Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Why Wal-Mart wants to sell ethanol

E85 is available at only a tiny fraction of gas stations. But Fortune's Marc Gunther says the giant retailer is poised to change that.
Marc Gunther
Fortune - August 9 2006

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- More than 5 million vehicles on U.S. roads today can run on ethanol - a renewable fuel that comes from corn - as well as gasoline. General Motors (Charts), Ford (Charts) and DaimlerChrysler (Charts) recently announced plans to double their annual production of so-called flex fuel vehicles to two million cars and trucks by 2010.

It's the single largest commitment to renewable fuels in the history of the auto industry - a good move for the automakers, and for the planet, too.

That's because running cars and trucks on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could turn out to be a cost-effective way to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming and curb our dependence on imported oil.

There's just one big problem.

Only about 800 service stations in the United States, out of a total of 168,000, pump E85. There's not a single E85 pump, for example, in all of New England.

You won't be surprised to learn that the big oil companies are not, as a rule, interested in selling E85.

But Wal-Mart (Charts) is. The giant retailer is considering selling ethanol at the eight stations that it operates at Wal-Mart Stores and at about 380 more that it runs as part of its Sam's Clubs division.

It could also decide to sell ethanol in a partnership with Murphy Oil Corp. (Charts), which operates about 946 gas stations in Wal-Mart parking lots, and there's no reason why Wal-Mart couldn't sell E85 - which it calls "America's Fuel" - at the rest of its 3,000 U.S. stores.

"Our goal would be to make E-85 available across the U.S," Rich Ezell, senior strategy manager of fuel at Wal-Mart, said recently.

full article here


I'm certainly no fan of Wal-Mart's business practices, but I hope them much luck and success in this particular venture. Alternative fuels need to be available to the populace and Wal-Mart is the perfect catalyst to make that happen.


Buck