In my case I'm beating the EPA E85 mileage estimate by 31.5% and the EPA gasoline mileage estimate by 5% (when burning E85). The cost of E85 is ~20% less than gasoline, so I'm really getting 26mpg cost-wise, which beats the EPA gasoline estimate by 30%. I have NOT done a warm air intake, advanced timing, or leaned the mixture yet.
I would think E85 use and this forum would go together well, since not only is E85 cheaper, but all the techniques of warm intake air, advanced timing, and lean mixures would work well with E85 since it's 105 octane and detonation is much less of an issue at lean mixures. All I've done is installed larger injectors and changed my driving habits. With some engine/intake/ignition mods, I would think my mileage would go up even more.
as far as just the ultimate cost involved, yes you can win out with E85 in most areas.
I've read nifty articles against E85 listing a few nasty carcinogens generated by corn-based E85 (btu not sugarcane based as in brazil) and how much energy goes into making it (again, corn is 6x worse than sugarcane) so the overall environmental impact is greater. BUT in the end it's 6 one way, half a dozen the other.
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National Geographic had a real good article on alternative fuels a few months ago. They showed research that showed that the overall energy to produce ethanol was still less than what we get out of it; i.e., overall the petroleum consumed and emissions released in the production and use of a gallon of E85 is less than using a gallon of gasoline. The plus side in my own mind is that I'm giving my money to farmers, tractor manufacturers, ethanol research/technology development, etc. all located in the U.S. So more of my "fuel" dolars are going to Americans rather than to foreigners.
You are definitely correct about the corn. It is a horrible source of ethanol. There are many other options that don't require irrigation and fertilizer, yet produce much more ethanol per acre. Once again, my thought is that by purchasing E85 I am increasing the demand for ethanol which means more money and focus will go toward improved sources of ethanol.
For the purposes of this forum however, I think it would be great to have a "focus thread" on how to get the best mileage from E85.