E85 Fatwa Of The Day: It's A Sin!

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
e85 fatwa of the day it s a sin

Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi of the Saudi Islamic Jurisprudence Academy has advised the Muslim community (via Al Arabiya) that burning ethanol and other alcohol fuels could be a sin. Al-Najimi said that ethanol runs afoul of the Prophet Mohammed’s ban on the sale, consumption, processing, and handling of all forms of alcohol. He does stress that this is not an official Fatwa, or religious edict, meaning ethanol is not officially banned by Sharia, or Islamic law. Yet. But hey, as long as this little guy gets beheaded on YouTube we’ll call it good. To be completely fair though, this isn’t entirely surprising. It’s hard to imagine that ethanol is wildly popular when you live on top of oceans of the real thing. Meanwhile, back in the decadent west, moral clarity (like oil) is a little harder to come by.

The tax-per-mile scheme floated by SecTrans Ray LaHood and shot down moments later by the White House has another proponent. Well, committee of proponents. The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission has released a report titled “Paying Our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance,” and it brings back the specter of a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax. With a vengance. Citing a backlog of work needed for the national freeway infrastructure and a shortage of funds, VMT tops the list of possible revenue raisers that includes a tire tax, gas tax, cap and trade, tariffs on imported oil and more. The debate is on in DC, as people are clearly taking the VMT idea seriously. Will Obama stick to his own Fatwa that VMT is haraam? Inshallah.

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4 of 13 comments
  • SunnyvaleCA SunnyvaleCA on Feb 27, 2009

    While I'd rather have a gas tax, the VMT/GPS system could be used for congestion charging. That at least could be at useful in reducing waste inherent in stop-and-go traffic on the highways. It could also replace the wasteful tollbooths and meters at bridges, parking garages, and even curbside parking. I would propose not charging for vehicle miles driven, but instead charging for driving and parking in congested public areas.

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Feb 27, 2009

    One of my best friends, Danny Arm, is an orthodox rabbi and talmudic scholar and I asked him about making fuel from non-kosher sources. While alcohol is permitted by Jewish law, and while all produce and fruit juices are theoretically kosher, because of the ritual use of grape juice and wine, and because of the biblical prohibition against using wine intended for pagan libations, wine has to be produced under rabbinic supervision to be kosher. Jewish law addresses the question of ha'na'ah, benefit, from something that might otherwise be prohibited. So I asked R' Arm if one could take wine consecrated for pagan idolatry and distill it into alcohol for fuel. He said it's an interesting question, but only theoretical. In this day and age, since real idolatry doesn't exist for all intents and purposes, any wine could be distilled for fuel. At one time, though, it would have been prohibited for Jews to use vinegar made from pagan wine. Distilled alcohol, though, might be considered enough of a fundamental change in the nature of the material that its origins wouldn't be of consequence. So even when idolatry existed, it might have been permissible to use pagan ethanol. As for making biodiesel out of lard, while a Jew might not be permitted by Jewish law to go into business turning lard into fuel, there's no prohibition against wearing Hush Puppies so a Jew could run a car on lard based fuel and not run afoul of Jewish law. In other words, like most times when you ask a rabbi, the answer is, "that's a good question".

  • Yankinwaoz Yankinwaoz on Feb 27, 2009

    I think VMT is just a matter of time. New transportation technologies and fuels (even electricity) are going to make it the only fair way to pay for roads. As I've mentioned before, New Zealand already does with with diesel powered vehicles. Regarding vehicles that cross state lines. I think the only solution is transponder system at state lines that captures your odometer reading at every state line crossing. That will take a while to roll out. But they can start with Interstates, then large roads, then smaller roads. Combined with equipping cars with transponders, over 20 years we could be on a VMT based tax. This would be a compromise between a GPS big-brother tracking, and nothing. You don't give up any freedoms because often your car is photographed anyhow.

  • Dltroutm Dltroutm on Mar 01, 2009

    Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi should cast his first stone at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The world's largest ethanol still is in Al-Jubail in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom. The SADAF petrochemical plant produces crude industrial ethanol directly from ethane, an associated gas from the production of crude oil. The plant is a joint venture between Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC - 70% government owned) and Shell Oil Company. As a concession to the Wahhabis, the crude industrial ethanol is shipped to the USA for refinement into pure ethanol at considerable cost and loss of profit.