Is ethanol the solution to our oil dependency woes? The Bush administation seems to think so, but Consumer Reports isn’t so sure. In a recent article on flex-fuel vehicles that run on E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline), CR reported that the fuel economy of their test vehicle (a flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe) dropped by 27%, from a paltry 14 mpg to an even worse 10 mpg, when running on E85 as compared to gas.
When the study was conducted back in August, gas was going for $2.91/gallon. So… After adjusting for the difference in fuel economy, you would’ve ended up paying the equivalent of $3.99/gallon for E85. And that’s only if you can find it… While E85 is common in corn country (the Upper Midwest) it’s a lot harder to find elsewhere. On the upside, there was no change in vehicle performance when running on E85, and E85 burns much cleaner than straight gas, so it produces many fewer smog-causing pollutants.
Perhaps the biggest problem right now is that the production of flex-fuel vehicles is setting the stage for a net increase of gasoline consumption. The reason for this is that automakers get fuel-economy credits for every flex-fuel vehicle that they build. Thus, even if these vehicles never run on E85, the automakers get to pump out even more gas-guzzling SUVs just for having produced them. How’s that for reducing our dependency on foreign oil?