The Ethanol Papers - Paperturn manuscript - Flipbook - Page 30
cents. Tests conducted in Germany and France showed that alcohol optimized
engines were at least as efficient as gasoline optimized engines.
The first decade of the 20th century saw significant improvements in internal
combustion engines for the new-fangled automobile, as well as powered aviation. Higher compression engines were required for better performance and
heavier vehicles. But higher compression engines revealed a gasoline problem:
Gasoline in high compression engines caused engine knock - abnormal detonation that was so severe it could shake the engine apart. There were two solutions to this problem: The first was ethanol. The second was to add ethanol
to gasoline. Either solution came with its own problem: Cost - the tax-bloated
price of ethanol made it unattractive and threatened efforts to portray the automobile as a device that could be afforded by the masses.
There was another problem, a problem for the petroleum industry: they couldn't
control ethanol production and supply - ethanol can be produced by anyone,
anywhere, and from a variety of raw materials. But still, the oil industry was in
the cat-bird seat, they had price on their side...until President Teddy Roosevelt.
The history of Teddy Roosevelt's campaign against corporate monopolies is
well known. Less well known were the Congressional Ways and Means Committee Hearings held in 1906, during his administration. These hearings resulted in the Free Alcohol Act that removed the exorbitant tax on alcohol production. By removing the tax, ethanol fuel became less expensive than gasoline
for the first time. This meant that the top scientists and engine builders of the
day could work towards better performing vehicles that relied on low-cost ethanol and ethanol blends. Henry Ford's Model T was the most famous of new
vehicles that could now be powered by gasoline or ethanol (the Model T had
two simple adjustments located on the dashboard and steering wheel column).
The ethanol fuel industry would now get its time in the sun, except for three
obstacles: The first was the petroleum industry's head start. Three decades of
kerosene dominance gave the oil industry an overwhelming financial war chest
to be used for marketing and political tutelage.