Alternative Energy, Energy Independence and Global Warming Reduction


  On the Front Page Today

Backlash Over the Biomass Boom
Outrage is developing over the folly of burning food crops for fuel, but politicians in the U.S. and Europe are, as usual, handing lavish subsidies to the farm bloc, while blocking imports from better-suited nations with tariffs.
Guess Who's Pioneering an Automotive Revolution
Endowed with hydroelectric power and geothermal springs, Iceland plans to do away with $8/gallon gasoline and switch to hydrogen-powered autos.
ETHANOL & ITS DISCONTENTS
Big Oil Doesn't Want Sugar in Your Gas Tank

 

Despite the $.51 paid them for every gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline, U.S. oil companies are waging a stealth war against the gasoline substitute. Big oil will pocket an estimated $6.3 to $8.7 billion taxpayer dollars between 2006 and 2012, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, all the while funding studies that point up ethanolís negatives and subverting distribution at the pump.
     Even oilís longtime allies, the auto manufacturers, are angered. Theyíve pledged that half of new vehicles will be flex-fuel by 2012 and have invested heavily to put 5 million on the road already, only to see the oil companies making the fuel largely unavailable. You may have found pumps in your community offering E10, a blend that is 10% ethanol. The oil companies are content to add that soupÁon to their gas and pocket the subsidy, but good luck finding E85, which is 85% ethanol. Of 179,000 gas station pumps in the U.S, only about 1,000 are for E85, and virtually none of these are at oil company-owned stations, reports Business Week. Thatís because big oil has placed an array of obstacles in E85ís path. The Wall Street Journal found that companies:

Stipulate that the E85 pump be on a separate island, in the hopes it will not be noticed.
Block the use of credit cards in its purchase.
Require franchisees to buy all fuel from the company, so as to price E85 unfavorably.

Negative reports ordered up by big oil from think tanks and universities restrict themselves to corn-based ethanol, which does indeed suffer from numerous drawbacks (that we cover here, and here), but that is a bias meant to obscure public knowledge of the much greater advantages of cellulosic ethanol, hopefully just over the horizon. There are no operational cellulosic plants in the U.S. as yet -- breaking down the sugars of other vegetation is more complex -- but the Dept. of Energy has placed $385 million in startup grants with six companies, with more likely to come in the energy bills now before Congress.
     The point is that ethanol is a needed substitute for oil. Legislation calls for production of 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017, but Congress has forgotten the other half of the equation: infrastructure must be in place for corn ethanol now, and improved forms to come, to reach the consumer, but nothing has been enacted to prevent the oil companies from blocking the road.