When you learn that your favorite cause is about to be given a treatment by 60 Minutes you immediately wonder if you should order catering for a wedding - or a wake. After all, "ethanol" has generated a considerable amount of heat over the years. What America needs right now is more light regarding energy issues.
Looks like we'll need extra champagne bottles, the wedding is on. You can access the written transcript of The Ethanol Solution online.
The 60 Minutes broadcast was simple and educational. By highlighting Brazil's success, it provided the best evidence that a significant energy paradigm shift is possible in America. It explained that ethanol is being blended in gasoline and described what E85 is (85% ethanol mixed with 15% gasoline). It showed the personal story of the farming communities who invest their savings to provide employment and have a stake in what many farmers feel is the salvation of their way of life. It showed the ease with which American automobiles can be converted into flex fuel versions that can run on any mixture of gasoline and ethanol. It interviewed General Motors' head Rick Wagoner and reinforced General Motors' Live Green/Go Yellow commitment to aggressively expand the number of the nation's more than 5 million flex-fuel cars.
The only harsh light was cast on the oil industry whose representative, Red Caveney of the American Petroleum Institute, exaggerated the cost of building infrastructure to support E85 ($200,000 per gas station pump). In counterpoint, energy expert Professor Daniel M. Kammen of U.C. Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) contended that switching over to an ethanol infrastructure was far cheaper than Caveney said ($30-$40,000 per pump) and could take a matter of years, not decades.
There were angles that could have been covered.
- If flex-fuel cars don't cost any more than gasoline-only cars, why not legislate that all new cars, including hybrids, be flex-fuel compatible? Brazil did. As the American Petroleum Institute head, Red Cavaney, said "the market is exceptionally limited" because currently only 5 million of the country's 133 million cars can use E85.
- While it did mention the technological prospect of creating ethanol from agricultural waste, switchgrass, and woodchips, it did not give treatment to the emerging technology of converting urban waste to ethanol.
- The story did not mention that the IRS has just published the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit, a tax credit of $30,000 for stations installing ethanol pumps. That was announced last week.
- It could have highlighted the environmental benefits of ethanol compared to gasoline.
Overall, it was a very positive story on ethanol and should help legislators and lobbyists to press their legislative initiatives. The tag line, quoted from farmer Larry Meints, said it best:
"It's a win-win thing for the nation, and for our local economy here to create jobs locally, rather than sending the money overseas, and sometimes to people that really don’t like us very well."
technorati 60 Minutes, Brazil, RAEL, ethanol,, cellulosic