It looks like America’s Big Three automakers have decided that "flex-fuel" vehicles — i.e., vehicles that can run on an ethanol blend — are their ticket to green credibility.


For one thing, there isn’t anywhere close to enough ethanol to fill up all those tanks, and there won’t be any time soon. That means the automakers get all kinds of porky subsidies and tax breaks, along with phantom fuel-efficiency gains to tout, to no larger good whatsoever.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

Even if there were enough ethanol to run all these vehicles, which there never will be, we’d still have CO2-emission problems. And anyway … oh, screw it. I won’t retread all my ethanol objections here.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The point is that in the long-term we need to electrify personal transportation. Conventional hybrids are the first step. Plug-in hybrids are the second step. Fully electric vehicles are the third step. And comprehensive, clean, fast, fully electrified inter- and intra-urban public transportation is the end goal.

It will take a while to get there, and some serious technological breakthroughs, but we need to get started. It looks to me like our national obsession with ethanol is starting to be less of a distraction — or more charitably, interim step — and more of an obstacle.