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Houston Sustainability

Cris Eugster, Chief Officer for Sustainability for the City of Houston Mayor's Office visits with Leo to talk about his job transforming one of America's most unsustainable cities.

READ: Leo's editorial Lipstick on a Pig

LISTEN: New Capital Show (July 26, 2007)

Posted on Jul 27 by Registered CommenterLEO GOLD | Comments2 Comments

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Reader Comments (2)

Must be tough to transform one of America's most unsustainable cities
Aug 2 | Unregistered CommenterRob Fruth
Ethanol is nothing more than a straw man, a distraction from the search for a true alternative fuel to gasoline. It would not only be prohibitively expensive to switch to ethanol, it is also completely unnecessary.

Ethanol is a very corrosive substance, so corrosive in fact, an entirely new fuel transport infrastructure would have to be built. This in itself would consume (though I personally would say waste) a tremendous amount of resources, time and money. As a matter of fact, with this kind of commitment it would need to be a reliable fuel that would be used for the life of the infrastructure built or the infrastructure itself would need to be usable for the up and coming fuel, otherwise, what would be the point?

Ethanol tends to absorb impurities from metals and is also water soluble which would either degrade the fuel or outright ruin it.

Ethanol’s advantage is speed (horsepower) over distance (miles per gallon), but there is a catch to this advantage: ethanol has a high octane rating. If the engine is not modified for the higher octane it can still use the fuel but without the higher horsepower but not matter what it will not receive better gas mileage. So if you try to replace gasoline with ethanol you must add an extra half gallon to every gallon of gasoline replaced.

Making ethanol from sugar cane will only increase the overall energy content around 7% verses corn. Moreover it would add additional pressures to water shortages since sugar cane is a very thirsty crop. This means that it can only be grown in certain climates cheaply. In the end, domestically growing sugar cane as a feedstock to produce ethanol would create more problems than solve.

If you are truly serious about replacing gasoline, logically than, the “energy” content is the key. I do not know if you can equal gasoline’s “energy” content, but you can get close. Butanol’s energy content is closer to gasoline (around 80 to 90%), can be produced from certain prairie grasses without cellulostic technology, it’s horsepower to miles per gallon ratio is closer to gasoline, is not water soluble ( the water would not mix with the fuel at all and only sink to the bottom of the tank) and most important of all is that it is not as corrosive as ethanol meaning building a new fuel transport infrastructure is completely unnecessary (the current infrastructure will work fine). As a matter of fact you can use this fuel in an unmodified Internal Combustion Engine unlike Ethanol.

In my opinion, to much is being placed on the carbon content of a replacement fuel and not enough on how practical the replacement fuel really is. I find it interesting that the “fuel” being promoted (Ethanol) does not replace crude based gasoline but is actually an additive meant to stretch the supply only (to my knowledge pure Ethanol will not work) hence E-85 (85% Ethanol, 15% gasoline).

Samuel Davis

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