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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