A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Alternative Fuels

Great article at Popular Mechanics this week. Good summary, interesting facts, well-researched, well-written. Very interesting to read that E85 is a good alternative, since a lot of folks on the right (yes, including the right-wing "squawkers" on radio, tc) don't believe that to be the case. There are a few things that go unmentioned in the article (most likely because the focus is cars and trucks) which are worth bearing in mind, however.

The main thing is that ethanol and methanol blends (E/M10 all the way through E/M85) are very hard on small engines like those found in weed whackers, lawn mowers, and boat engines. Why? Because those engines are not made of stainless steel or plastic and are therefore highly susceptible to the corrosive aspects of the alcohol. Switching to stainless steel or plastic is feasible in cars and trucks-- the added cost can be absorbed in the overall large cost of a new vehicle. Not so with small engines-- adding the cost of producing small engines with stainless steel or plastic fuel tanks would cause a marked rise in cost for these types of engines.

But using even E10 (90% gas and 10% ethanol) in these engines can be quite detrimental to both the engines and the fuel lines. Beyond just the physical make-up of the engines, there is the fact that most such engines see only seasonal use (since we don't use lawnmowers in the winter or snowmobiles in the summer, and even during the seasons of use, most engines go days and often weeks without use). Thus the gas often just sits there, allowing the alcohol to corrode-- and evaporate. Said evaporation leaving behind gummy stuff to muck up your fuel lines.

All of that said, I am all in favor of increasing ethanol and hydrogen/hybrid cars and trucks and biodiesel semis. Just don't try to force us to have to use ethanol or other alterntive fuels in engines that can't handle them (like they tried to do in Wisconsin recently). Oh, and lets get rid of the dozens of different formulas of ethanol/gas blends currently being mandated for differing areas of the country-- all that does is increase cost, decrease supply, and drive up prices.

Hard to picture that as a good thing.



I want to thank you for the insight on the effects of alcohol small engines. I agree with you in saying that there is a time and a place for everything, and given that it isn't feasible to covert (for instance) lawnmower engines to bio-ethanol, than there is little else to be done. But most importantly, the detrimental impact of standard gas/petrol on the environment is more significant in the use of large scale vehicles. What bothers me however is the lack of iniciative and overall education of the public, regarding the negative effects of oil and its derivatives on the environment. I am however aware that change, especially on a grand scale, tends to happen gradually and I hope to see alternate fuels play a much larger part in fuelling our methods of transportation in the near future. I work for a PR company that is promoting an alternate fuel (GTL cleaner diesel), therefore I have some interesting information on the subject; some of which is posted on my blog:
I would be happy to send you further information, just visit my blog or email me at andrevfb@gmail.com

Thanks, and great blog!
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