Hawai‘i lawmakers recently created an
incentive program that gives producers of ethanol and their
investors to up to $2 in tax credit. This is very attractive
to many mainland companies, four of which are planning to move
here because of the credits. Not only is this an opportunity
for local investors, but in Hawai‘i, ethanol will be
produced from sugar cane, which could give a boost to a dying
industry, as well as create jobs.
Another economic plus of ethanol is that all sales of ethanol-blended
gasoline will be exempt from sales tax until December 2006. This
means that consumers, too will benefit from the tax breaks and
credits in the form of lower prices at the pump.
Ethanol is also known as ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, or just
alcohol. It is the ingredient in beer, wine, spirits, and—as
another article in this issue informs us, AWOL—an alcohol
aerosol. Ethanol has been made since ancient times. Ethanol,
today, is used a lot by the medical and manufacturing industries,
and plays a big part in everyone’s lives; it can be found
in varnishes, perfumes, paints, explosives, medicines, and disinfectants.
Did I mention that you also drink ethanol in most liquor? Hangovers,
alcohol poisoning, and drunken driving are all due to too much
Ethanol’s best purpose, when it comes to the environment,
is as an alternative fuel source. It can stand alone as a fuel,
but most ethanol you find at the pump—or will find—is
a 10 percent mixture with gasoline. However, E85, or 85 percent
ethanol fuel, and 95 percent ethanol fuel may be readily available
in Hawai‘i once the industry is up and running. There should
be no worry about using higher concentrations of ethanol in your
cars as well (although some models may need certain modifications).
Most automobile manufacturers, including Ford, Chrysler, and
General Motors, approve ethanol blends, and in fact, the Model
T was designed to run on pure ethanol. Ethanol also burns at
a lower temperature than gasoline—reducing the burning
of engine valves—and will remove contaminants and residues
from previous gasoline use.
Ethanol is also a renewable fuel source, important in these
days of depleting fossil fuel supplies. And since it isn’t a
fossil fuel, burning it does not release greenhouse gases or
deplete the ozone layer. Using ethanol as a gasoline will also
reduce emissions released by most fossil fuels, such as carbon
dioxide, sulfur dioxide, cancer-causing benzene and butadiene,
ground-level ozone, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide. Also,
since it is made from plants, ethanol is quickly biodegradable.
In water, it breaks down into nontoxic compounds, preventing
it from contaminating water supplies. This means fewer oppurtunities
massive oil spills and environmental disasters.
The best thing about ethanol is it can be produced locally,
using whatever biomass is available. So, if you can’t wait to
stop harming the environment with expensive gasoline, one Web
site, Journey to Forever, tells you how to make it in your backyard.
Of course, you will need a still, and a “small fuel producer” permit
from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. (Then
you could benefit from the tax credits too!)
For more information on ethanol (or to find out how to produce
your own) visit www.journeytoforever.org. For more information
about ethanol in Hawai‘i, visit www.cleanfuelshawaii.org.