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DATE News (chronologically)
05/11/07
irl
industry news
Experts say Ethanol is a hoax  Europe's car manufacturers, led by Saab and closely followed by Ford, are endangering their credibility with buyers as they exaggerate the environmental benefits of ethanol and hide its disadvantages in a desperate scramble to catch up with the need to appear green.

After soft-pedaling the problem for years, Europe's automotive manufacturers have been caught out by a sudden sea change in public opinion, which now wants more attention paid to the need to conserve fuel and protect the environment. Tire-squealing, macho advertising campaigns underlining speed and performance are on the way out; green, tree hugging is in.

Saab, General Motors' Swedish up-market subsidiary, is running a TV ad campaign which claims its new ethanol Flex Fuel engines, powered by renewable fuel which sucks in CO2 as it grows, can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to an amazing 70 percent. Ford Europe claims a Flex-fuel powered little Focus sedan also cuts carbon dioxide emissions by 70 percent compared with a gasoline-engine car. At the same time, in theory at least, a significant amount of imported gasoline would be replaced by homegrown fuel.

But these claims are coming under attack from experts, who say the real savings from using biofuels like ethanol are closer to neutral. Others say if you examine the whole life cycle and implications of growing fuels like ethanol, more energy is consumed than produced. If ethanol really boomed using a huge amount of new agricultural land, we could see the ludicrous result of planet-saving rainforests being decimated in the name of saving the planet.

And buried in the small print of Saab's claims for its Flex-fuel engines, is the admission that ethanol or E85 is much less efficient than gasoline, penalizing fuel consumption by about 30 percent.

These ethanol-enabled engines are engineered to run on normal gasoline or E85, which is just as well in Europe because very few gas stations actually sell the stuff. Here, close to a large town on the south coast of England, the nearest ethanol gas station is 40 miles away. According to Saab's own ethanol locater Web site, there are only 13 gas stations in all of Britain which sell it.

You don't have to believe that humans are destroying the climate to acknowledge that fossil fuels will run out sooner rather than later, and any new technology which seeks to address that problem must be a good thing. More at Detroit News

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