Sunday, January 06, 2008


A personal note from a from a friend of mine in the Albany area:

First, let me assure you that this is NOT one of those obnoxious forwards - it is something I am writing out of my own frustration with the gasoline situation, and I'm doing it to give you information that you might find useful.

To save you time you may not want to spend reading this whole thing, here's the main point:


You'll get very poor mileage, stink up your interior and support the wrong idea about energy independence.

Now I'll give the longer version of my diatribe, based on direct experience, not on the input of other ravers (which I imagine is also readily available).

You may have noticed in recent weeks when you filled up that there are stickers on some pumps announcing that the gas is "maximum 10% ethanol." This is because a number of boneheaded politicians have allowed a very wealthy agribusiness lobby to convince them that this is the way toward energy independence (it's not - reduction in use would be a start, but no one in government seems to be advocating that idea). What amounts to a huge giveaway to corn farmers (poor they are not) is also threatening worse pollution of the Gulf of Mexico (through greater chemical runoffs) and a
grotesque misuse of farmland that should be producing food.

I've unwittingly used a few tankfuls of the evil stuff, before realizing that it was doing bad things to my car. The big head-scratcher was that I was suddenly getting the worst mileage I've ever gotten with this 14-year-old Acura Integra (it's like a gussied-up Honda Civic and averages well over 30 mpg). Was it the cold weather? tire pressure? age? oil leaks?

At first, I didn't connect the dots, but now I'm certain that the poorly burning veggie fuel is reducing my mileage by 10-15%. It has been confirmed to me by credible sources that ethanol is known to be cheaper (wholesale) and to give worse mileage. However, so far, it is not proving to be cheaper at the pump - so, with the worse mileage it is in fact a lot more expensive, not to mention more polluting (because you have to use more of it to go the same distance). And it adds to the profits of its sellers by causing unwitting customers to need to fill up more often.

It is also apparently giving off noxious fumes that make me feel lousy, but that's not been confirmed elsewhere.

Ethanol gas has become suddenly popular with area distributors because it is brought in through the Port of Albany for the whole Northeast, and therefore is especially cheap locally (wholesale) due to the short distance it must be trucked. But the distributors are not passing on these savings to the consumers, and they certainly aren't publicizing the fact that it is an inferior product. They are, however, trying to seem environmentally sensitive, which is a load.

I've seen this junk at Stewart's, Lukoil and Sunoco; also, I've heard that Cumberland Farms has it. So far, I know that Mobil still sells pure gasoline; I've also heard that Hess and Getty do, too - and the rest I don't know about one way or the other.

So, my advice to you is not to buy ethanol, and instead to find a station near you that sells the good stuff. I don't really care where the gasoline comes from - that's a rather complicated global political business that we can't do much about - but getting the best possible mileage and polluting less are definitely good things we can do by not using bad gas.

As for the politics - well, we can start by getting rid of the Republicans, but you already knew that.

Thanks for listening, and feel free to pass this on (but please don't overdo it!).

yours truly, D


david latham said...

Hey Roger, Just read your post on buying ethenol spiked gasoline and enjoyed evey word. I'm no greenie but a farmer who understands the basics of life and sound principals. The government mandationg that a food crop (my cornbread) be added to gasoline is absurdedly unnatural while the world is starving! Aside from the fact that it's economicaly and energy inefficient. Here in Alabbama we have seen the "ethenol" stickers go on the pumps since the middle of May and everyone has passively sat back and only said "well we have to do something about our dependence on foreign oil". That's as stupid as saying " lets tax air to fund cancer research because people get lung cancer by breathing! I could go on and on. Thanks for letting me vent! Oh, But thats probaby wrong to say because it contains carbon dioxide!!!!!

rick said...

Roger I disagree with most of your article, but your point about toxic runoff into the gulf is right on. May I suggest you visit

navy_sub_guy said...

Roger, I agree - do not buy gasoline with ethanol blended in. Below is my personal, data supported, experience why I have come to this conclusion.

I am in the Navy. Last year I returned to shore duty and was able to drive my car (2000 VW Beetle) consistently again. I track my mileage pretty closely and noticed I was only getting 21.36 mpg; average over 1900.1 miles – horrible! (A couple years earlier on a previous shore duty I had gotten ~25 mpg.) I set out to try and restore my mileage to at least 25 mpg. I had a lead foot tendency and decided to start by changing my driving habits a bit. The change I made was simply to not exceed 60 mph. After making that change I saw an improvement to 22.93 mpg (average over 2691.8 miles) but not the full 25 mpg realized years earlier. I was stumped.

Then one day while filling up my car I noticed the 10% Ethanol Blend sticker on the gas pump and I had one of those rare “Eureka!” moments. I did my research and found out that while I was on my sea deploying command (not a shore duty) for the previous two years the entire state of Hawaii had transitioned to 10% Ethanol Blend for their fuel of choice. I started asking around and everyone seemed to already know “well of course your mileage is lower, that’s what happens when you use 10% Ethanol Blend – but it’s cheaper!” Well, now I knew too – at least it sounded good. But I wanted to really find out for sure.

I started asking around and Identified 6 (only 6!) gas stations on the entire Island of Oahu that still offered the 100% pure gasoline. These were located at boat marinas and an airfield. Apparently the high performance engines for these pleasure vehicles were getting destroyed by the 10% Ethanol Blend and so the state of Hawaii allowed these specialized establishments to sell the 100% Pure Gasoline.

I started filling up at one of the boat marinas. I noticed a difference in mpg right away – 24.77 mpg; average over 1429.5 miles. Another interesting note: without changing any conditions, after the first 5 fill ups of pure gasoline, I noticed another jump in my mileage. The best reason for this additional improvement in gas mileage is it took this long to completely work out all the old nasty 10% Ethanol Blend that was still hanging out in my fuel system. This additional improvement in mileage was as average of 26.24 mpg (average over the next 2723.0 miles) – a 14.4% improvement in gas mileage from the original 22.93! – and better than the ~25 mpg a few years earlier! (I was still staying 60 mph or slower.)

One of the sales pitches for using the 10% Ethanol Blend is it’s making us less dependent on foreign oil – 10% less dependent in fact because that 10% Ethanol comes from “local” US. However, I get 14% worse mileage when I use the 10% Ethanol Blend and so I actually end up using 4% more foreign fuel than I would if I simply stuck to pure gasoline. Also, if the price of pure gasoline is less than the percentage of improved gas mileage then money is also saved. Unfortunately for me, the pure gasoline in Hawaii was about 20% more expensive than the 10% blend. So, because I was only getting 14% better mileage I was paying roughly 6% more for my gas over time. But I was using less foreign gas and I was contributing less carbon dioxide from fossil fuels into the atmosphere.

I admit, this data only applies to my VW Beetle. The improvement in mileage from pure gasoline is likely different from car to car. If your car only gets 5% better mileage with pure gasoline then it would be better to stick with the 10% Ethanol Blend. And my study was not a “scientific study”.

I recently returned to the mainland. And I am finding out that most places, like in Hawaii, sell 10% Ethanol Blend. But I’m in the market for pure gasoline. And so I'm looking for pure gasoline. Coincidentally, just today the cashier at the gas station I go to told me the “Supreme” gas is still 100% pure gasoline – NO ETHANOL! And it’s only 13.8% more expensive. So with an expected improvement of 14.4% mileage I’m switching over to Supreme. It’ll save me money, I’ll burn less foreign fuel and I’ll contribute less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s win-win-win with my car. I suspect the Edmond Police Officers have identified the same findings I have.

A fourth potential “win” is the rumored better performance of the vehicle over time when using 100% gasoline. This has implications into less maintenance costs over time. I really have no way to make this determination with just my one car, especially now that it’s had both pure gasoline and the 10% Ethanol Blend.

If you’re interested in additional ways to improve your gas mileage, read on: A friend (he was a certified GMAC Mechanic for 7 years before joining the Navy) suggested I swap out my factory air filter for a K&N High Performance air filter. I did and my new mileage was 27.30 mpg; average over 1179.0 miles. That was a 4.03% improvement from the 26.24 mpg without the K&N Air Filter. Another change he recommended was to swap out my factory spark plugs for Platinum 4 spark plugs. Had I stayed in Hawaii I would have done this too. Now that I’m on the mainland, however, I want to wait and establish a new baseline for the driving conditions here before I make the swap. This way I can make an reasonable estimate at the observed improvement (if any) from swapping out the spark plugs. A third change he recommended was changing my oil to “Mobile Synthetic 0-30”. I will eventually make this change too. But again, I don’t want to change too many variables at the same time.

I’m happy to see others, like the Edmond Police Officers, are realizing the benefit of pure gasoline over 10% Ethanol Blend fuels. I’m also happy to share other things that can help save on fuel consumption – air filter, spark plugs, oil, driving habits. If anyone has other techniques to improve mileage please share. Also, if anyone can confirm the "Supreme" really is pure gasoline I'm looking to confirm that too.