelevant. You and others can use the DISQUS forum to communicate with us all you wish, and we will reply.

But I'm gonna go one step further. I'm going to take your entire comment and my response to it and make a full story about it. It will appear on TheAutoChannel.com's front page and then be available forever after via our internal search engine. It'll be posted in a few hours and I'll return to provide the link. If you have the guts to identify yourself with more than just a first name I will be happy to include it along with your professional credentials (if you have any - guts or credentials).

Best regards,

Marc J. Rauch

March 23, 2017

DAVID to MARC RAUCH:

Hello Mr. Rauch,

Guess you didn't expect to hear from me again. Your response to my comments concerning ethanol tells me that I must have pushed your hot button. I would have responded to you sooner had I not been out of town, away from my computer.

In reverse order, I am a retired business manager with education from (automotive) tech school; heavy equipment training in the Marine Corps; business major in college; and 70+ years of life experiences.

Early in my career, I, with two friends opened a auto service business, specializing in performance upgrades. We sponsored two of our customers' drag cars and, on occasion, I would accompany them to the track as part of the pit crew, We were very successful on the local tracks.

A later career change led me into the heavy industrial construction business, working for one of the USA's largest construction companies. I still maintained my love of the automobile and competed in local events when time permitted.

Now, to the details. I wrote that non flex fuel cars could not run on E85 without extensive (and expensive) modifications. First, here is, verbatim, from the owner's manual of my 2014 auto:

"Use only unleaded fuel or unleaded fuel blended with a maximum of 15% ethanol. Do not use fuel ethanol (E85), diesel fuel, fuel-methanol, leaded fuel, or any other fuel because it could damage or impair the emission control system." "Use of any fuel other than those recommended may cause powetrain damage a loss of vehicle performance; repairs are not covered under warranty."

I also own a modified, high performance muscle car and discussed the use of E85 with my engine tuner. He told me that to correctly convert would not be possible without loosing my emissions certification and that it would not pass state tests. "Race track only", he said. Even converting a race car to E85 requires different injectors, fuel lines and computer re-tune. So, when I wrote: "so who pays for this?", the feds sure won't. The cost must be borne by the owner. Even then, there is no benefit of extra mileage.

My comment concerning over the road trucks was because I understood your intentions was to replace America's petroleum based fuels with E85. You clarified that with reference to bio-diesel. However, bio-diesel is still not widely available across the country.

You also stated that another alternative to diesel fuel was CNG and that the conversion costs about $10,000. Wrong. Ford offers a gasoline/CNG conversation option on the F150 for $350. Buyer only has to add a tank and related hook up items.

When you stated, " that many 'auto mechanics' (small and large engine mechanics) know as little about ethanol as you; and like you, they have all believed all the bad propaganda spread by the petroleum industry." Here is what is in the owner's manual of my 2016 Kohler powered lawn mower:

Fuel requirements: "Gasoline up to 10% ethyl alcohol/90% unleaded is acceptable. E15, E20 and E85 are NOT approved and should NOT be used".

So, are you saying that the MANUFACTURERS know as little about ethanol as well???

The pipelines: You conceded that ethanol is NOT shipped through the pipelines, Several articles that I have read state that is because of the corrosive effect of ethanol.

I should have mentioned in my previous post that the recreational boating industry and the private aircraft owners have NO interest in alcohol based fuels...that comes from owners of both.

You also listed several links to articles that I could reference to better my knowledge of ethanol. It was not necessary for me to read these as I have been following this story for many years and there are as many detractors as there are advocates.

Articles began appearing in the media as early as 2007 about the harmful effects of ethanol fuels. An article penned by Kenneth P. Green appeared on the "American Enterprise Institute's" website on July 29, 2008, gave us an interesting view of the ethanol vs petroleum debate: https://www.aei.org/publication/ethanol-and-the-environment.

A more recent article published just last year by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies titled "The Case Against More Ethanol: It's Simply Bad For The Environment" is also interesting reading and blows holes in your approach to cropland/seaweed use to make ethanol: http://e360.yale.edu/features/the_case_against_ethanol_bad_for_environment.

Argue with their "credentials"!

About your website: I had posted my comment via Disqus. The ONLY reason for linking to your website was the fact that a Bob Gordon had used the word "stupid" in referring to President Trump's impending trip to talk to automakers about the controversial EPA ruling. My first impression was of another liberal Trump hating journalist using the internet to level a criticism of the President...and I don't think that was wrong. You say that your website does not use Disqus and that was the reason I was unable to post on your website.

The ethanol vs petroleum debate is far from over. You mentioned in your bio that you had testified before congress...I assume you meant about your preference for ethanol...did you convince anyone of the benefits? One person who did like your idea was President George W. Bush. But isn't he the one you journalists all made fun of because you considered HIM a "lightweight"?

As businessman, the thing that almost always takes precedence over any decision to make changes is to consider whether the "new way" is more cost effective and does it improve the product or service. When this is imposed on the ethanol/petroleum debate, ethanol loses. It costs more to produce; is, and always has been, subsidized by the taxpayers; delivers LESS mileage than pure gasoline and is not a good business model; otherwise, there would be a big push to make your dream come true. This conclusion is in the two articles that referenced.

In conclusion, I really don't care that you think of me as a "lightweight"...perhaps, because of my writing skills?....but that is what YOU were trained to do.

Ben Franklin, writing in "Poor Richard"s Almanac" said: "The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned; but still 'tis nonsense".

Did I pass your "guts" test? I trust you to post this and INCLUDE THE TWO ARTICLES that I referenced.

Regards,

David

p.s. I was surprised that you, as a journalist, would have had typos in your response.


April 5, 2017

MARC RAUCH to DAVID:

On the contrary, David, I'm delighted that you replied. It gives me more content to put online. I hope you had the chance to read our first exchange on TheAutoChannel.com and that you will read this updated version of "Ethanol Chronicles - SPECIAL EDITION: David Are You There?"

You didn't push a hot button, we respond to people who are good enough to make comments, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. I wish those who I challenge would be as cooperative and considerate. They usually aren't.

Now to the details:

You tell me about your 2014 owners manual, but you didn't tell me what kind of vehicle. That seems strange to me, but okay. You tell me that the owner's manual says anything above E15 is unsafe. I already know that many owner's manuals say that. Some say don't use anything above E10, and there is even at least one non-flex fuel car (a MINI) that says it's okay to use up to E25. (See: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2016/02/01/190510-first-non-flex-fuel-vehicle-approved-for-e25-70-new.html).

However I don't care what the owner's manual says, I'm telling you what is true. The manufacturers have put limits in their U.S. owner's manuals in order to limit their warranty liability. But this doesn't mean that the vehicle can't safely and economically use higher blend levels.

I'll give you an example. About a year and a half ago, I attended a media event to drive the new Volvo XC90 (beautiful car, by the way). During dinner, I asked the marketing director why the car is not being marketed as a flex fuel car in America. He said, "Because it's not a flex fuel car. You can't use anything higher than E10" I insisted it was, he insisted it wasn't. This went back and forth until finally he said "Look, I'm the one who works for Volvo, I should know."

I had him where I wanted him.

So I asked where the vehicle is manufactured, he said Sweden. I asked what's the difference between the XC90 made for use in Sweden and the XC90 made for use in the U.S., and he proudly said "Nothing different." So I said, but in Sweden your mandated regular fuel is much higher than E10." He didn't reply, I had him.

He did say that in Sweden they don't mandate E85, just E25 or E30. So I asked why don't they market the car for the U.S. as being capable of running at E25 or E30. He said they don't do it because the engine and fuel system might have problems after five years. I asked "what's wrong with that?" He said, "Because we make the engines to last for ten years." So I asked how long the engines and fuel system is warranted and he said three years. "In that case," I asked, "why isn't the engine and fuel system warranted for ten years." He said because it's too expensive.

So it wasn't because the car can't use higher than E10, it's because they want a limit to their warranty exposure.

This is true with all cars sold unchanged in the U.S. and other countries. In Brazil, for example, the minimum ethanol-gasoline blend is E27. Many of the gasoline-powered cars and boat engines sold in Brazil are exactly the same as those sold in the U.S. So if the engines can use E27 safely and economically in Brazil, they can do the same here. But they aren't sold that way, and their owner's manuals in the U.S. say not to use fuel over E10 or E15.

Now, if someone has a new vehicle that's still under warranty, and they're afraid to void the warranty, I always say that they shouldn't do anything that voids the warranty. However, there are millions of newish cars that are not under warranty any longer. So if a person wants to experiment they should. And I say the same to you. Here's one of the typical stories I published over the years that addresses this issue: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2011/05/09/531654-using-e85-non-flex-fuel-vehicle-can-save-almost-1.html.

You mention your racing experience. Perhaps you should try racing in a different association, such as one of the associations sponsored by Ignite Racing Fuels: http://igniteracingfuel.com/index.html.

If you visit the website you'll find all kinds of stories about improved performance with their fuels (Ignite E85, Ignite E98, Ignite 108, and Ignite 114).

Regarding the question of engine optimization; yes, maybe changes that have to be made. So what, that's part of what racing is about. If you normally fish for lake trout, but you go ocean fishing for sailfish, guess what, you may have to upgrade your equipment and it will probably cost you money.

Regarding bio-diesel, if it's not readily available it simply means that distribution has to be increased. But it doesn't mean that bio-diesel won't work in every state. If people ask for it, or it's mandated by federal law, distribution will increase.

The CNG conversion option is for gasoline powered vehicles. I wasn't talking about diesel and I don't believe my comments were confusing on this issue. I wrote, "... EPA has forced on Americans who would like to convert their gasoline-powered vehicles to CNG..."

Regarding the Ford CNG conversion option for about $300, this is for new vehicles with the conversion taking place in the factory at the time of assembly. However, this is exactly the problem I was speaking of. In the factory, at the time of assembly, the package is no big deal. However, if you wish to convert an older car, let's say your 2014 vehicle, it will cost you thousands of dollars because of the fees levied by the EPA and some states. But it shouldn't cost that. Keep in mind, that in some states, such as California, you can not convert any gasoline powered car to CNG, regardless of cost. If you do the conversion outside of California and try to register it in the state, they will not allow it.

I owned a factory converted CNG-powered Dodge Ram 1500 van for several years (I just recently sold it). Here's a story about my van and Ford Taurus you might find interesting: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2016/12/19/325902-recapping-my-decade-using-and-experimenting-with-alternative-fuels-video.html.

Regarding small engines and mechanics: In my previous reply I provided two links that deal with this issue. If you haven't already read this information you should do it now.

And I stand by my statement that many auto mechanics know as little about ethanol as you. As for the manufacturers, many don't know about ethanol, or they are doing what Volvo is doing, guarding against warranty claims.

To the pipeline issue, I already answered it in detail, and I did state that corrosion could be a problem in untreated pipelines. However, when ethanol is shipped via pipeline, such as they do in Florida, they use treated pipes. Ethanol is carried by tanker trucks and stored in tanks in the ground. These tanks use materials that are corrosion resistant, just like gasoline trunks and tanks. It's no big deal.

Regarding your comment on recreational boating and aviation, your impression is incorrect. First, please revisit my comments about boats in Brazil. Second, Mercury Marine has conducted significant tests and has no problem with E10, in fact they say it may be even better to use E10 than E0. But, again, Mercury sells its marine engines in Brazil, and Brazil's minimum mandated fuel is E27, so we know that Mercury Marine engines sold in America can use higher blend levels than E10. This link will take you to the extensive ethanol webinar conducted by Mercury Marine: http://dcd96xmek71bc.cloudfront.net/archives/email/Trade/BoatingIndustry/MythsofEthanol-August252011.mp4

As far as aviation, it's a different issue. In order to save small aircraft manufacturers from the added cost of re-tooling their engines, the FAA granted a waiver for the U.S. They considered that the amount of tetraethyl lead and other bad aromatics emissions from light aircraft was not important enough to worry about.

Embraer Aircraft produces ethanol-gasoline powered airplanes, and they have no problems. (http://www.embraer.com/en-US/ImprensaEventos/Press-releases/noticias/Pages/Embraer-celebra-dez-anos-do-Ipanema-movido-a-etanol.aspx.

Here's a video I shot of Greg Poe and his ethanol powered stunt plane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ierFrs5FkAU.

Regarding your experts and their published articles, you provided links and said to me "Argue with their credentials!"

Kenneth P. Green doesn't know what he's talking about. The link you provided was from 2008. It contains information that was out of date and irrelevant at that time. Today, the true information is - in many instances - even more miles ahead. He was probably paid by the oil industry to give the presentation. I wrote to Mr. Green last week and received a reply. I responded to his reply with additional information, but he hasn't yet gotten back to me. You can read all about my correspondence with him in this article that I published a few days ago: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2017/04/03/364606-uncovering-gas-roots-contemporary-ethanol-opposition.html

The second person you refer to is C. Ford Runge at the University of Minnesota. His paper "The Case Against More Ethanol - It's Simply Bad For Environment" was published last May, eleven months ago. Coincidentally, I already responded to Mr. Runge last August. Here's my published story: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2016/08/28/275763-case-against-ethanol-opponents-they-are-simply-incorrect-video.html

And so you see, David, I did argue with them, and they are no match for the facts.

If you like more examples of me arguing with people like this use this link: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2016/02/15/196045-another-one-bites-dust-ethanol-opponents-unable-to-meet-challenge.html.

You write that you think that my partner and I are left-wing Trump bashers. Here's something you might find interesting: I am probably the most conservative right wing guy you'll ever meet. My partner and I both supported Trump, and I wrote my first editorial supporting him five years ago. Because of my editorial I was invited to be a guest on Michael Savage's radio show. I used to be a frequent guest on a local Libertarian Party TV show, but I stopped doing it because they weren't as strong as I thought they should be. But this isn't a Republican vs. Democrat issue, or a liberal vs. conservative issue, this is an issue of the oil industry against the public.

The issue with DISQUS was exactly as I told you. Comments weren't closed because we wanted to avoid your comments, they were closed because we stopped using DISQUS a couple of years ago.

The ethanol vs petroleum debate is over. The strength and money of Big Oil allows it to continue to be our primary engine fuel, but real arguing about facts is long gone. However, should you come across someone who would like to debate me in an open live forum please let me know immediately.

Lastly, it's surprising that if you found some typographical or spelling errors, and saw fit to mention it, that you didn't reveal what they were. In any event, I admit to being mortal and to occasionally allow my fingers to type too fast, as well as to overlook typos. Because I am a professional journalist, and TV/Film producer, I know that spelling errors and typos exist in nearly all published works. I like the Ben Franklin quote you provided. Fortunately, it's not relevant to me because he was referring to fools.

Oh, and no, you didn't pass the guts test, you didn't tell me your name and where you're from.

I look forward to hearing from you again.

Marc