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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 06:52 PM
Original message
Why Wal-Mart wants to sell ethanol
Why Wal-Mart wants to sell ethanol

E85 is available at only a tiny fraction of gas stations. But Fortune's Marc Gunther says the giant retailer is poised to change that.

FORTUNE Magazine
By Marc Gunther, Fortune senior writer


NEW YORK (Fortune) -- More than 5 million vehicles on U.S. roads today can run on ethanol - a renewable fuel that comes from corn - as well as gasoline. General Motors (Charts), Ford (Charts) and DaimlerChrysler (Charts) recently announced plans to double their annual production of so-called flex fuel vehicles to two million cars and trucks by 2010.

That's because running cars and trucks on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could turn out to be a cost-effective way to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming and curb our dependence on imported oil.

There's just one big problem. Only about 800 service stations in the United States, out of a total of 168,000, pump E85. There's not a single E85 pump, for example, in all of New England.

You won't be surprised to learn that the big oil companies are not, as a rule, interested in selling E85. But Wal-Mart (Charts) is. The giant retailer is considering selling ethanol at the eight stations that it operates at Wal-Mart Stores and at about 380 more that it runs as part of its Sam's Clubs division.

It could also decide to sell ethanol in a partnership with Murphy Oil Corp. (Charts), which operates about 946 gas stations in Wal-Mart parking lots, and there's no reason why Wal-Mart couldn't sell E85 - which it calls "America's Fuel" - at the rest of its 3,000 U.S. stores.

<snip>

http://money.cnn.com/2006/08/08/news/companies/pluggedi...
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ThingsGottaChange Donating Member (805 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:15 PM
Response to Original message
1. Is this a bad thing? n/t
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Rosco T. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:20 PM
Response to Original message
2. yeah, this is bad how? It's going to take a BIG DISTRIBUTOR..
.. to get E85 (and other 'alternative fules' out to the masses.

If it hard to accept that maybe, MAYBE WallyWorld does something right??

Now, if they put in quickcharge electrical stations...
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:28 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. does my posting here imply that it could only be a bad thing?
It's an... interesting thing. Perhaps Wal-Mart sees this as a way into the energy biz?

Will they consider non-corn/non-grain derived fuels at some point? etc.
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Rosco T. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:55 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. No, not you... I was just anticipating the fallout...
from anything mention WallyWorld
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:58 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. it's too bad it has to be the "Wallites," though, and not the people's
government, pushing for saner enviro/consumer policies...

Let's hope they're really serious about all this...
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matt819 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:32 PM
Response to Original message
4. Hold on a sec
Hey, I'm as willing as the next guy to bash Walmart - Hey, I don't even need an excuse.

But this report states that There's not a single E85 pump, for example, in all of New England. Not true. I don't know how many there are, but I've seen them at stations in various parts of New England. I find the 800 station reference low.
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LTR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:36 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. You can check here
But it may be a bit out of date:

http://www.e85fuel.com/index.php

Their map shows no E85 in New England.
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:43 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. hmmm.... maybe this is the source they used for the article?
n/t
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Rosco T. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 07:55 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. Most likely... n/m
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high density Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 08:26 PM
Response to Reply #5
10. It also shows few US vehicles with E85 capability
and many of them are huge behemoth SUVs anyway that few want to buy.
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Maat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 04:47 PM
Response to Original message
11. Question: Does anyone know if you can retrofit a car ..
so that it can take E85.

Mostly, we drive around in my new Prius; that's earth-friendlier.

We do, however, have a Nissan V8 Titan for hauling that we must do (we consciously limit its use).

We looked in the VIN number, and it had an 'A' instead of a 'B,' and so ... it is not one of the ones that can take E85 as it exists now.

Maybe, however, we can modify the truck.

Anyone have any information?

We also (a group of us) researched this in Southern California, and there is only one station - Pearson Ford in San Diego - and the mover behind that really had to work to get it approved. All of the other applications are stalled. Apparently, California has special requirements for the pumps. It sure looks like there are some political shennanigans going on out here (understatement of the world, I know).
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:00 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. That is indeed the question
But I understand "diesel veggie oil" conversions in Cali are going on relatively unimpeded...
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Maat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:07 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Right now ..
SoCal is having trouble getting access to either bio-diesel or E85.

My hubby has a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering, and worked for over twenty years in the oil and gas industry (in the computer-modeling end, fortunately).

Fortunately, for the last several years he has been working in the educational/computer-related-services field.

Anyway, I'm just not clear at what he is telling me. He really likes the idea of E85, but I don't understand whether or not a vehicle can be converted.

Thanks in advance for any information anyone may have.

Thanks for the reply, Villager; we do not have a diesel engine. I'm just wondering what our options are.
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:30 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. here's the main biofuels place in L.A.:
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Maat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:54 PM
Response to Reply #16
20. Hmmm ...
Edited on Fri Aug-11-06 05:55 PM by Maat
still plotting and planning - getting our family to engage in more environmentally-friendly practices.
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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 02:08 AM
Response to Reply #11
32. I asked a fleet mechanic about this
One who'd been looking into it, in fact.

They said you'd need a new carb, all new fuel lines, and extensive modifications to your engine's computer.

In short, around as much as it would cost to buy a used E85 municipal vehicle from a state auction. And it would probably work better, since nobody really knows how to do gas -> E85 conversions.



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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:18 PM
Response to Original message
14. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
To make the ethanol you need grain.
To grow grain in the quantities required you need fertilizer, lots of it.
The major requirement when making fertilizer is natural gas.
Natural gas is running out faster than crude oil.
We import a large portion of our natural gas from Canada.
Canada's production of natural gas is dropping at 8% per year.


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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:28 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. can't you make ethanol from algae and hemp?
n/t
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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:31 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. Not If You Need Much Of It
Remember, no such thing as a free lunch.

The best you can hope for is to harvest from the least expensive and least damaging resource, but you still gotta pay.
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:46 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. um, wouldn't algae be fairly plentiful?
Not that there are "free lunches," but surely some lunches cost less than others?
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 07:54 PM
Response to Reply #19
21. Don't try to argue with Peak oil doomers like that poster.
I've run into enough of then in the Enviroment/Energy forums and a Peak Oil forum I post on. They run around yelping BS about "Earth is a closed system" and "there is no free lunch", which is of course pure idiocy; Earth is an open system because it gets energy from the Sun. Soil fertility is simply a farming methods problem.

Oh, and I am a big fan of algae and switchgrass over corn for biofuels.
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elocs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 10:24 PM
Response to Reply #21
27. soil fertility=fertilizers
Fertilizers take a lot of petroleum products to make them. We have pretty much worked hard at depleting any soil fertility we may once have had and that is why farmers use so much and many fertilizers.

As far as algae and switch grass go, who is going to put up and make the big money using them to produce ethanol? The corn lobby is huge in this country and will throw millions of dollars at keeping corn as the ethanol crop of choice. Unlike Brazil, we cannot grow much sugar cane here and besides, there are not many cars in Brazil.

I don't believe that Earth is a closed system, but we are certainly going to have to use more than one thing to solve the energy crisis. Look at the many, many uses we make of petroleum all around us other than powering our vehicles or using for energy. We will have to live in communities that are near where we work and use as much food grown locally as possible along with using mass transit.

Based upon what I have seen in the past 30 years or so I am not very hopeful about any of this. I have seen time and time again the Republican/conservative crowd in my community who refuse to spend a dime on anything unless it benefits them and views anything ecological as being "Liberal" and they don't mean that in a nice way.
Let's face it, at this time our energy future is in the hands of people who are in bed with big oil and will look out for their interests. I am hoping that by being pessimistic that it will turn out the opposite.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 12:07 AM
Response to Reply #27
29. There are environmentally friendly forms of replacing soil fertility.
They just aren't used because capitalist economics doesn't include "externalities" like environmental degradation in it's calculations.

I mostly agree with the rest of your post except that the coming crisis itself will be what ends the inertia holding back a sustainable economy. The Doomers say that there won't be enough time when the crisis hits, I disagree. A society can do a lot when a crisis occurs to get people out of their cloud of complacency.
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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 08:06 PM
Response to Reply #19
23. Ok
Actually the Peak Oil folks drive me up the wall too.

This is something much different, and I'm not talking about any sort of closed system (by the way, as long as the earth radiates as much energy as it receives we are, for all practical purposes a closed system).

Algae. Imagine a vat of water, a very large vat. Now toss in a couple of algae cells. Let the division begin. Soon we'll have enough algae to make as much fuel as we want right? Well, no. You can't get somethin' for nothin'. So you have to put energy into the system. OK, that's easy, we put it out in the open and use sunlight. No problem. Now, just what, other than pure energy, is going to make up our algae? What are the cell walls going to be made out of, where is all that carbon going to come from to make the chlorophyll, where are all the chemicals going to come from? You got to put some food stuff for the algae into the vat. That my dear friend is the crux of the problem. You can't get anything out of that vat that you don't put in and if its a carbon based life form you want to grow in that vat then you are going to have to put in carbon at a minimum.

So there we are back at square one.
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 10:20 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. but it's not the same "Square one" represented by corn
and certainly not by oil, right?

That's what I'm asking...carbon, yes, but an "algae" economy certainly has to be
vastly "greener" than an "oil" economy, que no?
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Rosco T. Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 05:35 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. Bullshit.....
nature's own fertilizer.... :D
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hamerfan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 08:03 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. I've read ethanol
is very water-intensive to produce. If that is true, with the drought situation in the Midwest, will this be a step forward or backward? Just asking,
dumpbush
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kineneb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 08:12 PM
Response to Reply #22
24. ethanol from food waste?
seems like fermenting (rotting)fruit and vegetables would be a great source of ethanol...certainly beats plowing the stuff under or having it rot in the field (if the plant matter were composted, then that wouldn't be a problem). Also, what about waste from canning companies?

And how about methane from processing cow manure? I think we are overlooking many sources of alternative energy...hey, what about the stuff at the sewage plants? Lots of methane there!

Time to think out of the box (or get our heads out of the toilet).
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elocs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #22
25. Ethanol takes more energy to produce than it yields.
It's a great idea if you are a corn farmer or ADM, but otherwise it is a loser. Corn takes a lot of energy, water, and fertilizer to grow and it depletes the topsoil. Ethanol plants use energy to make the ethanol and some burn tonnes of coal to do it. Using corn or any other plant to produce energy is subject to the same variables as growing for food: weather and drought. There is not enough land in this country to replace an appreciable amount of gas that we now use.
Add to all of this the fact that a gallon of ethanol has 1/3 less energy than a gallon of gas, so you use 1/3 more to go the same distance. Americans want that one magic bullet that will allow us to continue on our merry energy wasting ways. It ain't going to happen. It's going to take a combination of a number of different approaches, so I wouldn't be putting too many eggs in the ethanol basket. Things that seem too good to be true usually are.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 12:10 AM
Response to Reply #25
30. That assertion has been disproven many times in the Enviroment Forum.
Edited on Sat Aug-12-06 12:10 AM by Odin2005
Corn ethanol has a Energy ROI of 1.4 IIRC.
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elocs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 01:59 AM
Response to Reply #30
31. I know you know as well as I do
that there is no once source that has definitively figured what the absolute EROI of the various forms of ethanol are because there are so many variables. So although an EROI of 1.4 may be cited there are other very credible sources that have it in the negative. None of this overcomes the fact that there is not the land available to grow sufficient crops to produce ethanol to meet any substantial amount of our energy needs. As our climate changes it may become more difficult to raise crops for food much less for ethanol. There is no way around the fact that a gallon of ethanol has substantially less energy available in it than a gallon of gas and it cannot be transported through pipelines.

I also know by what you have posted that you are familiar with the Peak Oil site and that ethanol is widely considered to be an unviable alternative by the vast majority who post there. I have seen far too many cases that point out the downside of ethanol which cite sources and links and are not mere opinions. There are two sides to this story and people must choose which one they more agree with. I don't believe that ethanol is THE answer, but depending upon what is used and how it is produced it may be ONE of the answers to our energy problem. I think the trick to researching this or any other energy resource is to look at more than the places that are pushing it or making money from it.

I know that the Peak Oil site can be difficult because there seems to be so many there that have a negative opinion about everything and anything that is presented and generally think we are simply screwed and we deserve to be. But there is a lot of good information there on a host of many different subjects and you just need to separate what you think is believable from what you consider bs. On the forums I just use the "ignore" function and it helps to eliminate some of the posters that I simply find irritating and from whom there is nothing to learn. If only we could all disagree agreeably.
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Melynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 10:37 PM
Response to Original message
28. Wal-Mart wants to corner the Ethanol market
So when Ethanol replaces oil, Wal-Mart can be as rich as Saudi Arabia. Or so they think.

I say, let Wal-Mart take Ethanol to the market place and let them make Ethanol as abundant as gasoline. Then when Ethanol becomes the major fuel, have the government break up Wal-Mart as an monopoly. It worked with Standard Oil, it will work with Wal-Mart.
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w4rma Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-12-06 02:59 AM
Response to Original message
33. That's the problem with conglomerations of power that have grown too big
Edited on Sat Aug-12-06 03:03 AM by w4rma
They have the power, that very few others have, to do certain things that are good for the community like this which make it harder to reduce their power. Don't get me wrong, they'll make a big profit off of this too.

I support them wholeheartedly in this endeavor.
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