Thursday, June 08, 2006
Even the CARTOONIST sees through Ethanomania
Amazing piece by the Detroit News Cartoonist [!]--who does a better job on the ins and outs of ethanomania than the rest of the paper.
Loophole fuels Detroit's ethanol fixation
The Detroit News
By Henry Payne
. . .
Ethanol is already one of Washington's most infamous boondoggles, costing U.S. taxpayers $4.1 billion a year in federal subsidies. The money is a political sop to the farm lobby.
But because of ethanol's mediocre mileage performance, the E85 blend is only in 600 of America's 180,000 filling stations nationwide and a small but growing handful in Michigan.
How does a fuel that is 25 percent less efficient than gasoline help increase fuel mileage ratings and help automakers avoid fines that run into the hundreds of millions of dollars? Welcome to the looking glass world of federal regulations. . . .
Running on gasoline, an SUV like the Chevy Tahoe achieves 20.1 mpg under CAFE's test. Put E85 in it instead and the fuel economy plummets to 14.6 mpg.
America's 100 mpg truck
But for the purposes of CAFE -- and here's where we fall down the rabbit hole, Alice -- the government starts massaging the numbers. It only counts the 15 percent of E85 that is gasoline in its fuel economy rating, increasing the vehicle's mileage figure a whopping seven-fold to
Only Washington, D.C. could actually produce an imaginary 97.3 mpg sport utility vehicle!
The government then takes that number, averages it with the 20.1 gasoline number, runs it through a special formula, and -- voila! -- arrives at the flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe's official CAFE mileage: a healthy 33 mpg. . . .
"If we want a game changer, then ethanol is a very good play for this country," Ford Chief Executive Bill Ford testified on Capitol Hill last month.
Ethanol's benefits evaporate
But a comprehensive study in Car & Driver magazine's July issue finds that ethanol's alleged advantages evaporate, leaving only its CAFE credit as a reason for production. . . . And ethanol consumes more fossil fuels to produce than it saves in use.
Despite a 51 cents-per-gallon tax break in the production of ethanol, plus a 5 cent-per-gallon exemption from the federal gas tax, ethanol still costs more at the pump than gasoline. As long as that remains the case, few service stations will continue installing pumps for a product that gives customers 25 percent less gas mileage.
So sure enough, Michigan U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, this week introduced another ethanol tax scam: Giving subsidies to install E85 pumps at service stations. . . .