OP-ED: The Auto Channel VP counters Gephardt and Kelley on gas mileage decrease, ethanol-gas blends

This Letter to the Editor was addressed jointly to St. George News and Aaron Kelly in response to previous St. George News opinion articles; to wit: most recently an Op-Ed submitted by  Aaron Kelley,  Counterpoint to Analysis: Gas mileage going down, and that to the original column by Bill Gephardt, Analysis: Gas mileage going down.

OPINION EDITORIAL – Hi Aaron, I’m writing to you about your op/ed response, “Counterpoint to Analysis: Gas Mileage Going Down,” which was published on StGeorgeUtah.com (article here).

The mistake that has been made here, in both the original article written by Bill Gephardt and in your reply to it, is that you are referring to “energy content” as being the reason why a gasoline-powered spark induced internal combustion engine gets less mileage with ethanol (or an ethanol-gasoline blend). And this is an error that has been made for many years, and is repeated, and repeated, and repeated.

It’s not a matter of “energy content,” it is a matter of “engine optimization.” A spark induced ICE that is optimized to run on ethanol (or a high ethanol-gasoline blend) will deliver mileage that equals or even exceeds the mileage of gasoline in a gasoline optimized ICE. While you do touch upon the importance of spark timing to properly ignite either fuel, spark timing is just one of three factors that must be addressed in comparing mileage efficiency in the two fuels: the other two factors are length of piston stroke (ethanol permits longer strokes per same time intervals), and proper fuel injectors. The fuel injectors in the typical gasoline-powered engine (non-flex fuel and flex fuel vehicles) actually wastes ethanol. This is the probably the single biggest reason of the three why there is comparative mileage loss.

To illustrate this another way, if you had an ethanol optimized engine (which correctly addressed all 3 issues) and you tried to use straight gasoline, the engine might not even run, but it would surely produce fewer miles per gallon of fuel. However, it would still be correct to say that gasoline has a greater energy content than ethanol (according to BTU style measurements). But as you can see, the higher energy content is irrelevant.

This has been known to automotive engineers and scientists for more than 100 years. Unfortunately, it has been successfully swept under the rug by the petroleum oil industry.

On a slightly different note, I find that the issue of water in ethanol causing a problem with gasoline-blends is also a canard. I say this because water separation – if it occurs – does not happen overnight, or after just one week or one month’s inactivity. It takes a longer time. So while this issue has been used to frighten consumers, it is no more significant than the problem of letting an engine with gasoline sit idle for an extended period of time. As I’m sure you know, if you store a vehicle or lawn mower type device for an extended period you are supposed to do one of two things to insure that you don’t catastrophically damage the engine: you either drain the fuel, or you add something like Sta-Bil to the fuel. You would do the same thing with an ethanol-powered engine. It’s funny how the “bad-gasoline” problem gets ignored when anti-ethanol people try and scare people away from trying ethanol or a high ethanol-gasoline blend.

Incidentally, I own a 2002 non-flex fuel Ford Taurus and I run it on either straight E85 or high ethanol-gasoline blends – far in excess of E10 or E15. The vehicle’s engine has not been converted in any manner, and I have not done anything to adjust the engine’s computer. Yes, the check-engine light is illuminated, but I know why and so I am not concerned. I purchased the vehicle used for the purpose of experimenting with it. It passes California smog tests and I do not have any liquid leaking from its hoses or connection points. But, I do save money every time I fill the vehicle. The small mileage loss I do experience is compensated by the lower E85 price.

Thanks for your time.

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Readers might also be interested in St. George News article, Turning over a new leaf, about the first electric Nissan leaf in Utah.


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  • Aaron Kelly August 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I am the author of the article referred to – Op-Ed Counterpoint to ‘Analysis: Gas mileage going down?’. Marc Rauch sent me a copy of this same commentary. My response was as follows (to fully understand the ethanol issue, the paper at the link below is a must read,, feel free to email me with follow up questions or challenges – [email protected] ) –

    Perhaps you missed the point of the article,, the the last sentence in it reads – “Then there’s the lack of mileage loss when pure ethanol is used, meaning how can the lower energy content of ethanol be the cause of a mileage loss if it can be used by itself with no mileage loss.”

    Admittedly I could have done a better job of explaining myself, which I actually did do before the editor kept coming back wanting it made shorter and shorter until much of the easier to understand novice to novice explanation was lost. I also admit that you are better at explaining these kinds of details than I am. What I don’t understand is why when I do my daily Google news search for ethanol, I often come across glowing articles about the magic of ethanol mixed with gasoline where the writer is furious with its detractors,, why not use your news pulpit to prop E100 rather than the various blendings of it with gasoline?

    the link below opens a pdf file containing a paper I wrote about ethanol and related fuel issues that I think you will like,, I would like to hear your reaction to it


  • Murat August 14, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Ethanol blends are stupid.

  • Marc Rauch August 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Yes, Aaron did send me the reply he indicated above. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t more honest in then including my reply to his response. So for fun, and to show that I not only understood the point that he could properly articulate, but that even with greater clarification of what his point was that he is incorrect, I have included my response below:

    Hi Aaron –

    Thanks for your reply.

    I understand what you’re saying about having a story (or video) butchered by someone who is worried more about space than accuracy. One of the best things about being the co-owner of TheAutoChannel.com is that I can say what I want, regardless of how long it takes to say it.

    I don’t think I missed or misunderstood the last sentence, but I didn’t specifically address it because I thought I had essentially covered the point in my explanation of fuel optimized engines. But, in specifically addressing that point, as I understand what you are saying, I would say that pure ethanol used in a gasoline-powered engine will get less mileage than a blend because it doesn’t have any of the vital gasoline characteristics that is need to efficiently run the gasoline-optimized engine.

    Regarding the second paragraph of your reply, I don’t know if you are referring to my business partner and I when you say that some writers are furious with ethanol detractors (I hope I interpreted this correctly, too). I admit to being one of those writers that responds very sharply to ethanol critics (or CNG critics, for that matter). I take it personally because I believe that what they are doing to America is terribly wrong. The analogy I like to use is this: The oil lobby brings out heavily degreed spokespeople as if they are bulls with big testicles. They parade him around and they and he, because of his “credentials” think that everyone will just genuflect and kiss the bull’s nose ring. In most cases the spokesperson has done no independent investigation on the subject, they just recite the same old lies and gross misstatements.

    So my position is that he needs a little shock with something akin to an electric cattle prod to get his attention and let him know that he’s really just a steer (castrated bull) and that he ain’t got what it takes. If I was softer, the message wouldn’t get through because their heads are so insulated with their ego. I don’t believe that my email to you was vicious or nasty (I did not intend for it to be) because I didn’t feel that you were trying to over-use or over-state credentials that have nothing to do with this matter.

    Regarding E100 and using The Auto Channel to push it: There really is no such thing as E100 because by law the fuel has to be denatured so that it isn’t drinkable. The most common ingredient to use is gasoline. Additionally, engines using E99 may have a difficult time starting in cold weather. The gasoline actually helps with initial starting. And lastly, we don’t spend a lot of time pushing E99 because no one sells it (or almost no one), so why knock our brains out promoting something that’s not available. A person would need their own still. By the way, I have a still, and I intend on trying it….some day after I get a license. I just have never had the time.

    I haven’t read your paper yet, but I will do so now. Thanks for sending it.



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