What’s the buzz about Ethanol?

ethanol.jpgExactly what is ethanol? And what's the buzz about?It seems there are many 'rumors' but few current facts floating around about Ethanol and more specifically about e85 Ethanol. So let's discuss the basics:

E85 Ethanol is a renewable fuel made up of 85% man-made renewable Ethanol fuel and 15% Petroleum. With only 15% petroleum, you would naturally expect Ethanol to cost less than gasoline.  Eventually, you will be correct.  But first, we need to get e85 Ethanol distribution available to the public.  Ethanol can be produced from many different sources; among which are corn and sugar cane. Here in the U.S. there is a widespread myth that Ethanol is only made from corn - and when folks talk about corn they think of the yellowish corn kernels we eat. FALSE.

Ethanol is made from the stalks and husks of corn - not the food stock that we would eat. Thus, ethanol is NOT responsible for the rise in food prices. If you stop and think for a moment, it is pretty easy to understand why our food prices continue to rise. How much has it been costing you to fill up your car's tank these days? More each week, right? Well consider the truckers who must deliver food, particularly perishable food items, from farm to super market. The cost of diesel fuel that truckers use has risen faster than even the unleaded gasoline your car uses. That increased cost has to be recouped someplace, and that is in higher food prices.

Back to Ethanol. In many respects, shame on our U.S. government for not promoting the development of alternative fuel sources over the past 5 to 10 years. Had we been working on it, we would not have the extreme increases in energy costs we face today. Between our government and big oil companies, we've managed to get a decade or more behind in our quest for energy independence. It is still possible. Over the span of about five years, Brazil went form relying on foreign oil to complete independence by producing their own Ethanol. That country had a built in source - Brazil's largest export product is Sugar, and Ethanol can be easily produced as a by-product of sugar cane. Here in the United States, we already have over THREE MILLION vehicles on the road that are capable of running on e85 with little to no modification. Who is responsible? Mainly General Motors along with Ford and Chrysler. That's right - no Toyota, Honda or Nissan. Why? Do you think the Japanese manufacturers want to see the US become energy independent? You're right, no they don't. But we can do it!

Here in the U.S., a company called Coskata has developed a mico-biology technology that will allow Ethanol to be produced from basic land-fill waste! Check them out at www.coskata.com - this technology could allow virtually every municipality in the country to become an energy producer! Coskata Process

Remember that any new technology costs more upfront due to the development expense. But once economies of scale are reached, costs drop dramatically. Think of the cost of cell phones, computers, HDTV's, etc. The same will happen with alternative fuel sources. Rather than fight them, let's all cheer them on. Whether it's e85 or some other fuel, we can become energy independent and rid ourselves of these huge cost spikes. GM and others have already been building the vehicles that will run on these fuels - you may even be driving one! - so now we need to fight for the infrastructure to distribute these fuels. We need gas stations to add e85 pumps. That's where the 2007 Energy Bill comes into play.

Energy Bill Advances E85

With the President’s signing of the new national energy bill, a landmark public policy has been adopted which will result in the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by the year 2022. This action represents a significant change in the energy strategy of the nation and, for the first time, actually drives the country to use less petroleum in our transportation sector. The reduction in petroleum consumption will result from an increase in the fuel economy of new motor vehicles and the mandatory use of renewable fuels.

During 2004, approximately 141 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in the United States and the new Renewable Fuel Standard established in the energy bill will require 25% of that 2004 baseline amount be in the form of ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol produced from cellulosic feedstock must comprise 58% of this total by 2022.

Just as importantly, the energy bill also addresses many of the issues E85 advocates have faced in our attempts to grow the fueling infrastructure. Key components of the bill will:

Prohibit franchise agreements from restricting the sale of renewable fuels.

For purposes of E85 and B20, no franchise agreement shall limit the conditions under which these fuels shall be sold.
Agreements entered into on or after the date of the Energy Policy Act update shall not restrict a franchisee from:
Installing a renewable fuel pump.
Converting an existing tank or pump to renewable fuel.
Advertising the sale of renewable fuels.
Purchasing renewable fuels from persons other than the franchisor.
Listing renewable fuel availability on signs, dispensers, or light poles.
Allowing the use of a credit card for payment of renewable fuel.

Congressman Joe Donnelly, D-2nd district of Indiana stated, “While there are a number of reasons why ethanol has yet to mature on the market, a significant contributing factor is that many of the big oil companies use a variety of strategies to make it difficult for their franchised gas stations to offer ethanol. For example, the standard contract issued by many big oil companies prevents franchisees from purchasing fuel from anyone other than the franchise supplier. Since many suppliers do not sell E85, the stations within the franchise cannot either.”

Donnelley went on to say, “In passing the Energy Independence and Security Act, we are taking a crucial step in expanding the availability of E85 so more Americans can take advantage of this clean fuel made from corn grown right here in Indiana.”

The legislation also includes a requirement for the head of each federal agency to install at least one renewable fuel pump at each federal fleet fueling center in the United States by January 1, 2010. The Department of Energy (DOE) is expected to establish a pilot program of no more than 10 refueling infrastructure corridors and provide no more than $20 million for this pilot program. The legislation authorizes $200 million per fiscal year from 2008 to 2014 for the infrastructure program.

So what do you think? What steps should our government take? Why not keep more of our American dollars working in our country rather than sending them to the Middle East?

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