The Alcohol Fuel Solution

The energy crisis has sparked renewed interest in an old idea: alcohol fuel.

| January/February 1979

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    The NAHBE alcohol fueled engine (with attached generator) gets the "once over" from Bill Krass (in cap) and from a member of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' research team.
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    Ethyl alcohol fuel (stored in the opaque container) is introduced into the engine's fuel system by a vacuum-controlled valve (foreground) which allows the fluid to be drawn through a tube (at the container's top) and then ...
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    To be fed directly into the carburetor's venturi. The amount of vacuum at the carburetor determines the flow of the alcohol, and this can be further controlled with the addition of a carburetor "jet" at the end of the alcohol fuel line.
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    The NAHBEs internal modifications include the addition of a specially shaped cap (foreground) which is machined from an aluminum billet and then joined to a standard piston to bring it up to NAHBE specifications. The cylinder head (background) is also machined slightly to accept the new "taller" piston.

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You might be surprised to hear that there are over 8 1/2 billion gallons of potential automotive fuel in the United States today that aren't even being used, or to hear that this fuel is [1] relatively non-polluting, [2] totally renewable (unlike petroleum resources), [3] fairly economical to manufacture — even on a small scale — and [4] presently being allowed to rot away or, at best, being used in a shamefully inefficient manner.

Sounds crazy, right? Wrong, for as the MOTHER EARTH NEWS research staff recently discovered, there is a fuel that's not only abundant (in its undistilled form) throughout the U.S. and many other arable parts of the world, but also lives up to every one of these claims, and that fuel is alcohol.

You see, it just so happens that the stuff most people think of as the "main ingredient" of an intoxicating beverage is the selfsame substance that could just about eliminate our current fuel shortage, either as an additive to present gasoline supplies or as a possible replacement for gasoline altogether!

What it boils down to is this: The internal-combustion engine as we know it today (and that includes automobile, truck, tractor and bus powerplants) doesn't have to run on gasoline. In fact, prior to the second World War (when gasoline prices were more nearly comparable to those of other fuels), some automotive and agricultural equipment manufacturers even offered the consumer a choice of carburetors, which allowed the buyer to use fuels other than gas if he or she so desired. In other words, it wasn't at all uncommon for a farmer to power his John Deere with ethanol (grain alcohol) distilled from his own spoiled crops.

Unfortunately for us little folks, the technology and necessities of the war made it possible for gasoline to be produced in greater volume (and at a lower cost) than other forms of fuel, hence the American public was cleverly "weaned" on gasoline and soon forgot that other fuel alternatives even existed!

Forgot, that is, until the harsh reality of the gasoline shortage of 1974 drove home the fact that we were (and still are) pitifully dependent on foreign petroleum sources, and at that point alcohol fuel again entered the scheme of things.

9/15/2014 6:11:47 PM

Great article, but can an individual family raise an acre or two of corn and produce enough on a much smaller scale to relieve dependance on gas? Blume's System looks great but to large of an expense for ma & pa.

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