Saturday, May 27, 2006

Losing Reasons to Bitch About Auto Racing.

First the Fonz, then Corn Cob Bob.

From the Herald Tribune (Southwest Florida):
Even race car drivers care about the ozone layer. Sunday will mark the first Indianapolis 500 in which all the cars burn ethanol, the corn-based fuel additive that has been generating more buzz in the wake of the recent spike in gasoline prices and the heightening search for American-grown renewable energy. Where else to make a big splash but the heartland, a stone's throw from the cornfields of Indiana? "To me, it's very appropriate," said 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier.

Returning to my "in training" roots here, ethanol is one of those things that I hear about frequently but am not particularly knowledgeable about. Here, the American Coalition for Ethanol comes in handy. Patching together a couple of their sections...

Ethanol is a clean-burning, high-octane fuel that is produced from renewable sources. At its most basic, ethanol is grain alcohol, produced from crops such as corn. Because it is domestically produced, ethanol helps reduce America's dependence upon foreign sources of energy.

Pure, 100% ethanol is not generally used as a motor fuel; instead, a percentage of ethanol is combined with unleaded gasoline. This is beneficial because the ethanol:

  • decreases the fuel's cost
  • increases the fuel's octane rating
  • decreases gasoline's harmful emissions

Any amount of ethanol can be combined with gasoline, but the most common blends are:

E10 - 10% ethanol and 90% unleaded gasoline

E10 is approved for use in any make or model of vehicle sold in the U.S. Many automakers recommend its use because of its high performance, clean-burning characteristics. In 2004, about one-third of America's gasoline was blended with ethanol, most in this 10% variety.

E85 - 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded gasoline

E85 is an alternative fuel for use in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). There are currently more than 4 million FFVs on America's roads today, and automakers are rolling out more each year. In conjunction with more flexible fuel vehicles, more E85 pumps are being installed across the country. When E85 is not avaialble, these FFVs can operate on straight gasoline or any ethanol blend up to 85%.

It is important to note that it does not take a special vehicle to run on "ethanol". All vehicles can use E10 with no modifications to the engine. E85 is for use in a flexible fuel vehicle, so some people confuse "ethanol" with the blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

The majority of the ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, but it can also be produced from other feedstocks such as grain sorghum, wheat, barley, or potatoes. Brazil, the world's largest ethanol producer, makes the fuel from sugarcane.

A few of the sources that I read made sure to point out that it was "sweet-tasting". I guess that's good, because by my understanding, regular gasoline tastes like hell.

In any event, I do recall some negatives coming up in certain articles, but I was unable to locate them just now. The sites I went to were very pro ethanol, as you can imagine. If and when I do, I'll post them here.

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