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The Ethanol Follies Continue

Remind me to not cry any tears next time GM complains about government regulation:

In an audacious move Sunday, General Motors demanded that the federal government step in and create a national ethanol fuel station infrastructure at the same time the company announced that it has invested in Coskata, a cellulosic ethanol startup company.

 

Coming on the heels of federal legislation that set national mandates for ethanol production, GM’s strategy amounts to federal guarantees for its investment in the ethanol industry.

 

“We need to grow E85 (ethanol) stations,” said GM CEO Rick Wagoner at a Detroit Auto Show news conference. “It is time for the U.S. government to do it through regulation.”

The article goes on to document the strong rent-seeking history of Coskata.

One small bit of good news is that the media seems to finally be catching on to the ethanol subsidy farce.

It’s great that our politicians have discovered the need for new energy technologies. But it appears that Washington is determined to put its money—our money—on the wrong horse. Right now, researchers are studying a host of energy solutions, including hydrogen, high-mileage diesel, plug-in hybrids, radical reductions in vehicle weight and cellulosic ethanol (made from cornstalks, switchgrass or other nonfood crops). It is far too soon to say which of these holds the most promise. But, instead of promoting experimentation and competition to find the best solutions, politicians seem ready to declare ethanol the winner. As a result, our nation could wind up with the worst of both worlds: an “alternative” energy that is enormously expensive yet barely saves a gallon of oil.

Posted on January 15, 2008 at 10:30 AM | Permalink

Comments

How about "thermal depolymerization plants" like the the one CWT built ? [ http://www.changingworldtech.com/ ]

The "Changing World Technologies" name and the oh-so-corporate web site make my snake-oil detectors go to top alert, but it does seem to make sense, and they seem to need "pork" to survive only because they bet on turkey offal being banned from animal feed and the price for their input dropping close to 0, or being able to demand a fee for disposing with it.

Posted by: Emil Per | Jan 15, 2008 12:07:55 PM

You're Right! We don't want to pay $1.99 for E85, and keep the money at home when we can pay $3.07 for gasoline and send the money to Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Posted by: Rufus | Jan 15, 2008 1:10:46 PM

THIS is why:

http://www.autoblog.com/2008/01/13/detroit-2008-ferraris-ethanol-powered-430-spider-bio-fuel/

A "Biofuel" Ferrari tuned to get, not just more power, but, also, more "Fuel Economy" running on E85. That's the blend that you can buy at many filling stations around the country for $1.99. Okay, add in the $0.51/gal blending Tax Credit (by the way, I thought we were in favor of lower taxes) and you're still about 20% below the price of gasoline in many locations.

Posted by: Rufus | Jan 15, 2008 1:47:08 PM

popular mechanics doesn't exactly qualify as "the media" IMO. when CNN and CBS have a similar take, let me know.

as for E85, I share sympathy with the "keep the $$$ at home" position (not to the extent of subsidizing), but keep in mind that it takes about half again the volume of E85 to provide the same energy as a gallon of gas. thus, fewer MPG by about 1/3 on average.

not sure how the ferrari in question is being measured, but often such "fuel economy" figures are measured per BTU, rather than per gallon of fuel. the $1.99/gallon ethanol figure translates roughly as $3.00/gallon for gasoline for the same energy content... not coincidentally about the price of gas.

Posted by: rox_publius | Jan 15, 2008 2:12:00 PM

Publius, there's a lot more to it than btu's. There's how "efficiently" a fuel gives up it's btu's in an ICE, and there's OCTANE. Ethanol has a 116 Octane rating. This means you can use much higher compression than you can with gasoline. In this study by The Univ. of N. Dakota, and Mn State 3 out of the 4 cars tested got better "mileage" on an ethanol blend than they did with straight gasoline.

http://www.rhapsodyingreen.com/rhapsody_in_green/files/optimal_ethanol_blend_level_study.pdf

The FF Impala attained 15% higher mileage on an E20 blend. These were just average, production cars. More advance engines, such as this GM product can, through downsizing, give MUCH GREATER mileage/per HP with E85 than with gasoline.

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/01/gm-introduces-s.html#more

Everything is NOT as it would appear when reading the API literature. :)

Posted by: Rufus | Jan 15, 2008 3:29:29 PM

Rufus,

Corn ethanol is doomed to failure. The only question is how much damage it will cause before it fails.

In a previous thread on ethanol you had cited the statistic

We are currently producing 6.488 Billion gallons/ethanol yr. This is about 4.5% of our current gasoline consumption.

I explained a couple things about that number that you still apparently don't understand given your unfailing support of ethanol.

The first was that because of the lower density of ethanol the 4.5% figure works out to only about 3 %

The second was the fact that we are using around 16% of the corn crop to replace (at the very most) 3% of current US gasoline usage.

Which means that it would take 96% of our current corn crop to replace less then twenty percent of the US gasoline usage. In other words ethanol is doomed. to. fail.

Ethanol is a monumental boondoggle that serves no other purpose then to make money for corn farmers and companies like ADM.

Posted by: TJIT | Jan 18, 2008 8:37:25 PM

Wow, that is shocking. Rent-seeking is almost never that blatant. Wagoner forgot to use the word "green" in his remarks.

Posted by: MJ | Jan 28, 2008 8:25:36 PM

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