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