Ethanol: Long-Held Misunderstandings

ethanolA Bit of History

The first commercial flexible fuel vehicle was the Ford Model T, produced from 1908 through 1927. It allowed gasoline or ethanol fuel, or a combination of both. Ethanol took a bad rap caused by frequent accusations that ethanol producers collaborated with bootleggers during Prohibition. But then something changed–oil dominance as a motor fuel lost some footing in the U.S. after the 1973 oil crisis, which resulted in gasoline shortages and awareness on the dangers of oil dependence. This crisis opened a new opportunity for ethanol, methanol and other alternative fuels.

So What is Ethanol?

Ethanol fuel (ethyl alcohol) is the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, but used as fuel. It is most often used as a motor fuel, and mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline. Nowadays, cars are actually able to run using 100% ethanol fuel, or a mix of ethanol and gasoline (flex-fuel). Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.

Bio-ethanol is produced from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn. There has been considerable debate about how useful bio-ethanol is in replacing gasoline, as its production has been correlated with increased food prices due to the large amount of land required for crops. Recent developments with cellulosic ethanol production may alleviate such concerns. Cellulosic ethanol offers promise because cellulose fibers, a major and universal component in plant cells walls, can be used to produce ethanol. According to the International Energy Agency, cellulosic ethanol could allow ethanol fuels to play a much bigger role in the future.

GREET, DOE, and EERE. What Does It All Mean?

Let’s start by clearing up the acronyms.

GREET = Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (developed by Dr. Michael Wang, Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Transportation Research).
DOE = U.S Department of Energy.
EERE = The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (they supported Dr. Wang in his development of GREET).

With that out of the way, GREET is an industry-standard-setting total lifecycle model that was developed to allow researchers to evaluate various vehicle and fuel combinations with a consistent methodology. This peer-reviewed model has laid to rest some entrenched misunderstandings about ethanol (EtOH) and its vital role in reducing
petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of key energy and environmental benefits, GREET testing shows that cornstarch ethanol clearly outpaces petroleum-based fuels, and that future cellulose-based ethanol would perform even better.

The Numbers

Below is a comparison of energy balance (energy returned on energy invested) between the production of ethanol vs. gasoline. As you will see, ethanol is the clear winner:

  • Every 1 million BTUs (British thermal units) of ethanol delivered consumes 0.78 million BTUs of fossil energy.
  • Every 1 million BTUs (British thermal units) of gasoline delivered consumes 1.23 million BTUs of fossil energy.ethanol vs gasoline


Many studies have been done, some with differing results, although the preponderance of recent studies that employ more stringent testing methods show that ethanol has a positive net fossil energy value. GREET’s lifecycle analysis shows that any type of fuel ethanol can help to reduce petroleum use in the transportation sector. But without a comparison of ethanol to gasoline, a meaningful result can not be achieved. It is only when we see the comparative differences provided by the GREET testing that we realize the superior effiency of ethanol. Further, without the comparison (which in itself is favorable), it would not show the substantial petroleum savings benefits of ethanol (which may be the greatest energy concern). Add to this that corn-based ethanol achieves moderate reductions in GHG emissions, cellulosic ethanol (the focus of the DOE/EERE research) can produce much greater energy and GHG benefits.

Auto Fuels sells ethanol in five gallon pales.

Fuel Pump – It’s History and Design

Bowser Pump Patent
It held 42 gallons and was designed to dispense, kerosene, burning fluid, and the light combustible products of petroleum.

This was to be the first commercially available fuel pump, invented in 1885 by S.F. (Sylvanus Freelove) Bowser and sold to Jake Gumper, owner of a Fort Wayne, Indiana grocery store. He later formed the S. F. Bowser & Company and patented his invention in 1887. Within a decade – as the automobile’s popularity grew – Bowser’s company became hugely successful.

By 1905, Bowser followed up his initial design with his “Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump”, the Model 102 “Chief Sentry”, which was known to motorists as a “filling station.”Curbside Gas Pumps Often, these filling stations were merely curbside pumps installed along sidewalks and storefronts.
The original Bowser pump consisted of a square metal tank with a wooden cabinet equipped with a suction pump operated by hand-stroke lever action. Beginning in 1905, Bowser added a hose attachment for dispensing gasoline directly into the automobile fuel tank. Ultimately, he would add a secure “clam-shell” cover to the popular “Chief Sentry”

With the addition of competing businesses such as Wayne Pump Company and Tokheim Oil Tank & Pump Company, the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, became the fuel pump manufacturing capital of the world.

What we know as the “service station” would not come until 1913, and it was the decision by Gulf Refining Company to open one along Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh, PA. That station dispensed 30 gallons of fuel on it’s opening day at a price of 27 cents per gallon. By the end of 1913 the boulevard had become known as “automobile row’” because of the high number of car dealerships. Unlike earlier simple curbside gasoline filling stations, the pagoda-style service station was a purposefully designed facility that offered free air, water, crankcase service, and tire and tube installation.First Gulf Service Station

Today there are over 152,000 gas stations, of which over 123,000 have convenience stores. On average, each location sells about 4,000 gallons of fuel per day, which is quite an increase from the 30 gallons sold at the Gulf station in Pittsburgh in December of 1913.

CARB Diesel and Why It’s Important

CARB Diesel #2 Some background…

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) first adopted diesel fuel specifications in 1988. In 1998, CARB identified particulate emissions from diesel-fueled engines as toxic air contaminants (TACs) based on their potential to cause cancer, premature death, and other health problems. Following this identification process CARB was required by law to determine if there was a need for further control.

This risk assessment phase led to a control measure phase that brought forth new California diesel fuel regulations that would ultimately limit the amount of sulfur and aromatics contained in diesel fuel. Because of the need to reduce sulfur and aromatic levels, and the chemical process to accomplish these changes, the resulting fuel composition’s lubricating properties were inadvertently reduced, causing premature equipment breakdowns and, in some cases, catastrophic failures. Because diesel fuel injection equipment has some reliance on diesel fuel as a lubricant, the lubricating properties of diesel fuel are quite important.

Consequently, minimum lubricity specifications were established in 2005 to address these concerns. Other additional specifications have further regulated the composition of California diesel fuel, including more stringent limitations on maximum sulfur and aromatics, and the inclusion of a broader range of diesel engines, including stationary sources, on- and off-road vehicles, non-vehicular sources, locomotives and marine vessels.

At Auto Fuels, we are mindful of the environmental responsibilities we share in carrying the cleanest burning fuels available on the market today. At Auto Fuels, we carry the highest quality, independently sourced, CARB #2 diesel (ULSD) for our customers. These fuels meet all current specifications and are approved for use by the California Air Resources Board.

As an environmentally-aware consumer, it is important to know exactly what type of diesel fuel you’re using. At Auto Fuels we have surveyed our customers on two important topics related to the use of lesser non-CARB #2 diesel fuels, as follows:

a) Gas performance (MPG) ,
b) Vehicle maintenance.

We learned that customers experienced fewer miles per gallon and more maintenance of their vehicle using other than CARB #2 diesel.

Available at the dispenser, trust Auto Fuels to dispense only top-quality, independently sourced CARB #2 Diesel Fuel. Our CARB #2 Diesel is competitively priced and comparable with those selling renewable and bio-diesel fuels. And remember, if you’re not fueling up at Auto Fuels, always inquire with your current supplier as to what type of diesel fuel your pumping into your vehicle.

Regulation History:

In 1993 the regulation limited the sulfur and arom
atics in commercially available diesel fuel. Starting in January 2005, California diesel fuel was required to meet a minimum lubricity specification as well. This fuel, commonly referred to as CARB Diesel, is mandatory for use in a variety of applications including both highway and off-road vehicles. The limits and applicability have evolved as follows:

  • October 1993 — Sulfur limited to a maximum of 500 ppm and aromatics to 10 percent or equivalent. Applicable to on and off-road vehicles but not stationary engines, locomotives and marine vessels.
  • December 2004 — CARB diesel requirement extended to stationary sources (applies to on and off-road motor vehicles and non-vehicular sources other than locomotives and marine vessels).
  • January 2005 — CARB diesel required to meet a lubricity requirement of a maximum wear scar diameter of 520 microns by ASTM D6079, the High Frequency Reciprocating Rig (HFRR).
  • June 2006 — Sulfur in CARB diesel is limited to 15 ppm.
  • January 2007 — CARB diesel requirement extended to intrastate locomotives and marine engines (within the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), CARB diesel must be sold to harborcraft operators beginning in January 2006).

Food Truck

Food TruckAuto Fuels now has a food truck! Food Truck is Ventura County’s newest sensation to hit the local food truck scene. We specialize in breakfast, lunch and dinner! That’s right, we have you covered for every meal of the day starting at 7am! We offer delicious burgers and loaded burritos all made to order!

Food Truck brings new flavors to traditional comfort foods, whipping up creative burgers and traditional Mexican dishes to offer a tasty variety to your average food truck experience. It’s time to taste the difference!meatlovers-burger-e1438073810258

“Food Truck has the best burgers in town! Don’t sell yourself short, you have to experience for yourself what everyone is talking about. Try our famous #1 Original Burger made with Single Patty, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, Onions and served with French Fries. ”

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay connected! Be on the lookout for our rotating menu every 3 – 4 weeks!

We are Food Truck, your new local favorite!

Visit us today: 2460 Auto Center Drive. Oxnard, CA 93036