It seems like, in America, E85 is fueling more debates than it is actual cars. A lot of unsubstantiated information is circulating in the media and the energy industry, confusing consumers and policy makers alike. Although 15% of it is true, the other 85% could stand to be refined.
MYTH: E85 is 85% gasoline, 15% ethanol.
TRUTH: People often reverse the percentages. E85 is 85% ethanol (which can come from corn, potatoes, wheat, or sugar cane) and 15% gasoline.
MYTH: E85 is a relatively inexpensive source of fuel.
TRUTH: That’s an illusion created by the Department of Energy. Huge government corn subsidies from the DOE reduce the market prices of ethanol artificially, making it appear as though E85 is a far cheaper transport-fuel solution than petroleum.
MYTH: E85 could, with federal backing, completely replace petroleum for private and commercial transportation.
TRUTH: Unfortunately, it takes oil and gasoline to make E85 in the first place. In fact, growing, distilling, dehydrating and refining corn into ethanol creates a net energy deficit when total agricultural production inputs versus total energy outputs are accounted for. But as we perfect that production process, the input-output ratio gets closer to 1:1.
MYTH: Energy crops, and corn in particular, take up arable land and reduce the amount of food available to the world.
TRUTH: Ethanol is only created from the starchy part of the kernel. The rest of it can still provide nutrients, minerals and protein. However, most corn is not consumed by people anyway. Much of it is turned into gluten feed and corn meal and fed to livestock.
MYTH: Worldwide ethanol use is on the decline since so many other alternative fuels are being tested and developed.
TRUTH: Although the U.S. and Brazil produce and consume the lion’s share of E85 (88%), worldwide consumption patterns showed a 2% hike from 2007 to 2008.
MYTH: Heavily subsidized energy crops, like corn, will help decrease the fuel-price volatility inherent in foreign-oil dependence.
TRUTH: While this may be the case much of the time, other factors out of the control of humanity are at play. For instance, the 2008 Midwest flood, which devastated millions of acres of corn crops, inflated corn prices 25% in the span of three weeks, a jump that, luckily, didn’t last long. According to the Wall Street Journal, the most recent spate of spring storms have forced farmers to delay planting 37% of their crops, which could result in a significant yield reduction despite a high corn demand.
MYTH: Most engines can already run on this fuel.
TRUTH: True, you could conceivably put E85 in your current tank and hit the road, but that’s not recommended. Your fuel economy will decrease drastically. And E85 burns at a lower ignition point than gasoline, so you might hear some pistons misfiring. A flex-fuel system car can help you make the best use of E85.
Earthgarage – Greener Car, Fatter Wallet.