A free thinker in the Heartland...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Et tu Ethanol?

If you have heard the hype about Ethanol saving us from foreign oil, you may want to read Consumer Reports article "The ethanol myth."

A recent Harris Interactive study of vehicle owners found that more than half were interested in purchasing an FFV [flexible-fuel vehicles], mostly for reduced dependency on petroleum and improved fuel economy.

But after putting a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV through an array of fuel economy, acceleration, and emissions tests, and interviewing more than 50 experts on ethanol fuel, CR determined that E85 will cost consumers more money than gasoline and that there are concerns about whether the government’s support of FFVs is really helping the U.S. achieve energy independence.


* The fuel economy of the Tahoe dropped 27 percent when running on E85 compared with gasoline, from an already low 14 mpg overall to 10 mpg (rounded to the nearest mpg). This is the lowest fuel mileage we’ve gotten from any vehicle in recent years.

* With the retail pump price of E85 averaging $2.91 per gallon in August, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks petroleum and other fuel prices, a 27 percent fuel-economy penalty means drivers would have paid an average of $3.99 for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline..

* When we calculated the Tahoe’s driving range, we found that it decreased to about 300 miles on a full tank of E85 compared with about 440 on gasoline. So you have to fill up more often with E85.

* The majority of FFVs are large vehicles like the Tahoe that get relatively poor fuel economy even on gasoline. So they will cost you a lot at the pump, no matter which fuel you use.

* Because E85 is primarily sold in the upper Midwest, most drivers in the country have no access to the fuel, even if they want it. For our Tahoe test, for example, we had to blend our own (see The great E85 fuel hunt).

* The FFV surge is being motivated by generous fuel-economy credits that auto-makers get for every FFV they build, even if it never runs on E85. This allows them to pump out more gas-guzzling large SUVs and pickups, which is resulting in the consumption of many times more gallons of gasoline than E85 now replaces.

There is much more in the latest issue of CR, but I don't have the time to copy and post it, but it is a very enlighting article... especially since I was excited about lowering our oil dependence. The best part of the article was the talk about how auto-makers are using fuel-economy credits to just keep making large SUVs and pickups... WHICH WE ARE NOT EVEN BUYING ANYWAY! The caps portion of that sentence is my view, and not of CR. I came away knowing that ethanol is NOT the final answer, if anything it is just a band-aid.

Is there any good news out there?