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2018-08-07 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Environment , 143 references Ignore this thread
Politicizing The Environment: Bad Science, Bad Economics
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I've long maintained that ethanol as a fuel is a scam.  It's one that has gotten amazingly popular in farm belt America, but it's still a scam.

It's an inferior fuel to petroleum. It's original purpose as an additive was to replace MTBE, which is extraordinarily poisonous in groundwater, so if you spilled some gasoline containing it the MTBE would persist long after all the volatile compounds that make up the gasoline had evaporated.  (Gasoline, by the way, is not one substance -- it's a distillate fraction and not a distinct molecular thing made up of carbon-hydrogen chains of between 4 and 12 carbons. There is a small amount of benzene in it (about 1%) too, incidentally, which is quite carcinogenic all on its own.)

MTBE's purpose was to enhance the release of oxygen during combustion.  In the days before catalytic-converter, closed-cycle (computer-monitored and adjusted fuel/air mixture) automobile engines it was quite useful in reducing the amount of unburned hydrocarbon emitted into the air.  Ethanol was originally tasked with replacing it because it is reasonably benign if spilled.  It is a coherent substance (that is, made up of exactly one molecule; CH2CH2OH, sometimes denoted as C2H6O) rather than a mixture of dozens of other substances -- and it is often called a "renewable" fuel because it is produced from a grown crop, usually (for fuel purposes) corn.

Ethanol is also, of course, what gets you drunk.  The use of it in gasoline was arguably justified in the days before essentially 100% closed-cycle catalyst-bearing on-road engines.  But those days are long gone; the only engines and vehicles today on the road with such engines are either antiques or, believe it or not, local postal delivery trucks with right-hand drive, essentially all of which are 1960s creations with near-zero in the way of emission controls.

The problem with ethanol as a fuel comes from the factory-farming methods needed to produce it in high yield fashion.  Specifically, the amount of chemical fertilizer run-off and the resulting "dead zone" problems this produces in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Mississippi river are outrageous -- and the direct result of corn-based ethanol production.  Yes, there would still be plenty of it as lots of corn is produced for both animal and human consumption as food but that does not excuse the pollution related to its use as a fuel.  In point of fact that pollution exceeds that which occurs from drilling for and refining oil!

This has been known since before the ethanol insanity began, but nobody cared.  What's worse, however, is that the EPA was required to produce reports on ecological impact of its use since it was originally mandated and refused to do so on time repeatedly, including during the entire Obama administration.  In other words the former President illegally allowed the EPA to suppress the truth -- and unfortunately it didn't end with what we already knew about ethanol production.

No, the bigger problem is that ethanol in gasoline produces a higher peak combustion temperature in closed-cycle engines and thus makes more NOx.

NOx, or Nitrogen oxides, are the primary cause of urban smog; when exposed to the sun NOx turns into ozone.  Ozone in the upper atmosphere is good as it is a sunlight UV filter.  Ozone at or near ground level, however, is very bad as beyond visible smog it greatly aggravates respiratory problems (including severe asthma attacks.)  As it turns out ethanol in modern engines actually increases rather than decreases this production!

Then there's the utter insanity of the left (including AP) crapping all over Kavanaugh for his refusal to allow the EPA to exceed the limits of the law.

They, along with dickhead Shapiro, AG of Pennsylvania, have attacked Kavanaugh and the government in general on a hissy-fit basis related to HFC refrigerants, specifically R134a that is used in cars and R410a used in home and commercial air conditioners.  R410a has almost-completely replaced R22, which was regulated out of existence by the EPA and other nations due to the fact that it actually eats ozone when it inevitably migrates into the upper atmosphere after being released.  Indeed, R22 production is banned under the Montreal Protocol starting in 2020, and as a result prices to recharge systems made for it have gone sky-high since the only source is recovered refrigerant from systems being replaced (but which did not leak.)

The Montreal Protocol brought about law in the US related to CFCs, which is enforced by the EPA.  The problem is that said law specifically related to the ozone-destroying property of said refrigerants, for good reason -- that's why it was passed.

The EPA attempted to abuse that authority to essentially ban R410a and R134a.  The premise for said attempted ban was that although those refrigerants do not damage ozone they capture more heat (by a lot; roughly 1,000 times) than CO2.  The argument was that their intentional and unintentional release, the latter of which is inevitable (mechanical things break) would cause "global warming" and thus is able to be regulated.   However, Congress has never delegated the ability to regulate so-called "Greenhouse gases" and thus such a "regulation" was outrageously beyond the EPA's mandate or legal authority.

The manufacturers sued and ultimately won.

There's a basic problem with trying to get rid of these refrigerants though -- they really aren't released (intentionally or otherwise) in very large amounts, since they're not "consumed" in an A/C system.  Release is a function of either a malfunction (e.g. a leak) or during service if improper techniques are used.  Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is released merely through the act of an animal being alive or a fuel being consumed in some fashion and is inevitable.  Further, methane (which is much more prevalent) is released every time an animal farts.  While these refrigerants are potent on an equal mass basis to CO2 or Methane the amount of possible release compared against that of CO2 and Methane is vanishingly small.

The EPA's "regulation" of these substances, in short, has no basis in law.  Left standing by these decisions, however, was the requirement for licensure and similar for those performing commercial work in this space.

Now it would be nice to say "just get rid of that crap" and be done with it, but it's not that simple.  There are other refrigerants that are being developed and have been developed to replace R134a and R410a, but they have problems.  One of the oldest and cheapest is a simple mixture of propane and isobutane, believe it or not.  It works really well and has very low "greenhouse" potential.  Unfortunately it's flammable, obviously, so a leak + a spark and...... oops.  For liability reasons this isn't something a car maker, for example, wants to use.  There are aftermarket cans of the stuff available however marketed under the brand "Envirosafe", and for those who have systems with small leaks they cannot economically fix they're not a bad choice, since there's no environmental risk of consequence and the stuff is quite cheap.

Some of the potential replacements that industry has come up with are also flammable.  (Incidentally the currently-used pair produce deadly byproducts when heated -- they don't burn per-se, but exposed to fire they turn into phosgene!  Of course if you're being burned to death I suppose being poisoned as well doesn't matter much...)  The bigger problem with the "new" replacements being developed, however, is cost -- anywhere from 10-100x or more the price of R134a, as the processes needed to make them are complex and, being patented, the companies developing them have near-monopoly control of the process.  Not that this bothers the EU, which in a couple of years will demand all new vehicle units be made with something other than greenhouse-gas enhancing refrigerants.  Not only is this going to raise the price of said cars for zero actual ecological benefit, since the net actual impact of these refrigerants is basically zero, but the ongoing service and maintenance costs will get ridiculous over time since a common recharge is going to have the refrigerant material cost go from $12-15 to well north of $200!

All of this is due to junk science and pressing political issues as if they're real ecological concerns, in short.

Those politicians involved in same, who are intentionally ripping off consumers with their lies by forcing you to buy things you'd otherwise not, destroying the environment in the process (as pertains to ethanol in fuel) need to be ejected from the public square and those and their industrial enablers shut down.

Yeah, I know, good luck with that in the corn belt here in the US; those "farmers" and agribusiness folks deserve to be forced to try to extract their oxygen supply from the Gulf Dead Zone.

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User Info Politicizing The Environment: Bad Science, Bad Economics in forum [Market-Ticker]
Mminlamesa
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w texas
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Lord Karl, you're a walking encyclopedia. HTF do you know so much about so many things? Your head must be the size of a watermelon.
Asimov
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I'm all for having a few ounces of ecologically safe, very high preforming but flammable material in my car. After all, they tell me the 15 gallons of gasoline just might be flammable too.

By what I understand, people who convert to propane coolant in vehicles are *AMAZED* by how well it works. It's apparently pretty simple too - changing a couple of pressure settings with adjustment screws and replacing the oil.

Just don't let anybody service it that doesn't know what it is.

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It's justifiably immoral to deal morally with an immoral entity.

Festina lente.
Tickerguy
Posts: 153849
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A True American Patriot!
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The flammability is not to be trifled with, and it is NOT the same as the fuel. After all you don't mount your fuel tank in the FRONT of the radiator where it's the first thing that gets punctured in a crash, right? But you DO mount your A/C condenser there AND the refrigerant inside is under pressure so if there's a wreck and ignition source immediately present.....

Second, in terms of retrofit adjustments, well, not with modern units, no.

The problem is that all modern A/C systems are TXV expansion systems, not the older capillary ones that (in some cases) were adjustable. There are no pressure adjustment screws on the compressors either; modern systems either cycle (American and Japanese cars, mostly) based on pressure switches, which are typically NOT adjustable and often computer-controlled off a PWM signal or they are variable-displacement systems (European cars, mostly) which are regulated by either an internal valve in the compressor or a computer-controlled bypass. In neither case is it easy to change.

In addition the oil is a big problem because getting it all out is very, very hard to do and the various oils are NOT compatible with one another. However, the oil used with R134a *should* (haven't looked closely) be ok compatibility-wise with straight hydrocarbon refrigerants.

Using "straight" isobutane/propane mixes, or just propane, can be done but the pressures are different and existing systems are likely to tolerate it poorly (it DOES cool VERY well though.) It's also readily available in a propane/isobutane mix (backpacking camp stove fuel cans.) The other problem is that the common tanks of propane are both very dirty (there's no reason to care much about small particulate contaminants when you're going to burn the stuff) and have mercaptan in them to make it stink and that stuff is sulfur-based -- the LAST THING you want in the system, as ANY moisture will combine with it to turn into sufuric acid and eat the entire unit alive!

However, as I noted, a company called "Envirosafe" makes a blend of isobutane/propane based refrigerants that are filtered, have NO mercaptan in them, and are balanced to produce nearly the same pressures as R134a (they also make a R22 replacement.) If you're going to retrofit a car system or work on it yourself that's the way to go since it's cheap (~$5/can, roughly) and will work well in a system that was designed for R134a without modification.

Just make damn sure you tag the system as to what's in it because the commercial shops are EPA certified, required to evacuate any HFC refrigerants and recover them, and if their recovery tanks get contaminated with other things they get fined BIG, so they will be REALLY pissed off if you or anyone else takes a car full of isobutane/propane mix to one of them and doesn't warn them that they can't use their recovery system on it.

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Winding it down.

Asimov
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Hey, I'm an expert on this - I saw a couple of youtube videos and read some articles about it!

It was about 10 years ago though, so maybe my memory of it isn't the best.

:P

(Thanks for the info! Especially envirosafe.)


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It's justifiably immoral to deal morally with an immoral entity.

Festina lente.
Whitehat
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remember when the R12 was replaced by R134a, a particular company had the patent on that replacement.

funny how something replaces it when the patent is around expiration.

more BS is that third world ****holes like Mexico were manufacturing and using R12 for two decades after we had to incur the higher costs of service, conversion where possible or vehicle replacement when there were no other options. particularly fun was the living without vehicle AC when personal resources dictated that solution. BTW: the recovered R12 was legally sold to Mexico instead of us carefully using up supply and transitioning to a new solution. apparently it did not damage the ozone being used by the third world.

ethanol does two other nice things to cars. it tricks the oxygen sensor into reading a leaner mixture which results in more positive fuel trims, less economy. California to their credit only recommended the oxygenated fuels for vehicles without an oxygen sensor for this reason and then exiled all of the thinking people from their midst. ethanol also causes phase separation from water which it also attracts, nice. storing anything with fuel in it requires special steps to prevent damage and inconvenience.

stored some cylinders of current refrigerants with my older backup vehicles collection. i see some capital appreciation here.

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Wa9jml
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When I was a tech at the local College of Engineering, I got roped into helping out with a heat transfer test of one of the new refrigerants. That stuff was nasty! It dissolved most plastics, so I had to find a set of ceramic wire nuts, wire an extreme service light bulb with Teflon insulated wire, and find a suitable ceramic socket for the bulb. I can't remember the number of that refrigerant any more, but it was an anesthetic, and an asphyxiate. I had to install a gas detector and purge fans. Then, I had to wire up a complex set of heating elements, powered by variacs, and using Simpson wattmeters.

And that refrigerant would still destroy the ozone layer.

All of my stuff worked, but they were continually bitching that I was a bottle neck. Then, they asked me for the wiring diagram, and I just pointed to my head. I quit shortly thereafter.
Crossthread
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Asimov Says:
Quote:
By what I understand, people who convert to propane coolant in vehicles are *AMAZED* by how well it works. It's apparently pretty simple too - changing a couple of pressure settings with adjustment screws and replacing the oil.

Just don't let anybody service it that doesn't know what it is.



NO KIDDING... Back in the Day as a auto tech..
As A Customer brought in a vehicle that He had purchased, Whom the Former Owner had PROPANE/Butane in a former R12 system...
Customer wanted it "converted" too R-134A..
Mixing gases & Oils makes a Combustible Cocktail When servicing such a system...(If your not aware)...
needless to say, the customers car DID burn up, almost, with the Whole Shop with it.... When things Ignited on it's very Own.. Started shooting Fire/Flames everywhere.. I thought it a Old Mechanics Wives Tale... Until I experienced it first had...smiley smiley
My then Boss/Owner of the Shop didn't quite believe Me until Insurance Forensics concluded that yes in fact,, the Vehicle AC System was loaded with Propane/Butane.. smiley

Karl your taking about (TXV valves) are Simply known in Mechanics terms, Simple expansion vales, with a simple screen filter..

Though NOTE: you can interchange High/Low pressure Sensor Pressure valve setting(s) too accommodate Propane/IsoButane gasses.. I mean some sensors are different pressures between vehicle years/manufactures..
(this includes Ac compressors that have internal/onboard sensors between manufactures, but are more difficult to use the conversion methods). BUT Most all, are "standard" national & World, "codes" (I forget what it is @ the moment) to fit most all "standard" Auto AC Systems sold in the USA.. So yes you "can" trick the system into something it otherwise isn't designed to do..


Though yes your right..
Imagine a Frontal crash.. having Propane/Butane, in the FRONT condenser! smiley smiley

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Flappingeagle
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IIRC, corn ethanol uses 1/3 of the corn crop. This in turn, keeps the farm economy alive and props up the value of farm land. Ending the ethanol subsidy, other than over a period of say 10 years, will crater the value of farm land and cause a serious recession if not depression. Think of how many loans are on the farm land, tractors, etc, that will simply go to zero if we were to abruptly end the subsidy.

This is a prime example of unintended consequences. A program was started that should have never existed and now to end it is like defusing a touchy bomb.

Flap

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Here are my predictions for everyone to see:
S&P 500 at 320, DOW at 2200, Gold $300/oz, and Corn $2/bu.
No sign that housing, equities, or farmland are in a bubble- Yellen 11/14/13
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Gable
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Quote:
Further, methane (which is much more prevalent) is released every time an animal farts.


My father was a Libertarian and told me at a young age the government would tax the air we breath if they could figure out how. Well they figured that out with the Carbon Tax to support the Religion Of Global Warming...he will be rolling over in his grave at some time in the future when a Fart Tax is implemented on humans.smiley

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In all of history, no government became more honest, less corrupt, or respected its citizens' rights more as it grew in size. E.L. 2016
Dcsleeper
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Northern VA
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I think I've posted this here before.
My friend says the patent on R12 was about to run out for Dupont.
It was the only patent that had been granted twice.
That's when the hullaballoo started.

Since the gubmint (IRS) ran a *****house into the ground I don't know why we trust them with anything.
Darcane
Posts: 70
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Washington
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Karl wrote..
No, the bigger problem is that ethanol in gasoline produces a higher peak combustion temperature in closed-cycle engines and thus makes more NOx.


Can you cite a reference on this?

Ethanol should produce a lower temperature, and have lower NOx emissions than gasoline. I've read numerous studies on the effects of ethanol blends in gasoline that show a reduction in NOx emissions, rather than an increase, in vehicles that are able to adjust their tuning to use blends high in ethanol (Flex Fuel Vehicles aka FFV). Non FFV running e20 or less still have NOx reductions, but will have increases in NOx running E85. As will carbureted engines that have not been tuned to run E85.

Example:
https://www.afdc.energy.gov/pdfs/technic....

I think manufacturing ethanol from corn is asinine, but I'm not sure that ethanol in general has no merit.

Mike
BS Mechanical Engineering
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Tickerguy
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It was the EPAs own study!

I'll see if I can find the reference as well.... I was surprised as I had always been told it reduced peak combustion temp.... They say nope on modern engines - it's the other way around.

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Winding it down.
Maynard
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If we are talking Ethanol, I tried to run a lawnmower on 96% Ethanol (I measured it with a hydrometer and don't ask where I got the ethanol). It was supposed to run and it sputtered a bit but I wouldn't recommend it.
Burya_rubenstein
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What does ethanol cost to produce per gallon of liquid? (I know it's more per gallon-equivalent of gasoline than gasoline.) Is it even worth it to the gas station owner and|or oil company to put the stuff in the fuel in order to short the customer on the BTUs?
Printlife
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CA
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Modern engines use the oxygen sensor to adjust for a small amount of oxygen in the exhaust stream to "feed" the catalytic converter. The oxygenate, ethanol in this case, also adds oxygen so the control system increases the amount of fuel in the mixture.

Net result: the added ethanol yields no net energy. That makes the economic calculations for the corn used in this manner pretty easy, it is all waste. So we use more gallons of the mixture and the state gets more taxes, pretty damn tricky, eh?

Trying to find the documentation for two adjacent states that only differed in whether ethanol was added to the fuel and the the differences in total MPG showed this result. Can't find it now.
Quik49
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Online
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Not sure how it compares to alcohol...but in my drag racing days the alkies always ran cooler....they also needed a **** ton more air to run....then there was that changing the damn oil all the time thing. Thing is you needed to be set up for a different fuel....played a little with nitro methane at 5 percent....instant air....boy if you got things wrong....boom! Wouldn't ethanol require same....
Apologies for the bench racing side bar...

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Long Vaseline....

Whitehat
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ethanol has a lower specific heat than the other fuel components, thus the fuel might have less of a cylinder cooling effect. in aircraft and the new automobile turbo charged engines a richer mixture is used for cooling and in autos this also prevents things like detonation under hard acceleration. kind of anti to fuel economy, but hey the cars are designed for the test not real use.

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There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.
snow, seasons, distance and dirt roads: SSDD
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7)
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