E-85: Ethanol, Is it worth it?
If you have one of today’s modern vehicles, you probably have a Flex Fuel vehicle such as a Ford, Chevy or Dodge, all of which run on either gasoline or a biofuel such as E-85. Ethanol, like other bio fuels, is made with either a plant or another form of organism. Ethanol, the main ingredient in E-85, is made by using corn alcohol as the base ingredient, only by adding standard gasoline, can you call it E-85. While using E-85 may cost more than running gasoline, E-85 burns cleaner than running gasoline, thus producing cleaner emissions and less harmful bi-products. The process to create Ethanol is a simple task, it must go through a manufacturing process known as dry milling. Deciding what type of fuel to use really comes down to cost; both manufacturing and the cost of running it in a vehicle.
E-85, a type of fuel that consist of both, ethanol and gasoline, is used in today’s flex-fuel vehicles. To make E-85, ethanol and gasoline must be mixed at a ratio of 17:3 to produce e-85. To create a cleaner burning fuel, and to decrease pollution, “Ethanol can be produced from different types of biomass, such as sugar cane, beet, corn, or cellulosic biomass.” (Zhai et al). Ethanol is made by using a process called dry milling, a process that takes raw corn and grinds it into a fine flour base. This flour base, along with water and other enzymes, are turned into mixture known as mash. This mixture is then heated to a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit by using jets of steam. While the mash is allowed to cool, other ingredients, such as enzymes, are added. Once the mash is cooled, manufactures add yeast and the corn mash can ferment. The resulting liquid from this fermentation process is pure alcohol, more commonly known as Ethanol. Now this is not yet E-85, in fact, pure ethanol is known as E-100, this not good for your engine, “There are no passenger cars designed to take E100 (but some racing cars are) so it could damage your car engine.” (Clark). To prevent damage engines, we must dilute the ethanol, while the amount of gasoline that is put in ethanol can vary, usually it is a mixture of 85% Ethanol to 15% Gasoline, which then creates the flex fuel known as E-85. Using pure Ethanol would not be good for engines but mixing it with gasoline makes a cleaner burning fuel.
While ethanol-based fuels are considered the best option, there are some researchers who say the cost of making biofuels can outweigh the benefits. Many scientists believe that ethanol as a fuel source would cause an increase in prices for many of today’s common commodities. “Because corn is the most common animal feed and has many other uses in the food industry, the price of milk, cheese, eggs, meat, corn-based sweeteners and cereals increased as well.” (Conca). Scientist are also afraid of Edge Tillage which would impede on protected lands and cause issues with the soil such as soil erosion. As well scientists are afraid of clear cutting fields to make room for ethanol grain farms. Commonly, the use of corn was used for food for people and feed for animals, “In 2013, however, 40% went to produce ethanol, 45% was used to feed livestock, and only 15% was used for food and beverage” (Conca). Yet “Ethanol production creates jobs in rural areas where employment opportunities are needed.” (AFDC).As well, Kate Conley explains in the book “Biofuels”, “The plants grown for biofuels consume carbon dioxide as they grow. This helps offset the carbon dioxide produced when the biofuels are used.”. Suppling jobs in areas that require assistance such as rural areas and areas where poverty rates are high would decrease the poor rate and increase sales in cities.
The economic impact of ethanol based for the driver is dependent on their mileage and the cost to run it in their vehicles. In the U.S, the average gas price is 2.67, using the average fuel tank size of 12 gallons, it would cost a driver on average $32.04 to fill their tank up. Yet the cost of E-85 is $2.10, in a 12-gallon car, that would be an average cost of $25.20 to fill up their tank. In a gas fed vehicle, the average mpg is 18 miles, making a vehicle with a 12-gallon fuel tank have an average of 216 miles per tank. Yet the difference in mileage in an e85 vehicle is minimum. An E-85 vehicle with a 12-gallon fuel tank can go 171 miles to the tank, a loss of only 45 miles, roughly a loss of 2.5 gallons over gas fed engines. For $29.40, a vehicle that runs on E-85, that vehicle can get the same amount of mileage as the vehicle that ran on gasoline. That is a savings of $2.64 per fill-up, assuming a driver fills their vehicle up twice a month, the savings would be $5.28 a month and over $60 a year. The cost of running E-85 in a vehicle can save a consumer more money a year over running standard gasoline.
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The amount of pollutants will decrease as the demand for ethanol increases. According to Antonio Thiago Benedete da Silvia et al, states in the Journal of Management, “…the US market with the Renewable Fuels Standard Program anticipates a mandatory consumption of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, which will represent approximately 140 billion liters.”. According to the statistical data by Haibo Zhai, the emissions produced from a flex fuel vehicle is significantly less than the average emissions produced by a standard gas-fed vehicle.
Above is the statistical data by Zhai Haibo from the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, it shows “Mean emissions estimates and 95% confidence intervals for a 2006 Ford Focus…” At speeds of 40-50 km/h (25-32 mph) the emissions from flex fuel vehicles are significantly less than standard gasoline engines with a maximum of 10% ethanol mixture. The cost to produce ethanol varies on multiple factors, the cost of corn (per bushel), the type of corn, and the cost to transport. As it currently stands, “A bushel of field corn can be used to produce about 2.77 gallons of ethanol” (D.K). In order to produce one gallon of ethanol it cost on average $1.20, so one bushel of corn can cost about $3.00. Next is the cost to transport ethanol, since ethanol is a highly volatile liquid before it is mixed with gasoline, it cost about 3.90 per ton. A standard semi tanker truck can carry 9000 gallons, since ethanol weighs about 6.584lbs per gallon, a tanker truck would weigh about 30 tons making the cost to transport 9000 gallons of ethanol would cost $117. The total cost to manufacture ethanol and transport ethanol would cost $9,864 dollars.
Ethanol is a biofuel made by using a renewable resource like corn, sugar, algae or organism. The use of Ethanol can vary from pure alcohol or fuel, in the way of fuel, ethanol is mixed with gasoline to make E-85. Using ethanol, gasoline is mixed in to make any type of mixture, ranging from E-10 10% Ethanol; E-50 50% Ethanol; E-85 85% Ethanol; or a blend of E-100, 100% Ethanol fuel. Though some scientist believe ethanol is not a viable resource, many believe ethanol-based fuels are where the future is going. Though ethanol is not widely used in today’s modern vehicles, the future predictions say ethanol is the fuel of the future.
“Can cars run on alcohol?”. Arnold Clark. https://www.arnoldclark.com/newsroom/347-can- cars-run-on-alcohol Conca, James. “It’s Final — Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Apr. 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/20/its-final-corn-ethanol-is-of-no-use/#688b5e7e67d3.
Conley Kate. “Biofuels”. Alternative Energy. Core Library, 2016. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.jccmi.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=e860xna;AN=1442969;site=eds-live;scope=site.
da Silva, Antonio Thiago Benedete, et al. “Prospective scenarios for the international ethanol trade in 2020 / Prospective scenarios for the international ethanol trade in 2020.” Journal of Management , vol. 48, no. 4, 2013, p. 727+. Academic Report , http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.jccmi.edu/apps/doc/A367198955/IFME?u=lom_jacksoncc;sid=IFME;xid=c34de2bf. Accessed 18 Apr. 2018.
“Ethanol Benefits and Considerations.” Alternative Fuels Data Center: Ethanol Benefits and Considerations, www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/ethanol_benefits.html.
Searcy, Erin, et al. “The Relative Cost of Biomass Energy Transport.” Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 2007, pp. 639–652., doi:10.1007/978-1-60327-181-3_52.
Zhai, Haibo, et al. “Comparison of flexible fuel vehicle and life-cycle fuel consumption and emissions of selected pollutants and greenhouse gases for ethanol 85 versus gasoline.” Journal of the Air ; Waste Management Association, vol. 59, no. 8, 2009, p. 912+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A206690565/AONE?u=lom_jacksoncc;sid=AONE;xid=5d09eabf. Accessed 9 Apr. 2018.