E85 Boondoggle of the Day: CA to Subsidize E85 Stations

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
e85 boondoggle of the day ca to subsidize e85 stations

California's leaders are dreaming of a biofueled future, and they see E85 ethanol as a step in the right direction… for their campaign war chests. The LA Times reports that California wants to increase the availability of the 85 percent corn-based biofuel, by earmarking $25m in grants to set up 34 new E85 refueling stations. Unfortunately for those Californians who value clean air and energy efficiency, E85 takes more (fossil) fuel to refine than it offers, actually decreases fuel efficiency and increases emissions. Pretty ironic considering that the plan is justified by the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resource Board as a crucial component of the state's Climate Action Plan. So why is the state of California subsidizing the infrastructure of such a short-sighted fuel product? So that people in the fuel business don't have to actually pay for it themselves, of course. Installing an E85 pump costs about $50k. As Chevron spokesman Leif Sollid puts it "our marketers and retailers have not expressed a widespread desire to install E85 at their stations." Well, of course they haven't… because they know the only way to sell an unpopular product is to get the government to subsidize it. They also know that their $50k buys a lot more value as campaign campaign contributions.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • 1985 Gripen 1985 Gripen on Feb 27, 2008

    In the editorial post Mr. Niedermeyer uses a badly out-of-date myth that ethanol is “energy negative”, that is that it takes more fossil fuel to produce ethanol than the ethanol returns. The most well known (and since debunked) study to claim this was by David Pimentel, a well known ethanol critic, back in 2005. Various studies since then have proven Mr. Pimentel wrong, including one in the journal Science in 2006.


    So Mr. Niedermeyer is using a three-year-old debunked study on ethanol to rail against it.

    Also, there’s the claim that ethanol “increases emissions”. Care to elaborate and show some evidence, Mr. Niedermeyer? Because from everything I’ve read on the subject states ethanol actually REDUCES emissions.

    Lastly, and this is directed at the commenters here as well: don’t blame your living situation on California. Every state has the right to govern itself. California, if it were a country of its own, would be the world’s SIXTH-largest economy. California provides a disproportionate amount of wealth to the rest of the country. Don’t go hatin’ on California because you’re jealous. Why not try making your backwater state a little better instead of trying to tear down a state that should be a model for yours.

  • Cavendel Cavendel on Feb 27, 2008

    I like some of Hollywood's movies. If California slips away, can I still watch Batman 6?

  • Martin Albright Martin Albright on Feb 27, 2008

    My gripe with this type of article is that it seems to imply that E85 is not a practical alternative because it is "government subsidized." Do you honestly think the petroleum industry is not government subsidized? The fact that the subsidy may not be paid directly to the industry doesn't mean the industry isn't being subsidized. How much of our trillion dollar military spending is dedicated to protecting the world's oil supply or fighting the secondary effects thereof? E85 couldn't begin to reach that level of subsidation in a hundred years.

  • Engineer Engineer on Feb 27, 2008
    E85 couldn’t begin to reach that level of subsidation in a hundred years. Hang in there, Martin, ethanol may get there rather quickly... So, over time more biofuel will be adopted in California, probably mostly blended as E10 in regular gasoline. Considering some basic, scientific facts (such as ethanol's properties), that no amount of federal subsidies ("your tax dollars at work") or research, will change, it is highly unlikely that the eventual workable biofuel will be ethanol. So, enough subsidies already.