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 percent 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

EFI Is Revving Up in Outdoor Gear

Cub Cadet's XT2 LX42" EFI tractorElectronic fuel injection (EFI) has been a standard feature in cars since the last millennium, but if you want it standard in residential outdoor power equipment, you’ll have to wait a bit longer—which might be worth it. The carburetors in most gas-powered products are prone to fuel-related problems that EFI avoids. Better still, EFI is claimed to save up to 30 percent in fuel, and it extends the life of engines because it maintains the precise air/fuel ratio the engine needs. But outdoor gear’s commercial market can’t have all the fun, as some recent announcements demonstrate.

Kohler made news this month with two EFI engines intended for residential lawn tractors, in 25- and 27-horsepower versions. We should see it in riders next season. In the meantime, though, it’s already in two lawn tractors from MTD Products: the 42-inch Cub Cadet XT2 LX42″ EFI (photo above), $1,800 at Cub Cadet independent dealers, and the 46-inch Troy-Bilt XP 46-Inch FAB 13A9A1KN066, $1,900 at farm-supply and hardware chains. Both use the same 547cc engine and have hydrostatic transmissions.

Snowblowers are getting EFI, too. Ariens’ winter lineup, announced last week, includes two models with EFI engines: the $2,029 Ariens Platinum 24 SHO EFI, Model 921053 (with a 24-inch clearing width), and the $1,929 Ariens Deluxe 30 EFI, Model 921049 (30-inch). The Deluxe 30 EFI will sell at Home Depot and Ariens dealers; the Platinum 24 SHO EFI, dealers only. The company claims these models, owing to their Ariens AX EZ-Launch EFI engines, start more easily in extreme weather without variation in high or low altitudes.

The EFI-based Honda EU7000iS
Honda EU7000iS generator

Among generators, a pricey but solid choice is the Honda 7000iS, a 7,000-watt portable generator that, besides its EFI engine, uses inverter technology to vary engine speed according to the electrical load and also—best for the neighbors—run much more quietly than the usual portable. It costs about $4,500 at Home Depot and Honda dealers.

It’s too soon to know what else is in the lineup for EFI as manufacturers prepare announcements for the Green Industry and Equipment Expo, the industry’s trade show, held in Louisville every October. But with every new development, the premium in price for this important new feature can only come down.

Back to Top

Share Button