Moving to E85

While we are debating if rising oil prices leads to less freedom or vice versa, the point of truth is that, oil prices are rising. The price of crude is going up and the price at the pump is moving faster. Various businesses have decided to pass on the the rising costs directly to the consumer. Since consumers are already struggling to make ends meet, they probably may not notice this slight increase in price for almost everything. The situation is so bad that President Bush raised the CAFE standards, which sets the fuel economy for vehicles.
Meanwhile American car makers are seeing their cars sitting on the lot, while Toyota cannot make enough Prius for American consumption. Is there a way to get rid of the oil dependency and at the same time boost the slowing sales of American cars? Tom Daschle and VInod Khosla seem to have a solution. Their proposal is to give automakers incentives for making vehicles which can run on gasoline or E85 fuel, a blend of ethanol and gasoline.

First, it could set America free from its dependence on foreign oil. As Brazil’s “energy independence miracle” proves, an aggressive strategy of investing in petroleum substitutes like ethanol can end dependence on imported oil.
Second, switching from gasoline to ethanol produced from perennial energy crops like switch grass can slash our carbon dioxide emissions.
Third, it could build on a comparative advantage of American automakers. American auto manufacturers are churning out hundreds of thousands of flex-fuel vehicles. Their foreign competitors make far fewer. Promoting these vehicles will help our automakers build on their already strong market share.
And fourth, by encouraging the production of ethanol and new renewable fuel technologies, this new CAFE standard could invigorate rural communities in America’s heartland and innovation and research centers along its coasts. [Miles Per Cob]

When the Wall Street Journal agrees with New York Times, then you know either an asteroid is going to hit the earth or something serious is going on. Currently US imports ethanol and there are tariffs and duties on it making it not so competitive. A bill has been introduced to suspend taxes on imported ethanol till 2007
Ethanol based cars are not without issues for this fuel results in lower fuel economy. This would result in the driver paying more and currently it is not cost effective compared to regular gasoline based vehicles. According to Business Week “it would cost around $3,368 per year to run a Dodge Ram 1500 pickup on regular gas and $3,615 on E85.” Even if you want to buy a flex fuel car, there are not many choices right now. If you own one, then you don’t have many fueling stations.
A lot has to happen before E85 becomes a viable alternative to oil. Atleast people are thinking about it.

5 thoughts on “Moving to E85

  1. I wish the policy makers in India would recognize India growing dependency on Oil and start thinking of alterate fuels like this.

  2. There was a an hour long program (it was either on PBS or one of those “CNN Presents” series) where they were saying that Brazil is going to declare energy independence. I was curious and started reading about it (i hope to blog about it myself).
    Americans surely are thinking about ethanol. Look at the stock price of ADM for the last 6 months.
    Also, India is the second largest producer of sugarcane, behind Brazil. But seems like we are investing exponentially less in ethanol.

  3. Good idea. But we fail to do the simple math every time. Take the total volume of gas consumed in US per day, multiply with 0.15, calculate the land area reqd to produce this much ethanol. I bet the number would be high enough to explain why it will not work. What will we do-feed the population or fill our cars with ethanol.

  4. We don’t have to grow the entire ethanol crops in US, they can be partially imported as well as is currently done.

  5. well there is a lot of room
    for improvement in the current IC engine.
    We have not approached the ceiling set by thermodynamics…
    Theroreticaly we can increase the fuel efficiency a lot
    if alternative engines are developed that have significant low rpm torque.
    Its not easy, but just what is tinkerers begin tinkering, the prize is huge

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