This weekend, I filled up our 2006 Toyota Sienna at the local BP-McDonald's and spotted a sticker I hadn't noticed before on the pump:
I have been consistently disappointed with the mileage of the Sienna (which we've had since November, 2005), which on 87-octane has delivered only 14.9 MPG (although the Mulrooney Sticker states it should be 19/24). The answer at the dealership had been to simply blame the gasoline producers, with the logic that the various additives required for the state-mandated "special blends" made the fuel less efficient.
In seeing that gasoline could have "up to 10% ethanol", there "could be" as much as a 3% decline in mileage, based on the caloric potential of the fuel (referred to as E90 – 90% gasoline, 10% ethanol). The mainstream blend is E85, which is 85% gasoline, and 15% ethanol, with the miracle fuel of the future being E10, which is 90% ethanol and 10% gasoline.
The only problem with this arrangement, aside from sacrificing a food source for fuel, the increased cost of production, and the lack of developed infrastructure, is the inefficiency of ethanol on a per-gallon basis as compared to gasoline.
The 3% decline in mileage, which I assume was done by a chemist calculating caloric potential, seems to result in somewhere between a decline of ~20-25% in miles-per-gallon.
Contemplate that for a second. Gasoline is still significantly higher than it was in the recent past (although not at all-time highs), plus we need to buy more of it to travel the same distance. Where 17 gallons previously got me 289 miles (17mpg) at $42.50 ($2.50/gal.), I now require over 19 gallons at 15mpg at $49 to travel the same distance, a difference of near $7 (weekly). Furthermore, on a macro level, this "appears" to show increased demand, tightening supply, and pushing prices upward.
Of course, to some robber-barrons, this may seem like a trivial amount, but the piggy-bank that is the American Middle Class can't absorb much more…