I did some research for a story on North Dakota corn growers and ethanol recently. It turns out ethanol was indeed a boon to corn growers this year, as the corn crop turned out to have low test weights and high moisture content.
Corn buyers pay by test weight, and grain elevators charge by percentage points of moisture to dry it. But neither of this matters much to ethanol plants, who aren’t interested in the food or feed value of the crop.
Since North Dakota is not big on cattle ranching, the feed market for lower-grade corn is minimal. Areas of the country where ranching is prominent tend to grow their own corn nearer to the end-user.
The ethanol plants sell their product to oil companies, who get a blender’s tax credit that enables them to sell the blend cheaper than straight gas and make a profit.
Yea for ethanol! Fuel of the future.
I have to wonder, can people count? Can they do simple experiments?
When I still had my ancient Honda Accord, I used to reset my trip meter every time I filled up to get an idea of what kind of mileage I was getting. It always seemed less when I used the 10 percent ethanol blend.
Now I have a Ford Ranger pickup. (I haven’t felt like a proper redneck without a pickup.)
Not long ago I filled my tank with pure gasoline and drove from North Dakota to Minneapolis. I arrived with a quarter of a tank left, which I used driving around town.
In Minneapolis I filled up with the 10% ethanol blend Minnesota requires by law, drove back and arrived with the needle on empty.
Conclusion 1: The slightly lower cost of the subsidized ethanol blend is more than offset by the lower mileage. I never use the ethanol blend if I can buy straight gas.
Conclusion 2: The function of the blender’s credit is to pay oil companies for the priviledge of selling watered-down gas. Nice deal for the oil companies.
This did not require me to search out and evaluate scientific studies, I did it myself.
The price of the blend is usually about 10 cents less than the cheapest unblended gas. Ten cents a gallon less for the blend, for about 14 gallons equals a buck-forty saved on a fill-up. That does not make up for the extra quarter-tank of fuel I burn. (That’s about 3 2/3 gallons of gas. Check the current price of gas, whatever it is today I don’t believe it’s $1.40)
Yet nowhere in the arguments pro or con ethanol have I seen anybody say they’ve tried this.
Can anybody do simple math or design a simple experiment anymore?