Skip to main content

Ethanol in fuel - Up close and personal

Five years ago, I published a short letter to Science about the real biofuel cycles.  The letter was published after a long struggle with the journal's Editor of Physical Sciences, Dr. R. Brooks Hanson, who limited my letter to 150 words, and tried to prevent me from putting in a link to these supporting materials. The whole fight was for not, because the link has been broken since I left Berkeley.  In these supporting materials, I made the following two statements:
Furfural in an impure ethanol mixture will gradually dissolve almost any rubber or elastomeric seals or ducts in storage systems and car fuel systems. (Page 13)

Finally, ethanol dissolves a large number of substances insoluble in water and acids, such as many inorganic salts, phosphorus, sulfur, iodine, resins, essential oils, fats, coloring matters, etc. (Wright, 1994).  Therefore, the metal-rich sludge in fuel tanks of most older cars will dissolve in ethanol-containing gasoline and accelerate corrosion of fuel systems and engines in these cars. Older fiberglass fuel tanks will dissolve in ethanol concentrated in the omnipresent trace water, causing gradual failure of many motor boat engines. Because fuel tanks in gas stations are made of steel, there will be increased corrosion from the metal salts-ethanol-water electrolyte. This corrosion will ultimately eat through the tank walls. (Page 38)
Almost no one paid attention.

Today, I had a personal encounter with my own predictions.  My Stihl chain saw stopped working.


Click on the image to see the full size
My Stihl chain saw with the replaced carburetor membranes, fuel filter and spark plug 

The competent local dealer told me cheerfully that the carburetor membrane in the saw got stretched and lost elasticity because of ethanol in the gasoline.


Click on the image to see the full size.
Here you can see the ethanol-damaged bulging elastomer membrane in the carburetor that no longer could maintain fuel pressure, causing the primed saw to stall after 5 seconds or so.

In short, the carburetor stopped functioning because of ethanol in all gasoline I can buy in Texas.  For my three different saws, I only purchase the highest octane gasoline at a local Exxon station, hoping that they do not add ethanol crap to their best product.  Obviously, I have been proven wrong. The cost of rebuilding the carburetor was almost $100, plus two car trips to the dealer.

Given my long track record with the ethanol biofuel additive, I really do not feel disposed to subsidize this racket from my own pocket.  It is enough that my tax money is being wasted every day to keep corn ethanol on a life-support system.

What do you think?  If you have a similar story, please drop a comment.  Perhaps together we can do something about it.

Comments

  1. I too have laid my Sthil saws down to the repair man every other year. I am a conservative environmentalist that can't stand any subsidies that test out to be pure scams. It is bad enough to burn food, but to argue this is good for us is just silly. I like to keep my tools and vehicles until I get tired of them not when when government decides I can't buy fuel that doesn't hurt them. My 1990 Camry and my 1995 Lexus get 33%-24% less MPG in Dallas then last year in Tulsa where I had a choice. They both have over 200K miles and will last another 10 years or so. Unless the state of Texas finds out about my monthly trips to refill a 300 gallon tank in southern Oklahoma.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Requiem for the Beautiful Earth

First, let me remind you that a pessimist is an optimist who shed his delusions and denial, and educated himself. Please keep this in mind, if you continue reading. If you don't, that's fine too. You will remain in your blissful bubble of denial and ignorance, which are the dominant genetic traits of most denizens of the fossil superorganism. Please understand that many democratically elected governments know very well about your truth aversion and are making best use of it.

Imagine now that your favorite airline offers a vacation package to a world-class city like the one shown below. That city is Beijing. China is the rising economic superpower that will collapse rather immediately, because there is not enough of the environment left to protect her 1.4 billion people from disease and death. But before China collapses, she will suck dry most of the world that remains. The brutal global competition for resources may precipitate a war between China and US.

By the way, a famous …

All is well on our planet Earth, isn't it?

Please don't act with surprise when I say this: The global climate change is real; global warming is accelerating, especially in the northern hemisphere; and the positive feedbacks that will further exacerbate human condition are kicking in with vengeance.  I am stating the scientifically obvious, but I have not made it clear yet just how bad this climate change will be for us humans. For millennia, we have relied on the "free" environmental services that are going away.  These life-giving services are clean air to breathe, fertile soil, mild temperatures, healthy forests and savannas, healthy rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, sufficient rain, full aquifers, clean drinking water, and ample snowpacks.  When you are in China, in the Middle East, or in Central Valley in California, most or all of these services are either damaged or gone.

Let's fast forward to a recent article under this promising title: Climate report understates threat. This article was written by Dr.…

The New Improved 1984

Many people ask me how can I be happy writing and thinking about so many sad and desperate things? Well, let me explain. Happiness is the fleeting rush of dopamine I feel seeing my little grandson, my wife or children.  As good as it might feel, it comes and goes. Think, please, about the happiness you purchase by sharing with your "friends" on Facebook a picture of a new pair of pink sneakers. Or think of the happiness you bring to your partner by giving her/him a bouquet of roses on the Valentine day.

You probably never pay attention to over a billion roses which are imported that day for your bouquet.  They are flown refrigerated on transport flights from Columbia, Ecuador and Mexico.  Once these cold roses land in Miami, they are rushed to other refrigerated planes and trucks, so that you can get them from a store refrigerator anywhere in the US.  The energy cost of your bouquet is absolutely ginormous, but it is worth another minute or two of dopamine rush. Or is it?

Yo…