Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The great gass MPG challenge part 2!!!

I've been using non-ethanol gas now for about 5 weeks and have some numbers to share. Let me first say that I was surprised by the results. I hoped to see some difference but really was afraid the numbers would be so close it would be hard to tell. Well, the difference is pretty obvious.

The difference in MPG since switching to non-ethanol gas has been 1.15 MPG (data). It may not sound like much, but lets take a look at the numbers based on this.

Cost Considerations
In Omaha 10% ethanol blend gas cost $0.10 cheaper per gallon. So for 10 gallons of gas it costs me $1.00 more to non-ethanol regardless of the current price (assuming constant $0.10 difference).

Ethanol BlendNo Ethanol
CostX - $1.00X
Miles driven241.9253.4
Gallons needed to make up difference0.4750

So I need an additional 0.475 gallons of 10% Ethanol blend gas to go the same distance as ethanol free gas. The costs of this additional gas breaks down below at various prices.

At $4.00/gallon = $1.90 - I save $0.90 per 10 gallons of gas
At $3.50/gallon = $1.66 - I save $0.66 per 10 gallons of gas
At $3.00/gallon = $1.43 - I save $0.43 per 10 gallons of gas
At $2.50/gallon = $1.18 - I save $0.18 per 10 gallons of gas
At $2.11/gallon = $1.00 - I break even, same cost for either gas

Since it cost me an extra $1.00 in the first place, my break even point is when gas is at $2.11/gallon. Below this price is costs me less to use 10% ethanol blend. Above it I save money by using ethanol free gas.

Amount of gas SAVED by using Ethanol

It's not just about saving money. There is also this added notion that by using Ethanol we use less oil from other countries when we do so. Ideally you'd say we use 10% less oil by using the blended gas.
Not so fast..... As I just pointed out from my testing you need 0.475 more gallons of ethanol blend to go the same distance. If you want to get picky, it is really 0.428 more gallons (0.90 x 0.475).

This means instead of using 10% less gas with Ethanol blend, we are only using 5.7% less. Now the bigger question is how much gas (oil) was needed to produce and refine the Ethanol? Are we really saving anything or just helping our corn growers by giving them another market?

Environmental Impact - emissions
No hard numbers here but consider this..... I've heard it touted that by using 10% ethanol blend it cuts down on emissions from cars. Maybe true, but by how much? As I already pointed out 10% blend does not mean 10% less gas. It means 5.7% less.

It means filling up more often though too!!! Have you ever been to California where they have the extra things on the nozzle to prevent fumes from escaping? I'm guessing it is a pollution thing. So the more times we fill up, the more chances of polluting.

What I am going to do?
I support the farmers, especially since I live in the corn belt. I have used Ethanol blended gas for the 23 years that I have driven. As an additive that provided a small extra market for corn I think it was OK; not necessarily a plus or minus in terms of oil use. But now that we are seeing it pushed as a big scale solution, I'm not on board. Based on my numbers I don't see it as a solution at all and more likely a detractor from finding a real solution.

Unless.... IF E85 (85% Ethanol blend gas) can be produces without needing oil (use Bio Diesel maybe?); and if we can produce enough crops to utilize it, then Ethanol might be workable. But from everything I've seen we can't produce enough corn or whatever crop to do this and we currently burn a ton of oil to produce it; some even say we use more oil producing ethanol than we save.

So, I am going to stick with using ethanol free gas as long as the price stays above $2.00. And I am going to do everything I can to support and push for new energy alternatives. I'd love to drive an electric or fuel cell powered car to work. But, where in the heck to I find one right now..... (and how do I pay for it?)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Death of Randy Pausch, author of "Last Lecture"

It is a sad day. Randy Pausch, who's "Last Lecture" video has be watch online by millions, had died at 47. I'm not going to try and write about what he did, but I encourage anyone who comes across this to read the news story, and watch the lecture below. He was a great man and we could all learn a lot about living from how he handled his last time on earth.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Weeks 5, 6 and 7 weigh ins

I've been bad about keeping up with posting my weigh ins. For week 5 it was because I didn't like the results. According to my scale I went up 3.2 pounds that week. Well, I don't really trust that scale and it is the long term that really matters.

Week 6 showed a 4 pound loss then. Do I really think I lost 4 pounds that week? NO. It just shows how off my bathroom scale can be and how I need to look at long term trends and not spot weigh ins.

Week 7 now shows a 0.6 pound loss for a total of 5.4 pounds over 7 weeks. I'm happy with this. While I don't trust my scale I can tell by the trends that I have lost weight and that is the important thing. Slow is fine; just not UP!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The great gas MPG challange!!!

So the other day on the radio they were talking about how John Warner has proposed setting a national speed limit of 55 mph to lower gas use in the US. Well, one of the callers happened to mention something about the affect of ethanol on gas mileage and it started me thinking.....

I'd already noticed with new vehicles running on E85 that the listed gas mileage was much less than ordinary fuel. For instance, a Chevy Tahoe Vortec 5.3L V8 gets 14/20 mpg with normal fuel, but only 11/15 mpg with E85.

But how about a 10% blend that is very common at filling stations in my part of the country?

I've used the 10% blend all of my driving life (has it really been 23 years?) because it was usually cheaper and I thought "gas was gas". But with prices now at $4.00 per gallon, a small difference in mileage can make a difference.

So here are my rough calculations. My truck (99 Ford Range, manual transmission) gets just under 24 mpg.
  • For 10 gallons of 10% ethanol blend gas at $3.90 per gallon, it costs me $39.00.
  • For 10 gallons of non-ethanol blend gas at $4.00 per gallon, it will cost me $40.00, or $1.00 more than with ethanol.
  • $0.10 difference between the two gas types seems about right from looking during my drive in today.
With the 10% ethanol blend gas I can go just under 240 miles on 10 gallons.
If I get a 1 mpg increase in gas mileage with the other gas, it means 250 miles per 10 gallons, or 10 additional miles.

10 additional miles would take 0.42 gallons of gas (at 24 mpg). 0.42 gallons of gas at $3.90 per gallon = $1.63.

So..... if I see a 1 mpg gallon increase in gas mileage from use non-ethanol gas that is $0.10 per gallon more expensive..... I will save $0.63 per 10 gallons of gas.

A 2 mpg increase would save me $1.26, 3 mpg = $1.89, etc.

Is this a big deal? Not really I guess. But it would illustrate just how buying the less expensive item is not always cheaper. If gas were $2.00 per gallon and there is a 1 mpg difference it would be cheaper to get the ethanol blend. This is very counter intuitive. I've heard of many people switching and using ethanol blend to save money, but in the long run they may be paying more.

But wait...... I haven't done the test yet. Maybe ethanol doesn't really impact my gas mileage. Maybe it improves it? It takes me a week to drain my tank with normal driving to work so expect another post with results in a little over a week.

This should be interesting!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Week 4 weigh in

My weight this morning is 198.8 pounds. This means no loss in the last week so I am still at the 4 pound mark since I began again 4 weeks ago. I can't give a reason for why I didn't lose any this week. I've not recorded my eating for at least a week so I don't know how I did calorie wise, but I'm guessing I've been eating more than I should. Snacks when around home have really been a problem. But, I didn't gain anything and just need to keep at it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I am not a runner. I guess in high school I did run a 10k once; but it was just on a whim. I found out about it the night before when a friend of my sister said she was running it. I got up that morning having done no training what soever and ran the 10k in 55 minutes. It was fun. But then trying to run another later I quit after a few miles, it almost seemed like a fluke that my body let me run the 10k on that one day.

So, though I'm not a runner, I've always like the idea of running. When I was younger I was a lot more involved with religious stuff. I used to think about what heaven might be like. At that time I though it would be great if in heaven you could run and run and never get tired. And there would be music all around almost if inside you head (good rock music btw). While I'm not nearly as in to religion as back then, the idea of being able to run without getting tired is still very appealing to me.

I've been trying to do some running this year. In fact last weekend I ran with a torch as part of the "torch run" for the State of Nebraska Cornhusker State Games. But, I really hated it. I had been working at running a one mile segment. When I signed up I had to specify an estimate of how long it would take me and I put 10 minutes, not really having any idea. While doing my training I was really working on being able to do it in 10 minutes - too fast really for what I should have been doing. Two days before the run I then found out I was going to be doing 2 miles!!! Great.

The day of the run came. It wasn't terribly hot, but windy with it blowing in my face. It got to my turn and I started up a hill. I was running the pace I had been doing for 1 mile. It actually felt really good for the first minute, but then my mouth just dried up and my body was tired. I was out of breath and my dry mouth made it hard to regain it even after slowing down. I crested over the top of the hill which felt better, but still could not keep moisture in my mouth. Jsut short of the 1 mile mark I switched to a walk. I hated doing this. I felt like I had to run my pace of 10 minutes per mile. There was a pace van in front and the guy slowed down next to me and got me water which helped. I'll spare the rest of the details, but at about the 1.25 mile mark the van driver switched with me and ran the last 3/4 of a mile. I hated it.

But..... I'm still running. I was stupid about the pace I tried to run considering my current body. In the last 6 days since that run I have gone out 4 times. For the first one I just mean to walk but found my body wanting to run. For the second third and fourth time I went out meaning to run but decided to go slow. Really not much faster than my fast walk. And each of these times I've ran over 2 miles and even been able to sprint a block at the end of the run. It feels GREAT!

So do I like running? I don't really know. But I am trying to lose weight and live a healthier life. Running does work my body and I need to do that. Tonight my son went with me too on his bike and that was a lot of fun for both of us. I'm gonna keep doing it this summer, maybe working on getting a little faster or perhaps for a longer distance. And maybe, just maybe, I'll even try to run a 5k later this summer. A little motivation like that might be helpful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Week 3 weigh in

A few days late posting here; it's a busy week.

Last week I lost 0.8 pounds, for a total of 4 pounds lost now in 3 weeks. Not exactly a stellar pace, but at least I'm not gaining. I feel like I have my eating under control for the most part and I have been out walking or running most nights. More weight will come off I'm sure, it just takes time.

I calculated that it took me about 20 years to gain about 70 pounds (high school to age 38). Using my higher math skilz, that works out to be about 3.5 pounds per year; and it really was quite gradual. So considering that, I've already removed over 1 years worth of weight gain in 3 weeks. Not bad really. But really the important thing is that I'm eating better and exercising some. Any weight loss is an added bonus.