| NEW YORK
NEW YORK A new company hopes drivers will kick
the oil habit by brewing ethanol at home that won't spike food
E-Fuel Corp unveiled on Thursday the "MicroFueler" touting
it as the world's first machine that allows homeowners to make
their own ethanol and pump the brew directly into their cars.
The portable unit that sells for $10,000 resembles a
gasoline station pump and nozzle -- minus the slot for a credit
card, or the digital "SALE" numbers that whir ever faster at
retail pumps as global demand pushes fuel prices to record
Instead of tapping gasoline from an underground tank, the
pump's back end plugs into home power and water supplies to
make ethanol for as little as $1 a gallon (3.8 liters),
according to E-Fuel.
The company says one of the machine's top selling points is
its sweet tooth. It ferments fuel from sugar, the price of
which is historically cheap as global supplies are glutted.
That means it avoids the Achilles heel of today's U.S.
ethanol system -- reliance on corn -- which has been blamed for
helping to spike global food prices.
"There's no mother in America crying that their kids aren't
getting enough sugar," Tom Quinn, CEO and founder of E-Fuel
said in an interview.
Regular table sugar alone is too expensive, so E-Fuels says
it will link customers to cheaper surplus supplies, including
inedible sugar from Mexico that sells at a fraction of the
price. It also hopes to get users to help pay for feedstock by
selling carbon credits for using the machine, since making
ethanol from sugar emits fewer greenhouse gases than making it
"We will break the traditional ethanol system," said Quinn
a California computer and computer games inventor, who has
bankrolled the company with what he calls "millions, but not
multimillion" of dollars.
He said despite the steep upfront costs, the machines will
pay for themselves quickly. For a two-car family that drives
about 34,500 miles a year, the MicroFueler will pay for itself
in less than two years, assuming average gasoline prices of
$3.60 per gallon, the company said. The unit makes up to 35
gallons (132 liters) of 100 percent ethanol per week.
Others are not so sure that the MicroFueler is a good
"I doubt it will work," said David Pimental, a professor at
Cornell University who has studied the economics of ethanol for
decades. He said the history of the fuel has been one of moving
to greater and greater scales to increase the efficiencies of
making the fuel.
E-Fuel says the machine is efficient in a way that big
ethanol plants aren't because it removes water from the fuel
with special fine filters that reduce the fuel costs of
distilling the water out.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, editing by Marguerita Choy)