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Hagerty Employee

Was ethanol fuel an empty promise?

Bring up the subject of gasoline in the company of folks who drive vintage cars and the rumble of conversation will start low. Soon it builds into a great cacophony of voices lamenting the ethanol-laced fuels currently occupying most pumps across the U.S.

I have always been of the opinion that most of our green alternatives aren't so green once you do all of the math - and as the Youtube video points out, even when you do all the math, there is so much uncertainty in the results that you aren't real clear on the answer
Whatever we do to satisfy our insatiable appetite for energy is going to have an environmental impact - period. Folks need to start looking at 7.5 billion people using carbon fuels rather than just looking at carbon fuels. Nothing we do today to cut consumption is going to matter much when the population hits 10 billion (projected by 2050). It is the number of people doing things that is the problem, not the things they are doing. Not a comfortable subject, but definitely the one we need to start talking about
Advanced Driver

No one talks about that, do they? Almost all our problems in this world are caused by one thing: Too many people! There's no way to solve that problem outside of outright murder. And outright murder is the only solution to climate change and most of the other major problems we have. Uncontrolled growth is the methodology of the cancer cell. And that's what humanity is to this planet. A cancer.

Most Green things are just revenue makers for someone often in government or lobbying government. 

Ethanol was never an answer and will only do more damage to our power tools and our collector cars.  


Not to mention damage to motorcycles.

Early on it didn’t. It was tightly controlled. They were typically 8-10% of pure ethanol (no water). I was there, in Iowa on the front lines. Some retailers were criminals, but overall it wasn’t a big deal.

The blends aren’t 10% anymore. Some retailers are selling a 10% blended fuel with as much as 20% ethanol. And it water logged ethanol, so there is even less gasoline.

Most of the manufacturers will test a fuel sample for any engine or fuel system warranty claim. The sample tests are awful. I can tell the folks that buy their fuel at a discount retailer. The fuel is trash, always has too much water, the diesel is too dry, and the gasoline has kerosene in it. That club or cost buster isn’t selling cheap fuel because they like you.

I won’t run ethanol blend in classics anymore because it is unreliable. All pump gas is. I don’t buy Starbucks or spend $14 on a craft beer, but won’t blink an eye to buy race fuel and keep these old cars on the road. For lawn equipment - race gas. I don’t use enough for it to make a difference. The store-bought 4 cycle small engine fuel is pretty comparable price wise, but race gas is actually better. ESP in 2 strokes. Mix the oil, have fun.
Advanced Driver

Every station doesn't have their own individual fuel transport and storage facilities. Gasoline/ethanol for your locality all comes from the same place. No one station is any better than another.

Not sure where you live, but in Phoenix the tank farm is on 51st Ave and the final blending is down by the individual wholesaler. 
The club and cost busters get the first load of each fuel because it is too contaminated for the tier 1.  Not all fuel loads from CA have a pig separating them, thus the references.   
Texas pipeline comes up through Tucson.  Giant has a location near 4 corners.  All our fuel is blended, except race and off-highway fuel.  
The ethanol is blended in after the tank farm, and yeah, depending on the time of year it has a crap ton of water in it.  

We use ALS in Phoenix for our testing. 


See my comment above ☝️

The EPA claims ethanol (likely) brings a 21% reduction in GHG emissions vs. gasoline - but if we're only substituting 10% of the gasoline with ethanol our gas/ethanol mixture only reduces those emissions by 2.1% over straight gas and that's at the tailpipe, not including all the other sources Jason covers. ALSO: considering the protracted timelines involved I can easily imagine successive administrations changing course before ANY benefits are realized.

Not possible. Stations started adding ethanol to gasoline in the mid-70s in Georgia and Tennessee (where I lived at the time). New Jersey (where I live now) mandated the addition of ethanol sometime in the mid-90s. We are well past the break-even point in much of the United States.
Pit Crew

Some ideas are so good, the people in government have to use force to make people do them.

Last time I checked, we get our oxygen from plants and other green organisms. Those organisms get their lively hood from C02 and give back oxygen, that we breathe. It seems, to me, that more C02 would tend to make a better atmosphere for plants etc. and that would make more oxygen for us.
Yes, this is a bit oversimplified, but so is the 'science' of Global warming, Climate Change, Evil Rebuplicanism, Climate Denial, et al. The fact is Climate is always changing and will always change. Get used to it! What is the climate, today (right this minute, right where you are) supposed to be? Why is it supposed to be that?
Shelter was sought, refined, built and changed by humans to suit their needs over time. The same thing happened with food and clothing. This is all natural. People and animals and even plants change over time, to adapt to their environment or Climate. Back in the day, the loss of people, animals or plants etc., over time, was considered 'Natural Selection'. Apparently that 'science' is lost on us today. I'm all for people making a living, but I'm not for doing it by the force of bad government fiat. Not only is that dumb, it goes against everything this country and it's Constitution stand for.
Intermediate Driver

AMEN !!!!!!!!!!
Intermediate Driver

12000 years ago we were in the middle of an ice age, you are correct in that it's always changing and there ain't a darn thing we can do about it!

“A bit oversimplified”? I assume you’re using the same logic and are hooked up to pure oxygen 24/7 for the health benefits… 100/200/1,000 etc. years ago, the much larger global coverage of forestation had enough CO2 to get by. Creating more CO2 by clearing wilderness isn’t helpful in any respect - it just means less plants to store it and produce oxygen.


Worse, CO2 raises the acidity levels of oceans, inhibiting the growth of coral. Coral doesn’t store a lot of CO2, but it produces a hell of a lot of oxygen.


Science has very little to do with anything these days, it's pretty much all politics with the thinnest veneer of "science" on it. That usually consists of the word "science" and nothing else. It's about control. We will make you get rid of your car for an EV, we just need to increase the pain till you finally tap out.
Intermediate Driver

An EV has a massive Karbon Footprint just sitting in the showroom before you buy it.

There is NO upside to an EV . . . you could buy a similar sized IC vehicle for much less money & drive it for many years to equal the same Karbon Footprint, + you saved 10s of thousands on the initial purchase. And you won't have that EV surprize after 8 or 10 years . . . a battery like the Tesla's costing $16,000.
Pit Crew

KRDale: You obviously don't own an EV, nor have you been able to learn the differences between lead-acid batteries and Li-Ion batteries. There are Teslas on the road now with 500,000 miles on their original battery pack still Driving everyday. In addition to my Olds V8 powered hot rod, MG ZA Magnette Sedan and turbo Volvo wagon parts chaser, I've been using a Tesla for a daily driver for the past four years and have found it to be a fabulous car that drives well, is quicker off the line than any of my other cars and cheaper to fuel and maintain. I've taken on trips through rural Arkansas and Louisiana with no issues charging the batteries. There are definitely many upsides to an EV when you actually use one.
Intermediate Driver

A Tesla with 500,000 miles and u know it has the original battery?

An acquaintance left Vancouver at 10 am in his Tesla last summer to drive to Kelowna a distance of about 280 miles.  Being it was hot, in the low 90s he stopped in Hope to charge the Tesla so he could be sure he would make it to Kelowna.  Being it was a long weekend the Charging Station in Hope had a lineup, 4 to 5 hour wait.   He finally arrived at Kelowna after 7 pm.  

Driving my Mustang GT I would have been there in a little over 3.5 hrs.

I am sure you enjoy driving your Tesla . . . but that does not change the Fact that it had a Massive Carbon Footprint sitting in the showroom.

Or the Fact that the Battery warranty is pro-rated after 50,000 miles, or the Fact that a replacement costs $17 USD.  And the enormous problem that there is no ability to recycle spent batteries at this time.  

I haven't even mentioned the fires. 

I have no intention to ever purchase an EV . . . the price is staggering, although if I sold my old 68 KR I could likely buy a few.

I could buy a sedan like a Mazda 6 and drive it for free for a decade or two on the money I would save.  IC engines are very clean today and are not the problem they were in the 60s.  

A friend built a race car using the big Tesla motor, put it in a custom tube chassis with a cobra body.  Does quite well at the track in GT1 with a custom made battery.  Cooling the motor & the battery is a big issue.

But the "Green" race car is accompanied by a big Diesel Generator on a trailer to keep the battery charged.  Likely the biggest polluter in the paddock . . . lol

The guy is an Engineer having a great time.  He's an excellent driver and runs near the front.  But the car has limited abilities because of the length of races and it can only run at about 70% max or it would not make it to the finish.   But it's a fun exercise, future potential?

My retired neighbor bough a Bolt . . . was quit upset when his Electric Bill went up over $90 a month.  I don't spend that much running my F350 diesel in a month, unless I am going on vacation. Our power is cheap, many places that would be double.

But like they say in the car business, there's an a$$ for every seat ! 


What would you pay for a used tesla say 7 years old with an original battery? Know several tesla owners who love the car but dump them as the battery life starts dropping. If it breaks down under warranty have far do you have to send it for repair or for that matter one that is out of warranty? If a third of the country switched to electric vehicles we don't have enough electrical production, nor will we in the next 50 years.

Go Galt.

Gasoline will become a waste product and they know it. We can’t replace all the products, outside of fuel, that come from oil. We can’t hydrogen crack all the gasoline out of the distillation. They will make carve outs for some gasoline and diesel. Why pay to dispose it, when they can sell it.

All the EV owners: brace of $0.02/mile road taxes.
Intermediate Driver

What the author fails to mention is that it takes 85/100 gallons of diesel to produce 1 gallon of ethanol, not very efficient.


I’m not a fan, but it is a net positive. 1.38:1 for lower efficiency corn to 2.6:1 cellulosic state of the art plants.
Intermediate Driver

I've owned sever Ford and Mercury 'FlexFuel' products, and using the E85 gave noticeably more power and torque, according to the butt dyno; and also kept my combustion chambers and related bits squeaky clean! But the benefits came with a consistent 30%(!) drop in fuel mileage, regardless of model. Still, E85 cost around 40-50% less than the regular E15 at the time, so even that was a small win. And my garage always smelled like fresh popcorn. Honest.

Unburned E85 smells like sweaty, old, gym socks.
Pit Crew

The nice thing about an article like this is it gets all the nuts into one bowl instead of having them scattered all over the website. I watched the video when it first came out and it does indeed provide food for thought, no pun intended. Thanks for the article Kyle. A wee bit confusing in a couple of places though. You might want to consider an editor, or at least a proof read before submitting it to Hagerty since I'm pretty sure they just publish everything here verbatim.
Advanced Driver

"For example, it could be farm land that was sitting fallow or was wild before being cleared, tilled, and planted. That clearing releases carbon that the plants had stored in various manners, along with the emissions of the machinery used to perform the work."

I opine that very little wild land was converted to corn growth because of ethanol.
But those fields are fertilized and the Haber Process to produce that fertilizer consumes a lot of natural gas.
Recently, (during this latest gasoline price increase) I have seen E-85 sell for the same price as E-15, no savings for the driver when the decrease in fuel mileage is considered.
Pit Crew

How green is an electric car? In order to build the batteries for one electric car requires the mining of 500,000 lbs of earth. To visualize 500,000 lbs it more than 10 tractor trailer loads. Now think about how much material will have to be mined to replace the approximately 1.5 billion vehicles in the world.

We may have to destroy the earth to save it.
Intermediate Driver

And China controls most of the Lithium Mines & Rare Earths today.


Interesting and debatable. All I know is currently, gasoline (oil) is not easily replaceable, and for reasons beyond my intelligence, The Fed has decided that we should reduce producing our own oil and buy it from other nations. Other nations that mostly hate us. I think the best thing we can do for the collective US, is for each of us to reduce our personal consumption until we can find another feasible additive or alternative. I'm sure the corn farmers won't appreciate this article. 


The most intriguing question here is, why does the high school kid in the video have gray hair?


P.S.: To the author of the video, Stop throwing corn! It's annoying and stupid.

Intermediate Driver

Up until Jan 20 2021, the USA was Oil & Gas self-sufficient and one of the globe's largest Exporter.   Joe changed all that on Day 1 ! 


Are you aware that Oil is Abiotic?   Created in the core of the earth & likely will be with us forever . . . .

New Driver

Never let good science, get in the way of profitable politics.


Cheapest electricity per kWhr = coal.

Coal is bad. Mkay?

Advanced Driver

As in most things, Follow The Money. Some group, armed with a funded-academic lab report, buys enough Government to enact legislation that benefits them. Media reports the Latest Miracle without actually looking into it. We pay the price. Same thing with the magical electric vehicles, that even the car magazines have been bought into pushing. Really, the only way to power most stationary things is with nuclear, but that's a process that requires more attention and care than the people running those programs have so far brought to fruition.
New Driver

The earth has only been really industrialized for less than 200 years.  Yes, climate changes throughout history but you have to agree that we humans with our millions of cars and many other carbon emitting inventions, I have 2 gas guzzlers myself, are accelerating the process and I worry about my 8 years old future and his kids(hopefully).  I hope we humans can figure a way to reverse our impact.  But I do love my E85 powered twin turbo hot rod that would qualify for special low emissions parking even though I know that thing emits more CO2 than an old Hummer.


50 years ago my Dad was sure that in 50 years refrigerators and freezers would no longer be necessary appliances.

34 years ago Cy Warner talked about how we would have no oil by 2000 and the only answer was more nuke plants. Ok?
Sure, the power company he worked for owned a nuke plant and this was for energy merit badge. Ok?
We need to stop using gasoline. Ok?

If you knew Cy, you’ll get it. Ok?

Are you aware that before the Industrial Revolution the atmospheric CO2 concentration was very low and near the low-limit for sustainable crops? Atmospheric CO2 had gone up 50%, but still well below the ideal range for plants. This is all a part of the self-regulating carbon cycle. More plants prevents more reflective heating and increases the evaporation of water, which regulates the solar input.
All of these also fail to take into account the non ICE CO2 sources, which are significant.
Intermediate Driver

CO2 does not control the Weather or Klimate or Hurricaines or Forest Fires . . . it is benign rare gas that enables plants to process sunlight & grow while they emit Oxygen, which is really important to all living creatures.

Most CO2 is created by Nature about 96%. Ocean Evaporation, microbs, decay, wildlife & so on . . . man's contribution is quite tiny by comparison.  The hype & wild predictions of the last 30 years have been based on Computer Models & Rhetoric.

AGW = still an Unproven Hypothesis . . . and according to Solar Scientists like Dr. Soon the globe has been slightly cooling now for 2 decades because of Solar Flare inactivity which could last for 30 or 40 years.  

We are much cleaner today than a mere 50 years ago in 1970 . . . auto emissions are a tiny fraction of what they were then.  

And the really good news . . . Oil is Abiotic, created in the core of the earth and will likely be with us forever, the second most common fluid on the planet. Also found elsewhere in the solar system, so there goes the Fossil argument.

I have always found it amuzing that 3 or 4 hundred million people in North America are going to sacrifice to the Max . . . while 4 or 5 BILLION in China, India, the African Continent & Russia do absolutely nothing but grow their emissions every year.  

The Global Warming scare was financed by the same folks who financed the "Peace Movement" back in the day . . . remember Gorbechev being involved in the first Klimate Summit at Rio along with Strong, Soros & Gore over 30 years ago? 

The Oceans didn't rise, last Summer Antartica recorded some of their Coldest Temperatures in History & 1 year ago Enviro-Canada reported that Arctic Ice was 27% Above Normal. 

Yet the Media Hype continues . . . only about 30% of the population believe anything the Legacy Media says today.


Ethanol. Corn fuel. The savior of many states.

But, before we get into all that, let’s set aside the GHG and carbon emissions - which weren’t concerns at the time, or the sustainable energy concepts - again, the prior oil crisis were political and economic, not supply driven.

Ethanol, when used as an octane booster and an oxygenating compound, it works well. The oxygenation helps the combustion process and the octane boost gets higher octane ratings from base fuel stocks at a cheaper price. At a strict 10% limit, it was quite safe. That’s a fact, I have the original carb on 2 of my Buick’s, both ran plenty of ethanol blend back in the 80s and early 90s. Around 2008 I stopped using pump gas and switched to vintage leaded gas and later to leaded race gas. Not for performance, but fuel quality.

That said, what happened? Why did ethanol start causing increasingly widespread problems?

After the farm commodity collapse in the late 70s and early 80s (for fun, research WHY), there was a wholesale push to boost commodity prices. Enter the Ethanol mandate. Cleaner burning fuel - tailpipe emissions, remember, carbon cycle related carbon emissions were a non-issue, and a low-cost octane boost. Why not?

Oh my, we are burning our food! The left and right pundits said.

But wait, there’s more. You see, after the grain is cooked to release the sugars, it is dried and sold as feed. Yup, that’s right, after the ethanol subsidy, it is sold off as animal feed. That part isn’t considered in the carbon emissions offset nanoparticles sorority tickle fight while Carl’s Jr. believes no child should go hungry. Okay okay, why does that matter? Well, the protein is largely intact, with less unnecessary carbs. It’s actually a win-win. Mostly.

Now we’ve all probably heard about some stations coughCitgocough over blending and selling garbage gas. It’s true, there was a lawsuit.

But, sometime around 2008 things changed. Suddenly the ethanol blends weren’t so tight, they had absorbed a lot of water, and the old tales of ethanol destroying fuel systems became pretty common. Balderdash, you say. Well…1991-1995, Amaco Ultimate was 93 octane, ethanol free, and one of my engines ran ping-free, no issues. But, it also ran quite acceptable on 90 octane 10% ethanol blend, albeit with a little timing pull. 2014, 93 BP has ethanol, 10% they say, same engine pings like a can of marbles. Probably the engine, right. Went through it, confirmed everything is in great shape, pull 4 degrees, oh, and it is lean. lean at WOT. Why? Same car, gears, same jets. Ethanol was more than 10%. But, the limit is 10%!
Well, under a previous administration, it unofficially changed.

Round about that time, I switched to race gas. Do you want to know what happens to a vintage carb that has race gas evaporate from the fuel bowls? Nothing. Just don’t let some eco-minded tailpipe sniffer check for Pb.
Intermediate Driver

I wonder if our current shortage of fertilizer which is on the horizon of this years crops might not point to an obvious conclusion that food for humans is more important than some slight reduction of emissions? Farmer's have indicated that this shortage and price hikes on fertilizer is a concern or as a politician who I can't remember his name says " come on man I'm not kidding". We should think more about people than politics.

I briefly, part time, flew a private airplane for a company that produced ethanol.
We usually went to corn country but once were going to an area near a coal mine. What gives? I asked.
Seems that since it took fossil fuels to cook the stuff up it was as cheap to bring the corn to the coal as it was to bring the coal to the corn. They knew it was a Ponzi scam but they were making money so…
Pit Crew

The whole thing was derived from politicians. What else does anyone really need to know? Our pile of crap governor in Missouri is doubling down on it, of coarse. It's full of water and terrible for your fuel system, has a terrible shelf life. Not to mention that it's not "cheaper" once the math is done properly. It's akin to banning email so we can keep USPS in business. #boondoggle

Neither the video nor the article mentions the other dirty secret about ethanol/corn:
Federal subsidies
In 2016 the subsidies for JUST corn were almost $14B. The subsidies, when combined with the real-world impact of ethanol not really doing what it has been reported to do for the environment from an emissions standpoint, add back in the extra greenhouse gas produced from turning over dirt, and you have a real mess.
New Driver

The first responder was very close to the primary problem in my opinion. I won’t go into the issues of corn vs switchgrass, ethanol/parts compatability, lower fuel mileage, obscene govt. subsidies, etc.  The real crisis from ethanol relates to population. Most corn is grown in central US  partly because it overlies the Ogallaha Aquifer. This aquifer is one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world and it is being depleted faster than the ethanol can change the climate. Worse is the fact that as the world population nears 10B people we will start straining our natural resourses primary among them; fresh water. Remember, right now we are significantly depleting our fresh water supply to make fuel!! This is insanity! And nobody even seems to consider the long term consequences of these actions. Ultimately, the climate will be cured because we won’t be around. We can’t drink fuel!

Advanced Driver

What really gets me is that way back in the early 1970’s Morgan was the only auto manufacturer to convert their cars to propane in order to comply with emissions requirements without adding smog pumps, converters and all kinds of other complicated junk which caused numerous other issues including new cars that wouldn’t idle.
The propane or natural gas option is clean, efficient, available everywhere and none of the big players ever said maybe Morgan knows something we don’t.
I have a 1939 Dodge truck converted in the 1980’s , it runs clean, sits for months or years and starts quickly, propane is still $3.00 a gallon, in short it is a good solution available today. To heck with ethanol and electricity!!
Pit Crew

The author mentioned considering the whole process of producing ethanol regarding emissions, didn’t mention the uglier truth, considering the whole cost producing ethanol is more expensive than gasoline. But the government subsidizes ethanol so they’ll keep selling it.