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Bell Performance Disputes Our Ethanol Hygroscopy Test and THEY FAIL MISERABLY! +VIDEO


By Marc J. Rauch
Author of The Ethanol Papers
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Marc Rauch
On January 24th of this year, I produced a video of a test to prove that certain negative claims made against ethanol are false. The primary claim I was hoping to disprove is that ethanol sucks water right out of the air (and that this water collects in a fuel tank and causes engine damage). The basis of this claim is made because ethanol is a hygroscopic substance. A hygroscopic substance is a substance that can absorb water. The process by which a hygroscopic substance can absorb water is the 'bone of contention.'

The basic definition is that a hygroscopic substance absorbs water from the environment. The problem with this definition is that people within the oil industry have intentionally misused the word "environment" to mean "the atmosphere" or "thin air."

But, in the instance related to hygroscopy, the word "environment" does not mean "the atmosphere" or "thin air." Instead, it means "adjacent space," or "immediate proximity." For example, lets say you move to a new neighborhood; a friend calls to talk about the move and asks "What's the environment like?" Do you think the friend is asking about the air quality or about the neighbors, neighborhood amenities, schools, shopping, and restaurants? (This is a rhetorical question.)

In my test, I was also hoping to disprove two other negative claims: 1) That ethanol is so extremely evaporative that it can't be stored or transported without significant loss of liquid. 2) That ethanol is so extremely corrosive that it melts plastic and rubber.

My test took place over a period of about 8.5 hours. I recorded the test using normal video and time lapse photography. I posted the video on YouTube for free access to all interested parties. You can watch it in the video window below.

As you can see, the video proved that ethanol does not suck water right out of the air. It also proves that common definitions about hygroscopic substances are incorrect or gross exaggerations. The test further proves that ethanol, even the strongest and purest ethanol does not melt plastic, nor that it's evaporative characteristics are so radical that it is not safe or economical to store and transport.

After posting the video on YouTube, I inserted the video into an essay that I originally wrote and published four years earlier. That story can be read by CLICKING HERE.

I then also sent the YouTube link to various people and companies who have been at the forefront of spreading the false claims about ethanol, usually because they are selling products or services that are supposed to fix the problems caused by ethanol. In some instances, I posted the link and the test results on the comment sections of their web pages and their YouTube videos. Most all of the companies I contacted are readily known to DIYers, auto enthusiasts, and auto mechanics. Until yesterday, April 6th, I had not received any challenges from any individual or corporate entity.

Finally, a company called BELL PERFORMANCE, INC. challenged the veracity of my test and its conclusions. Bell Performance is the maker of several engine fuel additives and treatments. One of their products is called "Ethanol Defense." The company claims that this product cures ethanol issues. They present the ethanol problems and issues in a YouTube video. Back in January, I posted a link to my video and challenged the fallacious claims they make against ethanol.

(In addition to negative hygroscopic-related claims, Bell Performance's video brings up other false negative issues such as the "energy content" issue of ethanol vs. gasoline. My hygrosopic video does not address the energy content issue, but I have written extensively about this subject. If you would like to read about it CLICK HERE.)

The Bell Performance video is presented in the following video window:

In the comments section of the Bell Performance's YouTube page, below my comments and link to my test video, Bell Performance posted this rebuttal to me:

    You put the same comments on about five videos, so we streamlined them all to just here.

    Without repeating everything I said in response from other areas, the crux of the matter(s) are:

    1. Whether it absorbs it out of the air, it's a semantic distinction. No, ethanol molecules don't jump into the air to grab water and go back home. However it happens, decades of research and observation across academia and the broad spectrum of industry has led to the broad scientific consensus that ethanol attracts water. So you're fighting not just against oil companies, but basically everybody.

    2. Your test is flawed, and you may want to tighten up your methodology before you go promoting how you have conclusively proven whatever you think you've proven. As an aside, even though we don't dispute that you're testing ethanol, pouring it on a plate and setting it alight doesn't prove it's ethanol any more than it proves it's gasoline. It only proves your test substance is flammable at whatever ambient conditions are in your kitchen.

    Beyond that, you're using an eye test, done in about 14 minutes, to disprove what everyone else agrees is true.

    How do you know your cup of Everclear didn't absorb any water? All you did was look at the level.

    Do you know the level of specificity your eye has for detecting a change in level?

    Do you know how much it would have to rise for your eye and mind to discern an increase in volume?

    Do you know how much water vapor was contained in the ambient air in your kitchen? As that would limit the amount of water that could transfer from the air to your alcohol.

    Moreover, do you really think it would only take 14 minutes for enough water to be absorbed so as to make the level enough for you to detect it?

    A better thing to do would be to use a test that measured, objectively, the actual water content. Like a Karl Fischer test, which would measure water content down to 5 ppm, which is 1/2000th of one percent. But you didn't do that. You relied on the naked eye, and then proclaimed that you have irrefutably proven everyone wrong.

    A good scientist knows the limitations of the data in front of them, and they know what can and cannot be shown by whatever experiment they're conducting. I'll leave it at that.

If you, dear reader, watched my video, and then the Bell Performance video, then you will have taken note of several very wrong statements in the Bell Performance video, and you are probably chuckling about them right now.

In any event, I composed a reply to the Bell Performance rebuttal, and here it is:

    Firstly, I love the fact that you replied to me. Now I can add that reply to my published story about the test. Although you didn't add your personal name to the reply, I presume you are Erik Bjornstad since you are the one who narrated the Bell Performance video and you are the company's Technical Information Director. I credit the response to you, but if it's actually someone else, let me know and I'll make the change.

    Erik, you missed the most important aspect of my test: Anyone can replicate it and arrive at the same conclusions I did, again, and again, and again. And my test wasn't conducted over a 14 minute period, it was conducted over 8 and a half hours. Therefore, your assertions about my test were off by at least a factor of 34. I guess you didn't actually watch the video of my test. You just made assumptions...the same kind of incorrect assumptions that some people have been making about ethanol for over a century.

    You agree that ethanol molecules don't jump out of the air to grab water and go back home. That's good, so then stop insinuating that they do.

    I don't disagree that ethanol "absorbs" water, but I disagree with you on how the presence of water occurs (it's due to normal condensation, not ethanol magic). Ethanol's natural ability to absorb that water is a positive aspect of ethanol, which makes your product redundant, and the cost of buying your product an unnecessary expense.

    You say there is decades of research and observation and a broad spectrum of industry that has led to the broad lie, er, I mean, broad scientific consensus that ethanol attracts water out of the air. Yeah, well then please give me the link to the video that proves it and refutes my video.

    You say, in a rather incredulous way, that I'm "fighting not just against the oil companies, but basically everybody." You're damn right that I'm fighting against the oil companies...the lying rat oil companies. But I'm not fighting against everybody because Mercury Marine, the world's largest manufacturer of marine motors (just one example), agrees with me.

    The humidity in the air is irrelevant because the same false complaint that ethanol sucks water out of the air is made in areas of the country (like the west coast) that doesn't have a big humidity problem like the east coast. In addition, during the test, I happen to be boiling chicken in a large pot of water for my dogs. That process took about 30 minutes, so there was an elevated humidity level in my kitchen. But what's the difference? If you acknowledge that ethanol doesn't grab water out of the air, then your comments about existing water vapor are irrelevant.

    Also, in the video, I did acknowledge that there seemed to be a very slight difference in the level of the 200-proof glass - it was visible to my naked eye and the camera's was slightly lower. It means that some evaporation took place; a fact that is obvious because the little pool of water to the left of the cotton ball evaporated.

    The cotton ball was the control. It didn't attract the little pool of water, and the water didn't attract the cotton ball. The cotton ball also didn't absorb any water out of the air during the 8 hour period. This cotton ball hygroscopy test can also be done by anyone, and it's even easier and cheaper than having to buy a quart of 200 proof ethanol and a bottle of Everclear.

    The one thing I'm confused about is your final comment when you say "A good scientist knows the limitations of the data in front of them..." - how would you know what a "good scientist" knows? You mischaracterized the test I performed; and you may not have even watched the entire video before commenting on it. Lastly, you provide no contrary evidence that my test could be faulty or too subjective other than your astonished comment about me fighting against an industry that has continuously lied to the public for more than 100 years. You might as well have said something like: "Smoking cigarettes won't hurt you, the tobacco industry says so, and you know they won't lie to you."

    Thanks for validating my test.

I have to say that I'm surprised it's taken this long for someone to mount a challenge to my video. I'm certain of the conclusions of the test, but given the number of rather significant companies engaged in selling pretend ethanol curatives I expected more commotion. I was also surprised at the rather feckless nature of the attack since, as I wrote to Erik, anyone any where can replicate my test. Also, I never expected that anyone would miss the fact that the test lasted more than 8 hours, not 14 minutes. Erik Bjornstad's faux pas is like an Emily Litella (Gilda Radner) "NEVER MIND" moment.

If you're looking for more information about other redundant aftermarket engine treatment products, check out these stories:

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