Is Ethanol Better Than Gasoline?

CHICAGO (CBS) — Crude oil prices are down, and that should be good news for drivers. But the problem is, many drivers aren’t seeing prices at the gas pump fall that much.

Oil Expert Phil Flynn of says prices do seem to skyrocket when they’re on the upswing, but trickle down at a snail’s pace. He says it’s partly because gas station owners are trying to make up for what they lost in recent weeks. When gas prices were high, they couldn’t profit as much because they had to compete for business.

As CBS 2’s Pamela Jones reports, the cost of filling up is leading some drivers to look for alternatives. People we talked to at the pump say they’ve had their fill of hearing about gas prices coming down.

“I don’t think they’re coming down,” said driver Dion Jackson, “No. Not at all.”

Prices seemed to shoot up recently to $4.82 and higher in some places. It took two weeks for that price to drop 3 cents to $4.79 today.

“I guess when they do come down that’s why I haven’t noticed it. Maybe 5 or ten cents, but when they go up they do go up really fast,” said another driver.

But you could be filling up for $3.45 a gallon – if you had a car that burns E-85 or ethanol. Right now, it’s much cheaper than regular gas.

“It’s a very clean fuel. Very efficient,” said ethanol producer Keith Gibson.

He manages Iroquois Bio-Energy Company in Rensselaer, Indiana. They take animal feed corn, grind it into corn meal, ferment it and turn it into ethanol. An energy source good enough for the Indy Racing League.

“The cars still run fine. They run fast,” said Gibson.

Gibson hopes high gas prices will encourage sales of cars that can run on E-85; and increase demand for the fuel. But some environmentalists say you just can’t drive as far on a gallon of E-85.

“E-85 is not as fuel efficient as gasoline,” said Max Muller of Environment Illinois, “So, the price difference – really, even with gas prices high right now is kind of a wash.

“It burns a little different,” counters Gibson,”The ethanol has a very high octane number. So it’s a very hot burning fuel.”

Gibson also notes that E-85 burns cleaner, leading to fewer emissions. But environmentalists say it really creates more global warming because of all the fossil fuel burned in harvesting and transporting the corn.

“It’s used to transport it to market. It’s used for the fertilizers and the pesticides that are used to grow the corn,” said Muller.

Muller adds that right now, there’s a government subsidy applied to E-85. And, he says, if that subsidy runs out, so does the lower price for E-85.

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  • Puerto Rican And what?

    Crude crude crude that’s all you talk about it like it’s running out. Maybe if you stop being such a greedy government and want to be the only ones on planet earth that wants a nice peaceful life. You talk about it like you don’t have billions of barrels in reserve that we can use. Like 100,000 of them barrels is going to make a dent or whatever number of barrels you have to put out there to ease the grip on every human beings pockets. They raise the prices so you get use to it. Once everyone is so use to paying the high prices they leave them up there because it’s normal to us now. Realize the mind games and rise above it. The more we buy the more the want to jack up the prices and take our money. If we stop buying all the unnecessary stuff than they don’t have a choice but to drop the price. Now there sitting on product they can’t use and now they bring the prices down because them and their families are hurting because they all live an expensive life style. We keep feeding into their bank accounts instead of our own and they get more greedy. I bet if a majority of the people out there were to ease the spending for a month you’ll see how they cry for customers back with discounts and free stuff. They get all the people in again and the process starts all over. Let’s learn peeps, the time is now.

  • Bob Barker

    Better? Of course it’s not better! It wouldn’t even be a question if the farmers and politicians weren’t in each other’s pockets playing games with subsidies and contributions. It isn’t any cheaper and it doesn’t “burn better” no matter what the industry advocate wants to tell you. A gallon of real gasoline will get you farther than a gallon of ethanol. There’s no getting around that.

    • What!?!

      @ Bob Barker – You speak the truth, good post!

  • stopethanol

    “It burns a little different,” counters Gibson,”The ethanol has a very high octane number. So it’s a very hot burning fuel.” Say what??? Ethanol has 2/3 the BTU’s of gasoline, so it actually cools your mixture, while leaning it because it has excess oxygen. But the fuel computer in your car senses that and adjusts the mixture. In a carbureted engine your mixture might end up being lean, but you would either adjust the mixture or re-jet the carburetor. Octane has NOTHING to do with performance, power or thermal measurement of fuel, it is ONLY an anti-knock index.

  • Sukamadek

    Is Ethanol better than Gasoline? Is throat cancer better than a sore throat? I drive a car that gets 21 miles per gallon but on ethanol E85 I get 14 miles per gallon, what’s not to like?

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