Are we getting GASOHOL without knowing it ?

Discussion in 'Technical Q&A' started by TOM B, Mar 14, 2004.

  1. TOM B

    TOM B Formula 3

    Jul 24, 2003
    Orange County, NY
    Full Name:
    Thomas Buckley

    I've been noticing for the last week that my 3.2 Mondial wasn't running quite right. Just a bit rough and it seemed down on power. I've been religiously using Sunoco 93 from the same station for the last year.

    Facts, as I know them:

    --Two fillups ago I noticed a little sticker on the gas pump that read "CONTAINS 10% ETHANOL". I hadn't noticed it before. Probably because it wasn't there.

    --I remember hearing an item on the news recently about the octane booster, MTBE, being banned from pump gas.

    --This fillup I went to the next town and hit an EXXON station which didn't have the little "ETHANOL" sticker over its 93 octane. 200 miles later, the car feels back to normal.

    --Back in the 80's, when lead was banned from pump gas, gasohol had it's moment in the sun. You see, alcohol, is a very effective , and cheap, octane booster and was thought to be a good substitute for the octane boosting properties of lead.

    -- But, there is no "free lunch". It was soon discovered that the use of alcohol in pump gas had some drawbacks. First, there is the tendency for an engine to run rough on the initial few tankfuls of gasohol. Secondly, the alcohol acts as a solvent and dissolves years of sludge/varnish that may have built up in the tank over the years. This sludge gets picked up by the fuel filter and clogs it much more frequently than normal, requiring filter changes often until the system cleans itself out. The third problem with gasohol is "phase separation". This is the characteristic of alcohol to eventually separate from the hydrocarbon gasoline and take any moisture with it. In vehicles that aren't driven frequntly or are stored for long periods of time, you will have a slug of water/ethanol rolling around your gas tank. Where that slug ends up in your fuel lines is a matter of chance.

    --Enter MTBE. Boosts octane without alcohol's side effects and has been used for many years. Then some laboratory rat got cancer after drinking straight MTBE for all of its life and it was recently banned. I personally think cancer is caused by lab rats. But that's another story. :)


    --I suspect we are being fed gasohol without being told what's going on. As usual, "THEY" are trying to do it in an insidious way to minimize any reaction.

    --Please note that the negative side effects of gasohol seem to show themselves in older, infrequently used cars like, FERRARIS .

    --Because the spread of gasohol appears to be sporadic, we run the risk of intermittent usage with the resulting effects being inconsistencies in our cars' performance.

    I apologize for the length of this epistle. I have no idea what a viable action plan might be. Thank you for reading this and I hope its message helps someone understand what may be going wrong with their car. Any and al comments, ideas, discussion is welcomed.

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  3. BigAl

    BigAl F1 Veteran

    Mar 17, 2002
    Full Name:
    GSgt Hartman
    Tom, sure sounds suspicious. I wouldn't put it past them.
  4. Ed P.

    Ed P. Formula 3

    Dec 28, 2002
    Long Island
    Full Name:
    No Longer
    I noticed those stickers on the pumps recently too. I was wondering if they had been there for a while and I wasn't paying attention....
  5. Bryan

    Bryan Formula 3

    New York and Connecticut, as well as California, banned MTBE as of 1 Jan 2004 and replacd it with ethanol to keep the oxygenate level elevated. Oxygenates assist in the more complete combustion of the fuel and reduce hydrocarbon emissions in the exhaust.

    So what you are seeing is likely the result of that. The requirement for higher oxygenates isn't necessary until 1 April, so gas stations are probably in the midst of making the changes now.

    All three states have requested a waiver from the EPA to "opt out" of the oxygenates reul, which would allow the states to avoid the ethanol as well. There is a precedent for granting this waiver...New Hampshire has already received the waiver.

    Ethanol is more expensive that MTBE on an equivalent oxygenate basis. However, it's difficult to allocate the recent gasoline price hikes among various causes, e.g. ethanol and crude oil increases.
  6. f355spider

    f355spider F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    May 29, 2001
    Tom, out here in the NW, we have had those "up to 10% Ethanol" stickers on the gas pumps for at least 7 or 8 years. I can't remember if ALL gas brands have it, but most do. I have never noticed any performance difference in my cars or motorcycle.
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  8. winston

    winston Karting

    Nov 3, 2003
    Full Name:
    Ethanol is not necessary, Chevron has stated it can produce clean burning fuel Without, oxygenates. The California Air Resources Board asked the federal EPA to allow oxygnates in order to meet clean air requirements. Our new governor has asked for a waiver from the oxygenate requirement. So far no dice. MTBE was banned as it has polluted many wells and water systems. My Acura has suffered from increased cranking to start and 10% reduction in mileage with the increased use of oxygenates. Ethanol is a boondoggle which suppports politicians in Washington with votes from the corn lobby and Archer Daniels Midland. All in all it takes more energy to produce corn and ethanol than ethanol provides energy for motor vehicles. There is a big tax subsidy for ehthaol so we pay and then pay again.
    Write your representative and Senators. We do not need this. Oxygenates are the reason California has the highest fuel prices in the nation.
  9. 1975gt4don

    1975gt4don Formula Junior

    Nov 5, 2003
    Peoples Rep of CA
    Full Name:
    Smog Exempt
    I am so surprised no one has mentioned the highly corrosive rubber hardening qualities of MTBE on fuel lines. Ever see so many cars burning on CA highways so much? MTBE is the reason. Don't skimp on fuel line quality on our F-cars.

  10. Dr.T348

    Dr.T348 Formula 3

    Jan 8, 2004
    Chicago NW Burbs
    Full Name:
    Richard T.
    Thanks to the east and west coast for supportting us corn growers in Illinois.

    The Chicago ares has required 10% ethanol in all gasolines for a long time. I had a '65 corvette and when hot the ethanol will evaporate from the carb. Union 76 used to carry non ethanol 108 octane, but no longer. I don't think on a fuel injected system it evaporates the same.

    No problems though running 10% ehtanol on low compression 308.
  11. Jdubbya

    Jdubbya Two Time F1 World Champ
    Silver Subscribed

    Dec 28, 2003
    Full Name:
    I believe it is only in areas that also have emission testing. Over here in the west sound we have neither. The argument FOR adding Ethanol (if I remember right) was it helped reduce emissions. It started out in the Tacoma area only during the winter months, but may be year round now.
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