Letter to the Editor - Tuesday, May 6: The curse of E10

AN article and a comment (DEX 29/4) on E10 petrol reflected on "how long it can take to build a good reputation, but how quickly it can be lost".

In the case of E10, it never had a good reputation to lose. It was a dud from the start, except for those making money from it. So let's have a look at why ethanol in petrol was and always will be a loser.

Ethanol in fuel was first promoted by Al Gore during his presidential campaign, not for environmental reasons but to garner the votes of the mid-west corn farmers. He still didn't win.

Most ethanol uses food as a feedstock, including corn, wheat, sorghum and sugar.

The amount of CO2 released during the ploughing, sowing, harvesting, transporting and processing into ethanol exceeds the reduced CO2 from E10 exhausts. And that doesn't include the fertiliser (often made from natural gas) and the significant water requirements.

Then there is the product itself. It cannot be used in marine or 2/4 stroke motors, nor in older cars (which will eventually disappear). And if E10 is used in non-E10 compliant engines, the repair costs can be significant.

One tank of E10 in a brand-new chainsaw cost a friend $300 to fix. The Grafton repairer told him he had put on an extra mechanic just to fix such problems.

Obviously, repairs to car engines can be $1000s. US mechanics refer to E10 as God's gift to job security.

Also it can't be shipped by (efficient) pipelines as it breaks down during shipment. It also produces tailpipe ozone, a prime ingredient of chemical smog. And pure ethanol returns 30% less mileage than petrol (3% less for E10).

Even new cars can be damaged if they are not used regularly. If left standing, the ethanol and petrol separate so the engine can get a king hit of ethanol. This is not good.

In addition, over time it will break down into water and CO2, with disastrous results.

This was highlighted during NY's big "Sandy" storm. Fuel supplies ran out so prudent motorists filled up their tanks from containers of E10 stored in their garages for such emergencies. Some made it on to the street; some never got out of their garage as the water was sucked into their engines.

Its major drawback, though, is that food is being used to make fuel.

In the US, 40% of its corn crop is used for ethanol, hence less grain is available to poorer nations, resulting in food shortages and unaffordable prices.

The above, along with many other negative (and a dearth of positive) reasons is why E10 is being rejected by the public, and will soon pass into history, like lead-laced "Standard" and "Super". The sooner the better.

John Ibbotson,

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