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Fill up the tank with Chardonnay; a world powered on wine

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  • Mercedes on Merlot; Chevrolet on Chardonnay and Vipers on Viognier would also make the world smell better. California farmers could not plant grapes fast enough.
  • Wine-powered America is the coming thing.

Pulled into Costco last week to fill up my half-ton Silverado. I was enjoying a nice spring day and suddenly the pump started slowing down.

It was slowing down to stop at $100, and the tank was not full! Two years ago it would stop at $50.

Looking at that five-digit dial, I said, "Where do I get a 'Drill Baby Drill' bumper sticker?" Build a freeway to the Arctic Circle, must be more oil up there somewhere? Where is my Sarah Palin for president button? She knows how to get the drilling rigs running. Build more of those tacky palm-encircled oil platforms off Santa Barbara.

It’s about time we invaded Venezuela or another oil-rich country to depose a tinhorn dictator as a humanitarian gesture.

I don’t want to see any more $100 bills flying out of my pocket quicker than you can say Exxon, BP, Texaco, Shell, Valero and Arco in the same breath.

I am tired of listening to all the politicians say they are going to roll back oil prices and stop price gouging. Yea. If you believe that, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

Still stewing as I watched clips of the Royal Wedding. No, I did not light up the DVR to record the British spectacle. Wedding footage was on the news.

The sight of the Royal Couple tootling through London in that stunning Seychelles Blue DB6 MKII Volante Aston Martin was something to behold. I could see myself behind the wheel of a car like that, even if the steering wheel is on the wrong side.

It was given to Prince William’s dad in 1969 by his mom, the queen, on the future king’s 21st birthday. The son prince and his lovely bride borrowed it for the day.

I later read that the droptop DB6 was powered by surplus wine: the answer to disappearing $100 bills.

Three years ago Aston Martin retrofitted this car's engine to allow it to run on E85 bioethanol fuel refined from surplus grapes grown in a vineyard owned by the Royal Family. It gets only about 10 miles per gallon or roughly four and a half bottles of Chardonnay. Who cares what the gas mileage is; California always seems to be on the verge of a wine surplus.

We are not talking about that high priced stuff out of Napa and Sonoma. That stuff runs about $15-$18 per gallon on the bulk market. We are talking about good ol' 10-ton-per-acre San Joaquin Valley Thompson seedless or Barbera. Bet you could get pretty good gas mileage out of Chenin Blanc. If 2-ton North Coast Cab is running $15 per gallon, then 10-ton valley grapes should be cheaper than regular gas today.

And it would be a boom for growers. Do the math. If a grower gets $200 per ton for a 10-ton crop, that $2,000 per acre. That same 10-ton crop would conservatively generate 160 gallons per ton or 1,600 gallons per acre. At $2 per gallon — half the price of regular today — the grower would make $1,200 more per acre for grapes for bioethanol than for wine or concentrate.

I can see it now. Instead of regular, super regular and premium; the pump would read Selma Thompson regular; Lodi Zinfandel or Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. Fill ‘er up!

Mercedes on Merlot; Chevrolet on Chardonnay and Vipers on Viognier would also make the world smell better. California farmers could not plant grapes fast enough.

Wine-powered America is the coming thing.

Discuss this Blog Entry 8

on May 12, 2011

Great article Harry. If you put this one together they will erect a statue of you in downtown Fresno!

on May 12, 2011

You have solved one of the biggest problems in the world! Good job, Harry.

Chet Hetrick (not verified)
on May 12, 2011

Now you understand how the Midwest corn grower has gotten to where he is today. In a time of great recession the ag world is enjoying some of the best times ever. Why? Because demand and usage in more than just food brings demand that outstrips supply. Simple. Lucky or Good? I think in this case the ag industry worked hard to build demand for what the produce. You are correct sir, perhaps the grape growers could do the same.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 12, 2011

that's what I call "GREEN" house gas. The lib's have to bite on this one.

Bill wertzberger (not verified)
on May 15, 2011

You can get 160 gallons (sometimes more) per ton but that's wine at maybe 14% alcohol. Three passes thru the still to get over 90% would leave you with 20 gallons per ton.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 15, 2011

There are a couple of problems with your math.

Problem #1: There are 3785ml in a gallon, so there are just over 5 bottles of wine in a gallon.

Problem #2: Wine doesn't burn. You have to distill the alcohol out of the wine and burn that. You would need to distill 42 BOTTLES of 12% Wine to get 1 gallon of alcohol. At $200/ton fermented to 12% and distilled translates to about $10.80 per gallon of alcohol….. not counting the fuel you would burn distilling it!

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 15, 2011

Do some research, The wines are rarely in excess of 14% alcohol, so you need 7 gallons of Chardonnay to produce one gallon of pure alcohol. This is more efficient than the current system promoted by our crazy government because as bad as it is it is more efficient than corn. Further, we are in the begining stages of food shortages world wide, and our ethanol program may be the root cause of the sudden revolutions in the middle east. Its not just about our cheap gas.

Bob (not verified)
on May 15, 2011

Sorry Harry . . . I believe that the wine (just like the corn) must first be distilled. Which would mean you'd only get roughly 15% of the total volume of the wine in question. I could be incorrect but you may want to do a bit more research before this problem is considered "solved".

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