As the race to find the best and most viable fuel alternative to gasoline heats up, one of the major challenges will be how to transport and incorporate that fuel in locations across the country. Likely that will require new infrastructure.
Two companies have decided to review the feasibility of building this new infrastructure around the growing prospect of ethanol fuel, or E85. Magellen Midstream Partners, LLC, and Buckeye Partners, L.P., recently announced a partnership in which they will study the possibility of building a $3 billion ethanol pipeline across the Midwest, stretching from the fields of Iowa and South Dakota to the New York coast.
The problem with any fuel grown on a farm is that it must be transported to high-traffic areas — in this case the eastern seaboard — and if you’re hauling it by tanker truck this is going to somewhat negate the point of using alternative fuel in the first place. The pipeline has the support of Congress in its new energy bill, which asked for the very same study.
Whether the pipeline is realistic or not remains a question simply because of the “technical and economic issues” that come with pumping ethanol through a pipeline that would span more than 1,700 miles and cross eight states.
Another worthy question: What if ethanol isn’t the fuel of the future that some claim it is? Some worry that ethanol does not solve our long-term energy and environmental concerns, and that it drives up the price of food in the bargain. Although advances in cellulosic ethanol (using waste wood or switchgrass rather than corn) look promising, if ethanol were to fall by the wayside, owning a useless $3 billion pipeline wouldn’t be fun.