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Industry needs to keep ethanol in the fuel mix, GM exec says

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Industry needs to keep ethanol in the fuel mix, GM exec says


If you've sort of forgotten about ethanol as an alternative to gasoline, be assured General Motors Co. executive Tom Stephens hasn't.

Stephens, who was in Orlando, Fla., recently to speak at the National Ethanol Conference, is vice chairman of global product operations for the Detroit automaker. He knows as well as anybody that our gasoline supply won't last forever, and we're long past the point where we should be concentrating our efforts on weaning the U.S. from our dependence on oil.

This does not mean Stephens doesn't appreciate horsepower. He has a collection of American muscle cars, ranging from Chevrolet Corvettes to Pontiac Trans-Ams to Plymouth Road Runners, and he used to be a drag racer. So don't confuse him with ultra-green advocates who barely tolerate the internal combustion engine.

But, Stephens said, "we've got to do something."

He sees the solution, as do many in his business, as a lot of little solutions: Better mileage for current products, plus hybrids, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, biodiesel.

Stephens would like to see more emphasis on E85. The fuel is 85 percent ethanol - alcohol made mainly from corn - and 15 percent gasoline.

There are about 7.5 million cars and trucks on the road in the United States that are "flex fuel," meaning they can run on gasoline or E85, and GM has built about 4 million of them. But Stephens said 90 percent of the people who own those vehicles don't have an E85 pump within their ZIP codes.

There are just more than 2,000 E85 pumps in the United States available to consumers, and most of them are concentrated in the Midwest, where the vast majority of ethanol is produced. Stephens wants 10,000 more E85 pumps, ASAP.

He said it costs more to make a flex-fuel vehicle, and that GM is eating most of that price increase itself. But unless ethanol's prospects pick up, GM will eventually have to decide whether flex-fuel is a good investment.



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I am all for ethanol but they need a more efficent way to produce it. I am all for E85 also, and love the thought of a fuel we can grow here in the USA, only small problem is your at a net energy loss. I actually put a 10 percent ethanol blend in my cars because it is cheaper and is a higher octane rating 89 vs. 87. Having said that the only true reason I put it in my cars is I am subsidizing it anyways, and I might as well use the stuff. When ethanol can stand on its own two feet, finding a more efficent way to produce it, and also become cost effective with no government "help", I will be truly be happy. We just aren't there yet, but if I was getting a new vehicle and had the option of having it be E85 ready with the same motor, I'd take the option of being able to put E85 in it every day. Aside of that the final drawback to the E10 I burn is lower fuel economy, I get 29 mpg the LS on the highway and with regular 87 it jumps 10-15 percent. So is it worth the fuel extra nickels in savings at the pump?

Edited by gm4life

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