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Friday, January 27, 2006

Amy Klobuchar Meet and Greet at Town Hall Grill

UPDATED: Corrected some of my descriptions of the mixtures. I am talking about two component mixtures (assuming that you think of gasoline as a single component) with various alcohols. Thanks to Bob Johnson for the correction.


I'm not sure how I got on the invitation list, but I got a call yesterday to come to a meet and greet with Amy Klobuchar at the Town Hall Grill. I haven't seen Amy do her stump speech, so I checked it out.

I was impressed with Amy's general stump speech and her explanations of her position on Iraq. (Despite what the Drama Queen says, Amy does have a position on Iraq.) She also has a position on Alito now that the hearings are over - she would oppose his nomination.

Her energy policy doesn't come from sound science, it comes from supporting two boondoggles - Ethanol subsidies and Biodiesel. This is how both democrats and republicans reach out to the rural areas - with pork.

I asked Amy if she was familiar with what happens with a 20% ethanol/80% gasoline mixture, when you add a little water to it (something that happens automatically with condensation). I asked her if she knew how much water needed to be added before producing a phase separation? Amy wasn't aware.

So I explained to Amy that I used to test gasolines for the state and had done this experiment comparing a 10% methanol in gasoline, vs 10% ethanol in gasoline mixture, vs 10% isopropyl alcohol gasoline mixture. I added water dropwise to each mixture. The methanol/gasoline mixture very quickly separated into the two phases - the water brought the methanol out of the gasoline solution - and you had 10% ethanol layering out with the water - kind of like oil and vinegar salad dressing. The ethanol/gasoline mixture layered with more water, and the isopropyl alcohol/gasoline could tolerate the most water before causing a phase separation. I did not do this experiment with 20% ethanol. I suggested to Amy to imagine what a phase separated mixture of ethanol/water and gasoline would do in her gas tank.

I also told Amy that biodiesel fuels have a problem that they gel up in cold weather - and in Minnesota we have lots of cold weather.

When considering these types of renewable energy "solutions" it's always worth looking at the physical properties of the liquids involved.

I'm sure Amy's not going to change her position on this issue, but this cemented in my mind the need for more scientific literacy in this country.

King Banaian addresses the economics of this idea effectively over on SCSU Scholars here and here.

For those chemists in the audience, what causes the difference between methanol, ethanol and isopropyl alcohol in these alcohol/gasoline mixtures?

UPDATE: Why did Bob Muffit (aka "Mr Lung") comment that I'm "clueless" on this issue? This might explain it.

Bob - you didn't answer my chemistry question. (Hint, draw the chemical structures of these molecules and you will find the answer.)