Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Ethanol-driven car attracts admirers at energy conference

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A seemingly unremarkable black sedan was the center of attention at yesterday's conference on the development of renewable energy.

It revved into gear surrounded by dozens of cameramen and reporters vying with each other to get the best shot.

The sedan that was the star of the conference was a flex-fuel vehicle imported from Brazil running on pure ethanol.

Brazil's government has a long-standing program to produce ethanol.

As a result, flex-fuel cars are now the mainstream in Brazil.

Winston Wong (王文洋), the chief executive officer of the Grace T.H.W. Group, one of the sponsors of the conference, told the conference that Taiwan should explore alternative fuels for a host of reasons from energy security to reduction in greenhouse gases.

Wong praised the Brazilian government for their commitment to alternative fuels.

"Brazil had the foresight to start while oil was still cheap at US$10 a barrel. The program was very costly in the early days," he said.

That investment is beginning to bear fruit, however, according to Brazilian legislator Luis Piauhylino de Mello Monteiro.

Monteiro said Brazil was self-sufficient in fuel because of its ethanol-powered vehicles and was looking to ethanol exports as a moneyspinner.

In addition to recounting the Brazilian experience, Monteiro hoped to interest Taiwan in an ethanol-driven future and attract investors.

"Brazil welcomes Taiwanese investment in Brazilian ethanol production," he said.

Wong said he was confident that Taiwanese technical know-how could help lower costs of production of ethanol.

"Right now, Brazilian ethanol costs NT$4 to produce," Wong said. "But with hard work, maybe NT$3 or even NT$2.5 per liter is not an impossible goal."

Chris Toumazou, the Winston Wong Chair in Biomedical Circuits at Imperial College, London, outlined some ways in which Taiwan was well-positioned to become a leader in biofuels.

"Genetic engineering technologies can create crops with much higher yields and lower input requirements," Toumazou said. "Taiwan's technical expertise can also be useful in creating research and infrastructure which can be exported."

Taiwan's current plan to boost alternative fuel use includes compulsory recycling of used frying oil into biodiesel to begin in July and universal availability of E3 gasoline (containing three percent ethanol) starting in 2011, he said.

Daigee Shaw (簫代基) of the Chung-hua Institution for Eco-nomic Research said that the government should exercise caution before subsidizing.

"Too much subsidization can causes inefficiencies. For instance, it takes more energy to make US corn ethanol than is contained in the ethanol once you've taken into account all the different inputs to grow the crop," he said.

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