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Surprised by the truths of ethanol? You're not alone...
- By G. Alexander, Owner of Fuel-Testers -
Almost everyday I receive phone calls/emails that result in the caller being very surprised about the "truth and facts" of ethanol and E10 fuels...
We must wonder why the U.S. government and EPA, whom mandated the use of alcohol fuels in recent years, has been unable to supply important facts and precautions to the mainstream public. An occasional news article or television/radio public notice would have been appropriate to educate consumers on how to properly manage and store E10 gasoline.
Ethanol information and necessary precautions is readily available on government, company and fuel organization websites; But,
your typical consumer does not even realize, when filling-up their vehicles with gas, that current gas most likely contains ethanol alcohol.
E10 gasoline has dramatically changed fuel composition, quality, mpg, shelf life and risk for water contamination (phase separation).
Since many states still do not label gas pumps E10, (when ethanol is added), many people do not even realize they're now pumping gas that contains alcohol. View labeling laws.
Since ethanol is blended locally by the fuel distributor into E10 gas, the Gasoline Retail Brand (Shell, Sunoco, Hess, Mobil, Quik-Trip, Texaco...) does not determine if gas contains ethanol.
Many gas message boards contain inaccurate information, when a member posts "(Name of station) does not add ethanol", or asks "Does anyone know of brands that do not contain ethanol?".
A gas station in one town may have up to 10% ethanol in fuel - A station down the road may still be selling non-ethanol gasoline.
This is partly due to gas pumps and storage tanks must be serviced (clean and dry) before station can switchover to E10.
E10 gas remains stable for only 2-3 months in a low humidity and dry environment.
Shelf life for marine and vented engines is often much less (weeks). Non-ethanol gasoline stayed stable for years - Why does the EPA and major fuel refineries assume all consumers are aware of this?
Consumer education is necessary and should have been required with all RFS (Renewable Fuel Standards) aimed to increase E10 distribution.
Many a boat owner will be very upset after storing a full tank of ethanol gas this winter, to learn it has contaminated and be discarded this spring - A shame and unnecessary loss of money, especially with gas prices topping over $ 3.00/gallon during 2008.
Many fuel additive products contain ethanol and other alcohols.
Ethanol alcohol, used for oxygenating E10 and E85 fuel, is a solvent, cleanser, antifreeze, readily absorbs water, etc...
Many other fuel system treatment products have the same exact properties.
Some companies that manufacture and sell fuel treatment products are using deceptive marketing tactics, to convince you that they have a product which will "prevent and fix" all ethanol-related fuel problems - No such miracle product exists! View list of popular gas additives.
If there was product or chemical (fuel additive ingredient) which could simply prevent all the negative side-effects of ethanol in fuel, the major gas companies would already be adding it to the gas produced!
Gas contains hundreds of chemicals and compounds - All added by the fuel companies to provide the best quality of gas possible.
Gasoline sold to the public contains stabilizers, preservatives, dyes, oxygenators, octane enhancers and much more.
Some fuel system products that do not list any alcohol in their ingredients, may instead contain a chemical that has similar properties to ethanol - E.G. Fuel additives that are also "hygroscopic" (attract and absorb or adsorb water) should be avoided.
If your engine owner's manual and/or warranty contract forbids use of alcohol fuels, you will not be reimbursed for any engine damage that is a result of E10 and alcohol blend fuel use! Engines that contain fuel in the tank over 10% (legal limit in U.S. for E10) also will have their warranty invalidated if gas in tank tests over 10% alcohol.
Ethanol has changed many rules of fuel management - Change takes time, but lack of information necessary can sometimes cause major irreversible engine damage and loss.
Do your best to stay educated and informed, and in time things will settle down - Pay special attention to both alcohol and water presence in fuel.
Having too much water or alcohol in E10 gas will always lead to problems, therefore monitoring fuel and following other basic precautions should get you through the change with hopefully minimal inconvenience and financial loss.
We hope the EPA and federal government will eventually address consumer E10 issues and complaints. Improved laws and policy would help consumers to support ethanol and other renewable or alternative fuels.
I would recommend federal legislation that would:
1. Require E10 sticker labeling in ALL states;
2. Give choice at public pumps for non-ethanol, E10 and E85/E100;
3. Supply E10/E85 expected gas expiration date on pump;
4. Require gas additive companies to label alcohol content on product and include if product is safe with e10 and E85 fuels.
5. Much more improvement is needed...Contact Fuel Testers for more information and our thoughts on how ethanol (E85) could be a "friendly fuel" for the future to help decrease our dependence of foreign oil imports.