Wrong, but lessons learned

Last week in this blog I asked fuel-techies out there to tell me if my hunch was right about problems with fuel left in gas tanks for long-term storage. Turns out I was wrong.
By Susanne Retka Schill | January 07, 2013

Last week in this blog I asked fuel-techies out there to tell me if my hunch was right about problems with fuel left in gas tanks for long-term storage. Turns out I was wrong.

Larry Johnson, who served many years as Minnesota’s ethanol answer man, sent me a direct email, to say “The ethanol does not evaporate from gasoline. The increased RVP [Reid vapor pressure] for ethanol blends is caused by increased evaporation of lighter gasoline elements when blended." While the chemistry is complex,  "this can lead to more difficult starting over time,” he explained, adding: "The frustrating thing is that many of these factors have a basis in truth when ethanol blends are stored for long periods of time under certain conditions but 10 percent ethanol blends are no different under normal use conditions.”

Bobby Likis, who hosts a car talk show, responded:  “All ‘gasoline’ degrades over time - with or without ethanol added.” The standard advice is to use fuel stabilizers, he said, and added more comments about his experience with ethanol.

Bob Wills added an interesting perspective in his comment: “The answer here isn't to pretend that there is nothing wrong with ethanol's chemistry. The answer, is to engineer a fuel from it which doesn't have these negative characteristics. Then, we can really get to maximizing our biofuels potential at the producer level. Chemistry is your friend, not your enemy.”

The FuelGuru posted a lengthy response, seconding Bob Wills’ comment, including quite a technical discussion. The FuelGuru, aka Jim Russo with Leading Edge Sciences, shared a 2010 presentation he made at the SAE (Society of Automobile Engineers) where he suggested ETBE, which combines ethanol and butanes, would make a superior gasoline blending component.

The blog stimulated lively discussion among commentators.  Read the comments to the blog here.   We’re not one of those websites that generate hundreds of comments, but we do have ethanol detractors who regularly check us out, and blast away. And, we have regular ethanol supporters who take the time to answer some of those criticisms, or to add an additional perspective to a discussion. Thank you all.

Commentators sometimes blast us for taking an industry point of view, and often misinterpret the role of a blog. At Ethanol Producer Magazine, by definition, we take the industry point of view. We’re aware of the critics, but we more often see our role as reporting on the various efforts to respond to such criticism. We’re not the experts, but we look for  credible experts to serve as sources for our news stories and longer feature stories found on the website and print magazine.

In this blog, I often try to highlight interesting things I run across that we probably wouldn’t write about as online news or in the magazine. A couple of months ago, for instance, I blogged about Bruce Dale’s op ed piece in a daily newspaper. I’ve blogged about fun YouTube videos that promote agriculture or ethanol. I sometimes add a behind-the-scenes look at industry news trying to make a few connections in the news of the week. Sometimes, like last week, I pose a question and discover how much I have to learn. What I have also learned, though, is that there are many experts about fuel ethanol who also struggle with getting their message out. I am glad that this blog can occasionally provide a forum.