The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Cox hosts forum on America’s need for energy diversity

Ethanol is not the silver bullet in reducing the nation’s energy dependence on foreign oil.

It is, however, one of many a tool in that fight.

That was the message from Robert Babik, director of vehicle emissions issues at General Motors. Babik and other GM representatives spoke to a divided SMU audience at an Energy Diversity Forum on Aug. 7. The Cox School of Business cosponsored the forum.

Dallas was one of seven cities included in GM’s E85 Days of Summer tour that will continue through September. GM has already toured Austin, Houston and San Antonio to promote the benefits of E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, as an alternative to traditional gasoline.

“When you ask people to make a change, you need to educate them about the other alternatives,” Babik said. “This is the goal of the tour…Ethanol has great potential and that’s why we are so excited about it.”

GM’s tour in Dallas continued the following day at a Kroger fuel station, located at 7505 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Irving. There, E85 was sold at 85 cents a gallon for two hours.

In the midst of greater energy consciousness, GM argues that its E85 fuel can reduce oil consumption and the effects of auto engine emissions. The company also announced plans to increase its number of FlexFuel vehicles capable of running on gasoline and the E85 blend.

GM will produce 400,000 FlexFuel vehicles this year. The number is expected to double by 2010 and increase 50 percent by 2012. These vehicles come equipped with yellow gas caps, serving as a reminder that the vehicle can run on either fuel. A sensor in the vehicle detects the type of fuel being used and adjusts accordingly.

The amount of fuel displaced, Babik said, could yield billions nationwide. In Dallas alone, 764,268 barrels of oil could be saved annually if GM owners filled their tanks with only E85.

Babik also noted the findings of a U.S. Department of Energy study. According to the study, the world’s energy demands will increase 70 percent by 2030. North America is not alone in finding alternative energy sources to sustain the demand.

“Many people believe that finding alternative fuels is just a North American issue,” Babik said. “That’s not the case… There was a good case study done in Brazil where their ethanol is made from sugar cane. In India, research is being done on beans.”

In the United States, ethanol is primarily made from corn. Recent critics argue that higher corn prices are causing grocery bills to also increase. Babik used cereal as an example to argue that grocery bills are rising at the rate of inflation.

“The actual content of corn in a box of corn flakes is about 2 cents,” he said. “During the time when corn went from $2 a bushel to $4, that meant the price of corn in the cereal rose from 2 cents to 4 cents…It’s a small increase.”

He encouraged others not to overlook the benefits of E85.

“I can’t emphasize enough that E85 is a renewable, domestic fuel,” Babik said, while adding that the fuel also reduces greenhouse emissions, lessens the dependence on foreign oil and has a 100 octane rating to increase horsepower.

There are currently 1,200 out of 170,000 refueling stations nationwide that offer E85. GM has announced partnerships with 13 states and the District of Columbia to add 250 additional pumps.

“We’re making progress,” Babik said. “We’ve had a hundred years to refine and perfect gasoline and petroleum. With bulk ethanol, we are just starting to go that learning process.”

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