Is ethanol the answer?

Grow corn for food or fuel?

Grow corn for food or fuel?


Oil prices are in a free fall right now.

While it’s a refreshing change at the fuel pump, it’s not a free pass to forget about alternate fuel sources. Hydrogen, natural gas and ethanol (in its many forms) are top contenders right now.

We’ve all heard about the much hyped Honda GX and FCX Clarity, the company’s dip into natural gas and hydrogen-powered vehicles. What’s a little less known is their work on ethanol-powered vehicles.

In 2006, Honda announced that they’d be releasing vehicles in Brazil able to run on either gasoline or a 100% bioethanol, derived from sugar cane.

Ethanol as a fuel source is nothing new. For a number of years now, Ford has offered vehicles with a cute little leaf icon on the front fender, symbolizing that the vehicle can run on E85, a corn-based ethanol fuel. There’s been a pretty heavy PR push behind that leaf, but it seems a pitiful attempt at claiming to be at the forefront of the alternative fuel race.

The controversy with E85 is that it means growing corn for fuel rather than food, resulting in soaring prices. Plus, E85 delivers fuel economy that’s about 30% less than gasoline. (Honda’s ethanol vehicles deliver equal MPG to gas.)

Compare with Honda, who has stepped up and brought hydrogen, natural gas, hybrid and bioethanol to the table. The U.S. automakers have given us: corn.

It’s tragic, really. I’d like to see ethanol as a fuel source abandoned, and focus our collective resources on more promising long term solutions, such as hydrogen and electricity.

Have you driven an E85 vehicle? What do you think?



  1. Most of the alternatives to gasoline have problems. Hydrogen has to be made (usually using electricity and water) that is likely to take as much energy as you’re going to get out of the hydrogen at best. Also electricity generation is usually only 50% efficient at best (in coal fired stations) and produces carbon dioxide. And you’ve got to distribute it. Ethanol also has problems of distribution, but at least its a liquid at normal temperatures. Far better to build much more efficient engines and vehicles…. but that’s too dull.

  2. Only a moron would suggest making ethanol out of corn.
    That is like making a single toothpick out of a redwood.

  3. I could not agree more. E85 is such a stupid alternative. How much fuel is used to produce an acre of corn? All in all a dumb idea.

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