Monday, February 11, 2008

Once upon a time


Looks like the air early warning barrier may be back in business.

Russian Bears Overfly Fleet

Solutions and solutions

I keep up with my vehicles’ gas mileage. Oh, not in any great detail, but it’s something I’ve always done, mostly out of curiosity as much as anything else. Plus, my newest vehicle has a computer that tells me it’s overall average as well a snapshot. Of course after a few thousand miles the average isn’t going to change absent some real radical movements.

So I also check it when I fill up. Just hit the trip odometer and divide. And again the results don’t vary very much. And yes, since I am product of public education of years ago, I can do such things without pen and paper, or hand held computer.

And being the frugal type I always buy the lowest price gas. That is unless it is Citgo, which I don’t use at all. So when I saw a sign saying $2.77.9 I drove in and filled up. I noticed the “10% Ethanol” on the pump. I don’t remember exactly what the mileage figure was, but it was close to the overall average of 25.6 mpg.

Now, imagine my surprise when the next fill-up came in at 23.7. That’s almost a 2 mph decrease. Close to 7.4%. And it jogged my memory that when I lived in Denver, every winter the gasoline was changed to reduce pollution. The additives were ethanol or MTBE. And every winter I noticed my gas mileage go down.

So I Googled up “ethanol” and discovered something. Ethanol, which is alcohol, has 34% less “power” than gasoline in equal volumes. Ergo. Ten percent ethanol results in less power. Less power means more fuel is burned to yield the same power required to pull my car around.

Now the use of ethanol as a fuel has been around for over a hundred years. It had many problems early on that existing technology couldn’t solve, plus it was more expensive than gasoline to produce. But in blends of up to 90%-10% it works well, except for the aforementioned loss of power, in the modern day internal combustion engines. Said engines can also be designed to use more ethanol and some countries have done exactly that. Brazil in particular.

The catch being that you must first have a ready source of ethanol, and cars that have been modified to run on fuel with much higher percentages of ethanol. The US has neither, although we are supposedly working to fix that.

So now comes the question. Why use ethanol?

First, fuel with 10% ethanol burns cleaner. Thus its use in Denver to fight pollution.

Secondly, the clean burning also reduces carbon dioxide which according to Algore’s Church of Global Warming, is going to destroy the earth and kill all the cute little polar bears.

Thirdly, it reduces the amount of gasoline used by 10%, thus reducing our dependence on foreign oil… All of the above is good, right?

Well, not exactly.

The pollution reduction in areas such as Denver looks like a cinch. It’s a seasonal fix of a known problem.

The global warming claim is shaky because it takes energy to run the equipment to produce ethanol and that energy produces carbon dioxide that is supposedly being reduced by the use of ethanol in autos. Question becomes, how much reduction are we talking about? I don’t know and I haven’t read enough information to convince me either way.

But I do know this. People drive to go places. If, at the end of the week, they have driven 250 miles using a fuel that yields 25 mpg they will have used 10 gallons.

If they have used a fuel that yields 23.7 mpg they will have used 10.54 gallons. So that one gallon savings now becomes .46 gallons. Not very much. And if you go back to the fuel consumed to produce the ethanol…. Well, it becomes smaller.

Over 50 years ago a science fiction writer named Robert Heinlein wrote: “TANSTAAFL”.

“There aint no such thing as a free lunch.”

Like it or not we are stuck in a world that runs on petroleum. Petroleum is plentiful and gasoline can be refined from it very inexpensively. In fact, petroleum is so plentiful that it is a commodity. And plentiful commodities should be cheap. Petroleum is not because a monopoly has been established to restrict the supply and the commodities markets have engaged in speculation on that supply.

Now if the monopoly’s profits were being used to improve the standard of living for its members’ citizens then you might be able to argue that the western world should pay to allow others to “catch up.” But it isn’t. The profits are being used to support the rulers who are also using them to pay protection from the radicals who would otherwise attack them. Said radicals, tolerated by the rulers, are also engaged in attacking the west.

Maybe it’s time to quit focusing exclusively on a technical solution and see if we have enough JP to fuel up the bombers.

Google Ethanol Fuel

The President of Mexico

is touring the US, and part of his agenda is reported to be to speak out
for the intercultural sojourners, aka illegal aliens.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Somebody tell this guy:

"Mexican go home!"