By Marc Rauch, Co-Owner of The Auto Channel
In January 2013, I wrote an editorial lambasting several critics of ethanol. The primary antagonist of the piece is AAA, but a close second is the automotive media personality Lauren Fix, who uses "The Car Coach" as her tagline nick name. The title of that editorial is "AAA Blunder on Ethanol Sets Off Firestorm of Criticism." The editorial has it's roots in a couple of AAA press that denigrate ethanol. Those press releases were incorrect and stupid. It was bad enough that AAA made stupid statements, but then Melissa Francis, host of FOX News' "MONEY" show added stupid juice to the fire by inviting Ms. Fix to come on as guest to explain and expand upon the stupid AAA press releases. Allow me to explain my consistent use of the word "stupid." Some readers will think, "Gosh, Marc is awfully childish in calling all of these people stupid; can't he express himself any better?" Yes, I can express myself better, and I did so in the very long aforementioned 2013 editorial, which you can read by clicking on the link in the first paragraph. The reason I'm using stupid so liberally is because I believe in the power of single words to create a mood, or to express a complex thought that would otherwise require many words or even several paragraphs to describe. Therefore, "stupid" says it all, and if you read the 2013 editorial I'm confident that you'll come away saying: AAA was stupid, FOX and Ms. Francis were stupid, and Lauren Fix was stupid. For the sake of brevity, I will use "stupid" many times in the ensuing paragraphs. At the time that The Auto Channel published the story, I sent Ms. Fix several emails questioning her on your statements, and then alerting her to my editorial. I gave her abundant opportunity to respond and either provide supportive information for her stupid comments or to recant the comments. She has never responded. Moreover, while we had often received press releases or stories from Ms. Fix for publication on TACH, she stopped sending us anything. On a number of occasions I've been at automotive press events at the same time as Ms. Fix, and we were often in very close proximity (sometimes only one seat away). She's never taken the opportunity to say anything to me, or to make any finger-hand gesture - at least she hasn't to my knowledge. I mention this just to make it clear that she had exceedingly ample opportunity to respond or explain. Hey, maybe I'm the one who's wrong about ethanol? You'd think that since she's The Car Coach that if I was wrong that she would coach me on the truth. In any event, here we are, more than two and a half years later, and I find out that Ms. Fix was recently a guest on an online radio show called "The Jacki Daily Show," hosted by a very attractive woman named Jacki Pick. Ms. Pick has a very impressive resume. She's an attorney; she's served on some Congressional committees in Washington; she has two decades of experience directly related to energy and the environment; and she was a vice president of a national bank. WOW! So I made myself a Yankee-rita (that's a Margarita with American made corn whisky instead of Tequilla), sat down at the computer, and typed in Ms. Daily URL. I was looking forward to hear if Lauren Fix learned anything since her FOX-News appearance (I was even imaging that I'd hear Ms. Fix say something like "Thanks to Marc Rauch and The Auto Channel, I now know that I was wrong about ethanol"). By the way, The Jacki Daily Show episode is titled "Pipeline Benefits and Ethanol's Drawbacks," and you can listen to the entire show by CLICKING HERE. Well, I didn't hear my name or any veiled reference to having had some correspondence with someone (me) that was critical of her past comments about ethanol. I would say that if it was possible to attend stupid classes, Ms. Fix went back to school and now holds a Masters in Stupid. But I'm jumping ahead of myself. The Jacki Daily Show begins with a recorded disclaimer that she (Jacki Pick) uses all her experience to present an independent view that brings "America great energy security," and she follows it up by saying that her opinions are her own and free from any outside influence. I was hopeful. The live part of the show didn't start with Ms. Pick introducing Ms. Fix. Instead Ms. Pick led off by reading an email from Brian Williams, Legislative Director of The National Center For Policy Analysis. Coincidentally, Jacki Pick is the COO of this National Center. She reads, "I ruined a weed trimmer and a chainsaw on this stupid E15 ethanol gasoline." (See that, everyone uses the word "stupid.") I was in mid swallow of my Yankee-rita but the stupidity of the statement made me do a spit-take (look it up). This guy, this Legislative Director, said that he ruined a weed trimmer and chainsaw by using E15! Where the heck did he find E15, and what the heck made him want to use E15 in his weed trimmer and chainsaw? If he's based in Dallas where the "National Center" is, I doubt that E15 is available. I also don't think it's especially easy to find in the DC area, if that's where he's based. Additionally, any pumps that do offer E15 have warning labels that clearly state that E15 should NOT be used in gasoline-powered equipment, such as weed whackers and chainsaws. So was he lying? Did he intentionally not follow instructions? In other words, did he intentionally drink a bottle of Liquid Draino just to see what would happen, even though the label clearly states that it is poison to drink? Is he a liar or just dumb (I switched up on 'stupid' for the sake of variety). Now you would think that Jacki Pick being as schooled in energy as she is, and as intelligent as her resume seems to indicate that she is, that she would have either laughed or at least said something teasingly flippant about her colleague's ridiculous statement and misuse of E15. She didn't, she followed it up by talking about how bad ethanol is. Then Ms. Pick goes on to explain that she doesn't really know anything about ethanol, because she's "a fossil fuel person." But, she tells the audience, she did do some research. Now, armed with that research, she tells us that she learned that E15 is not even approved for 95% of the gasoline-powered vehicles on the road...that's how bad she says that E15 is. Unfortunately she must have done her research at the stupid school where Lauren Fix earned her Masters Degree in Stupidity. On an official basis, E15 is approved by the EPA to be used in all gasoline-powered passenger vehicles manufactured in or after 2001. The vast majority of gasoline-powered vehicles on the road in America were manufactured in or after 2001. This accounts for 75% of all cars and trucks on the road today. This means that the 95% statement is woefully incorrect Not even 2 minutes into the show and I've heard three incredibly stupid statements. Ms. Pick then tells the audience that the use of E15 will cause mechanical trouble and she gives us a fear-mongering tale about how as a single woman she doesn't want her car to breakdown is some desolate rural area or grungy urban area. Not satisfied with that incredibly stupid statement, she then jumps to a warning that your boat could get stuck in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico if it's using E15, causing the Coast Guard to waste it's valuable time rescuing you. She might as well just say "You don't want to get stuck in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico without a boat; it would make as much sense. It did make me wonder if she thinks that by only using gasoline that her car would be impervious to breaking down in unsavory neighborhoods? Jacki Pick said she did some research. Where did she conduct this research? What were the resources? She's a lawyer, lawyers are supposed to know how to conduct research. And remember, Lauren Fix hasn't been introduced in the program yet! By the way, I just checked a current list of states where E15 is available. Of the five U.S. states that share coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, only Florida and Alabama offer E15. So if you live in Texas and you want to take your boat on the Gulf using E15, you'd have to first travel through Louisiana and Mississippi to get to Alabama. And let's say you live in Florida or Alabama, what do you think the chances are of finding an E15 pump at a marina in either of those states? I don't know the answer, but I'm guessing 0%. So how likely are you to be stuck in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico because you put E15 in the fuel tank: 0% would be my guess again. At this point I had to go back and re-read Ms. Pick's resume because I think, "either the corn whisky in my Yankee-rita was too strong, or it wasn't strong enough." Ms. Pick closes out her monologue by casting doubt of whether anyone in the government is an expert on the subject. She then uses this as the bridge to introduce Lauren Fix, who she says is an expert on the subject, and she calls her "America's Top Woman in Car Care, Education and Auto Industry News; as well as being an "Automotive Expert." Ms. Fix comes on the show and immediately says that "this is a very serious subject" and that she's been "fighting it for years." Based upon her on-air comments two years ago on FOX-News she must mean that she's been lying about the subject for years. I don't know how much Ms. Fix knows about car care; she may be the best car detailer in the world. She may be able to refill window washing solution in record time. But I will tell you this, if you can use her knowledge of ethanol as the benchmark of what she knows about ethanol and/or automobiles, then Lauren Fix is America's Stupidest Women in Car Care, Education and Auto Industry News. Wait, I take that back. I don't want to let this be a gender issue. This is bigger then just male-female. I'd say that if you can use her knowledge of ethanol as the benchmark, then Lauren Fix is America's Stupidest Person in Car Care, Education and Auto Industry News. Maybe she's the stupidest automotive person in the entire English speaking world. How can she be an expert when she doesn't know what she's talking about? Lauren Fix then immediately says "ethanol is so damaging to your vehicle" and that "we don't use it in race cars." Let me repeat that, Ms. Fix says that "ethanol is so damaging to your vehicle...that we don't use it in race cars." Lauren Fix is supposed to be "America's Top Woman in Care, Education and Auto Industry News and Automotive Expert," but she doesn't know that ethanol fuels have been used in race cars for a century and a half. For the past few years, NASCAR, America's #1 motor sports association, only uses E15 in their Sprint Cup Series and SuperTruck racing series. Ethanol fuels have also been used in IndyCar racing, drag racing and boat racing. And Ms. Fix says we have ethanol-gasoline blended fuels "just because some politician has a deal going with another one." No, Ms. Fix, it's taken this long to get ethanol added to gasoline because some politicians had a deal with the oil industry and General Motors to literally ram poisonous leaded gasoline down our throats for seven decades. This was the status quo until the evidence against tetraethyl lead was so overwhelming that it was finally banned from everyday automobile fuel. The solution to replace tetraethyl lead should have been ethanol, but Big Oil persuaded the politicians to allow another poisonous ingredient, MTBE (which is made from petroleum oil). After discovering that MTBE was also poison, it too was banned and ethanol was given it's chance to re-emerge on the public scene. And since that time, ethanol-gasoline blends have played a significant part in clearing the air in cities like Los Angeles and New York. At this point, I'm less than 5 minutes into the show. If I wasn't already bald I would have pulled my hair out. Now Ms. Pick asks Ms. Fix how much damage ethanol will do to modern passenger cars and trucks. Ms. Fix responds that it will cost thousands of dollars because ethanol is very, very corrosive. Of course no studies are cited to support the conclusion that ethanol will damage modern cars, and neither rocket scientist brings up the fact that government and private studies by the most prestigious laboratories have stated again and again that ethanol-gasoline blends will not damage modern gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks. The corrosive issue makes me laugh, not another spit-take laugh, but the kind of laugh that Bugs Bunny makes when he chuckles about the stupidity of his adversary and says, "What a maroon." Yes, ethanol is a corrosive liquid, but so is gasoline. Solar rays are corrosive; air is also corrosive; and of course water is one of the most corrosive liquids on Earth. The not-so-secret secret is to use materials that are resistant to the substance you are dealing with. Take water for instance: We can't live without it and we consume it as if it has no corrosive characteristics whatsoever. We swim and bathe in water, including the most corrosive of all water, salt water. It's not that the water we consume and bathe in is not corrosive, it's that our bodies are not very susceptible to water corrosion. It's the same with engine fuels. You can't just put gasoline in any old container, it must be a container that is not susceptible to gasoline corrosion. The same is true for alcohol (ethanol). Everyone knows that you can leave scotch, rum, vodka, whiskey and brandy in a glass bottle or metal flask in your home for years and there will be no degradation of the alcohol nor the container during that time. There will also be no so-called "phase separation," even if you leave the top off the bottle - although you will lose some or all of the liquid because of evaporation. The same is true of rubbing alcohol, regardless of what the rubbing alcohol is made from. Some rubbing alcohols are just regular grain alcohols with a denaturizing ingredient to render it non-drinkable. And if you have rubbing alcohol in your home chances are that it's in a plastic bottle. The question to then ask is why doesn't the alcohol eat away at the plastic bottle? The answer is because these bottles were manufactured to be resistant to ethanol's solvent characteristics. During prohibition (when alcohol was supposedly not available in America) and in the decades subsequent to the end of prohibition, automobile parts makers used materials that were not highly susceptible to gasoline corrosion. The parts didn't not corrode because the gasoline was not corrosive, but because of the materials used. If ethanol fuel or blends had been America's primary engine fuels then auto parts manufacturers would have used parts that were resistant to ethanol. Incidentally, in those regions of the world (like England) where ethanol-gasoline blends were available, they didn't experience any greater problems using the ethanol-gasoline blends because the automobiles built for use in those countries used parts that were resistant to gasoline and to ethanol. So when ethanol-gasoline blends were being introduced into America it was necessary to build all new cars with ethanol resistant engine and fuel system parts. Since that time, the mid 1990's, engines and fuel systems built with ethanol resistant parts do not experience the problems that older internal combustion engines might experience. Why doesn't the person described as an "automotive expert" and called "America's Top Woman in Car Care, Education and Auto Industry News" know this information? Why doesn't she know it as a result of my 2013 editorial, in addition to numerous other critical editorials were published as a result of her FOX-News appearance. Clearly, she has no contradictory information, because if she did she would have either sent it to me or, if she didn't want to communicate with me, publish it where it could be seen by the industry and public. Ms. Fix describes ethanol phase separation problems that can occur just from driving around town doing errands. This doesn't happen. She says water collects at the bottom because the ethanol absorbs water from the air and then it sits at the bottom of the fuel tank in a warm car. This does not happen. If water forms in a fuel tank because of condensation - not because ethanol has any magical water-magnet qualities - ethanol helps to get rid of the water. Prior to having E10 gasoline, if water formed in your fuel tank from condensation you would have poured ethanol into the tank to get rid of it. Yes, that's right, condensation occurred prior to the advent of E10, E15, or E85. Condensation occurs naturally, and it's been occurring for billions of years. Studies conducted by Mercury Marine, one of the world's largest manufacturers of smaller marine engines, had this to say about so-called ethanol phase separation and absorption of water from the air: "There is no active transfer mechanism for ethanol molecules to reach out and 'grab' water molecules out of the air." "E10 may actually be a superior marine fuel as it tends to keep low levels of water moving through the fuel system, keeping the system 'dry'." And funnily enough, Mercury Marine recommends that if you're going to leave your engine idle for extended periods, other than removing all the fuel, you should fill the tank with E10 to reduce the amount of exchange with the air that may bring in condensation. Incidentally, I'm using the Mercury Marine information because it's often claimed that ethanol-gasoline blends in boats can cause greater problems then it supposedly causes in road vehicles. Lauren Fix says it will cost thousands of dollars to fix the problems caused by ethanol. I nod my head in semi-agreement, but not for the reason she might wish. Do you know why it might cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix problems attributed to ethanol? Because there are car mechanics as stupid and uninformed as she is. So they invent the problems, and if they're unscrupulous in addition to being stupid, then they really sock it to you. Nearing the 6-minute mark of the show, Ms. Fix announces that the oil companies use lower octane gasoline to dumb-down ethanol-gasoline blends because of the excessive corrosion caused by ethanol's naturally higher levels. This is not what is happening. Ethanol has an octane rating over 110. So if you blend ethanol with 87 octane regular gasoline the octane rating of the blend would naturally be higher than the regular gasoline by itself. E10 gasoline should have an octane rating of about 89. But if the gasoline companies allow E10 to have 89 octane then they not only lose money on every gallon of 87 octane fuel that contains 10% ethanol, they would lose the opportunity to sell a mid-level 89 octane fuel at a higher price. So they intentionally dumb down the octane level of the gasoline they use in the blends so that they're not giving away the extra 2 octane points for free. It's merely a case of the oil companies trying to earn a few pennies more per gallon, it's not a corrosion issue. You can use 89 octane gasoline in a car designated as an 87 octane car and the higher octane will not cause your engine or fuel system to corrode simply because of the higher octane. And of course, the same scenario is true when you step up to premium 93 octane gasoline. The oil company doesn't give you 90% of 93 octane gasoline blended with 10% of 110 octane ethanol. They use gasoline with a lower octane rating to save a few pennies per gallon. I think an automotive expert should know this kind of information. If you're a "Top Person in Car Care, Education and Auto Industry News" just because you're really good at knowing how to clean white wall tires, then maybe you wouldn't know about octane levels and such. In that case, don't pass yourself off as an expert on the subject, and definitely don't let other people falsely introduce you as an expert. Moving on, and we're now only at about the 7-minute mark, Lauren Fix talks about receiving lots of letters from people who had their warranties voided because they used the wrong fuel. She's implying that the vehicle owners used something other than E10 fuel in their new vehicles; they then developed engine or fuel system trouble; and when they went to the dealer to get it fixed the dealer refused to do the service under the warranty. If the vehicle is still under manufacturer warranty, then it means that the vehicle had to have been made sometime within the last few years. If that's the case, then it means that the vehicle is warranted for E10. If the vehicle is flex-fuel, then it is warranted for anything up to and including E85. Therefore it seems preposterous for Ms. Fix to claim that she's received such letters from vehicle owners. The only option is that the vehicle owners used E15 or E85 in a non-flex fuel car. If the claim is that they used E15, I'd like to know where and how these people found the E15, since it is so very limited. In short, I think that the claim that Ms. Fix receives so many letters for this problem is a gross exaggeration, bordering on an outright lie. Aside from anything else, I challenge the claim that new vehicle owners with valid warranties experienced any problems from using E15, assuming they could find it. Studies conducted by the most prestigious laboratories have clearly stated that E15 will not have any effect on any modern gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks. Moreover, I know from years of personal experience in using splash blended E20, E30, E40, and E50 in non-flex fuel cars that it causes no ill effects (splash blending is when a consumer manually does his/her own blending by pumping a quantity from an E85 pump and then pumping in a quantity from an E10 pump). If the people that Lauren Fix is talking about filled their non-flex fuel vehicles with E85, then the only problem they might have experienced would have been that the Check Engine light illuminated and/or they experienced some rough running because the on-board computer didn't know how to handle the E85. Both of these problems are temporary, and the vehicle would have automatically resumed normal operation after refilling with the correct fuel. Is it possible that a vehicle owner accidentally used E85 instead of E10 in their non-flex fuel vehicle? Sure, but it's also possible for a person to accidentally use diesel or plain water instead of E10. In instances like these the problem is not the fuel, it's the individual. For the next couple of minutes of the show Ms. Fix repeats her nonsense about ethanol causing corrosion problems in new and old cars. As newer, she cites cars going back to the early 2000's; and for older she's talking about cars from the 1960's and earlier. Keep in mind that by the mid 1990's cars made for America had to use parts that were not susceptible to ethanol corrosion. For older cars, ethanol can cause a problem. But then everything can cause a problem, they're old cars. She makes it sound as if in the pre-ethanol days that vehicles didn't regularly require repairs, maintenance, and replacement parts. She makes it sound as if ethanol-free gasoline is a soothing, life-giving elixir that gently encourages an engine to run. Gasoline is a highly combustible liquid. Using gasoline in a vehicle causes thousand of small explosions to occur in every minute. Parts wear down; they break under stress; explosions cause stress. Why does a so-called automotive expert not know this? Why does a so-called independent automotive expert, and a so-called independent energy consultant have to lie or invent derogatory stories about ethanol? What's the point? At about 11 minutes into the show Ms. Fix brings up the grand old canard about ethanol having 30% less energy than gasoline so that you get far less miles per gallon of ethanol or an ethanol-gasoline blend than you would from ethanol-free gasoline. In my opinion, using the "BTU" energy-content issue to explain why there is a difference in MPG when you use ethanol is the litmus test that proves a person's ignorance of the overall issue. Using ethanol or an ethanol-gasoline blend in a gasoline optimized vehicle will deliver fewer miles per gallon. However, the lower MPG is not because of the difference in BTUs, it's simply because the engine is OPTIMIZED to run on gasoline. A comparable engine OPTIMIZED to run on ethanol will deliver the same or better MPG. If you don't know this then you don't know what the issue is about. If you ignore the facts and continue to state information that is irrelevant, then you are a liar or a fraud. Next, Lauren Fix promotes some products that "stabilize" ethanol and makes your engine run better. Here's what Mercury Marine had to say about ethanol additives: "No fuel additive can prevent ethanol from acting as a solvent. No chemical agent can be added to E0-E10 gasoline, in a reasonable quantity, that will recombine a phase separated layer. Fuel cannot be rejuvenated." As I mentioned earlier, I'm using the information from Mercury Marine because it has often been claimed that boats suffer from ill effects of ethanol far worse than cars and trucks. But if E10 is actually better for a boat engine and fuel system than E0, then it must be better than E0 in a late model car or truck. For the next few minutes we get treated to a Lauren Fix/Jacki Pick discourse on the political reasons for using corn and growing corn. I'll simply say that if Ms. Fix and Ms. Pick are incapable of understand how internal combustion engines and fuels work, then they have no business explaining the economics of farming. When Ms. Fix mentioned that she's trying to reach out to an unnamed national politician who supports E30 so that she can educate him, you just have to wonder how she person gets through the day without constantly bumping into walls. The entire interview with Lauren Fix, including the initial opening remarks by Jacki Pick runs about 25 minutes. The interview that Lauren Fix did with FOX News in 2013 was about 6 minutes. It's safe to say that the Jacki Pick interview was 4 times stupider simply because it's 4 times longer. But really it was far worse than just 4 times stupider because Lauren Fix was able to should how little she knows about more aspects of the issue. And again, considering that this interview took place more than two and a half years after the FOX News interview, Ms. Fix should have learned something truthful during that time. If you're interested in fuels, energy, vehicles, business or farming, you should listen to this interview. If you disagree with me please send me an email or use the LiveFyre discussion box at the bottom of the page. If you want more information about ethanol or any alternative fuel use the search box near the top of the page. If you want to read the 58-page report and review I wrote about Robert Bryce and his book "GUSHER OF LIES" then just CLICK HERE. In this report I destroy, point by point, all of the ridiculous lies and information that Mr. Bryce has been peddling for years.