The research forecasts the benefits and costs of three alternatives to the gas-powered internal combustion between 2010 and 2020. Advanced diesel and hybrid technologies showed well. E85 did not. Comparisons were made for three vehicle types: a mid-sized car, a mid-sized SUV, and a large pick-up. The cost-benefit comparisons were made for individual consumers, and for society, on a per-vehicle basis over the life of the vehicle. The results placed advanced diesel first, followed by hybrid, gasoline, and last of all E85.
Consumer considerations included technology costs, fuel savings, mobility, and performance. Societal considerations included tailpipe pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy security costs (from greater dependence on expensive and unstable foreign oil supplies [not to mention oil spills ]). The report noted that if the cost of hybrid falls significantly, its benefits will likely equal or exceed the diesel. It also noted that E85's dismal results are the result of the high costs of producing the fuel.
Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.