Is There SwiftFuel in Your Future?

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery
is there swiftfuel in your future

Computer industry pundit, columnist, documentary film maker, small airplane pilot, classic car enthusiast and former international oil industry correspondent Robert X. Cringely is talking up SwiftFuel. Just in case the name isn't catchy enough (the fuel, not the author), Cringley calls sorghum-based go-juice “The Splenda of motor fuels." "It has an octane rating of 104 (higher than the 100 octane fuel it replaces) yet contains no lead or ethanol. SwiftFuel mixes with gasoline, can be stored in the same tanks as gasoline, and be shipped in the same pipelines as gasoline.” Swift Enterprises claims the sorghum brew yields six times as much fuel per acre as corn and delivers get up to 20 percent better gas mileage than… gas. They're currently selling the alt fuel as a replacement for leaded gasoline in small airplanes. Too good to be true? Cringely doesn’t address many of the problems associated with the whole agricultural feed-into-fuel deal: converting wilderness into farmland, fresh water consumption, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, energy required to convert the biomass into SwiftFuel, etc. Despite E85's rough ride (here and elsewhere), look for more of this outside-the-oil-well thinking as oil prices escalate.

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4 of 9 comments
  • Menno Menno on Jun 09, 2008

    If this is simply 4-carbon alcohol, it is not ethanol but Butanol. Butanol exhibits many of the same characteristics as described in this "SwiftFuel" except that it's natural octane (as would be seen at the auto gas pump) is 87 (exactly the same as regular unleaded, coincidentally). Unless octane is rated differently for aviation fuel (which may be the case). Butanol can be made with anything with sugar in it. Look for yourselves. Also BP is starting to develop butanol with a mere strapling company that nobody's ever heard of - DuPont. OK I lied, maybe you've heard of them.

  • Stephan Wilkinson Stephan Wilkinson on Jun 09, 2008

    What faster-than-rabbit said. As a pilot, I've been amused in the past by his naivete when discussing aviation, about which at least at the time he didn't seem to know much more than the rankest new private pilot.

  • EJ_San_Fran EJ_San_Fran on Jun 09, 2008

    Indeed, cellulosic biofuel and synthetic gasoline are promising, especially with $4/gallon gas. However, all of such solutions require gigantic investments to reach scale, so "overnight" really means decades.

  • Gawdodirt Gawdodirt on Jun 09, 2008

    I'll stick with Algal (algae?) alternatives thank you. I'm an ugly American driving a huge diesel crew cab sending fear into the heart of every "Smart car" driver. And algae is a smarter bet since our truckers deliver food with diesel. (Duh?) Deliverable cost effective commodities?