The Ethanol Papers - Paperturn manuscript - Flipbook - Page 125
in operation efficiency, not reasons related to so-called energy content. It's like
comparing the efficiency of a fork versus a spoon when eating soup by explaining the great difference in the raw material used to make the fork - rather than
the obvious reason.
America, and much of the world, bought the oil industry lie...to the point that
there are otherwise reputable people still running around claiming that gasoline's dominance is divined by the immutable Laws of Physics.
Interestingly, the BTU argument had been raised during the earlier days of automobile development. However, testimony presented at the Free Alcohol Hearings conducted by the House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee
in 1906, along with numerous studies (such as the U.S. Navy gasoline and alcohol tests on internal-combustion engines in 1907-08) and the well-known results of simple manual driver adjustments, proved that the BTU variance between gasoline and ethanol was meaningless.
The oil industry could have relied on another line of reasoning to explain the
difference in why a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine gets better
performance from using gasoline than ethanol; they could have argued: "Gasoline has a gold color, while ethanol is clear and has no color; everyone knows
that gold is more valuable than nothing." This argument makes as much sense
as the BTU argument, but I presume they went with the BTU story because at
least the BTU argument has the ring of scientific authenticity.
Funnily enough, there's one gaping hole in the oil industry's BTU argument that
deflates the whole issue, and the hole is caused by the oil industry itself. That
hole is petroleum diesel fuel. Petroleum diesel fuel has an even higher BTU
rating than gasoline. If the difference in so-called energy content explains why
a gasoline optimized engine gets better miles per gallon of gasoline than if ethanol is used in the engine, then surely diesel fuel must produce even higher
mileage if used in a gasoline ICE.
However, that's not what happens. If you tried to use higher BTU diesel fuel in
a gasoline engine you get fewer miles; in fact, you'd get no miles if you put
enough diesel fuel in the gasoline tank. How can this be? Gasoline and diesel
fuel are both produced from petroleum oil; they're both produced during the
same refining process, and they're both used as ICE engine fuels. So, if a lower
BTU fuel like ethanol gets fewer miles when used in a gasoline engine because
it has less energy content, then surely the Laws of Physics must divine that the
higher BTU diesel fuel has to deliver greater miles per gallon when used in a