EPA Will Fund $3M in West Coast Diesel-Reduction Projects
Gold in the Sands

GM: “Live Green Go Yellow”

The price of ethanol futures has been rising. Note that the Y axis scale begins at $1.60, not 0.

GM, continuing its new push on E85 and flexible-fuel vehicles (earlier post), today launched a national advertising and marketing campaign to build awareness and market acceptance for E85 vehicles.

The campaign, “Live Green Go Yellow,” will begin during the Olympics and continue throughout the year. The campaign is designed to make consumers, energy producers and policy makers aware of GM’s E85 capability in current and future models.

With the on-going concern over national energy policy, the need to have more renewable fuel choices such as ethanol blended fuels is a great energy option available today. This campaign will ask the simple question, “what if every vehicle was yellow?” In a way, in the world of ethanol, yellow is the new green, since today its main source is from corn.

—Brent Dewar, GM vice president of marketing and advertising

Consumers may be surprised by the impact E85 has on their fuel bill, however.

Because ethanol has less energy than gasoline, engines consume more to deliver equivalent power—in other words, burn E85, and your fuel consumption increases.

As an example, the 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV delivers 13 mpg combined when burning E85 and 17 mpg combined when using gasoline—in other words, due to its lower energy content, ethanol imposes a 23% fuel consumption penalty in this vehicle. The Chevrolet Impala FFV delivers 19 mpg with E85, versus 24 mpg with gasoline—a 21% penalty.

E85 pricing tends to track with gasoline pricing, for a number of reasons. Add in the increasing demand for ethanol both as a standard blending component in gasoline as well as in higher-concentration E85 blends, and the price delta between E85 and regular gasoline may not be enough to offset the decreased fuel efficiency vehicles deliver when running on E85.

According to the most recent (September 2005) Alternative Fuel Price Report from the DOE, E85 averaged $2.41/gallon and regular gasoline averaged $2.77 for that reporting period—a 13% difference.

For the week of 20 January 2006, Axxis Petroleum reported an average fuel ethanol rack (wholesale) price in the Midwest of $2.10, while the EIA reported an average retail gasoline price of $2.282 in the Midwest.

Using the E85 figures from the DOE, a Tahoe FFV driver would pay $2,781 for a 15,000-mile year using E85, compared to $2,444 with regular gasoline. An FFV Impala driver would pay $1,902 with E85, $1,732 with gasoline.

Consumers may be willing to take the additional hit on fuel cost for the offsetting benefits of a biofuel (non-petroleum fuel, reduced greenhouse gas impact). But switching to E85 should not preclude the urgent development of more fuel-efficient FFVs and hybrid FFVs, such as that previewed by Ford. (Earlier post.)

In 2006, GM will offer nine E85 FlexFuel models, bringing an additional 400,000 E85 FlexFuel vehicles into its fleet.



This is what I don't understand. Why not a similar-sized diesel version that would get 25 maybe 30+mpg. This ethanol gambit is suspect.


Consumers may be willing to take the additional hit on fuel cost for the offsetting benefits of a biofuel (non-petroleum fuel, reduced greenhouse gas impact).

There is no *may* here -- consumers are willing to take an additional hit. The proof is in the hybrid drivers -- in general, they aren't the most cost-efficient way to get high mpg. The question is, will enough consumers be willing to take the hit to make a significant impact on the market.

Remember too that if it looks like ethanol sales will take off, more refineries will be built, resulting in more supply, helping to reduce prices.


If GM took their Saab technology and applied it to other engines they would be able to run them with the same fuel efficiency and output more power when using ethanol. It's very high octane so the engine needs to be re-configured to take advantage of that and operate more efficiently. That may require a turbo since E85 can use higher boost.


The best strategy is to consume less, period. If lower fuel mileage is taken into account, then the well to wheel numbers for ghg emissions need to be adjusted. We also need to keep in mind that ethanol is subsidized, so the real total cost differential is even greater than above.


Remember that the USDA claims a 1.34:1 EROEI for corn ethanol, meaning that each BTU at the pump was made with .74 BTU of fossil fuel upstream; if you can achieve the 1.67:1 which is supposed to be the state of the art, that only falls to .60 BTU.  The net benefit of E85 from corn is VERY small.

Flex-fuel credits should only be allowed to the extent that the ethanol production capacity exists to feed the new vehicles in addition to the existing fleet.  That will stop the funny business.


Why those GM doesn't recalll its experience with EV2? Solectria sunruise is another example. They (GM) want to solve energy dependance problem and don't change there core business - (ICE cars). If they let out people to see
benefits of driving EVs there will be many new companies
who will enter auto business and squize them out as making an EV is much simpler process in terms of nbr of parts and their superior quility.
There problem is that each day more people are aware of HOW they (GM and others)want America to be free of islamic oil. I for one don't want to buy this supposedly "american" car. That what is there problem.
People feel being cheated and will not buy there cars.
Word of mouth is spreading and GM better watch out.
Again, too sad that its Wagner and his surrounding officers who is responsible for this failure and ordinary ppl will loose jobs, while execs in the worst case will bail out in golden shute.


Not to mention that farms emit the lion's share of water pollution, so add that to the farm subsidies and energy inputs (with carbon emissions) required to make ethanol. When it can be economically made from plant waste like stalks and leaves, then ethanol will be a winner.

[q->t to email]


Alex. I had a little problem following your comment but if the gist is that EV is the way to go, I agree. According to a study done by the State of California, EV has the lowest GHG emissions even if you use coal. That is to say, it beats out even Ethanol as far as net emissions.

Of course, one has to sacrifice performance, but that's part of the problem we have in America, isn't it. As long as performce is king, we won't be able to make much of a dent in the oil or GHG problem.


t: why does one need to sacrifice performance in an EV? The GM EV1 went from zero to sixty in something like 8 seconds, and strong low-end torque (flat torque curve) makes EVs as strong as ICEs in competitive drag racing.

[q->t to email]


So now the goal is not only to reduce dependence on oil, but also to save money? And we want it all in the short term? What about the life expectancy of the batteries in EVs - I guess it's not expensive to replace those? Ethanol is a decent, renewable fuel which is available and implemented *right now* and costs roughly the same as non-renewable gasoline. Ethanol is an excelent candidate for a transitional alternative fuel until other, more efficient fuls are developed - or until the Ethanol industry is better developed so costs can go down & manufacturers start geting better efficiency out of Ethanol engines. I remember a time in the not-so-distant past when I would've been overjoyed to find a gasoline-powered automobile which could get a consistent 19 MPG...




I grew up on a farm and I have a bachelor's degree in chemistry.

The farmer in me says: Growing corn uses a lot of energy. (Fuel for the tractors)

The chemist in me says: The highest concentration of ethanol that can be made naturally is about 12-13%. The distillation process to take 12-13% ethanol to high purity fuel-grade ethanol requires a high input of energy. (Think of the high cost of Everclear. Everclear is high purity ethanol.)

Making fuel-grade ethanol requires more energy that the ethanol can put out. This is never going to be a sustainable process. MORE ENERGY IS USED IN THE PROCESS OF MAKING FUEL-GRADE ETHANOL THAN THE FUEL WILL EVER HAVE. People might use ethanol to fuel their vehicles and it might make them feel like they're doing something good for the environment and the dependence of foreign oil, but the production of ethanol as a fuel is an energetically wasteful process. I have no idea how this idea is getting so much attention as an alternative to foreign oil.

The only sources of energy that are truely "green" that are known today are those that harness natural occurances: solar power, wind power, water power, etc.


This is bullshit. You guys this is simply economical from the standpoint that the Midwest all by itself could produce enough ethanol to supply the whole world! How much more money and disasters from drilling, shipping, and pumping of crude oil will it take to say enough is enough. Before this country realizes that we dont have any oil, unless we want to destroy Alaska. Maybe its the tree hugger in me saying that oil spill clean ups are costly, dangerous, and stupid.

Ultimately this live green go yellow campaign creates jobs in our country! Damn the fuel efficiency, put a bigger gas tank in the new product line. Other countries that dont have the money to easily pull of the best new thing to the environment, The United States of America, the world, and each other will be kicking themselves in the end.

By turning this alternative fuel source into a needed commodity all around the world would put this country right back in the driver seat. Supply and demand are met by means of the product life cycle. When the supply is low and the demand is high, prices soar! And vice a versa right?

By making ethanol readily available to all consumers in the states and around the world will drop prices to an all time low because the new processes will revolutionize the industry. Like Henry Ford's assembly line, we need to be thinking more positively.

The best thing this country can do for itself is to recycle as much as possible with what we have already before us. Cars that run on batteries should be used in conjunction with these other sources as we convert our current vehicles through entrepreneurs believing in their newly found products. Ultimately, this will make us self sufficient through exporting and using more goods (General Motors), and commodities (corn) than we are importing from other countries.

To summarize we need to find ways to use the cars we have and convert them to using alternative fuel sources like ethanol, cooking oil, batteries, nuclear, and solar energy by creating jobs here and over seas. Education in the new components will be vital in achieving economic prosperity. Converting gas pumps, cars on the road today, service stations, dealerships, parts stores, and vehicle manufacturers is the only way to overcome changing times and needs.


There are more than a few states that do not even have E-85 fuel stations. The real problem with alternative fuels is the lack of infrastructure to support them. Consumer demand is there; it's the infrastructure that is lagging.

While considering my own options for AFVs I noticed that some states include incentives for them as well - like sales tax free. But for me, in NY, the only E-85 pumps are for governement and not open to the public.
This address http://e85vehicles.com/e85-stations.htm shows how many states lack pumps.

GMs efforts are laudable but meaningless unless some form of incentive is made to fuel station operators to install the pumps; and it's a tricky deal because they won't want to until they percieve 'consumer demand' which can't exist until the infrastructure is in place, which won't happen till there is consumer demand...


How does this compare to biodiesel?


Ethanol is a biofuel substitute for gasoline. Biodiesel is a biofuel substitute for diesel.


Why do we have to go all the way to 85% ethanol? Currently 10% is being added to Unleaded and there is certainly less mileage and efficiency loss at that rate--it fact it raises the octane of gasoline.
Why not make it a 50/50 blend?


Why do we have to go all the way to 85% ethanol? Currently 10% is being added to Unleaded and there is certainly less mileage and efficiency loss at that rate--it fact it raises the octane of gasoline.
Why not make it a 50/50 blend?


Doesn't hemp make better quality Ethenol and better for soil in a rotating crop agricultural plan?


if we use corn oil does that mean that we can get gass at the stores ans still use th oil for our food?


I agree with Kara. One thing we have to remember is the compotition with petrolium. Oil companies recorded $11 trillion in profits last year(CNN). If Ethenol from corn could turn that much profit we could really give those greese monkeies a run for their money. Same with bio-desiel. Hopefully with advances in the technology involved we could see that happen in our life time.


Here's a bit of information to all you tree huggers out there who think that ethanol will be the answer to all the evils of the petroleum industry: I have worked in both an ethanol plant and in an oil refinery - there is very little difference in the environmental impacts of these two processes. The one big difference, however, is that an ethanol plant makes the air in miles and miles of the surrounding area stink like a corn liquor still, which is what an ethanol plant acutally is. Sure, you don't get the potential for transportation accidents associtated with the oil industry, so I guess that as long as the stink and the hazards aren't in your own backyard, then ethanol is a good alternative fuel for you. If you hypocrites are really that concerned with environmental pollution and "ozone depletion", stop using your cars and walk.


I thought it might come to this one year. Studebaker built cars that made 32 MPG in 1948. Why not build engines with there technology.


Subject: E85, E95 and Ethanol Production & Use

I've enjoyed your E85 post immensely. There are a number of ethanol plant is the US which manufacture ethanol with “legacy” technology & processes. However, the level of efficiency used today in new plant is vastly more efficient. Our firm is building one of these new plants today. We are “NOT” using fossil fuel to power our plant. Instead, we’re using biomass for our thermal feedstock. Biomass thermal feedstock has a dramatic impact on all aspects of our plant; and this energy balance ratio (0.74:1) that’s been discussed could be null. As our feedstock is renewable, does that number matter? And if so, as a plant developer, what is the optimum energy delta?

There may be 200 ethanol plants in operation by 2008 (or more). There will be a mix of technologies and processes in play; with more on the way. We will be using a full range of feedstock’s that “do” make sense within 10-15 years; even if corn doesn’t today.

Try to think of the ethanol industry the way the oil & gas industry evolved from 1895 to 2006. The ethanol industry is at about 1910 the 1915 by comparison. We will find our way – the same way we found our path to the moon. Remember folks – this is America. When we set our best minds to it we can’t be stopped – so hang in there and give the industry the support it needs to mature. With corn, hull-less barley, oats, wheat and later, biomass feedstock’s for ethanol production (and thermal feedstock’s) we can shift from 100% oil-based fuels to 100% domestically produced fuels. But we do need your support to do that……

I short comment about E85 cars: the Saab 9-2 is a bi-fuel vehicle. With gasoline its low-pressure turbo engine produces and 140-150 Hp. However, with E85, the same car produces 185 – 190 Hp. This is due to the higher octane rating of ethanol; over gasoline; AND, the Saab’s EMS (engine management system) adjusting the turbo pressure (higher) for ethanol. Hence, the lower BTU rating of ethanol v/s gasoline is offset by the EMS increasing power out-put. The question is: “is Ford & GM using this technology in their cars & trucks?”

In closing, this is an industry the will not be out-sources to China or some other country. This industry will create jobs, industry and support for local farm products.

CEO for a current ethanol plant in the US


can't MOST vehicles run on E85 or any ethanol product anyway? GM's vehicles are not that different right?

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