E85 news stories

There’s been a few E85 news stories out and about in the last few days. Whilst the Swedes are taking it up with gusto, there’s still a fair bit of argy-bargy in the US about its viability.

CBS News are running a story that sums up the main reason why ethanol is virtually a non-factor here in Australia.

Automakers warn consumers that they shouldn’t use E85 ethanol blend in conventional vehicles…..

…..Automakers said Monday they are trying to get more ethanol-capable vehicles on the road quickly, but warned that consumers in the meantime should not use an E85 ethanol blend in conventional vehicles or try to convert their vehicles to use E85.

“Your vehicle was built a certain way for a certain reason. You really shouldn’t tamper with that,” Mary Beth Stanek, who manages General Motors Corp.’s partnerships with ethanol producers, told members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

We can be slightly dumb here in Oz, or at least the government think so. Hence, we’re not going anywhere with ethanol as the government and the car companies are scared witless by the thought of a whole bunch of consumers getting antsy because their 1978 Holden Kingswood popped its thongs after they didn’t pay attention to the fuel they were using.

There should be a lot of promise here for ethanol as we have a huge sugar cane industry in the north (that got rather screwed over during negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement) that would be capable of producing heaps of the stuff. Once the cellulosic technology gets sorted they could be pumping heaps of it out. We could also do with the friendlier environmental image too, given that we’re one of the few non-Kyoto countries out there and consume coal like Paris Hilton consumes men.

Anyway, the message is: don’t run your car on e85 if it isn’t made for e85. I don’t think that’ll be a problem for your average, intelligent Saabisti.

The second article is a summary of the whole e85 catch-22 in the US. It’s from MSNBC and it reads like it was written by an anti-e85 lobbyist. It’s called Myths and Realities, but I fear it’s going to promote more of the former than the latter. It’s supposed to be 10 essential questions and answers about e85, but when there’s no questions about emissions and the environment and no questions about reducing dependance on fossil fuels, then you start to wonder.

Instead, their essential questions are negatively worded setups, the sort you’d hear in question time at the Australian Parliament (if you listen to that sort of thing):

Are there any problems with ethanol?

Doesn’t producing ethanol on a large scale use a great deal of energy?

Is ethanol cheaper than gas?

So ethanol production and distribution are also controlled by market forces, right?

All are relevant questions, but at least two of them are hardly ‘essential’ if you’re setting yourself up as writing a definitive Q&A on the essentials of the subject. The article also partially blames ethanol for rising fuel prices in the US, which I thought were attributed to worldwide demand and the prices set by the OPEC countries, but what do I know.

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  1. Someone is really stupid… 🙂

    In Sweden, standard 95 octane gasoline has 5% ethanol in it. The recommendation is that you don’t put more than 10% ethanol in it if you want to play it safe. Don’t see why you “down under” can’t use some ethanol in a your cars with the same type of engine…

  2. Still morning here in Sweden, and I’m still tired… Seems the stupid plp is “over there across the pond” and not “down under”… Sorry… 🙂

  3. The most basic question about ethanol is “does the fuel contain more energy than the energy required to produce and distribute it?” The MSNBC article talks about the issue but does not try to answer. The fact that the answer might be “no” means a big investment in ethanol technology will be very risky.

    The MSNBC does point out the ridiculousness of thinking ethanol could be produced in sufficient quantity to replace gas.

    I am in the anti-ethanol camp right now. The U.S. government is mandating that ethanol be added to our gasoline – as a reward to big lobbyist money, not for any practical reason. In return for big campaign contributions, the politicians are directing my money to ADM. If it was really better for the environment, they would get rid of the tariff on ethanol imports. But they don’t because that might hurt ADM and their political money. The result is higher gasoline prices.

    I believe in the free market deciding these things, not bought politicians.

    Show me an ethanol car that is cheaper to own and run than gas or diesel and I’ll be interested. Meanwhile, GM is wasting time and money that should be spent developing better hybrid, electric, and diesel motors. They already missed the Hybrid wave in the U.S., now they are about to miss the diesel wave.

  4. The government mandated additional of ethanol to U.S. sold gasoline does contribute to higher gas prices for the simple reason that ethanol presently costs more than pure gasoline. Yes – the price of pure ethanol is higher than that of gasoline even with the recent increase in the cost of oil.

    So adding ethanol to gas drives the price up.

  5. I read the ethanol article at MSNBC and was annoyed by it. But it is the type of article I have come to expect from most mainstream media organizations. Hydrogen used to be the darling technology amongst the green crowd until the Bush administration came out in favor of it. After that, the greens were falling all over them selves to deride hydrogen technology. Now, the Bush Admin. is pushing ethanol, particularly cellulose based ethanol, and predictably, the critics have come out of the woodwork to dump on the idea. It won’t be a good idea until Hillary is promoting it.

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