For those of you that interested in such things, the St Petersburg Times has a very interesting article on the Brazilian experience with using Ethanol as a primary fuel source. You may (or may not) know that Brazil has been using ethanol for around 30 years. They manufacture it from sugar cane crops, which is apparently much easier than manufacturing it from corn as is proposed in the US.
There’s a lot of dispute around ethanol in the US for exactly this reason. Arguments that it uses more energy in its production than what it gives as a fuel, for example. I can’t help but think that this is due to under-developed production methods more than anything else. The environmental factors are certainly on the fuel’s side, with it regarded being as carbon-dioxide-neutral over its life-cycle.
If ethanol’s to take off in the US it’ll take a lot of investment. Production facilities in place there at the moment are capable of producing only around 2.8% of the US’s current gasoline usage.
Ethanol, blended with 15% gasoline and called ‘e85’, is being pushed as an alternate fuel in Sweden, where the Saab 9-5 Biopower has recently gone on sale. Not only is the fuel cheaper than gasoline, owners get certain concessions for using the car. At the moment the Biopower setup is confined to the 9-5 model range, but the press release at the previous link does mention that it will be expanded to the 9-3 range as well.
As mentioned, the full article is a very interesting read and highly recommended. Click here to read it.