No, ethanol isn't the perfect fuel, far from it. The ethanol bashers have good points; the fuel's more energy-intensive to produce, and the Cato Institute says it's dirtier and costlier than gas.
However, ethanol's the only alternative fuel on my list that gives us a chance to use today's infrastructure with a different fuel that we can import cheaply from a friendly country in our own hemisphere. And the future potential of producing it stateside from biomass and grasses means it's time to plan now for a much larger ethanol piece of the pie.
Instead of dismissing the more than 6 million E85-capable vehicles on the road, we need to seek it out and make sure ethanol producers know it's in demand. If you have an E85-powered vehicle, why not try out how it works, boost sales, and give fuel makers the financial incentive to build the next generation of waste-derived ethanol plants? Here are four ways to find fuel for your E85-capable car or truck:
- OnStar: just push your magic blue button and ask where is the nearest E85-equipped station
- Mapquest: the Web-mapping site has the information, along with a gas-prices survey to find the cheaper alternative fuel
- Plan ahead by visiting the E85 manufacturer's Web site and find a station on your route before you leave
- Use your navigation system; systems like TomTom have the data included in their maps
You might even get a financial windfall if your state is underwriting the cost of an E85 vehicle or a fill-up. More important, you'll be sending a message around the world that we're ready for "real change"--the kind that comes from our wallets and pocketbooks.