Why Ethanol Gas Is Never Going Away

Joanna Schroeder

digital-trends-logoDigital Trends recently examined ethanol in our fuel in an article, “Is ethanol in your gas a problem? We revisited the question with an expert,” written by Jeff Zurschmeide. The piece was a follow-up to an earlier story, “The effects of ethanol in gasoline,” that created quite a dialogue in its comment section. For this piece, Zurschmeide reached out to Dr. Andrew Randolph, Technical Director for ECR Engines who holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University, with a specialty in the combustion properties of ethanol-gasoline blends. He’s been working with NASCAR since 1999 and started with ECR in 2008. (For those avid readers of AgWired, you’ll know that NASCAR race cars have been racing for several years using E15 and the Indy Series has used E100.)

In the article, Dr. Randolph hits on several topics:

  • Small engines – It’s OK to use E10 in small engines but not higher blends such as E85.
  • Classic cars – It’s case-by-case but before the 21st century cars used carburetors, technology not designed to use ethanol. Cars today do not have this problem.
  • The future of ethanol – Ethanol will not only stay in our fuel but the amount will rise.

It’s largely driven by economics,” Randolph told Digital Trends.The price of gasoline is dependent on the price of oil. On the other hand, the economy of ethanol in the United States is linked to the health of the corn crop. It’s linked more to weather than politics. Long term, ethanol is a much more stable commodity to rely upon, because you don’t have governments and wars that are going to put your supply at risk. Also, the dollars that you’re spending on ethanol are paid to U.S. farmers and U.S. infrastructure. Ethanol is also preferred as an oxygenating additive because it is less toxic than prior octane-boosting additives like tetraethyl lead and Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE).”

But the big reason ethanol will win at the pump? Randolph told Digital Trends it’s about price. “I think consumers want whatever’s going to be cheapest at the pump. That’s the long-term driver. I think ethanol’s going to win.

It’s a good piece so be sure to check it out.

biofuels, E85, Ethanol