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GM Australia Discovers Ethanol as GM America Ignores It +VIDEO

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Ironic Twist in General Motors’ Strategy Could Eventually Help Enlighten American Acceptance of Ethanol

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

There’s an interesting development taking place at General Motor’s Australian subsidiary, Holden. The Australian division is trumpeting ethanol as a viable fuel that can help Australia’s economy while also providing better driving performance. GM Australia even refers to ethanol as “The Fuel of the Future,” which is what we at The Auto Channel call it.

Watch the GM Australia promo video for ethanol

Although these aspects about ethanol are correct, the new direction for GM Australia is ironic because Mark Reuss, GM America’s current president, who had been chairman and managing director of GM’s Australasian Operations, has been known to frivolously disparage ethanol as a practical alternative to gasoline.

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Mark Reuss - file photo

At a JD Power’s event that Bob Gordon and I attended during the NADA Conference in San Francisco, Mr. Reuss told the audience in no uncertain terms that he didn’t like ethanol and he described how using E85 in his lawn mower (or snow blower) damaged its engine – thereby suggesting that ethanol damages vehicle engines. We would have thought that he would have understood that if he put a high concentration of ethanol into a motor that previously only ran on gasoline that the ill effects were not because ethanol was damaging the device, but because the ethanol was actually cleaning it and that the gasoline gunk was causing the problem. But it just goes to show that being an automotive executive doesn’t mean that you actually have to know anything about how the engines work.

In any event, the negative comments were sufficient to have ended any further discussion at the Power’s event about alternative fuels, and as we witnessed General Motors America’s discontinuance of E85 Flex-Fuel vehicle marketing (after they had spent several years and untold millions in promoting it) we figured that it was primarily due to Mr. Reuss’ personal preferences.

Consequently, as I mentioned above, it’s a rather ironic shift in strategy between the Australian and American divisions.

It should be noted that Mark Reuss’ appointment as GM America’s president occurred at about the same time that Ed Whitacre was installed as General Motors’ Chairman and CEO by our government. Whitacre was/is a member of the Exxon/Mobil Board of Directors, and as we all know, Exxon/Mobil is in the business of producing and selling gasoline. Also at roughly the same time, Carl-Peter Forster “stepped down” as head of GM Europe. Forster was a supporter of compressed natural gas and ethanol.

One of the most positive notes on GM Australia’s promotion of ethanol is that they talk about ethanol being produced primarily from sorghum (not corn). Therefore it’s not as likely to be the victim of the scurrilous “food vs. fuel” criticism that has interfered with ethanol acceptance in America. Corn has never been the best raw material to use to make ethanol in the U.S.; it has simply been the most easily available. It just happens to be that we have farmers who know how to grow corn, who have the land, and you have the need for a cash-crop - so that’s what we use. And because that’s what we primarily use, the oil industry has tee’d off on corn over the past couple of decades with a whole range of misinformation to discredit it. But by focusing sorghum, or other crops that can be grown on land or water that is not considered prime, Americans can see that ethanol (regardless of its base material) is the fuel we should be using to restore our economy and eliminate our dependence on an industry controlled by people and regimes that would like to destroy us.

Holden's Richard Marshall, Director of Energy & Environment, talks about the benefits of ethanol

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