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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Ethanol Myth

Amendment X, AAA and I have all writen about the false promise of ethanol and how, by their blind allegiance to the ethanol industry, our Senator and several of his colleagues in the House (including the man who wants to be our next Senator) are setting the consumers up for continued high gasoline prices. Well now Consumer Reports has chimed in on the Ethanol Myth and the high price that comes with it. If you have read any of our prior posts on the subject, you will not be surprised at what CR says.

"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. Among our findings:

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. "

I realize that the government has put a lot of stock in ethanol and they are working hard to make it pay off. However, the Consumer is the one that is stuck paying the higher prices that this blind allegiance to ethanol production has saddled us with. Yes, it is time to find alternative fuels, but let's make sure that the alternative fuels are fuels that will be cost effective AND good for the environment.


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