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E85 Cleared for Retail Sale in Florida

31 May 2006

E85 is now allowed for retail sale in the state of Florida. State fuel regulations have, until now, prohibited the sale of the 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline blend to the public. With the rules prohibiting public sale now changed, retailers must get their E85 infrastructure in place.

John Magwood, President of First Coast Biofuels, which supplies a handful of private fleets with E85 including the City of Jacksonville and Kennedy Space Center, says that Florida has about 400,000 flexible-fuel vehicles on its roads.

The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) worked with the state on the rules. The organization is in the midst of a similar effort in Arizona. (Earlier post.)

At this time, there are two Federally-accessed E85 locations in Florida. They include those on the campuses of Hurlburt Air Force Base and the Kennedy Space Center.

May 31, 2006 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)

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As a European, I find it puzzling that each US state is allowed to decide which fuels can and which cannot be sold in its territory. The certification tests for every vehicle model includes, among many others, a hot-soak SHED test for evaporative losses from the fuel system. The temperature conditions for this test are more severe than anything the vehicle will ever experience out on the road. Flex-fuel vehicles presumably have to pass this test with both regular gasoline and E85.

Therefore, either you mandate a particular fraction of additives such as ethanol to address air quality, national energy security and global warming issues. This way, everyone has to chip in.

Or, you let the consumer decide. In E85's case, your MPG will drop by 25% because of the lower energy density of ethanol relative to gasoline. That means you'll need to spend $4 for a trip that used to cost you $3. If you are willing to spend more on fuel out of a sense of civic duty, more power to you. However, you will be giving many, many others a free ride.

I strongly suspect that Florida's decision was motivated at least in part by a desire on the part of the local sugar barons' lobby to share in the present US ethanol boom. In Europe, the shift to ethanol production was initiated by a WTO ruling against trade-distorting export subsidies. All that extra produce has to be put to some use. Afaik, US sugar growers still receive over $1 billion in annual production subsidies because the consumption is domestic. However, that makes it no less trade-distorting.

Rafael, it really wasn't an issue of deciding which fuels could be sold in the state of Florida. The Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services is required to inspect all fuels sold at retail and the refueling pumps in order to protect the consumer from unscrupulous retailers who might sell sub-standard fuels or use illegal pumps. The previous fuel rules were written years before E85 and B20 were being sold at retail in the USA. So the fuel inspection rules needed to be revised to include the inspection of those fuels before retailers could offer them. To the state's credit, as soon as I pointed out to Dr. Matt Curran, the Chief of the Bureau of Petroleum Inspection that I couldn't sell E85 at retail in Florida, he went immediately to work to re-write the rules. It's taken about a year to get the revisions aproved, which have gone into effect today, June 1.

The reduction in fuel mileage of the average FFV is about 10% but the higher octane rating (103-109) gives the vehicle a significant boost in power. So you're getting a "super" grade of fuel for the cost of "regular." I try to keep the price of E85 less than that of regular unleaded gasoline (the current cost of ethanol makes it difficult) to help make up for the lower mpg. But the enormous benefits to the environment and the US economy, especially rural communities where ethanol is produced, not to mention energy security, are reason enough for many people to use alternative fuels. I've just started driving a Chevy Avalanche FFV and it drives as well on E85 as it did on gasoline alone. Kudos to GM.

Security for me is a main issue. My little Scion is not a flex fuel vehicle but by the time the infrastructure is in place, I'll be ready to trade.

If we had made more effort after the Iranian hostage crisis to rid ourselves of the need for petroleum, imagine, we may never have needed "farm aid".

How can we, as a country, ignore the fact that our energy needs are held hostage by those who hate us? Do we really believe that the House of Saud can maintain control much longer?

According to EPA, the reduction in gas mileage using E85 for a Chevy Avalanche is 25%. I question whether a vehicle averaging 12 mpg is providing "enormous benefits" to the environment. Don't forget that you still have fossil fuel inputs to make the ethanol.

Where did you get you data on just a 10% reduction? Did all the other vehicles have better technology than you Avalanche.

Yes the adoption of E85 by individual states is constituency driven, such as Iowa (corn) and now Florida with sugar.

What perplexes me more than anything is the lower energy density of ethanol vs gasoline, and why there is no negative feedback associated with that. Of course that is because that is not well known. Just yesterday one of the TV stations in Austin Texas, which is perceived as a progressively "green" city, had a news story about new E85 pumps coming to their city. The story promised E85 at $0.30 cents a gallon less than regular gas. Happy feel good story so far, but I was waiting for the negative aspect of E85's 25% lower energy density to be reported, but it never was. The average "Joe" watching now thinks its all good. He will be shocked when his excursion's gas mileage drops from 12mpg to 8mpg!!

I personally see this E85 business as pure nonsense. E10 would make more sense. At best, without being able to eat any corn products here in the US ever again, the corn industry could only deliver nationwide ethanol/gas at E19. This is a best case scenario, not including major droughts or Katrina type disaster events. Here is the source of these numbers:

http://www.energybulletin.net/16400.html

From the EPA site:

Gas mileage Reductions from using E85

Avalanche: 25%
Suburban: 25%
Tahoe: 25%
Silverado 18.5%

Once people do the math, they are not going to be filling up with E85.

Mark A:

I read the original article on the Oil Drum. I read each and every comment on the article and no one, as of the time I read the article, had come up with a convincing refutation. I think the nation is spending too much of our valuable resources pursuing this loser, ethanol, that is.

Any & all alternatives should be pursued in an effort
to slow the flow of American dollars to states that
support terror.

Mr. Magwood-

High octane fuel will not add power to a vehicle designed to use a lower octane fuel. If the vehicle were designed with a high compression ratio to make use of that fuel then the efficiency would be raised and the loss in fuel economy could potentially be closer to what you report.

In fact, high octane fuel (100+ gasoline) used in a vehicle designed for low octane fuel (86-87) will cause the gas mileage to drop without consideration for the lower energy content of ethanol compared to gasoline. Using the lowest octane fuel your vehicle can utilize is always the best idea.

To John Lassater, what alternatives do you propose we pursue? I advocate electric, hybrids and smaller cars. I also advocate wind power, solar power, and nuclear power. I also would love to adopt bicycles and walking to work. But I have to be realistic, and use whatever my budget allows.

Ethanol is not the answer, in my humble opinion. I see, at best, ethanol at E10 nationwide. But I dont think our current farm practices can deliver ethanol at even that rate. In addition, we have to worry about the problems in delivering 100% ethanol to be mixed, and also worry about ethanol's ability to absorb water. Problems that hopefully can be overcome. A person also has to consider the E0 (100% gas) or the B0 (100%diesel) inputs to make this ethanol. From personal experience I know corn is expensive to grow, needing lots of fertilizer (natural gas converted to ammonia) and water to create a crop. It cannot just be planted, and 5 months later harvested. Alot of input (energy) in between. Throw in a drought or flood at the wrong time in the growing period, and the crop is in serious jeapardy. A corn crop is also very damaging to the soil it is grown in, requiring higher and higher fertilizer inputs, if crop rotations are not practiced.

Hopefully a cheaper ethanol source can be found, and the delivery problems associated with ethanol, and the water absorbtion problems can be solved. Until then, I am not as optimistic as alot of people are about ethanol.

I just came across this article.

Iowa State University (ISU) researchers have used mould to convert corn fibre into ethanol, a discovery which could turn by-products of corn milling into another source of fuel.

Tony Pometto, ISU professor of food science and human nutrition, has isolated a particular fungus that he and other researchers have used to successfully convert corn fibre that’s typically used for animal feed into ethanol.

The discovery could boost US ethanol production by about 4 per cent, or 606 million litres a year, said Hans van Leeuwen, an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering.

Very interesting.

Mark A..... my point was simply do it all. Whatever makes sense for the situation, budget or design. I'd rather give my money to a US farmer than to anyone in the middle east... :)

T, the reason I know the Avalanche gets only about 10% less mileage is I own one and keep track of my mileage. Remember, we just found out that the EPA has OVERestimated the mileage of America's cars for years and is revising their method for calculating mileage. I wouldn't trust their data in this case either.

Patrick, I agree, but flex-fuel vehicles are designed to use the high octane E85 fuel, so the extra power is realized. You wouldn't use E85 in non-flex fuel vehicles.

Mark A, there hasn't been a cover-up about the reduced mileage of ethanol. Maybe that one report in Austin failed to mention it, but it's been acurately reported elsewhere. People who are looking into alternative fuels can find that information easily. And corn is not the only feedstock for ethanol production. Personally, I buy some of my ethanol from a company whose main product is pet food. The ethanol is a byproduct. Soon cellulosic biomass is going to be the feedstock of choice for ethanol production. Although at this time some fossil fuel is used to produce the ethanol at most if not all plants, I hope that producers will start to develop "alternative" sources for at least some of the eneregy for their plants, like solar for instance.

You're right on, John Lassiter. There's plenty of room for multiple sources of energy in the USA. We should work on specific alternatives to petroleum for each particular need. We should also utilize over and over every item of waste that we throw away so casually today. All the paper that goes into landfills or up in smoke, for instance, every cotton t-shirt that has holes and goes into the trash, all the organic debris from land clearing, etc can can be utilized for ethanol production.

Did I miss something, or has the ethanol delivery problems, and ethanol's inherent ability to absorb water been fixed. I realize that ethanol can be made from anything, and not just corn. But every report, news story, and advertisement touts ethanol made from corn. I also see a correlation from GM's yellow gas caps, in reference to (yellow) corn.

I hope this ethanol thing works, but personally dont see the economics of it adding up just yet. Of course the farm lobbyists in washington see things differently. Thats why they are paid what they are.

Magwood:

What evidence do you have that the current flex fuel vehcicles have been optimized to use high octane ethanol? Just because they are designed to use ethanol doesn't mean they have changed the compression ratios.

If EPA numbers are high, your Avalanche is even worse that 12 mpg. And just because they are high doesn't mean they misrepresent the differential. I would like to see a data point larger than one before I buy your 10% number. The 25% number is consistent with the differences in energy content of the respective fuels.

Mark, I think ethanol delivery problems are not more of an issue than gasoline. Ethanol plants are being constructed locally, where the feedstock is, unlike gasoline which is refined mainly in the Gulf states. Crude has to be shipped to refineries and then delivered to terminals all over the US, or gasoline is shipped into the US. Then it still has to be trucked just like ethanol. The shipping of feedstock to ethanol plants and shipping of ethanol to markets is a local issue.

As for absorbing water, ethanol doesn't have to sit on the shelf for long periods due to high demand so water hasn't been an issue for some time. I've had it sit in a rail car for several months and one customer goes through a 10,000 gallon tank of E85 every 6 months with no water absorption. But lately it's in and out of my storage in days due to increasing demand, so it seems to be working just fine.

T, I didn't say "optimized", I said "designed to use". But you're probably right, they may not be optimized for E85 since they use multiple grades of ethanol and gasoline which is probably the reason for the loss of mileage. Maybe when there's enough E85 stations out there, maybe GM et al will think about optimizing FFV for E85. Anybody have compression ratio data for FFV vs standard engines?

By the way, did you know that agressive driving habits can result in a 20% loss of mileage? Low tire pressure alone can result in a 6% reduction in mileage.

My point about EPA estimates was that they are simply estimates based on one type of driving habit. I ony worry about my own driving habits and my observed mileage.

Saab made a car that can increase it's boost pressure and advance the timing enough when on E85 so that the difference in mileage compared to gasoline is nearly zero, and power and torque still increase when on E85. That's a significant increase in thermal efficiency, doing the same amount of work using less BTUs. Unfortunately most vehicles don't have that level of optimization.

All FFV should be made to run on 92 octane gas(by raising the compression ratio). You would not experience such a large drop in MPG when using E85 and the higher price of premium gas would drive people to use E85 more. When they can"t find E85 then they can use Premium gas. For now they could sell something like E30(92 octane?). This would help spread the use of ethanol to more cars.

Well from a stand point of a racer, Ethanol is a great source of fuel. I would love to be able to run it in all my cars, but I live in Florida. I dont care about fuel consumption, I want the benefit of a slower burn rate.

Long as I'm using something made in the US and not from some a-rab I'll gladly pay 2x as much . Saving money doesn't seem to matter when you have planes flying into buildings

If the auto companies can make cars more fuel efficient on gasoline they can do the same with ethanol with a little effort and the consumer and country in mind.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed HB 287 , sponsored by Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, which would establish minimum standards for rental properties and detail the legal rights of both landlords and tenants. The legislation is a compromise approved by both Alabama Arise and the Alabama Realtors Association.

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