Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

June 29, 2006

Ford: Backs off Hybrids, Favors E85

Category: Companies,Economics,Policy,Save Fuel,Technology,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 11:45 pm

I am willing to cut Ford a lot of slack these days, and even my cynical view leads me to conclude that today’s announcement of scaling back of emphasis on hybrid vehicles in favor of multi-fuel vehicles that can run on E85 is a reasonable and appropriate action on their part.

E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) is far from the panacea President Bush would seem to think it is. But then again, neither are hybrids (which are more like 80% gasoline, 20% just being smarter). There’s no panacea, but building E85 capable vehicles is a reasonable step for a company like Ford to take at this moment in their history.

First and foremost, E85 is a relatively simple evolutionary change — engines can still run on gas, but can also use E85 or several other bio-fuels. This is not a huge technology leap for the cars (good, since Ford is in pretty dire financial straights these days, like GM). E85 requires only a modest infrastructure change — a different tank at the gas station — maybe the one they use for premium grade gas today. The big change, however, is on the supply side: E85 doesn’t grow on trees … it grows mostly on corn, and we have a lot of that.

But… we only have a lot of corn because we grow it with fertilizers produced using (you guessed it) fossil fuels. Is it a little? No, it’s a major share of the oil and gas we use. Read more in my other post today on how fertilizers are a major source of consumption of energy.

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