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Lamberty Report: "The Worst Business Decision, Ever"
by Ron Lamberty

A hundred years ago, someone walked into Henry Ford’s office and said, “Hey, Hank – I know you’re planning to run that motorcar of yours on alcohol, but whaddya say we give oil a shot? There’s a bunch of the stuff in Pennsylvania, it’s really cheap, and the cars run good on it.” Thus was the birth of “mobile source pollution” and the United States’ worst, most unbreakable addiction.

Perhaps no other decision has cost the U.S. auto industry more than that one . As more and more cars built by Henry’s company and others hit the roads, people saw clouds of stuff spewing from the back end of them – stuff that it made the air stinky and hard to breathe. That resulted in the auto industry investing billions – maybe trillions – over the years to make sure its cars cleaned up the mess made by their choice of dirty fuel.

And while the auto industry paid and paid, the oil industry raked in the profits and was quick to point out how cleanly their fuel burned in these updated automobiles. Not through any efforts of their own, of course – Big Oil has always patted itself on the back, taking credit for the time and money spent by automakers to solve oil’s problems.

Not that the oil industry hasn’t changed… although it seems to take an act of Congress to get them to do anything. Actually, it has – literally – taken several acts of Congress to get the oil industry to make cleaner-burning fuels. Taking lead out of gasoline, removing sulfur, making reformulated gasoline, and adding more ethanol only happened after laws were passed to force oil companies to make those changes.

Through it all, the car companies have stood by Big Oil like a trouble-making little brother, apologizing and paying the bill for the oil bender that emptied the nation’s bank account and trashed our environmental hotel room. Fortunately, there are signs that they’re ready to dump the petroleum dead weight and move on. Automakers are building higher mileage vehicles, more hybrids, more electric cars, the new extended range vehicles, and an increasing number of vehicles that run on an increasing amount of biofuels.

Naturally, we would like the car companies to “throw the oil bum out” sooner by helping us get E15 and E20 approved for the existing fleet, and perhaps we’ve been tougher on them than they’ve deserved. I hope they understand it’s just “tough love.”

And you have to wonder where ethanol might be if Henry had just stuck to his original plan, and where the nation would be with a century of “petrodollars” back in our pockets.

© American Coalition for Ethanol, all rights reserved.
The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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