The Ethanol Papers - Paperturn manuscript - Flipbook - Page 261
and why it was originated. It has become a convenient marketing tool, but that
doesn't make its use correct.
As I'm sure you know, and as I've explained on many occasions. BTU was
coined as a measurement of how much energy is required to heat water by one
degree. The specific need and reason for this was for steam-powered engines
(stationary and mobile engines). People wanted to know which source of fuel
(such as wood, coal, kerosene, or alcohol) was more efficient to heat water.
Boiling water has nothing to do with an internal combustion engine. In fact, if a
person's internal combustion engine is boiling water (the water in the radiator
or windshield washer container) then they are in serious trouble.
The term originated around1850 before the first commercially successful internal combustion engine was invented, and definitely before the first modern internal combustion engine that was built by Siegfried Marcus in 1864.
So as I said, ranking an internal combustion engine fuel by BTU is nothing more
than a marketing or labeling tool. Always the best example of BTU irrelevance
is comparing diesel fuel to gasoline. If BTUs were the significant factor, then
you should be able to use diesel fuel in a gasoline engine and achieve better
If internal combustion engines could only be built to gasoline specifications and
characteristics, then it might be appropriate to use gasoline fuel as the benchmark with which to compare fuels. However, because internal combustion fuels
can be built and adjusted to the specifications and characteristics of various
liquid and gas fuels - and the performance results of those engines/fuels are
equal to or better than the gasoline ICE - then the BTU comparison between
the fuels is simply coincidental window dressing.
I agree that there are mathematical equations that can be used to show the
difference in the supposed energy content of the various fuels, but this is just reverse-engineering to try to make a point. I would compare these formulas to the
If I asked you "Which would you rather have, 2 apples plus 2 more apples; or
690 apples divided by 3 minus 227 apples; what would you say? If you like
apples you would rather have the 4 apples than the 3 apples, even though the
2nd equation is so much sexier.