E85 Boondoggle of the Day: All Ethanol, All the Time

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday in which he argued that all cars sold in America should be E85 capable. “I’ve been told it costs about $100 in gaskets and fuel lines to turn a car so that it can go all the way to E85,” Chu is quoted as saying in the Des Moines Register. “But a new car, it would only cost $100 out of $15,000. Wouldn’t it be nice to put in those fuel lines and gaskets so that we can use any ratio we wanted?” Sure, if E85 were a viable alternative fuel, and not just an agricultural subsidy.

But Chu understands that top-down pronouncements of 100 percent flex-fuel capability might come across as government meddling that could be resisted by the OEMs. “It’s one of those things where I think with virtually anything, once the government steps in the natural tendency is to resist government intervention,” says Chu. Not that the idea bothers Monte Shaw of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. “Clearly, if the White House decided they wanted GM and Chrysler to do this, they would do it,” Shaw said. “I think it would be good. Once one company goes that way, I think it puts pressure on the other automakers not to be left out.” Except that it won’t because ethanol has only been remotely commercially viable because of this kind of heavy-handed intervention. Saddling GM and Chrysler with a 100 percent flex-fuel mandate would not draw other OEMs into the ethanol game, rather it would simply help destroy GM/Chrysler’s already-fragile profitability by requiring extra costs that do not increase consumer demand.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • 50merc 50merc on Jun 23, 2009

    fred diesel: "Bring on the Biodiesel, the Real Deal. Ill be here all week." Can't have diesels. California doesn't like 'em.

  • Luke42 Luke42 on Jun 23, 2009


    Can’t have diesels. California doesn’t like ‘em. I thought that the new Jetta TDI was 50-state legal. Maybe some of the Mercedes diesels are too. bill301972, Re: E85 as a regional fuel I think you're right there. When I lived in Virginia, I thought E85 was a Really Bad Idea. Now that I live in the Midwest, I think it's not perfect, but it's better than foreign oil since the fossil fuel inputs don't have to be oil (it could be coal). Also, making money for the farmers who live just outside of my new town seems just fine. It's weird how where you live seeps into you like that. So, I agree that what makes sense for one region really might not make much sense for another. One of the really fun things about alternative-energy is that since there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are lots of interesting variations to think about depending on the needs and resources in any given person or place. It's like engineering, or something. :-)
  • Droid800 Droid800 on Jun 23, 2009

    *sigh* Steven Chu is the most pathetic choice for Energy Secretary since, well, ever. He's a scientist, not an administrator, and he has absolutely no real world experience. (as this quote shows) The only reason Obama chose him is because he's a 'yes' man that will agree with all of his CO2 regulation and his hate of anything fossil-fuel powered.

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jun 24, 2009

    The most pathetic part is actually how NOT ONE of the commenters has read Bob Zubrin's case for the E85 mandate (which is where Mr. Chu picked it).