Friday, March 07, 2008

GM vs. Toyota

General Motors, once the world's largest seller of vehicles by a long-shot, has been losing market share to foreign car makers for years and will likely soon slip into second place behind Toyota. Today's business section in the Star Tribune provides us with a piece of evidence about why this is happening. The Strib talked to representatives of the big five automakers who are in town for the Greater St. Paul & Minneapolis International Auto Show. Here is how the GM and a Toyota representatives answered the question about the future of ethanol":

Given the food vs. fuel debate, are E85 and biodiesel ideas who've time have come and gone? Or do federal mandates pave the way for a long ethanol future, but as a 10 percent blend at the pump, not E85?

GM: We do not think so and maintain our commitment to E85. We believe E85 still has a big large role to play. The new Renewable Fuel Standard (36 million gallons of ethanol produced in the United States annually by 2022) will require use of greater concentrations of ethanol than just E10. The food vs. fuel debate is a bit of a red herring. Some animal feeds have gone up in price in part due to rising prices for corn. But there is ample corn to feed people and make fuel. Growing demand for food in nations like India and China have a big role in the demand for food and short harvests in other nations (i.e. Australia and New Zealand) have as much or more to do with the issue as corn-based ethanol. Also, as previously mentioned, the real potential lies with cellulosic ethanol.

TOYOTA: There is a place for ethanol, but many, many challenges ahead. More important than food vs fuel is the issue of water availability challenges.

GM is betting the farm on a technology that is widely recognized as bad for the environment, not to mention reeking havoc on global food prices. Toyota is not. Who do you think will be better positioned for the future?

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