Keelan: The anti-ethanol uprising

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Don Keelan, a certified public accountant and resident of Arlington. The piece first appeared in the Bennington Banner.

If the Occupy Wall Street contingents believe they have a cause to create a revolution — move over. Their cause pales next to the one that the “Cylinder Index” crowd has.

And just so everyone knows who’s who, Occupy — or OWS — is a fairly recent phenomenon that had its origins, as its name describes, at New York City’s Wall Street. They claim to speak for the 99% of Americans who have been left behind and have no possible way, whatsoever, to share in the riches that the other 1% of Americans embrace. The allocation of the percentages can be questioned but for now it’s not important.

The “Cylinder Index” sector cannot quantify their legions but as you will shortly see, it is a large group of Americans. And I might add, the basis for their complaint emanates from frustration, costly outlays and time wasted — and it is because they can’t start their gasoline-driven small engines. The engines have been compromised by the inclusion of 10% ethanol in the gas mixture.

For the uninitiated, weekend do-it-yourselfers and recreational boaters and snowmobilers, measure their “life comfort level” by the number of things in their garages (or barns) that have gas-fired cylinders.

A Cylinder Index of 25 or greater represents a huge achievement not to mention a high degree of satisfaction with one’s station in life. And herein lies an example of that status:

Equipment and the number of cylinders
Pickup truck — 8
Snowblower — 2
Automobile — 6
Lawnmower — 1
Power boat — 2
Chain saw –1
Snowmobile — 2
Leaf blower — 1
4-wheeler (ATV) — 2
Weed trimmer — 1
Total: 26

So just imagine the frustration when one goes with pride into their garage and tallies up his or her “Cylinder Index’” If it comes close to the above, one has surely arrived at a heavenly state — they are at peace with themselves, their family and neighbors.

However, in recent years these folks are at peace with no one. They are raving mad. Their small engines will not start — they’ve been completely gummed up, clogged, because the gasoline they had placed in their small engines has been laced with 10 percent ethanol — a corn-based refined product.

When a mixture of gasoline, laced with ethanol sits for a while in a small engine the ethanol decomposes and turns into water and guck. And it is a known fact that most small engine owners do not use their equipment on a daily basis — therefore the decomposing process is well at work.

This raises the question — why do we use ethanol in the first place? According to some experts its use and production are costly and detrimental to the environment. And wouldn’t you know, the federal government provides farmers with billions of dollars in subsides to grow the corn.

It has been reported in the Washington Times, that over 24 percent of the corn crop must be diverted to the production of ethanol. This translates to 11 acres of corn for each car on the road. In the same Times article, it was noted that 21 acres of corn are needed to make a gallon of ethanol. When a car’s tank is filled up and its gas has been consumed, it will have produced 19 percent more carbon monoxide than regular gasoline.

The farm, energy and environmental lobbyists have done a terrific job in getting Congress to issue the ethanol mandates. Farmers must love them for it. The lobby groups have been so successful, the 10 percent mandate is scheduled to go up by 50 percent — to 15 percent ethanol content per gallon of gasoline. And one wonders why food costs are so high and meat from corn fed animals is priced out of reach?

The Cylinder Index folks are not happy — their engines won’t start and they know it will take weeks in the repair shops (assuming that they can get an appointment) and hundreds of dollars to get their small engines running again. And if this isn’t frustrating enough — they know that by using gasoline with ethanol they will get to repeat the process over again.

The Occupy Wall Street contingent has made its mark — but just wait until the Cylinder Index contingent finally conclude that they have had enough.

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