Ethanol: the alternative energy source with a future?

By: Adam Clark
By: Adam Clark

We've seen a slight break in rising gas prices, but they're creeping up again.

AAA puts the Augusta average at $2.69, well below the national average of $2.93.

President Bush says one answer is decreasing the dependence on foreign oil...so today, in our News 12 Gas Gauge, meteorologist Adam Clark checks out one alternative.

There are several options out there, but some say ethanol is the alternative energy source with a future.

So what are the pros and cons?

It's called E-85, which means it's 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. There aren't many places that sell it here in the CSRA. That may change with time, but as Sprint Mart gas station owner Henry Colley says, we're not there yet.

"Ethanol costs more per gallon than gasoline," Colley says. "Two reasons is, there is very high demand, and there's very limited production."

Ethanol is made almost the same way as moonshine...from fermentation. Making moonshine is of course illegal...but making your own energy source is perfectly legal.

Countries like Brazil use ethanol made from sugar cane. The US can make it from our abundant crops of grain and corn. What's keeping us from going to ethanol is the lack of technology and infrastructure.

"It's definitely going to be probably our most available source of energy if we can get the infrastructure to get the production down right, and that will require some more basic research," says Thomas Crute, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at ASU.

Right now only flex fuel vehicles can take E-85. GM, Ford, and Daimler-Chrysler are producing more vehicles that can run on either pure gasoline or E-85.

How can you tell if your car can use E-85? Just pop open your gas cap and look on the inside, or you can look in your owner's manual.

So how does ethanol stack up against gasoline? You get better gas mileage from gas, but ethanol has a higher octane rating and burns cleaner. Gasoline is not as expensive to make. But ethanol emits less pollution and is a renewable fuel source.

It will take some time to make and ship ethanol more economically. To help speed up the process, the federal government is offering tax credits for producers and suppliers.

With more research and development, we could be using E-85 sooner than you think.


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