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Corn

Posted by silversword 9A (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 13, 13 at 13:07

This thread is intended to spark discussion about corn.

1. As a food
2. As an additive
3. As a fuel
4. etc...

And how it affects America and the world.

A bit of a background from Michael Pollan...

By Michael Pollan
Smithsonian, June 15, 2006

Descendants of the Maya living in Mexico still sometimes refer to themselves as "the corn people." The phrase is not intended as metaphor. Rather, it's meant to acknowledge their abiding dependence on this miraculous grass, the staple of their diet for almost 9,000 years.

For an American like me, growing up linked to a very different food chain, yet one that is also rooted in corn, not to think of himself as a corn person suggests either a failure of imagination or a triumph of capitalism.

Or perhaps a little of both. For the great edifice of variety and choice that is an American supermarket rests on a remarkably narrow biological foundation: corn. It's not merely the feed that the steers and the chickens and the pigs and the turkeys ate; it's not just the source of the flour and the oil and the leavenings, the glycerides and coloring in the processed foods; it's not just sweetening the soft drinks or lending a shine to the magazine cover over by the checkout. The supermarket itself: the wallboard and joint compound, the linoleum and fiberglass and adhesives out of which the building itself has been built is in no small measure a manifestation of corn.

There are some 45,000 items in the average American supermarket, and more than a quarter of them contain corn. At the same time, the food industry has done a good job of persuading us that the 45,000 different items or SKUs (stock keeping units) represent genuine variety rather than the clever rearrangements of molecules extracted from the same plant.

How this peculiar grass, native to Central America and unknown to the Old World before 1492, came to colonize so much of our land and bodies is one of the plant world's greatest success stories. I say the plant world's success story because it is no longer clear that corn's triumph is such a boon to the rest of the world.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ethanol


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Corn

I thought from the beginning of the ethanol boom that there were going to be some seriously bad consequences. It struck me as a very bad idea since I was already aware that farming has it's own major impacts on the planet. The idea that the earth can support any number of humans, and those humans could use any amount of energy with impunity is just plain dumb.


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RE: Corn

Corn is an important food(humans) and feed(animals).It could be debated for days whether it is a good feed/food or not. Its my opinion corn is good for all animals up to a point. It tends to be overused and can have ill effects on health.There are just so many uses for corn and its products. I think only when bad farming practices in its production and uses does it create concern. The high value of corn has allowed farmers to boost their standards of living, machinery manufacturers to boost output and retailers to keep afloat, I has raised the value of farm land for sellers and renters. It has been a boon to the economy.
On the other hand, it has encouraged farmers to remove land from conservation usages and be returned to row crop production where sometimes poor farm practices are in use such as over use of herbicides/pesticides. Land is eroded and top soils are lost forever.
Corn as a fuel obviously has its supporters and non supporters, both sides have valid issues.
There are so many by products of corn from sweeteners to bio degradable containers its almost mind boggling.

Bottom line is, I love to grow corn. I really like a lot of corn products. I know my animals love corn and when fed properly they thrive on corn. Corn mazes are a lot of fun too! But cultivating large tracts all day in the sun, well, that's another story.


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RE: Corn

Money... that's what it all boils down to...


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RE: Corn

"But cultivating large tracts all day in the sun, well, that's another story."

That's why I hoe in the afternoon.

I love maize as well, in fact I am awed by it. What a crop. I am grateful to the ancient Maya for all those many generations of breeding work they did. Every year I drop those seeds in and as the tiny sprouts are coming up I always wonder if they can win against the odds, and they always do. Winter comes and I eat the stuff of life.


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RE: Corn

I enjoy corn raw, cooked, creamed, roasted, popped, etc.

My lawn thrives on corn gluten meal and weeds hate it. I used to buy it for $8 a 50lb bag. Then it got commercialized. Ugh.

There's probably a gazillion rolling acres of corn here in Delaware county.


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RE: Corn

An old friend, 76 now, who also grows for market hoes by moonlight, AND, he only wears spectacles for reading small print. He is a corn nut as well.

I always wanted a big ol combine, one of those million dollar red jobs with a 12-16 row head. Some that I have never operated but am in awe of. We did have an old corn binder AND A THRESING MACHINE FOR AWHILE.bOTH WORKED.


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RE: Corn

I and friend (boy, I almost typed 'myself and'...that was a close one) have talked for a while now about getting an ACall-crop out here. He's convinced it will happen, I think moving one will be too difficult.

BCS makes a small reaper-binder, but they don't sell it in north america. Reaper-binders are pretty neat.


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RE: Corn

An Alice Chompers All Crop? I was partner on one once. What a machine!! I had forgotten all about that little beauty. it was as new, I pulled it about 7 miles home with a restored Alice Chompers WD45. sold it to a slather azz farmer for 300 bucks, same as we paid 2 years before. and it was cherry, alas, its now scrap.


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RE: Corn

When shall that small voice cry out Soylent Green is peoples!

Except in future scenario, in vitro protein materials for shaping as traditional-looking foods will be derived from CORN! or so we shall be informed.


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RE: Corn

I can't find it now, but last week I read an article about how many million acres had been taken out of CRP and planted with corn.

Using it for fuel, it effectively bumps up all grain prices for everybody, because as its refined, it isn't available for animal feed, so the feed manufacturers go find another grain substitute.


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RE: Corn

It's my understanding that a pure corn diet is damaging to ruminants' stomachs, necessitating higher usage of medications to keep them healthy. Is that correct?

Doesn't Pollan have a great passage in there somewhere about a lab test that determined something like 73% of the average American's cells have corn DNA in them? (Clearly this is paraphrasing and my knowledge of biological terminology appalling: apologies!)


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RE: Corn

Children of the Corn, then?


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73% of americans have corn DNA in their cells, or 73% of the cells of an average american have corn DNA? In both scenarios, one wonders why the rest don't have it, and also, what the heck does it mean, to have "corn" DNA in one's cells?

Yeah, according to our research the all-crop is our best option. You know of a good one and how we could haul it from PA/OH all the way to cape cod without getting stopped a zillion times?


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Stem and root foods blended into a dry cereal. Easy to ship and store.


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RE: Corn

Just add hot water and you'd have a fine gruel for the little ones.


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Children of the corn, I remember that!
I have a large framed picture of a cornfield in the hallway, why? I dunno, its just odd yet kinda cool??
A corn heavy diet is not healthy for animals yet its the main ingredient in many feeds. Its a huge part of the hog and cattle business. many dairy farmers have eliminated corn, or cut way back on its use. They are noting less twisted guts, better production over longer useful lifespans and less costs. It doesn't really harm animals such as market hogs because they only live 5-6 months before slaughter. Cattle only digest and realize nutrients from a very small portion of the corn seed, the rest just goes back on the field.


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RE: Corn

David52 - Corn that is used for ethanol production is available for cattle food as either a wet or dry product sold by the semi loads for dairy and feedyard use. It is a lot more economical to get it as a dry product because you can get more protein per pound than you can in a wet product, and it can be stored longer. The article sited below gives a good overview of corn used in and after the production of ethanol. I realize it is an ethanol industry publication, but it is very complete as far as an overview of the refining process.

Overseeing the construction of ethanol plants is what my husband does. We both believe that the raising of corn is problemetic when done in areas that require irrigation from the underlying aquifers that contain very limited quantities of water, such as the Ogalalla.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ethanol production


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It's my understanding that ruminants are actually supposed to be grass/pasture/prairie fed for optimum nutrition... corn as feed is man's invention.

Having spent time living and working on a dairy farm I can tell you that corn was not the biggest part of the herd's diet, and it was not processed for ethanol first.

Pure and simple, our largest market crops today are grown for one purpose... profit... whether it's fed, used as human foodstuffs, or made into a supposedly better fuel... it's all about the dollar, and not about the betterment of our planet or its inhabitants.


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RE: Corn

I love love love corn on the cob, but only fresh picked, so I eat it July-October and not at all the rest of the year. (I live near several farms, some years one of them grows it right across the street).

I am eating popcorn right now, yummy.

High fructose corn syrup is probably not so good. The rise in use of HCFS correlates with the increase of obesity in the US. Supposedly our bodies did not evolve to metabolize this type of sugar.

As for using corn as a source of ethanol, that I just don't understand. I've read that some of the large perennial grasses would be a better choice, like Miscanthus giganteus or Arundo donax. Probably less profit in those though.


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Look forward to transgenic corn hybrids with compounds of pharmaceutical values popping up in farmlands. "Pharming" will be a new profit center in the industrial ag business. Once the desired products are extracted from the corn, perhaps the plants can then be processed for ethanol.


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Thanks, gmatx, for the info and link. I used to use fresh brewery waste by the ton to feed fish, so I can envisage what the left-over mash looks like.

Cracked corn is also the main ingredient in hog and chicken feed, which - speaking world-wide here - is where an awful lot of it is used.


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RE: Corn

a couple little ditties:
40% of USA corn goes to animal feed.
30% to ethanol.
it takes 6 lbs of corn to grow 1 lb of beef, 1.2 lbs to grow 1 of chicken, & 3.5 lbs corn to make a lb of pork.
farms today produce 70% more corn than in the 70s.
farmers use 10% less fertilizers to grow that corn.
1 acre of corn at a yield of 180 bbl per acre removes 8 tons of carbon dioxide from the air as it produces enough oxygen to supply a years worth to 130 humans.
This year we will produce about 14 billion bbl of corn, valued @ +or- $5 per bbl.
The price of propane gas rises and falls with corn production. goin up this year cause there is a lot of corn to be dried before storage.

Should we grow more or less corn?

This post was edited by fancifowl on Thu, Nov 14, 13 at 19:38


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RE: Corn

How many less small farmers are there today than there were just a few decades ago?

"The farmer is asked to feed the world in exchange for enough to barely feed his own family."


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RE: Corn

Some info about Miscanthus giganteus (Wikipedia):

"M. giganteus is a C4 plant, and thus exhibits greater photosynthetic efficiency and lower water use requirements than other kinds of plants. It has very low nutritional requirements... it has high nitrogen use efficiency and therefore is capable of growing well on barren land without the aid of heavy fertilization.

"Compared to other ethanol inputs, giant Miscanthus grass produces more mass overall, as well as more ethanol. For example, a typical acre of corn yields around 7.6 tons of biomass per acre and 756 gallons of ethanol. Giant Miscanthus is capable of producing up to 20 tons of biomass and 3,250 gallons of ethanol fuel."

It also sequesters carbon into the Earth. The EU is already using it to co-fire power plants and to make ethanol.

And corn is a FOOD crop for chrissakes. So explain to me why the US even considered using corn as a fuel crop???


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RE: Corn

Because corn production is widely supported by the Five-year Farm Plans with all kinds of financial and other benefits. If the price for grain corn is high enough, the crop is diverted into feed/food routes; if prices are more favorable for ethanol production, there it goes. If prices are poor, the government through insurance programs make up the differences in return to farmers.

Who's going to support growing a big grass with little feed/food value?


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RE: Corn

I grow M. gigantus, as well as 4-5 other Miscanthus. Its quite the grass, I have a bit of donax as well. Im not so sure how it would work out as a farmed crop? Some miscanthus can be invasive as well tho my gigantus hasn't made viable seed as far as I can tell.
A large farm here grows a lot of conservation plants, they were the nations leader in crown vetch. They grow ??? boocoo acres of switch grass. Many other crop farmers began to grow it also. They were hoping to use it to produce ethanol. Well, they still grow some, makinging pellets of it to burn as fuel to heat their buildings and dry other crops. Many have plowed it down now to plant more corn and beans. It just didn't pan out as a profitable enterprise. Too bad. I thought it was a great idea!

With the euro at about $1.30, lots of fuels are going across the pond.


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Exporting carbon dioxide with US supplying the carbon and the Europeans the oxygen. ;_)

Fanci, is the switchgrass more of a water user than the Miscanthus. I grow a half dozen varieties/species of Miscanthus for landscape trade. They are not always drought-resistant.


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It sounds like M. giganteus is one of more drought tolerant of the Miscanthus spp. I have Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' and 'Purpurascens', both of which are growing in lean and dry soil, and directly compete with the roots of big Silver and Sugar maples. They would probably prefer to have more water, but do pretty well without it.

Sorry to hear that grasses haven't quite panned out as a fuel crop in the US as yet, but that doesn't mean they won't in the future. Someday, perhaps when supplies of fossil fuels tighten, and perhaps other resources like water and fertilizers, we might not have the luxury of wasting a valuable food crop like corn which feeds both people and livestock (and our pets).

And if things really get rough, then the corn will be used to feed people, and screw the livestock and pets. Because producing meat is very resource intensive and basically is a luxury too (probably okay if it's locally grown or wild game, etc).


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RE: Corn

marshall, I am not fully versed on switch. Ya know, a dry year around here could be a plentiful year in many places. I only remember 2 times this area has seen ag supports for too dry. My miscanthus grows in quite wet soils which is brick hard in summer, down several inches. I would like to see switch take hold. It just seems like the nearly perfect crop?
Boy, the corn is really coming off the fields now! I sat and watched the combine work out at my kids, just awesome. The equipment now is so huge, would be even bigger like western stuff if we had fields level and over 30-40 acres.

Weve had 2 very heavy snos, a month ago and a few days ago. Both put that big grass flat on the ground. Both times it has recovered and 95% stands erect. That main stem cell structure, like corn, is pretty amazing.

This post was edited by fancifowl on Fri, Nov 15, 13 at 22:38


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RE: Corn

I made beef burgers last night. As soon as I opened the package I could smell corn. This is a new one to me. I bought from a local farmer who finishes on corn. I was very surprised when I opened the package. I usually smell for freshness but I caught the odor as soon as the package was opened. You could also taste it in the meat. It wasn't horrible but it was different.
I do watch how much corn we consume and I try to keep it gmo free. I can't find gmo cornstarch or flour though.


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RE: Corn

Believe it or not, I think Walmart sells a brand of unbleached flour that's non-gmo... and then there are many online sources one could order from, as well.

We usually order our baking supplies from specific online companies that deal only in non-gmo, organically grown items. I believe Tropical Traditions is where we obtain our coconut products, such as cold pressed oil, flour, raw honey, etc...


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RE: Corn

There are no legal gmo wheat, rye or oats (and only a line of malting barley is gmo.) All wheat, barley, rye, and oats contain glutens. "Flour" for baking has traditionally be composed of wheat unless otherwise stated. Baking yeast breads require gluten otherwise the breads turn out dense, if tasty.

Of course most if not all yeast brands contain gmo yeast, one of the first organisms to be genetically altered.


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RE: Corn

we have finished cattle on grass directly off pasture and sometimes corn. I cant recall anyone ever tasting corn?? Could be there is some other reason for an off flavor? I will say the grain finished animals might have been the best flavored which is probably due to better marbling and faster growth. The Highlands were grass finished, they take way longer to bring to a finish even on grain.


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Fanci, I suspect the smell is more likely from the plastic bag or some other element other than the meat itself. I can't imagine the corn contributing directly to the taste of the fat content and surely not the protein fraction. But maybe so.

When I feel flush I sometimes buy grass-raised beef from a ranching friend. A world of different taste and my digestive system seems to tolerate such beef much better than what I can buy in stores.


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RE: Corn

I've had beef that was finished on molasses, and you could definitely taste the stuff.

I see that the EPA has just lowered the mandate for "renewable" fuels in blends, which should take some of the pressure off of corn prices - see link.

I doubt its just me, but my gas milage drops at the rough proportion to the amount of ethanol in the fuel.

Here is a link that might be useful: link


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Me too, about 10% which is about the mandate blend in California.


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73% of americans have corn DNA in their cells, or 73% of the cells of an average american have corn DNA? In both scenarios, one wonders why the rest don't have it, and also, what the heck does it mean, to have "corn" DNA in one's cells?

I did say from the outset that I knew I got the terminology garbled, Pat.

It's the carbon 13, specific to corn, that's either digested directly or rides through the meat-cooking process, and can apparently be traced in human cells. Some links:

The relevant passage in Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma: "Americans are corn chips on legs"

"Dawson tested a strand of my hair: 69 percent of the carbon came from corn."

That Burger You're Eating Is Mostly Corn


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RE: Corn

Call me skeptical. C-13 isotopes is widespread in the biosphere along with the other stable isotope, C-12. Lots of organisms take up C-13 selectively; for example this passage from Wiki:

"The ratio of 13C to 12C is slightly higher in plants employing C4 carbon fixation than in plants employing C3 carbon fixation. Because the different isotope ratios for the two kinds of plants propagate through the food chain, it is possible to determine if the principal diet of a human or other animal consists primarily of C3 plants or C4 plants by measuring the isotopic signature of their collagen and other tissues. Deliberate increase of proportion of 13C in diet is the concept of i-food, a proposed way to increase longevity."

I'd want to know a lot more about the biochemical traits of other foodstuffs before I pass judgment.


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RE: Corn

Marshallz, my husband does all the bread making, and he prefers working with coconut flour, raw honey, and other ingredients that aren't considered normal or mainstream for baking breads. The bread is not like your typical commercially made loaf... it's not tall, and it has a different texture and much better flavor... but the difference in how I feel consuming it is worlds apart from commercial baked goods or breads made from the usual ingredients.

Quite frankly, my digestive system tells me what I need to know about what I consume, and this is much better than anything baked commercially.

And then there are the corn sweeteners that are in practically everything... yuck. We'll take a pass, if it's all the same.


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Interesting. I wonder if Dawson will test one's hair for a fee.


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david, molasses would only be an ingredient in a finish ration. Its used sometimes to improve the taste so the animal will ingest feeds it may not otherwise relish. I did use a high molasses content in my lamb finisher and it certainly did impart some flavor. my lamb customers really went for it as did we. I prefer the wet molasses over the dry, less dusty feed for 1 thing.


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"I doubt its just me, but my gas milage drops at the rough proportion to the amount of ethanol in the fuel."

Me too. I find it's actually cost effective to use premium.


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A lot can affect mileage... right down to little things like tire inflation... or others, like grade of fuel chosen, alignment, proper and timely maintenance... and operator performance, of course. That's not to say that ethanol isn't a contributing factor.


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Ethanol in fuel mixtures for single and two piston gardening tools pretty much destroy those engines in short order. One can buy a fuel additive to neutralize the alcohol but that cost more than the fuel. Alcohol and aluminum seem not to get along.


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Ethanol is the kiss of death for snowmobiles and many other small engines. Of course, that is just fine with the manufacturers.


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I was using premium too, for years, until someone told me that one should only used the speced grade for the engine.


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"I was using premium too, for years, until someone told me that one should only used the speced grade for the engine."

Thank you, brown. I misspoke or misled; take your pick :)

There is no advantage to using higher octane than the vehicle is specked for UNLESS the specked fuel contains ethanol AND the price difference between the specked fuel and the non-ethanol (usually premium, but always more expensive) is less than the advantage gained by improved fuel efficiency.

Our town has a gas station (my station of choice) which offers no ethanol in any of the grades. I gain 5% mpg in this vehicle, not using ethanol, and the price difference is 10 cents/gallon. So even though the fuel which contains ethanol costs less, I use so much more fuel that I am better off financially using the pricier fuel.

I was thinking of my 1992 Seville on the previous post (premium); the above is my 2003 Rav4.


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Well, I'm not the car guru in our household, but I do know that we get better mileage and other advantages to using the highest grade of fuel in our car. In the end, you're not really saving any money by choosing a lower grade... and for the few cents more per gallon, it's worth it to use a higher grade. As my husband says, "pay now, or pay more later..."

As for additives and different fluids or sealants and whatnot, my husband has his favorite brands, tried and tested. He never actually endorses a product unless it's proven to work for him... and he's actually written to a few companies to tell them how well their products work. And if you knew him, you'd know how out of character that is for him. It takes a lot to impress him.


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Premium gas has ethanol, unless specifically noted that it doesn't. There is only one station around here that sells no-ethanol premium for snow mobiles and such. They let you know.

Here is a link that might be useful: car talk on the subject


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Right, david. We have one station that sells no ethanol of any grade, and 2 that sell ethanol-free in the premium grade only. The general rule around here is that ethanol-free is usually only available in premium grade.

Unfortunately, most the city slickers who come up to sled don't have a clue that the ethanol is detrimental to their engines.


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I think I read E15 is coming? Its use will void auto warranties.


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I've also heard that ethanol is hard on small engines, and that you should use fuel stabilizers, like Stabil. I have used Stabil for many years anyway, for the gas can. I have a Craftsman push mower, and and 25 year old snow blower, which use only a couple gallons of gas per year so a fuel stabilizer is essential. A friend suggested I buy the blue version, Stabil Marine, which lasts longer.


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We go through a lot a fuel for our small engine equipment, minimum 10 gallons a week and more when we rent big stuff that really sucks up the gas.


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Marshall & terrene, you might want to seriously consider springing for the ethanol-free fuel. See Popular Mechanics article below. I wouldn't have given it a thought if DH, who is master mechanic, hadn't clued me in.

snip-

"Herder estimates that as much as 75 percent of that work is not due to normal wear and tear, but results from the use of ethanol, which can cause rust and carbon deposits inside the engine, dissolve plastic parts and more. And if repair shops like Herder's are already busy, you have to wonder what will happen this summer when gas pumps begin dispensing E15 gasoline; the Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the fuel for cars built after the 2000 model year, but the fuel could hit small engines even harder than E10 does. But now, because of all that ethanol-based wear and tear, a nascent industry is starting up: Ethanol-free gas, distributed in cans for owners of small engines."

Here is a link that might be useful: Ethanol Bad for Small Engines


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I've looked into the ethanol-free route (difficult in California) and several additives that counter the alcohol. All expensive options but not as expensive in the long run as having to replace carburetors and whole engines. Or buy replacement equipment two to three times faster than normal.


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Yes. To me one of Bush's biggest blunders was signing legislation to add ethanol to our gasoline.


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I switched to no ethanol fuel about a year ago for all of my vehicles; my vehicle is supposed to require premium, the Honda regular, but I put non ethanol premium in it as well and they both run better and get better gas mileage.

I get 28-29 mpg highway 24-26 city in my car, less in the 9 year old Honda.

I use the additives in anything else requiring gasoline when I can't get the non ethanol premium.

I don't want nuthin to do with no ethanol.

More government more problems.


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