A number of years ago, the federal government required that gas stations sell fuel that had 10% ethanol added to it. This was in response to fears that the U. S. was running out of petroleum, and that we would become dependent on foreign oil. The fear was that some of these countries would be able to cut off our fuel as a political weapon. Like most well intentioned plans, this one had some unexpected consequences.
To get the alcohol in the first place, government had to subsidize the farmers that were growing the corn to make it with and the companies that processed it. Done with taxpayer money, of course. So, on the best farmland on the planet, the American Midwest, less corn was grown for food, both animal and human, and more was grown as an additive for gasoline. Food prices went up both here and abroad.
Another problem is that alcohol is far from a perfect fuel. It contains about ½ the energy per gallon that gasoline does. So, if your fuel is 10% alcohol, it reduces mileage by about 5%. Keep that in mind.
Further, alcohol is corrosive by nature and a solvent. It can cause damage in the fuel system of older engines. For 2 stroke engines that rely on their fuel mixture for lubrication they were, in effect, death in a can!
Meanwhile, the US petroleum industry revolutionized drilling, and now we are awash in oil. So, folks came up with additives to try and help with these problems, and retailers set up above ground tanks and pumps to sell 100% petroleum gas for those that needed it. Big price premium though: about 80 cents a gallon.
Last week, though, I had a pleasant surprise! Stopping at the Holiday station on North Division St., I found that they had replaced their pumps, and now had the choice of 100% petroleum premium on the same pump as their alcohol diluted fuels. What’s more, it was only 16 cents more per gallon. Allowing for the difference in mileage, it’s just as cheap as their alcohol premium. So, the question is, will this catch on, and will the free market overwhelm government’s interference in it?