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Why Wal-Mart wants to sell ethanol
Marc Gunther, Fortune
E85 is available at only a tiny fraction of gas stations. But Fortune's Marc Gunther says the giant retailer is poised to change that
...But Wal-Mart is. The giant retailer is considering selling ethanol at the eight stations that it operates at Wal-Mart Stores and at about 380 more that it runs as part of its Sam's Clubs division.
It could also decide to sell ethanol in a partnership with Murphy Oil Corp., which operates about 946 gas stations in Wal-Mart parking lots, and there's no reason why Wal-Mart couldn't sell E85 - which it calls "America's Fuel" - at the rest of its 3,000 U.S. stores.
"Our goal would be to make E-85 available across the U.S.," Rich Ezell, senior strategy manager of fuel at Wal-Mart, said recently.
Why does Wal-Mart want to get into the transportation fuel business?
Several reasons. First, selling ethanol could be a new profit center for Wal-Mart, since the retailing business is wide-open. It's also a way for the company to help its customers save money; the less money they pour into the tank, the more they have to spend at Wal-Mart.
Finally, Wal-Mart's interest in alternative fuels like ethanol comes as part of its sweeping efforts to adopt business practices that are better for the environment
(9 Aug 2006)
Imagining the Future of Gasoline: Reality or Blue-sky Dreaming?
Vinod Khosla, The Oil Drum
...I do not focus on peak oil as much but that does not mean I don't recognize it as a potential problem. I do think we will probably (nothing is certain) run out of air to put the oil emissions into before we run out of oil. I am personally not excited about coal to liquids technology because of its greenhouse gas implications which I consider a bigger issue than the peak oil issue. But given I see no easy solutions to the stationary power from coal problem (especially in India and China, I am very interested in clean coal technologies for stationary power.
But the reason to support ethanol in public policy debates for me is the feeling that I can really make a visible difference and it will lead to more than a marginal change. But the real answer is my belief that it has the lowest risk strategy to impact peak oil, green house emissions, energy security and independence, while having huge collateral benefits like sustaining farm incomes, rural employment, and reducing worldwide poverty. Ethanol has the best TRAJECTORY! There are other options like coal to liquids and natural gas which are also reasonable options if one is not looking for a trajectory that leads to a 100% renewable source. Others, especially the oil companies are working on some of these.
It is all about the trajectory! The factors that matter are TRAJECTORY, TRAJECTORY, & TRAJECTORY.
...Failure to look at these possibilities is a failure of imagination. We need to thread the needle between the "what is... and let's extrapolate today's corn ethanol production" tunnel vision crowd (generally done with an agenda - The American Petroleum Institute is concerned enough about world food supply and our welfare to have issued press releases on it!) and the "pie-in-the-sky academics who will dream up "what can be" without consideration for the path dependence of the choices we make and the pragmatics of how business works and what is needed to make a revolutionary future happen through a series of evolutionary steps. We should take our lesson from nature - from single celled amoeba to complex humans was an evolutionary process. It is the only way we can get billions of dollars deployed to make this alternative future happen.
(9 Aug 2006)
TOD editor Prof. Goose introduces this piece, saying, "Mr. Khosla is to be commended for presenting his ideas to what I expect will be a relatively hostile audience."
Let me second the motion. Agree or disagree with Vinod Khosla's thesis, one has to respect his commitment and willingness to engage the most important issues of the day. -BA
Environmentalists Burn Ethanol Hype as Empty Promise
Michelle Chen, The New Standard
The Bush administration's give-away to ethanol producers leaves critics saying the "green" gasoline creates a host of additional environmental and political problems.
Prompted by climbing gas prices and mandates to promote alternative fuels, Washington is pouring public money into ethanol production. But watchdogs and environmentalists fear that corporate and political agendas are eclipsing environmental concerns in a headlong rush for "green" energy.
(9 Aug 2006)
DOE To Invest $250 Million In New Bioenergy Centers
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced today that DOE will spend $250 million to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers to accelerate basic research on the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels.
The Secretary made the announcement with Congressman Jerry Weller (IL-11th), local officials and biofuels stakeholders during a visit to Channahon, IL.
"This is an important step toward our goal of replacing 30 percent of transportation fuels with biofuels by 2030," Secretary Bodman said. "The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) calls for the creation of new programs to improve the technology and reduce the cost of biofuels production. The mission of these centers is to accelerate research that leads to breakthroughs in basic science to make biofuels a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels."
Four billion gallons of ethanol were produced this year, mainly from corn. EPAct requires that by 2012, at least 7.5 billion gallons per year of renewable fuel be blended into the nation's fuel supply. To meet these goals, future biofuels production will require the use of more diverse feedstocks including cellulosic material such as agricultural residues, grasses and other inedible plants.
(8 Aug 2006)