Editor's Note -- This article was written in 2006, yet the ethanol scandal continues to prove what a waste of money it is year after year. What a shame.
year ethanol producers
received subsidies and tax
incentives worth more than $5
billion dollars, and those
subsidies will probably be
much higher next year. Yet,
even with those subsidies
ethanol isn't cost effective
unless gas prices are close to
$3.00 per gallon.
So, is ethanol worth the price?
Supporters of ethanol claim that all this investment in ethanol for automobiles will eventually lead to better ways of producing ethanol, such as cellulosic ethanol.
I say it will simply lead to more flex-fuel Hummers and little decrease in foreign oil dependency. I say E85 is a feel-good way of accomplishing nothing, something both Democrats and Republicans love - talk, talk, talk, but do nothing.
Without raising the fuel efficiency of America's automobiles - significantly - America's demand for energy will continue to grow exponentially and it will outpace any reduction in foreign oil dependency produced by ethanol.
More important, even GM is now realizing the that the future of automobiles is probably electric (more). If this is true, then E85 simply becomes a distraction, even a boondoggle to those ends, at least for American automakers and the American economy.
Today, hybrid cars can increase fuel efficiency by 20 to 30 percent, which is a good start. Add advanced gasoline engines or clean diesel engines and fuel efficiency could be doubled - that's with just TODAY's technology.
But the real advantage of hybrids will be lithium batteries, and the ability to utilize electric power. Within 5 years it is quite possible that you could buy a $30,000 hybrid vehicle that might never have to be filled with fuel if you drive less than 40 miles per day, all it would need is a small electric charge at night.
Within 10 years a small fuel cell stack could be added to these plug-in hybrids and the majority of drivers might never need any other fuel than just a little occasional electricity. More important, all of this could happen much quicker if more incentives were provided for hybrid technology and lithium-ion technology.
Why not give those ethanol subsidies to consumers to purchase these vehicles? Ultimately, a change in consumer behavior is the quickest path to foreign oil dependence and a cleaner environment.
Yet, ethanol is the favored buzzword, the favored recipient of tax incentives and government subsidies.
In the past Honda has already claimed it believes electric cars are integral to the future, and Toyota's hybrid efforts make them a player in electric cars as well. Even GM says the future is electric. Consequently, it is imperative that American automakers lead the way into this automotive revolution, rather than sticking to flex-fuel Hummers and Mustangs.
America's focus should be that in 10 years every American vehicle produced is either fuel-free or that fuel is simply a backup. The technology will be there within 10 years. The Japanese will be there. Will America?
Still, I'm all for ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, as a fuel to produce electricity, just not as an automobile fuel. Ultimately, transporting ethanol simply makes no sense in a liquid form, but in an electric form it makes great sense.
Consequently, E85 could become a distraction, even a boondoggle if it takes the clean energy and foreign oil dependency spotlight, and early talk from many Democrats seems headed in that direction (more).
The future is now. If we don't dare to dream, we just might wake up to a nightmare. New automotive technology, not alternative fuels, should be the priority for America, and the majority of our tax incentives and subsidies should be given to consumers to buy this new technology.