Feb 22, 2010

GM Exec says Ethanol should be here to stay

Good to see a GM executive support the continued use of vegetable based ethanol as a automotive fuel for the future. We are slowly making headway in diversifying our energy sources.

-Tom Stephens, who was in Orlando last week to speak at the National Ethanol Conference, is vice chairman of global product operations for General Motors. He knows as well as anybody that our gasoline supply won't last forever, and we're long past the point where we should be concentrating our efforts on weaning the U.S. from our dependence on oil.

The below statement is great to hear from an automotive exec and what we have always hoped for. Why can we not diversify our transportation energies to help keep the price down.

We are all reminded of the kowtowing that Bush did and Obama sadly does as well to the Saudi royal family, less out of respect for their position as king of a country and more out of the mutual understanding that they hold us captive for our energy needs. If our transportation was more diverse we would not need to rely on the middle east as we do now and our lives would be SOOOO much easier and safer.

-He sees the solution, as do many in his business, as a lot of little solutions: Better mileage for current products, plus hybrids, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, biodiesel.

-Stephens would like to see more emphasis on E85, which is 85 percent ethanol — which is alcohol made from a variety of sources, but mostly corn at present — and 15 percent gasoline.

-There are about 7.5 million cars and trucks on the road in the U.S. that are "flex fuel," meaning they can run on gasoline or E85, and GM has built about 4 million of them. But Stephens points out that 90 percent of the people who own those vehicles don't have an E85 pump within their ZIP code.

There are just more than 2,000 E85 pumps in the U.S. available to consumers, and most of them are concentrated in the Midwest, where the vast majority of ethanol is produced. Stephens wants 10,000 more E85 pumps, ASAP.

He makes a valid point when he says that it costs more to make a flex-fuel vehicle, and that GM is eating most of that price increase itself. But unless ethanol's prospects pick up, GM will eventually have to decide whether flex-fuel is a good investment.

-There is no denying that a gallon of ethanol has less energy than a gallon of gasoline, so vehicles that can operate on E85 or gasoline will see perhaps 25 percent less fuel mileage on E85. Stephens knows that, but he says that if E85 is cheap enough to make up for the mileage, the only downside would be filling up your tank a little more often.

-Right now, both in Florida and the U.S., E85 is about 15 percent cheaper than gasoline. "It needs to be at least 25 percent cheaper," Stephens says.

non blue text from Orlando Sentinel 2-21-10 Steven Cole Smith, "Keep Ethanol in the fuel mix, GM Exec says"

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