• Jun 23rd 2009 at 10:58AM
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In early May, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $786.5 million "third-generation" biofuel program. Yesterday, ex-biofuel researcher Stephen Chu, the Energy Secretary, said that all cars made in America should be able to burn ethanol (E85). Earlier this month, Chu said electric vehicles were "inevitable."
Predictably, Chu made the E85 statement deep in corn ethanol country – in Des Moines, Iowa - yesterday, even though he has previously said that, "corn is not the right crop for biofuels." Chu's promotion of E85 capability seems to be driven by the low cost of making a standard internal-combustion vehicle able to burn the biofuel. Chu said that:
I've been told it costs about $100 in gaskets and fuel lines to turn a car so that it can go all the way to E85. But a new car, it would only cost $100 out of $15,000. Wouldn't it be nice to put in those fuel lines and gaskets so that we can use any ratio we wanted?
While Chu made clear that the Obama Administration is not ready to mandate any flex-fuel capability at this time, that "any ratio" line surely caught the attention of those pushing for an increase in the nation ethanol blend to 15 percent. For more on the E15 debate, click here.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Anytime the government has to subsidize something to make it work--means it doesn't work already and throwing money at the problem won't make it any better.

      Take a look at Amtrak & the United States Post Office. Both are HUGE money losers. If the private sector doesn't show an interest in something it's because there isn't any profit there--ethanol is case-in-point.

      I work about .25 miles from a recently shutdown ethanol plant. A year ago the city in which the plant was constructed didn't charge them to bring in sewer, water, electrical lines--anything! They tore up the road with large trucks bringing in building materials (which has yet to be fixed) and six months after completion the plant sits abandoned; rusting in the rain.

      Yea, it only costs $100 to do this to new cars, cool, whatever. If it only cost $100 to add another wheel to the front of the car would you do it? No, because it doesn't. need. to. be. done. It's just another unnecessary expense.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Amtrak and USPS are both government agencies, and both lose money. Taxpayers money, and people who buy tickets for the train, or stamps for the mail.

        Good enough parallel to me.

        I am from Iowa, and even I know that Ethanol is a boon-doggle.

        It takes HUGE amounts of water, and diverts crops from food. It takes a lot of petro-fuel to run big machines to plant, cultivate, harvest, transport, process, and distribute those crops, as well. The accounting from seed to harvest to fuel tank is not less than the cost of gasoline from oil well to fuel tank.

        For a fuel that is less energy dense per unit of volume (and thus less efficient), and is corrosive to rubber and plastic parts in the vehicles that use it.

        It consumes that plant matter hundreds of times faster than foodstuffs, and drives the price of corn up, which is only temporary benefit for farmers (until costs come up to match it... farmers pay retail for what they buy, and get paid wholesale for their product... the money will not stay in the farmer's hands for long.)

        Conversely, it is a detriment to food prices both in the US, livestock feed, and especially in the third world, where corn meal is a staple foodstuff.

        But some farmers just like the short term demand for their corn, regardless of the ripple effect. And corn-belt politicians love to promise farm subsidies, as if it is free money.

        Farmers, especially independent family farmers like my grandparents were and now my uncles are... need a fair, free market, and not to be taken advantage of, as they sometimes have been, but that doesn't make corn ethanol a good idea. Corn is a foodstuff, not a primary fuel source.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Did you really just compare the Post Office to Amtrak?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Burning ethanol reduces fuel mileage, so this push would directly oppose higher fuel economy standards. The government will soon mandate contradictory laws that will drive up the cost of cars even more. Time to start focusing on commercial trucking, which accounts for a huge amount amount of fuel usage and air pollution too!
        • 6 Years Ago
        "The government will soon mandate contradictory laws" I agree with everything other than "soon".
      • 6 Years Ago
      I wish they'd ban ethanol from gasoline. A couple decades back they started offering conversions for a number of lower powered aviation engines to run on pump gas. It's about $2 a gallon cheaper than avgas and avgas contains lead. A LOT of lead, 100LL (Low Lead) contains far more than automotive gasoline ever did. Running unleaded in the planes was a win for the consumer and the environment. Ethanol dissolves the fuel systems though and if gasoline contains any ethanol at all you can't run it in the plane. And retrofitting is NOT a matter of $100 worth of seals. Idiot.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What these morons can't seem to get through their heads is that we'll never move completely off of gasoline until the alternative meets at least one or more of the following criteria:

      1. Must be as energy efficient as gasoline.
      2. Must be as cheap as gasoline
      3. Cars produced to fun on a new fuel source have to cost no more than the current average price of cars so most people can afford them on the new and used car market.
      4. The infrastructure has to be in place to support the new fuel (gas stations).

      The world can't produce enough corn, weeds, soybeans, whatever to supply enough raw materials to make a bio-fuel viable and still supply the food needs of the populace.

      Electric cars are a waste of time until we can upgrade our power grid to support them and with the tree huggers screaming against new power plants and making them as expensive as possible due to ridiculous lawsuits, it's not going to happen any time soon.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Awesome! Sell a lie, then don't build the infrastructure to support it, sell it about 10-20% less than a fuel already in use, get half the mileage, and then force automakers to support. Ingenious! Retards.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hate ethanol with a passion. It's completely non-viable, and yet govt. keeps dumping heaps of cash as subsidies.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I only see electric cars being inevitable when we we can stop depending so heavily on the same old fossil fuels to create the electricity in the first place, and also when electricity stops being so damn expensive (where I live anyway.)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Cap and trade is going to raise that further, not reduce it.

        Get ready.

        "We're the Government, and we're here to help." - That should be the most terrifying statement in any given language.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Might affect food costs quite a bit.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Logic = elusive. Let's increase fuel economy standards big-time, and while we're at it, let's also float a rhetorical trial balloon about making all American cars compatible with a fuel that is, effectively, mileage kryptonite.

      • 6 Years Ago
      It costs 0.0 dollars in gaskets and fuel lines to equip a diesel to run on biodiesel
        • 6 Years Ago
        No, you do NOT need a fuel heater for biodiesel. Japtha is a biodiesel that works under colder conditions too. More pro-ethanol propaganda.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It might be one thing altogether if we had any cars for sale that ran on 100% ethanol. But imagine the crop production we'd probably need for that type of fuel..
      • 6 Years Ago
      I personally think Chu is full of sh!t when he talks about electric cars being "inevitable" but I guess it depends on what he means by inevitable. Or it could just be me being a stubborn gas-loving environment killer.
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