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Open Letter To Green Car Reports About Ethanol +VIDEO


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

A few days ago, while on press trip road-testing new Mazda's, I learned of an article written by John Voelcker of The story headline seemed to say one thing; the story's text said another. The full article can be found HERE.

The following is the comment I left on his website post:

Hi John:

Your article, "E10 Is Less Corrosive Than Ethanol-Free Gasoline, Research Says" made me scratch my head and then laugh.

The story begins as if it might be a favorable report on ethanol-gasoline blends but then very quickly descends into a routine bashing of ethanol using many of the standard lies and misinformation invented by the oil industry to counter ethanol competition. How quickly does your bashing begin? Oh, by the first paragraph of text.

It's sort of surprising that you would publish this article given that your media entity purports to be environmentally friendly; even going so far as to imitate the real "green" publication, Green Car Journal.

Ethanol is not a beleaguered fuel, it's the underdog fuel. Yes, it is attacked by the oil industry, but it's attacked because it is (and always has been) the superior fuel. The beleaguered fuel(s) are those fuels made from petroleum oil. Petroleum oil and its fuels are besieged and harassed for causing real catastrophes, real health risks, and real economic evils.

True concerns over ethanol's carbon footprint may have been hotly debated once, shortly after Ted Pimentel and Tad Patzek issued their fallacious study about 10 years ago, but that study and other copycat off-shoots were debunked many times in the ensuing few years. The only time the Pimentel-Patzek type findings are now used is when the author of an anti-ethanol gibe hopes that no reader will question and research the facts.

Ethanol is a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel than gasoline, period. It doesn't have to be perfectly clean (at least, not yet), it just has to be cleaner than the petroleum oil poisons that have been literally forced down our throats over the past 125 years.

It is true that some ethanol blends should not be used, or used regularly, in older gasoline-powered vehicles and smaller engines, but I don't know anyone on the pro-ethanol side of the ledger who insists that it should be.

Ethanol opponents trump up mythical ethanol mandate predictions and horrific false stories of ethanol-caused damage to frighten consumers. The boating community is a prime example. If boat owners want to hear some truthful comments about ethanol blends they should watch the Vernon Barfield ethanol boating videos on YouTube and listen to the Mercury Marine “Myths of Ethanol and Fuel Care” webinar from August 2011 (search for it on Google).

John, you write "Ethanol in its purer forms, specifically E85, is long accepted as more corrosive to rubber and other engine components than gasoline...That's why carmakers have to develop "Flex-Fuel" engines specifically designed to withstand the effects of fuel that contains a majority of ethanol."

This is a disingenuous statement. You wrote this statement as if only ethanol is corrosive, and as if vehicle manufacturers have never had to design and develop engines and parts to fit the characteristics of any other substance.

In fact, water is corrosive; wind is corrosive; air is corrosive; gasoline is corrosive; solar rays are corrosive; moving parts are corrosive; human interaction with seating and flooring materials is corrosive.

The reality is that auto manufacturers have had to develop “specially designed” containers to hold water for automatic window washing. That’s right, if they used most metals to hold the water it would rust and/or corrode. Manufacturers had to develop “specially designed” coatings or parts to prevent chassis and fenders and bumpers from water corrosion. Manufacturers had to develop “specially designed” body paint and rubber to prevent solar corrosion. And, over the years auto manufacturers had to develop “specially designed” engine parts, rubber, and body paint that was resistant to the corrosive characteristics of gasoline and diesel.

In other words, if auto manufacturers had to make some alterations to accommodate ethanol, so what? It’s not even worth a serious discussion, and it certainly doesn’t befit a person like you who is supposed to know something about automobiles and industrial engineering.

Of course, the main subject of your story is assumed to be the tests conducted by Urban Air Initiative that demonstrate how corrosive ethanol-free gasoline can be versus ethanol-gasoline blends. The salient issue in the demonstration was that the so-called ‘aromatics’ used in place of ethanol (in ethanol-free gasoline) is far more corrosive than ethanol.

I happened to see the same video a couple of weeks ago, and while I found the results fascinating in the way that ‘boys’ find explosions and decaying things so fascinating, I much more enjoyed the dual implications of the test.

As you point out, automobile engines don’t have any styrofoam parts; therefore it’s not truly relevant - to automobile parts - whether or not benzene acts like acid on styrofoam. However, it is relevant to the central purpose of Urban Air Initiative, and that is human parts, specifically human lungs and other organs that are susceptible to the fumes/vapors that are released into the air.

As you’ll recall, the reason for eliminating tetra-ethyl lead and then MTBE from gasoline was to protect humans, not engine parts. So once we dismiss the oil-industry fear mongering about whether ethanol really causes damage to engine parts, we are left with the far greater real issue of what ‘aromatics’ can do to human tissue. Perhaps styrofoam was a great substance to use to simulate human tissue.

Engine parts can be constructed of materials that are resistant to water, sun, air, gasoline, friction, and alcohol corrosion. But I don’t think there’s any casual, unobtrusive way for humans to guard against poisonous fumes.

Also, I think it’s poetic justice to use the oil-industry’s fear mongering claims of engine corrosion against them. It doesn’t matter that styrofoam is not used in automobile engines. It’s just great to give the oil industry a taste of their own medicine.

Modern automobiles made for America do not have engine and fuel system parts that are susceptible to ethanol fuels, including E85. Virtually every modern car can use E85. What separates a flex-fuel vehicle from a non-flex fuel vehicle is primarily the onboard computer software, and the software is not susceptible to alcohol corrosion.

You end your article by writing that the UAI demonstration is partially funded by agricultural business interests, as if that’s a pertinent or revealing piece of information. I don’t know who funded the Urban Air Initiative styrofoam demonstration. I hope it was agricultural interests; domestic American agricultural interests. I’d much rather have my fuel money go to domestic agricultural interests than to foreign dictators and terrorist regimes.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here's two more videos that readers should find interesting: