By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Noticed a drop in your vehicle’s fuel efficiency lately?
You may not be the only one and there is good reason. Or, at least according to a local gasoline distributor, a bad reason.
Beginning June 1, Mississippi gasoline suppliers only provide gasoline with 10 percent ethanol, commonly called E10 ethanol gasoline, or gasahol.
This move is an attempt to help the environment and reduce the United State’s dependency on foreign oil. Many states mandate a certain percentage of fuel consumed be ethanol.
This demand is met primarily by two products, E 85, which contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas, and an E10 ethanol gasoline which is created with 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol.
The things that can go wrong can be numerous,” Tommy White said, describing the E10 product. White, who along with his brother, John White, and father, C.W. White, sell fuel to 25 stores in Yalobusha and surrounding areas.
According to White, the E10 causes a drop in fuel efficiency and can even damage some vehicles, especially those 10 years or older. With the price of a gallon of gas flirting with a wallet-whopping $4 a gallon, decreased fuel efficiency could not come at a worst time.
“Gas with ethanol can cut your gas mileage by 15 percent,”White said about the blended product.
Other estimates aren’t as high, with some government estimates reporting the E10 ethanol gasoline causes at least a three percent decrease. But less fuel efficiency is only part of the equation.
“Ethanol and water causes problems,” White said, pointing to another potential problem with the blended gas.
While White, like other distributors, have taken precautions to make sure the tanks at retail stores are free from water.
White estimated that it had cost as much as $1,500 per tank at each store to prepare for the blend. Much of this involves tank cleaning, added filters and making sure there is no water.
But there is one source for potential water contamination that White, or other distributors, cannot control.
“The distributor cannot deal with the condensation in your tank,” White said.
“The alcohol can absorb this water and cause your gasoline not to burn,” White pointed out.
A third problem, pointed out by White, is ethanol is cost-prohibitive to produce in the long run.
“It takes three gallons of diesel to make one gallon of ethanol,” White said, referring to corn based ethanol which is widely used in the United States.
Government subsidies play a large role in the feasibility of using blended gasoline and ethanol.
Currently there’s a 51 cent volumetric ethanol excise tax credit that the blender — the person who buys the ethanol from the producer — receives.
While a gallon of E10 ethanol gasoline may be slightly cheaper now, White believes in the long haul it will be more expensive.
“It is the same thing we went through in the conversion from leaded gas to unleaded gas,” White said the current change sweeping across the nation with the increased use of ethanol.
Looking at the big picture, White, who purchases tanker truckloads of gasoline almost on a daily basis, cites the lack of new refineries in the United States as one the biggest factors in high fuel prices.
“We have an abundance of crude, but our refineries are maxed out,” White reports.
When is there likely to be change from government red tape regulating our the fuel supply and market in the United States?
“When the American public gets sick of it,” White is quick to answer.
What could the price of a gallon without the stringent government regulations?
“Somewhere around $2 a gallon,” White estimates.
You Do The Math
If your car gets 10 miles per gallon:
10 gallons of gasoline = 100 miles
10 gallons of E10 ethanol gasoline = 85 miles
9 gallons of gasoline = 90 miles
Which means the nine gallons used in the gasoline plus the gallon of ethanol added does not carry your vehicle as far as nine gallons of regular gasoline if ethanol reduces mileage by 15 percent.