Here Is The SHOCKING BUT TRUE Story Of Big Oil’s Hypocrisy About Ethanol

alcohol fuel YouTube screenshot/Donald McKinney

Marc J. Rauch Executive vice president and co-publisher, The Auto Channel
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The website “FillUpOnFacts.com” is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute (API). It exists to bash ethanol and its hypocrisy begins with the website’s name. The website is filled-up with lies.

This website lists 13 categories, and then links to details that API pretends are facts to support their bashing of ethanol. I provide a list of these categories below, along with my own previously published responses that explain why API is wrong on these issues. However, without having to go through the 13 categories and my responses, there’s a far easier way to prove the duplicity of Big Oil’s attacks on ethanol.

For decades — while Standard Oil and other gasoline companies vehemently protested against ethanol fuels in the United States — Standard Oil, Cities Service (CITGO), and other American-based oil companies, sold ethanol-gasoline blends in Great Britain, where they marketed these fuels as being more powerful, cleaner and cooler running.

In the 1920s, a consortium of scotch whisky distillers began producing and marketing an ethanol-gasoline blend for automobiles called “Discol.” A few years later, the Discol name was licensed by another British company (Cleveland Petroleum Products) to sell an ethanol-gasoline blend, provided that Cleveland continued to use the alcohol produced by its distillers for the fuel blend. In the 1930’s, Standard Oil (ESSO/Anglo-American Oil) purchased about half of Cleveland Petroleum Products. In 1958, ESSO purchased the remaining shares of Cleveland Petroleum.

Cities Service (known today as CITCO) sold an ethanol-gasoline blend for many years called “Koolmotor.”

Several examples of newspaper and magazine ads for Cleveland Discol and Koolmotor are available here.

Here’s a British television commercial from 1966 for Cleveland Discol ethanol-gasoline fuel:

As you see, the message told to the consumers in Great Britain about ethanol was far different than the story told to the American people, then and now. The benefits mentioned in the Discol ads include:

• Ethanol (alcohol) contributes to a brilliant performance and better mileage
• Engines run cooler and cleaner
• Ethanol has long been used to prevent icing in aircraft and car engines
• Amazing acceleration and smoother running
• More miles per gallon
• Highest anti-knock value
• It’s thermal efficiency is higher than non-ethanol gasoline (BTUs are irrelevant)
• Less carbon is produced, ethanol actually removes carbon deposits

Great Britain wasn’t the only place in Europe that sold ethanol or ethanol-gasoline blended fuels; alcohol was used extensively throughout Europe, South America, and Asia. Italy’s brand was Benzacool,Hungary had Moltaco, Sweden had Lattybentyl, South Africa Natelite, Brazil’s big brand was Alcool, and, in the late 1930s, the United States had an ethanol-gasoline blend called Agrol.

“The Forbidden Fuel,” a book co-authored by William Kovarik, Hal Bernton, and Scott Sklar details the use of ethanol throughout the world. Bill Kovarik has expanded on all this through his internet presentations, such as his History of Biofuels.

In post-prohibition America, ethanol-gasoline fuels were often sold without all the boogeyman histrionics used by API members in recent years.

For example, in the 1970s, Texaco was producing an ethanol-gasoline blend and selling it in the United States. Here’s a TV commercial from 1979 featuring Bob Hope promoting corn alcohol blended with gasoline:

Today, Canadians don’t seem to know much about ethanol-gasoline blends but Mohawk gasoline stations in Canada sold an E10 ethanol-gasoline blend. It gave consumers “faster starts, more power, and cleaner emissions.

The great significance in all this is that prior to our modern Ethanol Renaissance (and production of vehicles with “ethanol-compatible components” starting in the 1990′) tens of thousands of vehicles — sorry, make that hundreds of thousands of vehicles… no, I mean millions of vehicles in Europe, the Americas, and Asia — were powered by fuels that contained ethanol. On top of that, we have to assume other internal combustion engine devices (lawn mowers, chain saws, stationary machines) throughout the world used ethanol-gasoline blends at one time or another.

With all these millions of engines using ethanol-gasoline blends, where are all the newspaper/magazine reports of ethanol causing engine damage? Where are all the stories from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s screaming about ethanol corroding engine parts? Where are all the stories about ethanol causing less power and fewer miles per gallon? How could there not be hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of published complaints that singled out ethanol as the evil-doer?

Of course, there wouldn’t have been such stories sponsored by the oil companies since they were promoting the ethanol-gasoline blends as a superior fuel, but what about all know-it-all ethanol-haters who nowadays haunt and troll every publication and media outlet they can find with ethanol-horror stories. Surely there must have been empty-headed know-it-alls in those days insisting that because of ethanol’s lower BTU values that it must deliver less power.

(Incidentally, in all the years up to the 1980s that the petroleum oil companies sold ethanol-gasoline they weren’t “forced” to do it, there were no “ethanol mandates.” They did it because it was the right thing to do. They did it because they knew that ethanol added power, cleaned the engines, emitted less pollution, and was the least expensive way to mitigate engine knock.)

A remarkable revelation

Well, a newly published report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) sheds some light on this subject, and at the same time throws some shade (as the young people say) on a possible suspect for the modern complaints against ethanol. Can you guess who that suspect is?

If you said “petroleum oil producers and blenders” you win a kewpie doll. Imagine, the oil industry causing the very same problems that they blame on ethanol; ain’t that a kick in the head?

The report is titled, “Sulfate Salts in Gasoline and Ethanol Fuels – Historical Perspective and Analysis of Available Data.” It was published in September 2017.

Here’s the thing: As I often say during my public speaking appearances, all liquids are corrosive, and one of the most corrosive liquids in the world is water. Water is so corrosive that if metals aren’t treated or cared for, it could cause our largest aircraft carriers and biggest passenger jets to fall apart. Yet, we drink water, we wash in water, we even bathe new born babies in water. But because the corrosive characteristics of water can be overcome with appropriate materials, babies can go about 60 or 70 years before they start to corrode (yes, you’re supposed to laugh at this point).

Gasoline is corrosive, too. Inhibitors are added to gasoline to reduce corrosion. Many, many people think that non-ethanol gasoline is some kind of benign fluid gently caressing engine components, and protecting the metal and rubber parts in some kind of an on-going mechanical love ballet.

Hah! Gasoline is a toxic, caustic, corrosive liquid. Unbeknownst to most people, especially those ethanol-bashers who wouldn’t want to learn any real facts, prior to the invention of leaded-gasoline ethanol was considered the best substance to put in your vehicle’s engine during long periods of inactivity. That’s right, it was recommended to fill your vehicle’s fuel tank and fuel system with ethanol fuel. In his 1919 maintenance manual for the Ford Model T (the world’s number one selling automobile for almost two decades), Victor Page wrote, “Denatured alcohol (ethanol fuel) is without doubt the best substance to use as it does not have any destructive action on the metals and rubber hose, will not form deposits of foreign matter, and has no electrolytic effect.” No literature of the period was ever published to refute that recommendation. You can find Victor Page’s manual here. The above quote is located on the top of page 156.

When tetra-ethyl lead was added to gasoline by the General Motors scientists in the early 1920s, it worked like ethanol in quieting engine knock. However it was highly corrosive, so they had to add ethylene dibromide to the gasoline-tetraethyl lead fuel mixture. Now they had a poison (gasoline), mixed with another poison (tetraethyl lead) in order to stop the engine knock caused by gasoline, with yet another poison (ethylene dibromide) to stop corrosion caused by tetraethyl lead. It’s like a triple-threat poisonous concoction unleashed on the public by a science-fiction madman — except it really happened.

The advent of leaded gasoline also led to changes in the design and manufacture of engine components to help handle this fuel. These changes probably were at least part of the reason why ethanol may have gone from being the harmless substance described by Victor Page to a potential corrosive fuel.

However, the new report released by NREL introduces the distinct possibility that the modern complaints of ethanol corrosion are the result of intentional or accidental monkeying with the ethanol-gasoline blends by the oil industry (or cronies of the oil industry) to denigrate ethanol.

Could the oil industry or its minions be responsible for this? Would they stoop to doing this?

Of course they would! Trillions of dollars are at stake. The petroleum oil industry is responsible for unleashing terrible poisons into our air and water. Wars have been fought over oil resources. Oil industry carelessness has killed millions of non-human animals of all types.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s all just a coincidence? Perhaps the sheer competitive desire by the oil industry to keep their engine fuels the dominant engine fuels, even though there is a superior fuel (ethanol) at hand, just lends itself to circumstantial conjecture?

I can go with circumstantial conjecture. I don’t think I need to paint a picture of premeditated death and destruction… as long as everyone understands that everything else I’ve written here isn’t coincidence or circumstantial conjecture. Ethanol was the best fuel to use in internal combustion engines; it was the safest fuel to use in internal combustion engines; it provided the most power for internal combustion engines; and that ethanol is still the best, safest, most powerful fuel to use in internal combustion engines (spark ignited and compression ignited engines).

Marc J. Rauch is executive vice president and co-publisher of The Auto Channel.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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Marc J. Rauch