Iowa Public Television

 

Automakers Plan for the Future

posted on January 16, 2009


Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based POET announced this week it is now producing cellulosic ethanol at its pilot plant in Scotland, South Dakota.

According to POET officials, the plant is producing cellulosic ethanol at a rate of 20,000 gallons per year using corn cobs as feedstock. The endeavor is a precursor to the company's Project LIBERTY, a $200 million, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant that is slated to begin production in 2011.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, America's ratio of ethanol to gasoline must be increased if the renewable fuels production mandate of 36 billion gallons per year is to be realized. The DOE claims without an increase in blending rates more ethanol would be produced than could be used in all the gasoline sold in the United States.

Vehicles capable of running higher blends of ethanol are already on the market, but electric cars are growing in popularity.

Automakers Plan for the Future Less than a month after being given a $13.4 billion dollar U.S. government emergency loan, Chrysler and GM this week unveiled the cars of the future at the North American International Auto Show. The 21-year-old event in Detroit was scaled back this year in the shadow of the economic crisis facing automakers worldwide.

Nissan, America's 6th largest selling automaker did not attend the event and Toyota is expected to report later this year it's first operating loss in over 50 years.

Despite receiving $4 billion in federal loans this month, industry analysts believe the future of Chrysler is shaky at best. CEO Bob Nardelli assured those attending the show that Chrysler wasn't going anywhere and paraphrased Mark Twain saying "The stories of my death are overblown."

The push at the 2008 auto show of Flex Fuel vehicles and E-85 was replaced this year by electric cars and lithium-ion batteries. GM plans to build a factory in Michigan and begin producing the batteries by 2010.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm D-Michigan: "The message is, that Michigan and our domestic auto industry are going to lead the nation in making us independent of foreign oil. This American manufacturing industry, with respect to automobiles, we have to have it. Not just Michigan, but the United States, can not give up on the domestic automobile."

Chrysler executives believe they will need an additional $3 billion from the federal government. Ford Motor Company, which declined immediate financial assistance from Uncle Sam, says it wants access to as much as $9 billion if market conditions worsen.

Tags: automakers biofuels cars future industry news renewable fuels