Shannon’s Corner

My Conversation on Social Media

E85 411

Ethanol 3D

Ethanol 3D




For my Wikiscanner report, I decided to examine E-85, otherwise known as Ethanol — an alcohol fuel manufactured by fermenting and distilling crops with a high starch or sugar content such as grains, sugarcane or corn. In the energy sector, ethanol can be used for space and water, heating, to generate electricity, and as an alternative fuel. It makes up 25-35% of sales in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Nebraska.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 set a national goal of 30 percent penetration of alternative fuels in light-duty vehicles by 2010.  In 1998, the Transportation Efficiency Act of the 21st Century extended the ethanol tax incentive through 2007.

With current rising gasoline and food prices, I expect to read extensive debate on Ethanol’s usefulness and cost-effectiveness.


1. Who and How Often

On a search retrieved from Wikiscanner on July 5, 2008 there are 628 edits for page “E85.”  The top ten edits were created by:


1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – 286 edits

2. Quest Communications Corporation (Denver, CO) – 26 edits

3. AT&T Global Network Services (Yonkers, NY) – 24 edits

4. Nebraska Public Power District (Auburn, NE) – 14 edits

5. Road Runner Holdco LLC (Shawnee Mission, KS) – 13 edits

6. Generalitat De Valencia (Valencia) – 8 edits

7. University of Illinois (Champaign, IL) – 7 edits

8. Amsterdam-Customer Cable (Haarlem, Holland) – 6 edits

9. Charter Communications (Madison, WI) – 6 edits

10. Verizon Internet Services (New York, NY) – 6 edits


The balance of the remaining various entries range from universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Babson College and Carnegie Mellon to the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration and the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO).


2. What 

Some of the heated debate revolves around cost and of course, exploring alternatives to ethanol where there would be no risk to land use, food competition or concerns over tax incentives.  The discussion continues over the impact of E85 on greenhouse gas emissions.  A UC Berkeley professor, Alexander Farrell states “today’s U.S. made ethanol contains 25% more energy than is used to make it.” A response is made by Jimberg98 saying “These numbers are close enough to consider it a wash on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced per mile if not more favorable than gasoline…If ethanol takes less energy to produce than petroleum based fuels, wouldn’t it make sense to use ethanol to produce ethanol?”


Other Issues

With this topic, a NPV is hard to maintain.  Some wikipedians want to argue about greenhouse gas emissions, some health safety and others want to review other alternative fuels and debate the usefulness of ethanol overall.

For example, IP addres makes the comment that “…a site that claims ethanol might actually cause more pollution than gasoline.  I checked wikipedia to see if there was more merit to this, but the page seems to be lacking.”

In response, IP replies “true…results show that harmful NOx emissions are higher in the E85 vehicle as opposed to the Gasoline only version…” [i]


3. When

Surprisingly, all the Wikipedia edits range from 2005 to 2007.  As gasoline prices continue to rise in the U.S., conversations about alternative fuels and reducing fuel consumption are an almost daily topic in U.S. news.  I expected more current debate about ethanol and can only assume the reason why this isn’t reflected in Wikipedia is that they are not a news outlet but rather an encyclopedia of information.


4. Where

The majority of editors came from NASA with a following (far behind) of various American universities.  At first I did not understand why NASA would have been the predominate editor of E85. However, after reviewing the history of ethanol, I discovered that ethanol was used in rocketry dating back to 1934 first by the Germans and later the Soviets. In 1946, the first V2 rocket was launched in the United States getting the U.S. space program under way with its ethanol.[ii] Therefore, it is logical now that NASA would have the most edits to Wikipedia given they would have significant knowledge of ethanol and therefore add to the credibility and verifiability of this entry.

 Overall, I learned two valuable lessons from this assignment.  First, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a news outlet or social forum.  I knew that in advance of course but still some part of me expected “news.”  Second, Wikiscanner demonstrates that things are not always as they seem.  I discovered it first by getting a glimpse of the edit discussions, then with who is behind the editing discussions and finally, the reasons why they were behind the discussions.  All in all, it was a remarkable learning experience using new tools to look at information in a whole new way.


July 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment