Ethanol in Gas Delivering Reverse of Intended Effect

ethanol image / Credit: Cornell UniversityThe ethanol mixed with the gasoline you buy has few proponents for a number of reasons. It reduces mileage in motor vehicles. It attracts water, an enemy of fuel tanks. And it corrodes rubber, plastic and some metal parts, particularly in small engines like those in outdoor power equipment.

On the other side are big players: corn growers, for whom ethanol is a cash cow, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which says it reduces greenhouse gases. But what if research proved that biofuels like ethanol actually increase greenhouse gases—even more than gasoline by itself? That’s the conclusion of a revolutionary study from the University of Michigan.

The study, headed by research professor John DeCicco and co-authors at the U-M Energy Institute (published in the August 25 issue of Climatic Change), used U.S. Department of Agriculture crop-production data to address the underlying assumption of biofuels’ value. This assumption involves two processes. The first is that the corn, soybeans and other plants used to manufacture biofuels remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to grow. Second, the biofuels made from these plants emit carbon dioxide as they’re burned for fuel. The accepted truth is that the two processes, in terms of carbon-dioxide exchange, cancel one another out. Descriptions of biofuels, as a result, use terms such as “inherently carbon-neutral.”

Steps on carbon-footprint models

This is what the study challenges, and it used actual crop data rather than carbon-footprint models like those underlying the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. In fact, the researchers’ analysis shows that during the recent ramp-up of U.S. biofuel production, the increased carbon-dioxide uptake by the crops offset just 37% of the CO2 emissions attributed to biofuel combustion.

“When it comes to the emissions that cause global warming, it turns out that biofuels are worse than gasoline,” said DeCicco. “So the underpinnings of policies used to promote biofuels for reasons of climate have now been proven to be scientifically incorrect.”

DeCicco voiced his hope that policymakers reconsider their support for biofuels. “What’s new here is that hard data, straight from America’s croplands, now confirm the worst fears about the harm that biofuels do to the planet.”

Back to Top

Share Button

Three Ways to Misuse your Pressure Washer

Pressure washer nozzleThe waning weeks of summer are prime time for looking over your property and noticing everything you wish looked better—weeds, overgrown shrubs and, of course, mildew on many surfaces. You might have bought a pressure washer for that latter purpose. But when you use a piece of equipment infrequently, it’s easy to screw up, and pressure washers can be particularly unforgiving. Here’s where things can go wrong—and how to keep your machine, property and yourself out of trouble:

Rushing the setup

Knowing to fuel up a gas-powered pressure washer or plug in an electric is the easy part. Ensuring that a gas model has enough oil ranks in importance right up there with portable generators, since it could be on for several hours at a time. A mower, by contrast, is limited by the size of your lawn. Check your owner’s manual and add precisely as much as the machine wants, but no more. Without enough oil, the engine could overheat and seize up.

Before you start either a gas or electric machine, connect your water source and turn it on. The pump needs water regularly flowing through it or else it could overheat. And once you’ve fired up the washer, don’t leave a gas model idling for several minutes while you stop for lunch. Either run the pressure washer or shut it down. Occasionally relieving pressure using the trigger, pointed away from people, will suffice.

Using only your favorite-color nozzle

A pressure washer’s removable nozzles are color-coded for a reason. The orifice in the middle is shaped differently depending on what it’s meant for, and the color scheme is often as follows:

• 0˚ (red) Removes the toughest grime from concrete, cleaning out crevices and washing at a distance, such as second-story siding. The lesser the degree of all these nozzles, the narrower the stream—and the quickest it could cause injury or property damage.

• 15˚ (yellow) Cleans concrete and strips grease and paint from hard surfaces.

• 25˚ (green) Cleans outdoor furniture, patios and decks.

• 40˚ (white) Spruces up easily damaged surfaces—examples are siding and stucco walls. This is also the nozzle for cleaning vehicles.

• You’ll also have a black, low-pressure nozzle for soap and other cleaning agents. The pressure washer senses that you’ve attached this nozzle and draws from both the soap dispenser and the water supply.

If you replace a nozzle during a washing session, be sure to relieve the pressure through the old one before removing it, and aim the wand away from people and property to test out the nozzle before use. This isn’t as much problem for the many pressure washers that use an adjustable nozzle (here’s Briggs & Stratton’s) instead of replaceable ones, but it’s always safe to relieve pressure before changing settings. Whichever nozzle or setting you use, approach a surface from a distance, working your way closer as needed, and keep the spray at an angle.

Shoving it in the shed for the winter

It’s a common springtime complaint: A pressure washer worked fine the first season but now leaks all over the place. With a starting issue, the reasons are most often fuel-related. But these machines have an extra step you need to take if you’ll be storing it for the winter in chilly temperatures. The extra step comes in the form of a $10 antifreeze product intended specifically for pressure washers.

It’s typically called pump saver or pump guard, and the product screws onto the same place where, during the season, you screwed in the hose. Models differ by how you get the fluid into the pump—it replaces standing water in the process—but the idea is to fill the pump with this antifreeze and leave it there till spring. On the first use next year, the incoming water will flush out the antifreeze.

To avoid fuel problems, be sure to use only fuel to which you’ve added stabilizer, such as Gold Eagle’s Sta-Bil, and drain the fuel tank at the end of the season. Also consider using ethanol-free fuel.

Back to Top

Share Button