Flex-Fuel Cars and the Future of Ethanol

VW Fox.jpg

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an interesting story about the reliance of Brazilians on ethanol, an extremely cheap, food-based fuel, to run their cars. "Flex-fuel" cars—cars that run on either gasoline or ethanol—like the Volkswagen Fox, are becoming increasingly popular in Brazil. Now, we're all for just about any technology that decreases reliance on petroleum, but the article neglected to address the unfriendly properties of this cheap fuel, or the efforts of companies like Iogen to clean it up About 10% of gasoline sold in the U.S. is a blend of up to 10% ethanol, an alcohol that's made by distilling corn, wheat, and—in Brazil--sugar. Critics of ethanol point out that we're using up valuable human foodstuffs every time we make ethanol. (OK, most of us could stand to eat less sugar. But still.) But another problem is that the straw and stalks left behind after the distilling process get burned by farmers. And if you've ever smelled a sugar cane field being burned after harvest--it stinks to high hell—then you don't need any scientist telling you that that's bad news.

Enter EcoEthanol, Canadian corporation Iogen's answer to the filthiness of ethanol. EcoEthanol is cellulose ethanol, essentially made from the leftover stalks and straws that were formerly being uselessly burned. Now, instead of using food for fuel, we're using food byproducts for fuel. Now that makes sense.

Even better yet, according to the nice modernists at Dwell Magazine, the factories making EcoEthanol are using plant-byproduct fuel instead of fossil fuel. And get this—EcoEthonal can be used in most cars. Look for it in the near future; Iogen has recently teamed up with Shell and Petro-Canada to distribute the juice worldwide. ::Iogen