1-18-07 by dugan
My greenwash antenna is waving madly. GM chief exec Rick Wagoner made a splash at the Detroit auto show earlier this week, announcing an investment in cellulosic ethanol. He offered no dollar amount, no time frame, no hard promises.
A cynic would say it’s just a way to quiet critics of GM’s big gift in the federal energy bill: an extended gas-mileage allowance on its E85 flex-fuel vehicles, which rarely run on actual ethanol. It’s also a way to take public focus away from the Chevy Volt, a mega-hype whose actual production is–when? 2010? 2011? Never?.
At least the Reuters story on the PR-generated announcement included a couple of caveats up high:
GM said it would not disclose the size of the stake or how much it had invested in Coskata.
"Cellulosic ethanol has a significant amount of potential," said David Friedman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But we’ll have to wait until GM releases the data behind this and they actually launch production."
The media needs an even bigger dose of squinty-eyed doubt about this chest-beating on green fuels by Big Auto and Big Oil.
Chevron got a raft of nice stories in 2006 and last year when it "invested" an unstated amount in a biodiesel plant near Galveston. Then, oops, last month Chevron pulled out of the deal. That very quiet announcement got almost no notice beyond the Houston Chronicle.
Costkata, the company that GM says it’s backing, touts a promising technique to produce ethanol from waste biomass for "$1 a gallon." Good for them, if they actually build the plant, make the ethanol in commercial amounts and find a place to sell it.
GM says it’s going to campaign for more retail outlets for E85. Right. I’m sure BP and Shell are perking up their ears.
Exxon says it has a great new invention that will put more powerful batteries in hybrid electric cars. Stop the applause until Exxon gives it away and Toyota puts it on the street.
GM itself has spent at least tens of millions of dollars on a sunny, back-patting ad campaign for the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that doesn’t exist (though you’d hardly notice that small fact from the ad copy).
I’d like to believe everything Mr. Wagoner said about EB5 this week, but Santa Claus has left the building.