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Frequently Asked Questions
Why not switch to electric cars?

Advances in battery storage technology have been disappointingly slow. The recharging times are long and there is no infrastructure of “charging stations” to provide the service. The cost of building these stations would be enormous. Finally, the environmental impact of producing and disposing of batteries is substantial.

Why not switch to hydrogen powered cars?

This technology has been and remains promising however, it is not ready for deployment on any significant scale. There are three major hurdles facing the successful deployment of hydrogen as a transportation fuel:

Hydrogen does not exist freely in large enough quantity and so must be produced from the electrolysis of water. This process, being less than 30% efficient requires prohibitive amounts of electricity from coal or nuclear power to produce the fuel.

Hydrogen must be stored either as a cryogenic liquid or a compressed gas at 2000psi. Both of these storage conditions are not likely to offer acceptable safety in the public’s view.

Like electric cars, the infrastructure required to refuel hydrogen powered vehicles would take many years to build out and cost a great deal of money.

Why not just improve gas mileage and conserve gasoline?

Conserving the existing supply of fossil fuels is critical and will provide additional time for us to move beyond them. Although the importance of conservation cannot be overstated, we must remember that fossil fuels are not sustainable and we will run out of them at some point. Automobiles in the USA use 140 billion gallons of gasoline annually. 60% of this is produced from imported crude oil. To eliminate oil imports, then, we would need to improve vehicle mileage by 60 %. This is a feasible goal, but still leaves 56 billion gallons annually of domestic fossil fuel being consumed. 56 billion gallons of gasoline made from biomass is also feasible. So, both conservation and a biomass revolution will be required to eliminate fossil based transportation fuels.

Does it take more energy to make ethanol than the fuel itself produces?

No. Ethanol made from corn yields 20 to 50 percent more energy than it takes to produce. The energy balance for cellulosic ethanol is far better delivering up to 600 percent more energy.

Is it expensive to convert a car to run on ethanol?

No it is not expensive. The average cost premium to produce a new flex fuel engine for a new car is $100. This can range up to $500 depending on the engine type. The conversion of an existing engine requires an exhaust system oxygen sensor and a new engine control computer.

Do cars that run on ethanol get lower mileage per gallon?

A gallon of ethanol contains 25% less fuel energy than a gallon of gasoline. Therefore in the same car, ethanol would get 25% less mileage. However, engines designed for ethanol take advantage of its higher octane and are able to nearly match the miles per gallon of gasoline through higher efficiency..

Will this damage my engine?

All engines produced over the past 30 years are compatible with ethanol and gasoline as fuels.

Isn’t ethanol production subsidized by the government?

The United States Government views the production of fuel ethanol as a strategic response to the security dilemma posed by the importation of transportation fuels. Government subsidization has been used as a way to seed this new, strategically important industry. Public acceptance of the ethanol industry has been cyclical over the past two decades as the price of crude oil has varied from $18 per barrel to $147 per barrel. The fact remains that ethanol has been beneficial to the energy security of a number of countries, particularly Brazil, and subsidies are expected to wane as the industry becomes self supporting. More recently, the environmental advantages of using ethanol as fuel have renewed the commitment to this domestic, renewable source of fuel.

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