ETHANOL GAINS GROUND AS ALTERNATIVE
the subject is ethanol, the consumer might rightly ask
the proverbial question, "What's in it for me?"
The answer, according to Ford Motor Company, is, "Your
Ethanol and other alternative fuel sources are hot news
these days because of their ability to help address
two major global issues — independence from imported
oil (with its national security implications) and global
In the United States, ethanol is most commonly made from corn,
but it can also be made from sugar cane, sugar beets
or even inedible bio-mass, like corn stalks or switch
"Ethanol is renewable, made from virtually limitless
feedstocks, and does not come from fossil energy sources
such as petroleum or natural gas," said Brian Rippon,
policy manager, Global Public Policy, Government Affairs.
"It can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions because
the process of making it recaptures carbon. No other
currently available vehicle technology or alternative
fuel — including hybrids or natural gas — provides
Specifically, Rippon is referring to E85, a mixture
of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. E85 can
be used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), capable of running
on anything from straight unleaded gasoline to 85 percent
ethanol. Ford has built more than 1.6 million FFVs in
the United States over the past 25 years and will make 250,000
FFVs this year.
Ethanol is also commonly used in smaller concentrations
of five to 10 percent that is sometimes known as "gasohol."
Most vehicles on the road today can operate on gasoline
combined with up to 10 percent ethanol.
Ford FFVs use sensors to automatically detect the mixture
of gasoline and ethanol being used, making the process
seamless and invisible to the consumer.
"FFVs are gaining support as the most likely way
to accelerate the use of ethanol in the U.S.,"
Rippon said. "There are now about 6 million FFVs
on U.S. roads, and Ford will have produced almost 2
million by year's end. The Ford F-150, Crown Victoria,
Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car are in Ford's 2006
Other Ford initiatives include research into an hybrid
vehicle capable of running on E85 as well as efforts
to increase the availability of ethanol, beginning in
"Ford has partnered with VeraSun Energy — a leading
ethanol producer — to build a 'Midwest Ethanol Corridor'
stretching through Missouri and Illinois," Rippon
said. "The corridor will allow FFV owners to travel
from Chicago to Kansas City operating only on E85. Ford
believes that helping our FFV customers to conveniently
find and use E85 is the right thing to do."
E85 is typically less expensive at the pump than gasoline.
However, a gallon of E85 contains about 25 percent less
energy than a gallon of gasoline, resulting in fewer
miles to the gallon. So the benefits of using ethanol
may not come immediately in the form of savings at the
pump (unless gasoline prices rise considerably or ethanol
production becomes more efficient as it becomes more
prevalent). But increased use of ethanol can help free
the U.S. from what President George W. Bush called "our
addiction to oil."
"Studies have shown that it may be possible to
replace up to 30 percent of U.S. gasoline with ethanol
from various sources including biomass," Rippon
said. "No other near-term alternative fuel has
that kind of potential."
In terms of global warming, the use of biofuels like
ethanol can reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, one
of the main suspected culprits in the earth's temperature
Research at the Argonne National Laboratory's Center
for Transportation Research indicates that on a per-gallon
basis, today's corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions
by 18 to 29 percent; ethanol produced from cellulose-based
feedstocks such as agricultural wastes, grasses and
woods offers an even greater benefit with an 85 percent
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Both issues — energy impendence and global warming
— are becoming more urgent as events unfold. Last year,
both the U.S. House and Senate passed the Energy Policy
Act of 2005, which includes several important ethanol
provisions. This energy bill contains a Renewable Fuels
Standard that will double America's production of ethanol
to at least 7.5 billion gallons annually by 2012.