The dream of a home ethanol pump has been realised, says the New York Times, thanks to inventor named Floyd S. Butterfield. One of the world's only celebrated non-hillbilly still-makers, Butterfield has invented the $10,000 E-Fuel 100 MicroFueler, a gadget that combines heaps of sugar and a sprinkling of yeast to ferment an alcoholic brew which it then distills into ethanol. The notion is that, as long as the price of sugar stays relatively low, it could cost about $1 per gallon to make the fuel. It's even cheaper when you put un-drunk stale beer in the system: Since the fermentation is done, all it takes is the electricity to distill the beer into
scotch whiskey fuel for your car.
Carbon haters would be happy that a gallon of the MicroFueler's ethanol is supposed to produce just 12.5% of the carbon from a gallon of normal gasoline. Butterfield is also someone who people should listen to: In 1982 he won an award from the state of California for "best design of an ethanol still" says the Times. (I had NO idea I could enter my still in a competition!)
Naysayers predict that quality control would be a problem (and anyone who's ever homebrewed beer can probably attest to the finicky nature of the process. Others charge that since sugar costs 20-cents per pound, and you need 10 to 14 pounds to make a gallon of ethanol, well, there goes your cost savings. But Butterfield and his Silicon Valley finance whiz/business partner Thomas J. Quinn swears you can buy "inedible sugar" from South of the Border for 2 to 3 cents per pound.
There's also a small matter of 100% ethanol being illegal as an automotive fuel, but Quinn says that, too, will be resolved. [NYT]