Michael Pascoe writes:

Microsoft’s Bill Gates could be in the
running to be made an honorary Queenslander thanks to a little US$84 million
in an ethanol producer.

In the Gates’ US$46.5 billion scheme of
things, this is a miniscule punt, but it’s enough for the ethanol lobby to claim
as a good sign for the future. This particular investment is in a Californian
ethanol-from-corn producer, Pacific Ethanol. With a mixture of state and
federal incentives, ethanol is a steadily growing industry in the US while
the Australian Government continues to edge a little closer to some sort of
mandate here.

But as the CNN story notes in its final
paragraph, Gates’ involvement might not
be the biggest PR victory for ethanol – the Indy cars are switching to it next
year. Expect to see the alliance of Queensland State Labor and the Federal
National Party make the most of that during the Gold Coast race in 2006.

That will have at least as much substance
as Morrie Iemma’s gesture last month of announcing the NSW government fleet
would use biofuels when the current fuel contract expires on June 30.

It sounds nice, but the chicken-and-egg
problem with ethanol is that it can only be used where it can be bought – and
that’s in very few places. No petrol company is going to commit to a very
expensive roll out of infrastructure to supply E10 for the sake of a few
thousand NSW government cars.

Never mind, Morrie, your little PR stunt at
least received an unquestioning run in the SMH at the time.