Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Investors Daily: Pull the Plug on Ethanol

Investors Business Daily posted an editorial this week, Just Plain Fuelish, that just plain gets it. A smorgasbord of research alternatives and subsidized if politically profitable good intentions just won't cut it anymore. IBD is ready to choose. And they choose electricity, not ethanol. The State of the Union may have seen Sen. Grassley dancing in the aisles, but Investors rains on the ethanol parade.
By now, credible economists and scientists have debunked the myth that ethanol can play anything more than a small supporting role in the energy-security mission. Ethanol has less power per gallon than gasoline. It can be produced profitably only with fat subsidies. Making it from corn (the only current source in this country) consumes so much other resources that the net energy savings are, by some accounts, nonexistent.
But IBD believes that the political juice of ethanol is distorting policy decisions.
There is a well-organized and influential ethanol lobby in this country, led by corn farmers, food processors such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and politicians such as Grassley.
Advocacy for plug-in cars is much less organized and underfunded. The utilities need to step up, declare the benefits of electricity in cars, and promote its product. And lobby as fearlessly as do Big Oil and Big Corn.

Hat tip to Felix Kramer of CalCars

Detroit Faces Skeptical Washington; Bush Long on Rhetoric

The Detroit News story today, Big 3's call for U.S. aid gets cool reception, outlines the predicament faced by automakers and Washington. Many lawmakers are pressuring for action on fuel efficiency. The automakers came begging for research dollars and restraint on CAFE standards. As Michigan Democrats line up with the most Republicans to protect the Big 3 on CAFE standards, Bush has already disappointed Detroit on the money front:
GM, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG were disappointed their request for $500 million in federal funds over five years for research into advanced batteries was not mentioned during the State of the Union. It is not likely to be part of the president's budget request set to be unveiled Monday.
It seems the president, for all his plug-in promotion, isn't allocating dollars commensurate with his rhetoric. Energy Washington Week reports PHEVs getting short shrift:
Although increased attention is being paid to the technology, it is not sure how much support the president will lend PHEV in the 2008 budget. The White House says hybrid funding will be higher than last year's budget request but would not elaborate. Hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicle R&D still comprise the lion's share of the current 2006 budget, an allocation that critics said was to the detriment of other vehicle programs, including advanced battery development. The earmarks attached to the hydrogen initiative, alone, were enough to place other DOE programs in jeopardy, these critics warned.
Energy Department grants -- to the tune of about $44 million -- funded just over half of Ford's plug-in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle unveiled last week in Washington.
A Tesla Roadster for every member of Congress would have been a better use of the money.