Hoosiers spending over 6 percent of earnings on gasoline

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A report released last Tuesday by the National Resources Defense Council claims that Hoosier drivers spend nearly 6.5 percent of their income on gasoline and live in the seventh most vulnerable state for rising gas prices.

While Hoosiers are spending over 6 percent of their income on gas there is hope for lower costs with alternatives like ethanol, hybrid-electric and plug-in cars. The new ethanol plant near Cloverdale may offer some relief with its corn fuel.

Indiana moved up in the vulnerability rankings this year from 12th. The report does concede the rise might relate to changing the methodology to include state and federal taxes in the equation of what people spend on gas. Indiana is one of only a few states that pay state sales taxes on gasoline.

Connecticut drivers spend the lowest percentage of their income on gasoline at 3.17 percent, which was about $1,700 for an average driver last year. Indiana's average driver spent about $2,170.

The major factors in the rankings include the amount of driving residents do to met daily needs, efficiency of cars and trucks I the state and the average income of drivers.

The report also ranks states according to what they are doing to move away from oil. Indiana placed in the middle of the group with California and New York coming out as the leaders in efforts to change from oil to other products.

Some policies those states have adopted that Indiana has not include offering incentives for the purchase of new hybrid-electric and plug-in cars and trucks, investing in mass transit and adopting "smart-growth" measures intended to curb sprawl and reduce vehicle-miles traveled.

The National Resources Defense Council, an international non-profit environmental organization, conducted the study for the second year to identify states in trouble and encourage state and federal lawmakers to adopt policies that reduce reliance on oil.

Yet there is still hope for lower gas prices. Solid waste authorities in Lake County have approved a preliminary agreement with a company hoping to build an $80 million plant that would turn trash into ethanol.

Alternative fuel source alternatives offer new tax breaks, and they can also save a great deal of money at the pump while having a less harsh impact on the environment.

Ethanol plants are currently under construction in Cloverdale, Linden, Rensselaer, Marion, Clymers and Rushville. The state's first ethanol plant is already operating in South Bend.

When completed, those plants are expected to use 150 million bushels of corn annually, roughly 20 percent of the state's corn crop, to produce more than 410 million gallons of ethanol.

There are plenty of human powered vehicles too. This local resident has been seen riding his bike all over Greencastle.

Biodiesel is also a renewable, biodegradable and clean-burning fuel that is made by chemically reacting alcohol with soybean and other vegetable oils.

Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but is often used in blends ranging from two percent to 20 percent (B20) biodiesel.

Make way for the hybrid car, a vehicle with multiple fuel sources. Mopeds, combining gasoline and pedal power, and locomotives, combining diesel and electric power, are similar in concept to the hybrid car.

Most of today's domestic hybrids merge gasoline and electric fuel sources.

Designed with advanced aerodynamics, more efficient engines and reduced body weight, they give drivers from 18 to 60 MPG of city and 21 to 51 of highway driving.

Popular models on the market today include the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford Escape, GMC Sierra, Honda Accord, Civic and Insight, Lexus RX and Toyota Prius. Hyberid cars both improve your mileage and reduce tailpipe emissions, so you generate less pollution and Carbon dioxide.

And, there are still other alternatives.

Electric cars run on electricity, fueled by a charging unit typically built onto the side of one's house. Electric-only vehicles can get about 50 miles of use per 12 kilowatt-hours of charge, are cleaner-running and can go from zero to 60 in about 15 seconds.

The BMW's Hydrogen Record Car (HRC), a liquid hydrogen vehicle, is an extremely fast, aerodynamic, clean-burning vehicle. Because there is an unlimited supply of Hydrogen, and because it is a renewable source of energy, this vehicle is a strong alternative to gasoline.

While less popular than our petroleum oil counterpart, these alternative fuel vehicles are making a big impact in the news and on the consumer market.

Before you make the switch, consider your personal commuting needs.

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  • The South Bend Plant has been running since the 80's. I know because I lived there. I can remember days when the wind was right the odor from the ethanol plant was very nauseous. Couldn't hardly stand to be outside.Don't see how these plants are going to help the enviroment.

    -- Posted by peace2019 on Tue, Aug 26, 2008, at 8:30 AM
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    This article sounds great on the surface. A fluff piece on alternative energy doesn't dissolve that ol' pesky problem of math and science, though. I'm no expert, but I am an engineering student who's interested in this area. People have some very strong feelings on this subject but almost no education on it.

    20% of our state's corn yield to produce 410 million gallons of ethanol? This is not a good idea. As our factories go away, one of the few things that makes the midwest important to the world economy is our food production.

    According to the Department of Energy, Indiana consumed 75,424,000 barrels of transportation gasoline in 2006.


    There are 42 gallons per barrel.This makes our state's consumption 3,167,808,000 gallons.(Not a typo, that's 3.2 billion) So, by using 20% of our corn production, we can make 13% of our gasoline demand BY VOLUME.(using the writer's estimates for ethanol production and percentage of corn yield)

    One gallon of ethanol doesn't equal one gallon of gas, though. Ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, having 34% less energy by volume. This means that for every gallon of gasoline, roughly 1 1/2 gallons of ethanol are needed to do the same amount of work. In terms of energy, we can consider those 410 million gallons of ethanol to equal 270 million gallons of gasoline, or about 8.5% of our consumption.

    Electric cars are cleaner-burning? Electric cars are the clean end product of a very dirty process. Switching our consumption of gas over to coal-based electricity won't do anything but overstress the electrical grid and deplete our coal quicker.

    Hydrogen is theoretically unlimited. The only problem is that the energy released from the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen is exactly the amount of energy required to break apart water molecules. The trick to using hydrogen is to find a "free" energy source to do the water- splitting(electrolysis) for us without using electricity from the grid. Maybe solar-powered electrolyzers could work. Like ethanol, hydrogen isn't very energy dense, either.

    The real problem is that our consumption is out of control. Commuting in a 5500 pound vehicle everyday is just not an efficient thing to do. I thought it was dumb when the SUV craze started and still do today. It takes more energy to move all that mass. Until we come up with a more economical way to move our vehicles, we should just move less vehicle. Buy a smaller car.

    -- Posted by tackleberry65 on Tue, Aug 26, 2008, at 9:24 AM
  • At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker:

    If ethanol processing produced more energy than it consumed, wouldn't the ethanol plants be self powered?

    No one talks about the environmental impact of an ethanol spill. Ethanol mixes with water, turning it into politically correct poison.

    Good ideas attract investors. Bad ideas never become good ideas no matter how much tax money is thrown at it.

    It's nice to know others see through the ethanol scam. If we want more energy for less, then we need a separation of energy and state.

    -- Posted by VonMises on Tue, Aug 26, 2008, at 10:21 AM
  • New hybrid cars are good.........but what about all of us who are living week to week, and driving cars that use gas? We can't afford a new car.......can't afford to keep gas in our car, just for work and back.......what are we to do? 2 and 3 jobs are just not enough :(

    -- Posted by sad_but_true on Tue, Aug 26, 2008, at 7:48 PM
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    If you've been wasting gas in a truck or SUV and now want to cry about how much fuel costs, I'm laughing at you. People have laughed at me for years for driving small vehicles. Now it's my turn.

    -- Posted by tackleberry65 on Sun, Aug 31, 2008, at 9:41 AM
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