Whatever the source, burning ethanol instead of gasoline reduces carbon emissions by more than 80 percent while eliminating entirely the release of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide. Even the cautious Department of Energy predicts that ethanol could put a 30 percent dent in America’s gasoline consumption by 2030.
We may not have to wait that long. After decades of being merely an additive to gasoline, ethanol suddenly looks to be the stuff of a fuel revolution — and a pipe dream for futurists. An unlikely alliance of venture capitalists, Wall Streeters, automakers, environmentalists, farmers and politicians is doing more than just talk about ethanol’s potential. They’re putting real money into biorefineries, car engines that switch effortlessly between gasoline and biofuels, and R&D to churn out ethanol more cheaply.