New Ways to Fuel Choice
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network
Let’s hear it for choice, that thing we’re constantly told we want. Sometimes, though, there is such a thing as too much choice. How many people really want, or need, to choose between more than three types of fuel for their car? In Europe we can buy our gas with or without lead. If we make such a decision before buying a car, we can also use diesel fuel. But all this may soon be changing.
Going against the tide of harmonization (trying to unify the countries in the European Union with shared laws, parliament and bureaucracy), member states are apparently now opting for different types of fuel. According to the Guardian, Sweden has made a big investment in ethanol while other countries are choosing compressed natural gas (CNG), mainly methane, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), as well as blends. Meanwhile, some carmakers are considering hydrogen. Then there’s electricity on its own or in hybrids.
For retailers, confusion is expected to ensue since not everyone can possibly provide the array of pumps, with appropriate storage tanks, to satisfy every shape and size of fuel demand. Consumers searching for a non-petrol car will also hesitate to buy one if they’re unsure about fuel accessibility. Yet without an effective distribution network and adequate availability, no new fuel will catch on, however green its credentials.
Meanwhile, a separate search is on to find ways to provide more time to come up with alternative fuels.
Noting that slower cars running on gas are more fuel-efficient, Chris Davies, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has proposed that no new vehicles should be approved if they can exceed a 130kph (80mph) speed limit by more than 25 percent – i.e., if they can break 100 mph. Part of his reasoning is that it would “give the industry more time to produce feasible technology,” according to the Guardian report.
Using a similar argument, Tiffany Groode, co-author of MIT’s recent report on ethanol, says that using corn-based ethanol could “provide time for the development of better alternatives.” Supply Chain Digest reports on Ms. Groode’s general reservations about corn-based ethanol but says that she sees it as “a stepping-stone to other forms of ethanol currently being researched.”
As debates go, however, this could be academic. Car manufacturers, after all, decide what kind of engines to build, possibly even coming up with some that will operate on more than one type of fuel. Whatever they do, the rest of us will have to fall into step.
Discussion Questions: Do you see similar confusion over alternative fuel products on the horizon in the States? Will manufacturers decide the future or should consumers be given more choice of cars so that we can decide for ourselves what kind of fuel to endorse? What’s a sound strategy to roll out alternative fuels in the marketplace?
[Author’s comment] There are a couple of other issues involved here. One is the amount of land that would be necessary to grow sufficient corn to replace foreign oil, leaving a correspondingly smaller amount to feed animals and people. The other is one of cost; if less corn is grown for food, prices will go up. Presumably, at some stage, ethanol will no longer cost less than gas. Or, if it does, it would have to make up for considerably higher food costs. Which means the equation is still one of cheap food versus cheap fuel. Not much change there then.
- Fuelling choice: array of green options may offer drivers seven ways to fill up – The Guardian
- Green Supply Chain News: Ethanol Derived From Corn May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up to Be – Supply Chain Digest