I was deeply impressed a couple of days ago by GM boss Rick Wagoner’s crisp and lucid explanation of the reasons why his mammoth company was announcing it was to take an interest deal with a tiny, start-up company. Coskata, an outfit from Warrenville Illinois, has discovered a quick, efficient process to make ethanol from waste, and I’m disappointed that its breakthrough has not had a bigger impact on the motoring community. It hardly made headlines in the US, and other hacks and industry execs I discussed it with were lukewarm at best, mostly cynical.

Yet Wagoner’s speech laid out, in a way I’ve never seen done, the stark gap that will exist within a few years between the oil we’ll need and the oil we’ll have available. We’re currently using 1000 barrels a second. By 2030, says a US government study, we’ll need 70 per cent more energy than we did in 2004. Chuck in our 96 per cent dependence on oil for automotive propulsion and our rising desire not to depend on unstable oil suppliers, and you have — I believe — good reason for wanting to find fuel alternatives. Urgently.