Other sources of Ethanol

Universities and businesses in Michigan are preparing for a future that will be powered by plants, and not petroleum. Bruce Dale is adding his voice to the many more that are calling for more ethanol and less petroleum for trucks, cars, and SUVs.

But while the current focus for ethanol vehicles tends to be corn based fuels, Bruce sees a solution with many other plants as well.

Dale is a Michigan State University professor who is conducting research for turning other plant materials into fuel. He was also one of the presenters at the US BioEnergy Corporation corn ethanol plant in Woodbury that was focused on alternative fuel.

According to Dale, the age of oil is ending. Dale is a professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University. He wonders what we can do about our dependence on foreign oil.

Fossil-based petroleum fuel products account for 97 percent of the fuel needed for cars and trucks, Dale said.

According to Dale, America literally stops without oil.

Dale sees a resolution for the trouble. Switching from oil based products such as petrol and diesel to ethanol would cut the need for oil, produce less hydrocarbon emissions and might have the United States less reliant on oil-rich areas such as the Middle East.

But maize only won’t offer that vitality, Dale said.

Dale has worked for over 30 years to discover more cost effective ways to develop ethanol made from other new substances – commonly known as cellulosic ethanol. Sources for that sort of fuel can include rice husks, wheat straw and saw debris – things that had been considered waste.

A few years ago, it cost as more as $1.40 a gallon to develop cellulosic ethanol. But improvements in engineering could take the cost downward to about 60 cents a gallon in another 15 to 20 years.

According to Dale, ethanol could be sold for between $1.50 to $1.70 a gallon at the pump.

The Minnesota based US BioEnergy plans to increase its capacity from 300 million gallons to 1 billion gallons a year by the year 2009.

US BioEnergy has four ethanol plants and is currently building three more, says Kim Mitchell, the vice president of engineering for US BioEnergy.

e85 gains strength as gas prices soar

Most consumers will know E85 is a blend of gas and ethanol. It consists of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol, hence the name, e85. Today, most of the ethanol used in the United States is produced by America’s corn farmers. How many automobiles on the roads can use E85? Perhaps the number is more than you may think.

Eric Escudero a spokesperson of Colorado’s AAA, “6 million vehicles on the road are flex fuel vehicles. Especially General Motors and Ford manufactured vehicles.” GM estimates that they have approximately 2 million flex fuel vehicles driving on U.S. roads and there are another 4 million flex fuel cars on the roads by other manufacturers.

“All you have to do is check on the gas cap on the owners manual, you might have the option of using E85,” Escudero proclaims. Ethanol has less energy than pure gasoline. Because of this, there is about a 10-15 percent drop in fuel economy of the vehicle. AAA says that the percentage may be even higher. “It’s about 30 percent less efficient, so you’re not getting as good gas mileage.” If the price of ethanol is lower it absolutely makes sense.

The American ethanol industry is expected to produce about 6 billion gallons of E85 fuel, this year. Currently, American consumers use almost 390 million gallons every single day. Ethanol, however, is still just a small drop in the barrel of oil. As gas prices go through the ceiling and more ethanol is produced, it has the chance to become more popular.

Follow this link for this year’s list of flex-fuel cars