As pump prices soar, the push intensifies to find cheaper and greener options. After a 20-year hiatus, ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, electricity, and other potential fuels are pushing to challenge king gasoline at the pump. But the race is a tricky one. The successful fuel not only has to be cheaper than gasoline, it has to be produced in huge quantities and survive future swings in gas prices. There’s another potential hurdle: Environmentalists want alternatives with smaller greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline. So, it’s not clear that any alternative fuel will cross the finish line – let alone beat gasoline – anytime soon. Analysts worry that, in an eerie repeat of the 1980s, alternative fuels will get going just as the price of oil falls to a level where they can’t compete. Among today’s alternative-fuel contenders, the early leader is ethanol made from corn. ‘Corn ethanol is the one to beat right now,’ says Paul Gallagher, professor of economics at Iowa State University. The economics make sense. Middle East tensions and other factors have pushed the oil price higher: In June it averaged $65 a barrel. At that price, it cost $2.20 to produce a gallon of […]

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