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One issue that unites Republicans and DFLers in Minnesota? Biofuels

Minnesota is the fourth largest ethanol producer in the country.

In turbulent times for trade-dependent corn and soybean farmers, elected officials across the political spectrum in Minnesota have rallied around a particular lifeline for agriculture: biofuels.

In recent weeks, top Republicans and Democrats have campaigned for new measures to support ethanol and biodiesel, touting the potential to help agriculture and reduce carbon emissions through vegetable-powered transportation. Many in the local GOP even crossed President Donald Trump after he exempted a wave of oil refineries from laws that require biofuels to be mixed with gasoline.

Minnesota is the fourth largest ethanol producer in the country. And even as some question their environmental cost, biofuels have become one of the few policies that can unite staunchly conservative politicians like U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn and liberal ones like Gov. Tim Walz. 

As the industry has suffered from trade wars and other problems, a push to invigorate biofuels in Minnesota has gained new momentum. “Minnesota farmers endure a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the weather and the economy,” Walz said in September after creating a state council to grow the biofuel industry. “They shouldn’t face that uncertainty from their government.”

Farmers face ‘collateral damage’

Biofuels have long been a money maker for farmers, but the last few years have made Minnesota’s ag businesses more reliant on the industry.

As part of its trade war with the Trump administration, China slapped tariffs on soybeans and crimped U.S. imports of ethanol, including a byproduct known as distillers grains. Trade with Mexico and Canada has also been strained while the Trump administration seeks ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. At the same time, high crop yields have brought down commodity prices for farmers, even as heavy rains and flooding have interfered with planting and harvest in Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz
So as the president granted dozens of waivers since he took office to oil refineries that allow them to not blend biofuels into their gasoline, he faced sharp backlash from ag interests. The exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) were originally meant for small refineries facing economic hardship, although many of the new exemptions benefited plants owned by oil giants like Chevron and Exxon Mobil. 

Farmers said the waivers cut demand for biofuels at a time when agriculture is already struggling. About 40 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is used for ethanol, and at least 18 plants across the country have been idled in the last year — including one in Minnesota. The state has 19 ethanol plants, and three plants for biodiesel, which is typically derived from soybeans.

In September, Walz wrote a letter with South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem saying they were “extremely concerned” by the waivers Trump has approved since taking office. The pair said the latest round of waivers — 31 in the last year alone — “undermines the integrity of the RFS and harms our states’ agricultural communities, which have already been affected by the Administration’s tariffs.” Walz chairs the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition and Noem is the vice chairwoman. 

That same month, 15 Republicans in Minnesota’s GOP-led Senate also sent a letter to Trump, writing the president’s waivers were “hurting Minnesota farmers and businesses.”

Joe Smentek, executive director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, said soybean farmers are tired of being “collateral damage” in Washington over trade fights and other issues that aren’t fundamentally about agriculture.

Yet Smentek said frustration in farm country did not end there. A long-running $1-per-gallon federal tax credit for biodiesel and biodiesel blends for the industry has expired, despite bipartisan support for the policy in the U.S. House. Minnesota GOP Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Tom Emmer and DFL Reps. Angie Craig and Collin Peterson have sponsored a bill to reinstate the credits

The Trump administration responds

Trump has taken steps to ease some of the pain felt by farmers. In May, the administration ended a ban on the use of E15 — a blend of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol — in the summertime. While the rule was meant to reduce smog, Trump’s action should drive demand for corn. 

The president also recently finalized a trade deal with Japan, the second largest buyer of U.S. corn, and has funneled billions in aid money to farmers hurt by the trade war. And on Friday, Trump announced a tentative trade deal with China. While many details of the new pact still must be negotiated, the president said China would buy vast amounts of U.S. farm products.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
MinnPost file photo by Briana Bierschbach
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
Before the China deal, the Environmental Protection Agency also announced it will change the biofuels standard to increase ethanol and biodiesel sales and make up for the lost demand caused by refinery waivers.

Paul Gazelka, the Republican majority leader in the Minnesota Senate, heralded the RFS deal on Tuesday for bringing “much needed stability and clarity for the future of biofuels.” Hagedorn, a Trump ally in the farm-heavy 1st Congressional District, said the plan “will help restore demand for grain farmers and provide stability for agri-businesses and biofuels operators.”

Brian Thalmann, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said Trump’s announcements represent progress, but would not fix all issues. “In all these discussions we seem to be trying to get back to where we were, where we would have been, had we not been brought down.”

Walz and Noem, the South Dakota governor, urged the Trump administration in a new letter on Thursday to take more immediate action to boost biofuels through executive action and EPA powers.

Walz makes a biofuels push

Walz has been an aggressive booster for ethanol and biodiesel. He became chairman of the biofuels coalition in February, following in the footsteps of former governors Mark Dayton and Tim Pawlenty, who also took stints leading the organization.

In September, Walz created a new 15-member biofuels council to come up with ideas to grow the industry. The state Department of Transportation (MnDOT) then released a report on cutting greenhouse gas emissions that recommended the Legislature “strengthen” a state goal for the amount of biofuel used in gasoline through new “mandates and incentives” and spend more money to build the infrastructure needed for a spike in biofuels.

The MnDOT report says Minnesota should increase a strict mandate for biodiesel beyond a 20 percent blend required in the summer, possibly by requiring more bio-heavy blends in cold weather. But oil and trucking companies have resisted such changes in the past, complaining about biodiesel performance in the winter. 

The biofuels plan represents a significant chunk of Walz’s agenda to rid the transportation sector of fossil fuels. Transportation is Minnesota’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and research from the Union of Concerned Scientists and others suggests ethanol and biodiesel produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline.

In an interview last month, Walz said biofuels should serve as a “bridge” between fossil fuel-powered vehicles and electric ones. “This is about making sure that we’re reducing a dependence on foreign oil and then eventually dependence on carbon fuels,” he said.

Skeptics of Walz’s plan

Yet biofuels are not without critics. Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, was once a leading supporter of corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel as a state senator in the 1980s and 1990s. But he said he has changed his mind. Wide-scale corn and soybean farms have polluted water across the state, and led to habitat destruction, Morse said.

Nationally, key leaders of the initial federal biofuel standards have grown to oppose them after evidence surfaced that the requirements led to deforestation around the globe and spiked carbon emissions. Countries like Indonesia have also cleared forests to replace the corn and soy once grown for other purposes in the U.S.

Minnesota’s focus, Morse said, should be on creating biofuel from other sources, such as winter annual and perennial “cover crops” like the oil-producing plants pennycress and camelina. Cover crops are planted with traditional cash crops and keep land covered when they would otherwise be bare of corn and soybeans. Scientists say cover crops can reduce water pollution by preventing fertilizer runoff and sequester carbon.

Morse noted they could also slash the need for new farmland dedicated to biofuels. “We have a lot of concerns with just continuing to do what we’ve been doing over the last 30 years,” he said of expanding corn and soybean biofuels.

The MnDOT report focuses on ethanol and biodiesel, but it does also call for new incentives to reduce carbon impact of biofuels through “production plant improvements and farm practices” such as cover crops.

Oil refineries have also been frustrated by calls for stricter biofuel requirements at times. When the state last year increased its biodiesel mandate to 20 percent for summer months, Flint Hills Resources, which operates an oil refinery in Rosemount, argued there was inadequate supply and concerns about cold weather performance of B20 in April and September, since biodiesel can gel in the cold.

Many Republicans in the Legislature aren’t sold on Walz’s plans for the transportation sector, either. Sen. Bill Weber, a Republican who chairs the Senate’s Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee, said Walz’s plan suggests he will ultimately phase out cars powered by gasoline and biofuel in favor of electric ones and hurt farmers.

Weber also argues that mandates that are out of step with neighboring states can make businesses and refineries less competitive, and he’s skeptical of government intervention that mirrors California regulations, such as Walz’s plan for low-carbon emission standards for cars. Tougher biofuel laws might also lead to new costs for farmers to comply, Weber said.

“I think there’s a lot of us that want a little more time to fully evaluate what this means,” he said. “I am not confident that this at the end of the day will be a good thing for the farming economy.”

Still, Weber said the biofuel industry is due some support, especially in a tough time for agriculture. He applauded the Trump administration’s agreements and said he was not happy with many of the refinery waivers. “The oil industry has had their own share of tax perks and that type of thing over the years,” Weber said. “And so I don’t think they really have anything to complain about in these instances.” 

Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by Andy Briebart on 10/15/2019 - 11:19 am.

    Growing food for fuel.

    Star Trib just ran an article on the decline of the pheasants. Or other birds.

    Tiling all the sloughs. Plowing every acre possible. Mowing the ditches.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/15/2019 - 01:09 pm.

    Ethanol may give farmers something to grow corn for it’s not a great response to energy demands. Ethanol is corrosive to internal engine parts, practically useless in small engines unless you drain the gas tanks after every use. And it’s not all that environmentally friendly to produce, it’s requires massive amounts of water. The storage qualities of ethanol gas are crap.

    I’ve actually had to go out and find non-ethanol gas for my emergency generator and snow blower lawn mower. Ethanol gas basically ruins small engines.

  3. Submitted by Alan Straka on 10/15/2019 - 01:28 pm.

    The politicians are pandering to the farmers while the rest of us are left with lousy gas mileage and fuels that will damage engines not designed to run on fuel with more than ten per cent ethanol (which includes most of the cars and trucks on the road today as well as almost all small engines powering things like lawnmowers and chainsaws which can be harmed by even 10 percent ethanol- .

  4. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 10/15/2019 - 01:31 pm.

    The corn used to make ethanol is yellow dent field corn, not the sweet corn we enjoy at the State Fair. Field corn is primarily used for animal feed, and it still is. Now we get ethanol and other products from it as well.

    In my grandfathers day, the whole bushel of corn was feed to cattle and other livestock. That was pretty much all it was good for. Today, that same bushel can produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of high protein animal feed. During the ethanol making process, we are also extracting non food-quality corn oil that’s perfect for making biodiesel, and carbon dioxide for putting the fizz in our sodas.

    • Submitted by Andy Briebart on 10/15/2019 - 02:14 pm.

      Where do you think your corn oil, Frito’s, and corn tortilla’s come from? Sweet corn?

      Yellow dent corn is human food.

    • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 10/15/2019 - 02:42 pm.

      Robert, thank you for making very sensible comments on the utilization of corn. For others who may read these comments: Ethanol does not corrode engines. Corn will be grown regardless of any policy or market other than animal feed so we might as well use the entire plant for all that we can. Corn (and other crops) will always (as long as the sun shines) be able to fill any gaps in a comprehensive renewable energy program.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/15/2019 - 04:20 pm.

        I’m not sure what his comment accomplishes anything. Its a different kind of corn? Ok, but it still increases emissions and destroys habitat.

        If it wasn’t corrosive, you could put it in pipelines instead of specially linked tanks. You could put it in small engines and older cars. No, it is corrosive and not only that – it reduces youe gas mileage.

        The idea that they would be the corn anyway is a blatant falsehood. The rise of ethanol has meant the destruction of undeveloped land, included wildlife habitat.

        The corn ethanol industry should be shut down. Its nothing but an expensive and environmentally harmful welfare program.

        • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 10/15/2019 - 07:48 pm.

          Pat, I understand why you and most of the others commenting on here would not like ethanol production if what you claimed was true. I care deeply about the environment and how we can halt the damage to our climate too. However, the truth is that ethanol is a “best right now” kind of option. It will someday be one of many ways to protect our climate. Eventually, it will likely be eclipsed by even better methods and phased out completely just like coal is soon to be. I’d end up writing a book to counter why the claims made by you and the others who dislike ethanol are false, half-true, or true but it’s more nuanced than you are understanding at the moment. Please read Ethanol Today magazine, land grant university studies, and peer-reviewed research. Please stop kowtowing to the B.S. that oil companies, nut-jobs who find every conspiracy compelling, and billionaires (or those who pretend to be) who, on occasion, have control of the government and see fossil fuels as a way to keep the money rolling in easy. For what it’s worth, ethanol has an affinity to water and that makes it important to determine how it can be handled. 10% or hopefully soon 30% ethanol fuel in your car will not be corrosive to your engine. I’ve got 75,000 miles on a 2012 Ram pickup that has burned only 50% ethanol. I change oil around 4-5000 miles. Not a hint of trouble with it. Ever.

          • Submitted by Ken Tschumper on 10/15/2019 - 09:51 pm.

            Ya right Gerg

            “like his great grandfather, Gene views himself as a pioneer. He was one of the first to break ground in the ethanol industry, becoming a founding member of the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co-op, located in Benson, Minnesota.

            The plant has produced corn-based ethanol for 11 years, transforming itself from a struggling startup to a thriving enterprise that’s quickly adding new investors—including his son, Greg, who is excited to take over the Fynboh farm some day.

            “Growing energy, not just food, is one of the best things to ever happen to rural America,” Gene said. “Continuing to add value to our crops—and creating ways for farmers to keep more of the value of what they produce—will be the cornerstone to keeping kids on the farm and helping young people break into the farming business.”

            That may explain why Gene is so delighted about the farm bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27.

            The House farm bill included a progressive energy title that contains new investments in renewable fuels like ethanol.”

            • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 10/16/2019 - 06:17 pm.

              Ken, thanks for that quote from my dad! He’s a real good guy. I believe that quote is from about 15 years ago. I put all the money I had around that time in the farm and began sole operation when my dad retired. I have also been fortunate to invest in the local ethanol plant through time. Would be proud if it weren’t a sin. Ethanol, like all renewable energy, is not the perfect answer to all that ails our climate, but it certainly is not the demon those I previously mentioned claim it is. I will continue to seek and promote other alternatives to straight gasoline like electric, hydrogen, and anything else that might be a good climate-smart alternative. I hope you do the same.

              • Submitted by Ken Tschumper on 10/20/2019 - 08:32 am.

                Ethanol is an environmental and economic disaster for rural America. The net energy gain is minor if any at all. In the Midwest, the Mississippi River has been turned in to a drainage pipe into the Gulf of Mexico for pesticides and excess fertilizer from large grain farms. Most people don’t realize that the ethanol/gas blends they burn in their cars gets significantly less mpg than straight gas. Ethanol production has artificially inflated the price of farm land. The public dollar subsidies of ethanol have been huge. That same amount of money could have produced more jobs invested in energy efficient transportation, vehicles and buildings.

          • Submitted by ian wade on 10/16/2019 - 03:59 pm.

            Sorry, Greg, but there’s is no question that ethanol is corrosive. Ethanol attracts water which together form acetobactor.The acetobactor excretes acetic acid which is extremely corrosive. If you’re using ethanol without a fuel stabilizer, that engine is on borrowed time.

            • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 10/16/2019 - 09:28 pm.

              I don’t know, Ian, my previous pickup had 200,000 miles on it when I sold it to a neighbor who still drives it around some. I started putting E-85 in it after the first 100,000 miles of using 10%. Not a bit of trouble except the hard winter starting. I’m not a good chemist or even that good a farmer but I’m pretty sure what I experienced was a good thing. If I’m wrong about corrosion is that all bad after what has happened in real life? I’ll seek the counsel of a chemist before saying again ethanol isn’t corrosive, but I’ll tell you right now that it isn’t a problem in a vehicle’s engine. Thanks for the discussion!

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/18/2019 - 03:09 pm.

            Ethanol certainly is not the best right now. It is actually worse for the environment than important gasoline. Its a solution to nothing. Its a fraudulent industry and an ecological disaster.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2019 - 08:34 am.

        Greg, it is a FACT that ethanol gas corrodes engine parts. Even E10 damages small engines and has to be completely drained for storage.

        The fact that we can find an additional use for something doesn’t mean that the additional use is a good idea or a net-benefit.

        • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 10/16/2019 - 06:39 pm.

          Paul, is the ethanol any more corrosive than the benzene or other chemicals in gasoline? Is the ethanol corrosive or the water it attracts corrosive? I think this is where the truth is more nuanced. Yes, I’ve found draining the weed wacker and chainsaw before winter has caused the least amount of work the next spring. Small engines (as far as I know) can only handle 10% ethanol as well. Small engines are different than car engines. Like my example in a previous post displays, I’m not one bit concerned running up to 50% ethanol blended fuel in a vehicle. I would not be concerned burning 85% ethanol blended fuel in a vehicle either for that matter. It will start hard in the winter just in case you try that and wonder why it doesn’t turn over right away. If I want the best gas mileage I go with 30%. I like electric, hydrogen, hybrid, or anything else that is climate-smart as well. Thanks for promoting a healthy climate in your remarks.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2019 - 09:43 am.

            Greg, yes, ethanol gas is more corrosive than non-ethanol gas, which has all those chemicals in it. Any gasoline will eat your blacktop, but gasoline with ethanol will eat some of your engine parts. Actually, it’s the higher moisture or water content in ethanol that causes the problems, turns out water is more corrosive than benzine.

  5. Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/15/2019 - 01:42 pm.

    When all of the production inputs are considered, biofuels actually produce more emissions. Gasoline is literally a cleaner option. Biofuels drain an enormous amount of water from aquifers and destroy wildlife and pollinator habitat. You would be hard pressed to come up with a bigger ecological disaster than corn ethanol.

    This is one of the very few things Trump has gotten right, even if for the wrong reasons. If you want to argue we need biofuels to save jobs, fine. But anyone who claims it helps the environment is lying or ignorant.

    And a 20 percent mandate? Are you trying to destroy car engines? Part of the reason the emissions don’t work out is you have to send it by rail or truck – the stuff is too corrosive to put in pipelines.

  6. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 10/15/2019 - 01:44 pm.

    Yes, indeed, industrial corn and soybeans have been ruinous for the land and water.

    They have also contributed to the ill health of people, from the processed foods derived from corn and soybeans (and wheat).

    Pollinator numbers have crashed.

    Also, industrial farming has radically reduced the number of farmers, destroying many a rural economy (while enriching industrialists and investors).

    Corn is energy neutral, in the sense that it takes as much energy making corn ethanol as you get from corn ethanol – which should mean, if any of these people actually cared about a free market, corn ethanol should not exist.

    If we want to help farmers, we need to quit defending the indefensible.

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/15/2019 - 02:02 pm.

    Let us say in unison – -” Biofuels are bad for the environment. ”

    But, if we only have 11 years, what difference does it now make?

  8. Submitted by Alan Muller on 10/15/2019 - 03:37 pm.

    So Minnesota politicians are united in favor of the harmful policies that promote and subsidize corn ethanol? What does that say about us?

  9. Submitted by Malcolm Parker on 10/15/2019 - 07:52 pm.

    At least this article is clear: the biofuels mandate is a farm subsidy. Another persoective: I own a medium duty van with a European turbo diesel. (This could be a Ford Transit or a Mercedes Sprinter.) The manufacturer’s warranty is voided if fuel with a biodiesel content greater than 5% is used, and any of the known problems occur during warranty coverage. So: my name is Bruce & I am a scofflaw. I bring back non-biodiesel from WI & ND, paying fuel taxes in those other states. If pure diesel fuel were available here – more costly because no subsidy – I would buy fuel here. There is precedent: non-oxy premium is available in MN at a higher cost than premium gasohol. Why not diesel? – Bruce Parker.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2019 - 08:40 am.

      I don’t understand your question Bruce, you want to buy the same diesel gas in MN that you buy in WI, but you want your MN diesel to be subsidized so it’s cheaper than what you pay in WI?

      • Submitted by Malcolm Parker on 10/17/2019 - 01:45 am.

        Paul: please read my post more carefully.
        Bio-diesel is cheaper because of the bio-subsidy.
        I would pay the increased cost – about $0.05 / gallon for plain diesel fuel without complaint.
        I’d prefer to buy diesel fuel in Minneapolis.
        Bruce Parker

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/19/2019 - 09:53 am.

          I’m sorry Bruce (apparently your posting using Malcolm’s account) but your explanation is as clear as mud. If you want to buy your gas in MPLS why don’t buy your gas in MPLS? Are you saying it’s impossible to buy non-ethanol diesel in MN?

          By the way, as a “sofflaw” what laws are you flouting here? It’s not illegal to buy gas in another state?

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/16/2019 - 08:29 am.

    A gallon of ethanol produces substantially less energy than a gallon of gasoline. Producing that gallon of ethanol consumes sizable amounts of water – substantially more than is required for a gallon of gasoline. As a row crop, corn requires a lot of water and nutrients, and drastically depletes the soil unless it’s supplemented with a lot of fertilizer – thus producing nitrate-laden water that’s not safe to drink or swim in. That environmental cost alone likely negates any environmental advantage it might have as a motor fuel.

    Once produced, it’s not as if ethanol is environmentally benign. Pour that expensive gallon of ethanol on your front lawn, and it will kill the grass just as effectively as would a gallon of gasoline. In the fuel tank of your vehicle, using ethanol will deliver an equally-substantial hit to your vehicle’s fuel mileage – because ethanol produces less energy than does gasoline. And it IS corrosive, which is why it has to be blended, in relatively small quantity, with gasoline. Burning ethanol straight-up will destroy an internal combustion engine. Occasional gas stations scattered throughout the Twin Cities metro still sell non-oxygenated gasoline (i.e., no ethanol) at higher-than-premium cost. Why? Because hordes of snowmobile and snow blower users, as well as more knowledgeable lawn mower users, rely on it.

    It may be among the best alternatives we can devise at the moment, but that doesn’t make it any sort of cure-all for our environmental ills, and in the meantime, trying to force its consumption on the public requires everyone to subsidize corn farming. We may want to subsidize farmers to keep them in business (It’s a common practice in Europe), but as a society, we’d be better off if we subsidized the growing of food for humans instead of growing fuel for engines.

    And in the meantime, do something concrete and practical to move the society away from its addiction to the automobile. I drive a hybrid, but the only way I’ll give up my car entirely is if there’s a genuinely viable transit system to take its place, and we don’t have such a system here.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2019 - 09:33 am.

      It’s a lot easier to build more fuel efficient engines, and mass transit, and those options are far more effective than ethanol at reducing emissions and promoting energy sustainability. Hybrid cars are way more effective than hybrid fuel.

    • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 10/16/2019 - 10:28 pm.

      Ray, your first sentence (minus the word substantially) and last paragraph I agree with. Also, I am unsure of it being corrosive or not because I am no chemist. The rest of your thoughts, however, have a lot of the same falsehoods repeated by oil companies, conspiracy believing nut-jobs, and government controlling billionaires (or wannabes – also known as the greedy). I’m afraid the best way to come to any sort of agreement here is to first get the smartest folks in the room and then start drinking ethanol (moderately of course) until we get to the truth of the matter. Drink the best, burn the rest, and feed what’s left! Booze (if people are going to drink alcohol), fuel ethanol (a cleaner burning fuel), dried distillers grain (what’s leftover from distilling for cows to eat) — that must make some sort of sense here to someone? Maybe just the farmer understands it because that sort of value-added process has always been an integral part of his or her livelihood from the beginning of agriculture.

      • Submitted by Tom Crain on 10/18/2019 - 12:56 pm.

        According to US Dept of Energy Alternative Fuels site denatured ethanol (98% ethanol) contains about 30% less energy than gasoline per gallon. It also states a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline, resulting in lower fuel economy when operating your vehicle.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/19/2019 - 10:09 am.

        Greg, the corrosive nature of ethanol is a well established fact, you can “know” about that any you choose to, and you don’t need to be a chemist. All you have to do is talk to a mechanic. Anyone who owns a lawn mower or a snowblower can tell you that their engines won’t start or run smoothly after the 2nd year of operation unless they completely remove all the ethanol gas from the entire system every season. I had to replace a needle valve in my Lawnboy carburetor this summer because the ethanol ruined it.

        The difference between flex fuel cars and other cars is that the fuel system in cars that can run E85 is hardened against the corrosion among other things.

        These are features of ethanol that have been by and large swept under the rug for years. For instance you’ll see stories in the news about “winterizing” or “summerizing” your mowers and blowers but they’ll never mention the fact that you have to do this because your burning gas with ethanol.

        Once and while there’ll be a story about someone who’s fighting with a manufacturer over an engine that stopped running after the first year. The owner will be making a lemon law claim and the manufacturer will be pointing to the fact that the owner didn’t empty all the gas out the way their supposed to; but no one will mention the fact that this wouldn’t have been an issue if you weren’t running with ethanol gas.

        When you buy a snowblower they’ll tell you HAVE to use fresh gas, and drain it every year, but they don’t tell you that if you run non-ethanol gas, you don’t have to worry about it being “fresh”.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2019 - 09:50 am.

    We’ve been talking about the corrosive nature of ethanol. Many people will correctly note that they’ve been driving their cars and trucks for years without incident for the most part burning ethanol gas while small engines on snow blowers etc. have trouble with ethanol.

    One reason for this is the fact that car and truck engines are run on a daily bases, while small engines usually run once a week. The additional moisture in ethanol tends to be corrosive when it sits in an engine. And fuel systems in cars and trucks are built differently, for instance fuel injected systems are different than carburetor systems used in small engines. When you leave ethanol gas sitting in carburetors it can do more damage than it would in fuel injected systems like those found in cars and trucks.

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