If the E-fuel Microfueler Sounds Too Good to Be True…

Michael Giberson

Robert Rapier draws attention to a Los Angeles Times story on a home-based ethanol system. Here are the first two lines from the story:

It sounds too good to be true: A residential system that allows people to make fuel from old beer, leftover wine and other waste products and use it to run their vehicles.

That’s what inventors of the E-Fuel MicroFueler claim, and there’s support for the idea in government, industry and pop culture.

Then Rapier begins the smackdown: Another Journalist Fails Due Diligence 101.

Actually, the Rapier smackdown begins immediately after “It sounds too good to be true” — he is a diligent applier of the maxim, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” — but I wanted to draw attention to the three pillars of support for the home-based ethanol machine that the article relies upon: “government, industry, and pop culture” (italics added).

I guess having the support of pop culture gets you pretty far in L.A., but out here, a little further away from the sparkling lights and Malibu breezes, we typically seek out a somewhat more substantial foundation.

Rapier mentions an 18-month old story on the company in the New York Times, which while also a bit excited by the company’s project, manages to inject a moderating opinion or two.  Daniel M. Kammen, of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, is quoted as saying about the project “skepticism is a virtue.”

The LA Times notes that Shaquille O’Neal in an investor in the distribution company for the product.  Maybe that is part of the “pop culture” support.  He seems to have plenty of money to play with, so why not?  The company’s plans seem to rely heavily on the idea of a $5,000 federal tax credit for buyers.  But since the federal government doesn’t have plenty of money to play with, I’d say here is another place that skepticism would be a virtue.

What public benefit, exactly, are taxpayers paying for when one of us buys one of these systems?