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Will ethanol harm your car, mileage?

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This is straight out of the Pittsburgh, Pa. region.  On the WPXI.com (NBC) website is this article -- http://www.wpxi.com/automotive/17232691/detail.html


Lauren Fix of the Car Care Council--http://www.carcare.org/  states "E85 is highly corrosive" and can damage a bunch of vehicle components including the engine.   


Journalism at its worst.  False information and only "one" viewpoint.  I sent an e-mail to the author of the article.

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This is the reply from the author of the article:

Mr. Kircher,




I am not sure what your problem is exactly with the article. E20 and other midgrade blends are rare as E10 is the standard nationwide blend to date. While some states like Minnesota are contemplating moving to E20, it has not happened yet and is far from becoming the nationwide practice. Perhaps E20 could have been mentioned and explored more in the article, but as this story ran nationwide it did not seem relevant at the moment. In the future if states start switching to E20 it will be more deserving of its own story.




As far as unmodified cars running on ethanol, a single report from a mechanic on a single car does not constitute a comprehensive study. Neither the auto industry nor the ethanol industry advocate or recommend putting ethanol into a non-FFV vehicle, and barring a comprehensive study from respected experts, it would be irresponsible to suggest in a mainstream news story that it is safe because it can potentially ruin the engine.




The intention of the article was simply to inform readers about what exactly E85 and E10 is and what cars can and cannot (or should or should not) use it as a fuel source. It was not meant to cause controversy or stir the pot, so to speak, but just serve as an informational guide. I have an article about ethanol coming up in a week or so that digs much deeper into the pros and cons of the ethanol debate.  If you were clearer about your concerns with the article I believe I could have addressed them better. But I of course appreciate feedback from passionate readers always. 






Craig Clough


Staff Writer

Internet Broadcasting

P: 651-365-4494 I F: 651-365-4430

cclough@ibsys.com| AIM: IBSCraigC



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What was your comment to him that he is responding to?


Seems it would be useful to point him at a few hundred users and the web sites they hang out on that have years of experience and thousands of road miles on non-FFV's which have had absolutely zero problems on high ethanol blends.


That would hardly qualify as "a single report from a mechanic on a single car".


It appears the mainstream media folks are incapable of using google effectively as a google search on E85 turns up thousands of hits and it does not take long before you stumble on a site like this or an automotive forum where there are literally hundreds of current first person accounts to choose from, not to mention detailed discussions regarding risks and benefits.



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I just sent the following response to him:




Comments on your recent ethanol article and a follow up you sent to a reader.



I understand you are planning an in depth article in a week or so based on

your response to one of the e85 forum members (Mr. Kircher) who expressed

some concerns about an earlier article.


I have no idea regarding exactly how he approached you, or what his

comments were. I do know we frequently see news articles which grossly

mis-state the "risks" of high ethanol blends based on rumor and innuendo

based on experiences harking back to the 1970's when ethanol was first

added to gasoline in gasohol as an extender.


The simple fact of the matter is, that almost (not quite all but very

nearly) all the "risks" mentioned in the press regarding high ethanol

blends are either out right false hoods, misstatements of fact or over

generalized statements that have almost no basis in reality.


In your response to him you stated:

"Neither the auto industry nor the ethanol industry advocate or recommend

putting ethanol into a non-FFV vehicle, and barring a comprehensive study

from respected experts, it would be irresponsible to suggest in a

mainstream news story that it is safe because it can potentially ruin the



I agree with your comment that it would be irresponsible to say it is

absolutely safe, but it is equally irresponsible as a journalist, to say

it is risky or likely to ruin an engine, as that is simply not supported

by the facts that is easily accessable via google. There are also numerous

respected studies run by several countries and agencies that have put high

ethanol fuel blends in un-modified cars and found no significant issues.

By leaving that fact out you car committing an error of omission.


The Auto industry and the ethanol industry do not recommend it for two

simple reasons --- lawyers and the EPA.

High ethanol fuel blends are not "approved" by the EPA as being

substantially similar to gasoline, and to "recommend" their use would be

to recommend that the public use "illegal fuels". It has nothing to do

with potential harm to the engines. In fact high ethanol fuels are safer

than straight gasoline. Their higher octane nearly eliminated engine

damage due to knock even on severely abused or mis-tuned engines. High

ethanol fuel blends actually clean the fuel system and reduce emissions.

High ethanol fuel blends in modern OBDII cars work just fine for 10's of

thousands of drivers who use them every day, and there are 1000's of us

that have made personal conversions to run all the way from 30% ethanol

mixtures to 85% ethanol mixtures. We have in many cases over 5 years

experience on these blends, and 100's of 1,000's of miles of road usage to

back us up.


To date on the major E85 forums we do not have *** ANY *** documented

reports by any user that their car engines have been damaged by using high

ethanol blends. There are even video's published on youtube showing how

clean engines are after extended use on E85. On the contrary in the

automotive performance forums you find thread after thread where high

performance users that flog their cars much harder than average rave about

how safe and forgiving the fuel is and how it cleans their fuel systems,

their engines and in many cases its high octane has saved them from what

would have been engine damage if they had been running even $10 a gallon

racing gasoline.


There are studies coming out that consistently back up the experimenters

position that high ethanol fuel blends (up to about 30% ethanol) have

essentially zero risk for causing engine damage to a well maintained car.


I recently pulled a fuel pump out of my converted car and sent it back to

the manufacture for them to examine. Their response was that they were

dumbfounded why this fuel pump which was not rated for E85 had very little

sign of wear after 35,000 mile and years of exposure to E85 and high

ethanol fuel blends in my car. They were equally at a loss to explain why

their in lab testing procedures had failed so miserably to predict its


They subsequently asked other experimenters to send in similar well

documented pumps so they could find the "error" in their testing protocol

because in the real world these fuel pumps simply did not care whether

they were pumping gasoline or E85.


All we ask is that there be given some equal time to the other side of the

story and advise the general public that there is a growing body of

evidence that is showing high fuel ethanol blend actually have benefits

for the consumer, and have very low risk of damage. What is astonishing to

me, is this was well known information 30 years ago when Brazil ran

studies to find out what mixture of ethanol every car on the road could

use, and they found that even cars of 1970's manufacture ran with no

changes on 22%-25% ethanol blends with no damage.

Experimenters routinely find that modern OBDII cars run better and suffer

almost no fuel mileage loss on ethanol blends ranging from 30% -60% with

no changes of any kind performed to the car. They also pass emissions

testing (even dyno tests like the IM240 test used in Colorado) with better

numbers than they would on normal gasoline.


You might want to look at the following links and see if you think there

is a case to at least mention in your article that there is a large body

of evidence building, that moderate ethanol blends (20%-50%) have very low

risks, and in both day to day use, and under test conditions showing they

are superior to normal gasoline in several areas.







Direct comments on the article;


"What (drivers) don't realize is that ethanol is one third less energy per

gallon," said Lauren Fix of the Car Care Council. "So if I have a gallon

of gas sitting here and a gallon of ethanol, I'm going to get ? more

energy out of a gallon of gas than on a gallon of ethanol."



Technically accurate but useless information. What is important is how

much useful work you can extract from that amount of fuel, not how much

energy it contains. Although E85 has about 72% of the energy in a gallon

of gasoline even the Factory FFV's which are horribly inefficient designs

for E85 take less than the expected drop in fuel mileage(some as little as

15%). The only way that is possible is if they are getting more useful

work from the available energy in the fuel. Even more interesting is that

experimenters have very little difficulty getting near 90% of their

gasoline fuel mileage on E85.



However, E85 can be dangerous to some autos.



technically accurate but needs to be put in context. It is only an issue

with cars manufactured prior to 1988 and still using **all original fuel

system components!!!**


My 1968 VW bug fuel lines started to leak a couple weeks after ethanol

added gasoline was introduced here in Denver in 1988 -- keep in mind this

at the time was a rubber fuel line that was already 20 years old. Replaced

the fuel line with over the counter NAPA fuel line --- end of problem.



"E85 is highly corrosive," said Fix. "So, if you have a non-FFV, and you

pump it into your vehicle, you're going to have a very serious, large

expense in front of you to the tune of thousands of dollars. Vehicles that

don't run on E85, if you do pump it into those vehicles, the problem is it

will corrode the fuel lines, the tank, the fuel pump, destroy the fuel

filter, etc."



That is a flat out lie!


The only people that have a very serious large expense in front of them

are people that go to auto mechanics that hate ethanol and blame ethanol,

to  rip them off by doing totally unnecessary repairs like draining the

fuel tank or other labor intensive (cash cow repairs)


In fact what happens when you put 100% E85 in an older car not designed

for it? Lets take my 1986 Subaru GL-10 wagon. Pull into the gas station,

and slam a full tank of E85 in the tank, and drive off. The car stumbles a

little bit at light throttle but runs fine at light throttle cruise. Next

morning does not start too well, and needs to warm up about 30 seconds

before you can drive it. Once warm it drives just find except, it is a

little grumpy right at idle and just off idle. Add about 2-3 gallons of

gasoline, and almost all the drivability issues go away, car starts fine

in the morning (summer time) and runs fine except for an occasional slight

stumble leaving a stop light. A couple days later add 2 more gallons of

gas -- you can't tell there is anything different about the car compared

to when it was running on gasoline, except it has a bit more power.


What the mechanic should do is tell the customer to drive the car around

easy for 2 days and top the tank off with more gasoline and it will run

just fine.  Experimenters intentionally do this all the time to find out

what is the highest ethanol mixture the car will tolerate and drive




E85 is not "highly corrosive" in fact, Under ASTM specs, it contains

corrosion inhibitors and is only slightly more aggressive that gasoline.

It is how ever a good cleaner and will pickup varnish left in your fuel

system by gasoline and might plug a fuel filter if suddenly introduced

into a car that has never used it before. That is $15 problem with a

simple fix. Denver Police had this issue when ethanol added gasoline was

first introduced here in Denver Colorado in 1988. It took a few days to

replace all the fuel filters, end of problem. If E85 is contaminated by

water at a service station that does not properly clean its tanks, that

can cause some issues but that is not the ethanols fault it is no

different than if the station put regular gasoline in the premium tank, it

is a retailer problem.




Larry  (aka hotrod on the forums)

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Hotrod--Very valid points and thank you for combining many important truths about E85 and high blend ethanol to combat the myths.


However, in my experience you probably will not hear back from the journalist, nor see the information used in any article.


It seems they expect that the hype against using ethanol sells more newpapers/magazines/advertising.  Yet, if the journalists and editors would realize that continuing the debate by reporting what thousands of independent consumers and mechanics are finding vs. what the establishment is saying, there would be additional revenue to be made. 


Whoever touches on this first and makes a splash in the media is going to be highly recognized for breaking the story.  Also, they could then move on to expose the differences between the Presidential candidates' opinions on ethanol in their energy policy (and which is receiving by far MUCH more in campaign contributions from Big Oil).  The fact that Brazil has been doing this for decades seems lost on the media, as does the fact that the Ford Model T and Model A were ethanol vehicles.  Anyway, good luck and thanks again.





:rstar: :star: :bstar:

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This is the e-mail I sent to him yesterday prior to his response:


To: cclough@ibsys.com

Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 5:06 PM

Subject: Will ethanol harm your car, mileage.



Your recent article on ethanol is problem.  Unless your superior(s) told you to write such an article, it is not an example of excellent journalism.  With a little probing, one can find articles/studies revealing:


- vehicles can run on mid-grade ethanol blends with improved fuel mileage--see http://www.ecofriendlydriver.com/e20-e30-offers-better-mpg-fewer-emissions/.


-unmodified Prius runs on E85 for 60,000 miles and is in excellent condition




there is more examples out there.

Bill Kircher

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This is what I sent late last night after recieving his reply:


thousand words:    ethanolblenderpumpphotoclose.jpg


Ethanol blender pumps with E10 (89 octane) E20 (92 octane) E30 (95 octane) E50 (97 octane) and E85 (105 octane).  These are sprouting in the heartland of America (Mid-West) as several states have provided financial incentives for stations to install these pumps.  What is even better, the 51 cent per gallon Federal Tax Credit is taken away from the Oil Companies and given to individual station owners. This is because the ethanol is blended with gasoline at the station, not at the refinery.  This is one of the links to blender pumps found in the Mid-West: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.rhapsodyingreen.com/rhapsody_in_green/images/2007/12/27/pump_w_hand_resized.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.rhapsodyingreen.com/rhapsody_in_green/2007/12/blender-pumps-g.html&h=158&w=200&sz=9&tbnid=PW1z6TP8FYwJ::&tbnh=82&tbnw=104&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dethanol%2Bblender%2Bpump%2Bphoto&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=3&ct=image&cd=1



Ethanol is corrosive to vehicles was indicated in your article from he Car Care Council.  Yet no evidence is provided that modern automobile components can not withstand E85.  Remember, I stated modern--post 1997 and E85, not 100% ethanol.  The vehicle I drive, 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid, is identical in engine composition to the twenty 2008 E85 Ford Escape Hybrid vehicles being field tested except for larger fuel pump, injectors and software found in the engine control module.  See this link for proof:




Examination of the past flex fuel Ford Taurus reveals no difference in with engine composition or gas tanks either when compared to the non-flex fuel Taurus.  So how can E85 be corrosive?



As for E20, the Governor of Minnesota has signed into law, that all gasoline in the state must have at least 20% ethanol starting in the year 2013.  You can read it here:  http://www.newrules.org/de/archives/000058.html



Many critics of ethanol point out the BTU and mileage difference with ethanol.  Yet, some studies such as this one:  http://www.ecofriendlydriver.com/e20-e30-offers-better-mpg-fewer-emissions/  indicate vehicles can obtain better mileage with less emission with mid-grade ethanol blends.  Furthermore, a better analysis of the ethanol to gasoline cost factor should focus on the cost per mile factor. 


Something to chew on.

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