All Your Eggs in One Basket

Biofuels Digest reported this week that DoE Secretary Chu told attendees of an alternative energy conference, “If it were up to me, I would put every cent into electric cars.”

The following day, Biofuels Digest reported its own lifecycle analysis of E85 from corn and the Tesla electric car. According to the report, “cars running on E85 corn-based ethanol at the proposed new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will generate 30 percent lower CO2 emissions over an average car lifetime than a Tesla all-electric sports car using coal-fired power. E85 saves an average of 6 tons of CO2 emissions over the average life of a vehicle, when utilizing corn ethanol, and up to 36 tons of CO2 when running on cellulosic ethanol derived from waste biomass.”

Further, “The Digest also found that cars running on E85 corn-based ethanol at the proposed new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will generate 10 percent lower CO2 emissions over an average car lifetime than a Chevy Volt running solely on electric power. A Volt using a 50/50 mix of gasoline and electric power would generate 13 percent more CO2 than an E85 car running on corn ethanol.”

The comparisons are of course dependent on the opening assumptions, as are most analyses. And I doubt it will be helpful for industries that ostensibly aspire to reducing carbon emissions to begin tearing each other down. However, I would like to buy Sec. Chu a new t-shirt:

I Heart Electric Cars

I Heart Electric Cars

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One Response

  1. It’s not clear from the spread sheet whether the co2 emissions associated with ethanol production was taken to account as well as the electricity production cost.

    Coal is presently the largest source of electricity nationwide, this could be improved in the future, model states, like California already provide much cleaner electricity.

    I’m troubled by the use of food as a fuel, the increased use of food production land in the corn belt, already suffering a diminishing water supply may result in food shortages in the future, a more serious serious situation than high fuel prices. Future cellulose and waste based ethanol production looks like a more practicable approach.

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