Putting Corn in your fuel tank

We live in the land of corn, and it’s a great place to be, but is it really a vegetable? Answer: probably not. As much as we all love corn-on-the-cob and popcorn, we have to admit, corn is as sweet as candy and has about as much nutritional value, which is why so much of its use is as a sweetener or livestock feed. Of course, we’ll keep eating it and enjoying every bite, but is it such a bad thing that more of this delicious crop is being used as fuel for our cars? Again, probably not. As with almost anything, there are positives and there are negatives.

The Pros:

  • It prevents us from being more dependent on foreign oil producing countries by increasing our fuel supply.
  • Our environment is very important. Interesting fact: Wisconsin had 16% fewer high-ozone days in 2010 that it did in 1994, the year of E10’s inception. That is wonderful.
  • More manufacturing jobs are required to produce ethanol.
  • Because ethanol is alcohol, your gas lines likely won’t freeze during the winter months.

We need to continually do what is best for our economy, our workers, and our environment; however, we also need to stay educated by acknowledging the things that have been found to be on the minus side of the ledger:

The Cons:

  • 1 gallon of gasoline = 1.5 gallons of E100, so the E10 we use reduces our MPG by 2-3 miles and E85 by 7-8 miles.
  • Ethanol attracts water, so we need to be cognizant of what this means:
  1. Older engines and small engines are affected because air is vented in and out of the tank and air carries moisture. Newer, sealed, engines are affected because we can’t know the contamination level of the fuel going in, and if the alcohol is near its moisture saturation level of 6% and experiences a temperature drop, the alcohol/water content can settle out. This is known as phase separation (see picture). In both cases, when the fuel pick up sucks the alcohol/water mix, the engine has starting and/or running issues, but in severe cases the engine simply won’t run. When the fuel pick up sucks the gasoline, it will have lost as much as three octane points plus it will have lost additives that stayed with the alcohol.
  2. Corrosion is a fact in many areas of our lives, and we spend a lot of time and money dealing with it. Alcohol/Ethanol has the ability to retain moisture in amounts as high as 6% of its volume. Water, of course, creates corrosion, but add this corrosion creating capability to alcohols with slightly acidic and solvent properties, and you have a mixture that corrodes everything over time. Alcohol in our fuel means we need to address its corrosive properties and its effect on plastic, rubber and metal. Many materials in newer designs are resistant, which is great, but these innovations cause prices to go up, so we need to make sure our customers can keep their vehicles for as long as they would like or need by addressing all of the new issues regarding alcohol in our fuel.

    Fuel pump corrosion caused by gasoline containing ethanol.

    Fuel cap corrosion caused by gasoline containing ethanol from a bulk fuel tank

    Our basic fuels often contain small amounts of corrosion fighting additives, but the amounts are formulated to protect against the water contained in gasoline or diesel fuel. Remember, water and oil don’t mix. This means our fuel companies formulate according to the small amount of water in their fuels. Ethanol is blended into our fuel supply at time of delivery. The oil companies do not ship ethanol or blended fuel through their own pipelines because of its ability to attract moisture and cause corrosion. If it’s not good for their pipes, how good could it be for your engine?

    • The alcohol in our fuel has a scouring affect and can remove varnish and deposits. Since these won’t dissolve, they are then carried along until they lodge somewhere else. Additionally, the alcohol itself oxidizes and breaks down quickly (within as little as 3 weeks) and produces a brown glop that is more damaging than the varnish we used to see.
    • Fuel now has a decreased shelf life, and policies and standards regarding fuel storage, in or out of engines, need to be made incorporating what we know about alcohol. If these factors are not taken into consideration, you may inadvertently damage critical parts of your fuel and engine systems.

      Above are injectors that show the damaging deposits that can be left behind as your vehicle consumes a mixture of alcohol and gasoline.

    • As always, we need to look out for the end user, and your BG professional can help. He will educate you on the proper use of these products:
      • BG Ethanol Fuel System Defender Part Number 213:
        • A fuel additive made specifically to clean and protect your entire fuel system. It contains special additives that protect your entire fuel system from the damaging deposits poor quality fuels can leave behind. It also contains anti corrosion additives and fuel stabilizers to ensure safe storage and fuel that will not harm corrosion prone parts within any fuel system. It is part of the BG Protection Plan and intended to be used every 5000 miles.
      • BG Ethanol Fuel System Drier Part Number 281
        • Used when water is present within your tank and or fuel system. This product allows the fuel to hold more water to try and prevent phase separation and ensure removal from the system is possible.
      • BG Ethanol Corrosion Preventer Part Number 2026
        • Similar in characteristics to Ethanol Fuel System Defender, this product contains all the same protection in a smaller container made for smaller engines or more frequent use in larger vehicles.
      • BG CF5
        • BG CF5 is an excellent fuel cleaner and stabilizer. It is an all in one fuel additive containing an effective entire fuel system cleaner. It also contains fuel stabilizers and corrosion inhibitors. It is part of the BG Protection Plan intended to be used at each oil change interval or 5000-7500 miles of driving.
      • Plus BG Pre-owned Vehicle Protection

      Lastly, here are some interesting facts about ethanol, but remember, none of these negate the benefits we enjoy from the use of ethanol:

      • 95% of drivers still don’t know what ethanol is
      • Sugar cane and hemp are much more cost effective resources for creating ethanol, but sugar cane is imported from Brazil, and it is illegal to grow hemp, even if it is industrial and has no drug effects
      • We use more energy to make ethanol than the ethanol produces.
      • 72,700,000 acres of land in the United States are dedicated to corn production and more than 40% goes toward the production of ethanol.
      • 1 acre of corn produces 328 gallons of ethanol.
      • If we used 100% of our corn to create E85 fuel, we would be self-sufficient for 71 days.

       

     

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