The Corn Conspiracy

Recently by Eric Peters: A Reason To Throw Your Sail Fawn in the Woods

They may not need to ban old cars outright. Instead, they’ll just kill them off quietly – by poisoning them internally.

With ethanol.

Modern cars – cars built since the early ’90s – can stomach the stuff . They have engines designed to deal with corrosive, ethanol-doctored “gas” – and peripheral systems (hoses, seals, o-rings, lines, etc.) made to withstand it. Being computer controlled, they can also adjust themselves to deal with ethanol-laced gas. They may not get the best mileage they’re capable of delivering – because ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline – but at least they run ok.

But with older cars – cars built before the early ’90s, before widespread use of ethanol-doctored fuel – you’ve got two problems. One of them is relatively minor – and easily fixed.

The other’s more serious – and not easily (or inexpensively) fixed.

The minor problem relates to the older (pre-early ’80s) car’s static engine operating parameters. Meaning, they can’t self-adjust like a modern car’s computer-controlled engine to compensate for different fuel type and quality. They’re mechanically set to run a given air-fuel ratio, ignition timing and so on – all assuming a given type of fuel. In the case of of early ’80s and older cars, that means regular unleaded gas – not mostly gas and 10 (or 15 or 85 ) percent ethanol.

If the type/quality of fuel changes, but the engine isn’t adjusted to compensate, it won’t run as well it should until it is adjusted – or it’s fed the original type of fuel it was designed to burn. If it’s not adjusted, what typically happens is the engine runs lean when it is fed ethanol-laced fuels. One result of that is it will run hotter. This was precisely what was intended – openly – when “oxygnates” such as ethanol and MTBE were added to gasoline beginning in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It was a way to lower the tailpipe exhaust emissions of pre-computer-controlled car engines – because they could not adjust themselves and in this way, the fuel altered the operating characteristics (and exhaust byproducts) of the engines in those cars.

The downside – in addition to the noticeable reduction in gas mileage that resulted – was that these older engines were often harder to start, would not idle as smoothly as they did previously, tended to stall more – and lost some horsepower, in addition to the drop in gas mileage. An engine that’s made to run hotter than it was designed to run will also tend to wear out faster.

The fix for this is fairly easy. You (or your mechanic) simply adjust the carburetor to run richer, alter the ignition timing – and so on. Now the engine will run ok – even though it probably won’t give you the gas mileage it otherwise would have – just like any new car force-fed ethanol.