DETROIT, Michigan (AFP) — General Motors Corp. is planning on making biofuel with garbage at a cost of less than a dollar a gallon, the company's chief has said.
The US automaker has entered into a partnership with Illinois-based Coskata Inc. which has developed a way to make ethanol from practically any renewable source, including old tires and plant waste.
The process is a significant improvement over corn-base ethanol because it uses far less water and energy and does not divert food into fuel.
"We are very excited about what this breakthrough will mean to the viability of biofuels and, more importantly, to our ability to reduce dependence on petroleum," said Rick Wagoner, GM's chief executive officer, on Sunday.
GM, which was late in introducing gas-electric hybrids, is the industry leader in flex-fuel vehicles that can run on gasoline blended with up to 85 percent ethanol.
It is currently producing more than a million flex-fuel vehicles a year globally and is committed to making half its production flex-fuel by 2012.
It is also introducing 16 new hybrid vehicles over the next four years, including a plug-in hybrid which can run on electricity alone, and will soon have the world's largest fuel-cell test fleet when it delivers more than 100 Chevy Equinox fuel cell vehicles to customers in the United States, Europe and Japan.
But while these may be the vehicles of the future, flex-fuel is the best "interim" solution as it will take 12 years to replace most of the vehicles currently on the road, Wagoner told reporters at the Detroit auto show.
"There is no question in my mind that making ethanol more widely available is absolutely the most effective and environmentally sound solution," Wagoner said. "And it's one that can be acted on immediately."
Coskata's first pilot plant will be up and running in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fuel will be used on GM test vehicles.
"We will have our first commercial-scale plant making 50 to 100 million gallons of ethanol running in 2011," said Coskata chief Bill Roe.
The prestigious Argonne National Laboratory analyzed Coskata's process and found it generates up to 7.7 times the amount of energy used and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 84 percent compared with a well-to-wheel analysis of gasoline.
The process also uses less than a gallon of water to make a gallon of ethanol compared to three gallons or more for other processes.
President George W. Bush's energy policy includes plans to increase the consumption of biofuels from 7.5 billion gallons in 2012 to 36 billion gallons in 2022.
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