The GAO (US Government Accountability Office) is a non-partisan government organization dedicated to deflating political rhetoric when it gets out of hand. It recently issued a report about the DOE and biofuels. The US uses so much energy that even billions of gallons a year is almost literally a "drop in the bucket" and a million cars barely registers on the total number of vehicles we use in this country - 244 million.
As the GAO says, "DOE has not yet developed a comprehensive approach to coordinate its strategy for expanding biofuels production with the development of biofuel infrastructure and production of vehicles."
Petroleum has a full distribution system from oil well to refinery to pipeline to distribution centers and local fueling stations. Even at its best, biofuels will be about 10 percent of the fuel we could use and it is not compatible for shipping by pipelines to the various markets. The DOE needs to find out if it should market E85 where there are vehicles to use it or just make everybody buy E10 as some states now require. Of course, that won't act to reduce consumption. It will just painlessly and transparently allow us to continue sucking on OPEC's hind tit. (Didn't OPEC just say today that they won't increase production this summer?)
Chrysler, Ford and GM have already built about 4.5 million E85 vehicles but most don't have access to the fuel. Having hitched themselves to the biofuels wagon, they will build millions more ethanol capable-vehicles but the fuel distribution system is lagging and the fuel is not cheap. You have got to want to use it. So the message is clear: We now have the capability to make about 5 billion gallons of ethanol a year on the way to perhaps 16 billion gallons but that is only 10 percnet of our current needs and if you are not in the general Midwest, you don't have much of a chance of finding E85 at a local station. Hopefully, the DOE will stop giving out so many biofuel-related tax credits for growing and put some more into distributing.
[Source: GAO report GAO-07-713,]