My column for CNN Money this week explained why Wal-Mart may sell ethanol, an alternative to gasoline made from corn, sugar cane and, potentially, biowaste. More than 500,000 people read it–making it my most read column of the year. Here’s how it began:
NEW YORK (Fortune) — More than 5 million vehicles on U.S. roads today can run on ethanol – a renewable fuel that comes from corn – as well as gasoline. General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler recently announced plans to double their annual production of so-called flex fuel vehicles to two million cars and trucks by 2010.
It’s the single largest commitment to renewable fuels in the history of the auto industry – a good move for the automakers, and for the planet, too.
That’s because running cars and trucks on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could turn out to be a cost-effective way to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming and curb our dependence on imported oil.
There’s just one big problem.
Only about 800 service stations in the United States, out of a total of 168,000, pump E85. There’s not a single E85 pump, for example, in all of New England.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the big oil companies are not, as a rule, interested in selling E85.
But Wal-Mart is. The giant retailer is considering selling ethanol at the eight stations that it operates at Wal-Mart Stores and at about 380 more that it runs as part of its Sam’s Clubs division.
By the way, here’s a link to The Green Machine, my story about how and why Wal-Mart embraced sustainability, which ran on the cover of the August 7 issue of Fortune. I wanted the headline to say The Green Monster but that didn’t fit with the green smiley face the magazine used to illustrate the story.