‘Alternatives’ missing mark

Boosters for the “alternative fuels” industry, which could not exist without hefty government subsidies and requirements for use of its products, make grandiose claims. This week the Environmental Protection Agency was forced to admit some of the predictions were off by a factor of 1,000.

Deluded by propaganda over the promise of cellulosic biofuels made from non-food plants, Congress in 2007 approved a mandate requiring gasoline manufacturers to use certain quantities of them every year. Then-President George W. Bush, apparently also sold on the idea, signed the measure into law.

Authors of that law envisioned that by 2013, a billion gallons of ethanol from cellulosic sources would be produced.

EPA enforcers of the mandate initially expected production would fall short, at only 14 million gallons. Then they dropped to six million as a basis for the quantity refiners would have to prove they used last year.

Actual production was 810,185 ethanol-equivalent gallons – less than 0.1 percent of what had been predicted in 2007. The EPA is adjusting its requirement.

But for this year, refiners will have to blend 17 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol into their gasoline, the EPA adds. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. It would require 20 times as much production as occurred last year.

The cellulosic ethanol fiasco is just one in a long list of what amounts to broken promises about alternative fuels. When will lawmakers and presidents learn? Ever?