No clear progress seen yet in US ethanol program

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 5, 2011

Instead of lowering gasoline use, it appears that President Barack Obama’s plan for the government to depend on vehicles that use alternative fuels such as ethanol may end up increasing its usage.

The Government Accountability Office discovered that federal employees last year got waivers to use gasoline in 55% of fleet vehicles that can run on the ethanol blend E85 since E85 wasn’t available.

The independent watchdog didn’t make an estimate of how much added gasoline was used.

E85 is offered in only 1% of filling stations. E85 powers about 86% of the alternative-fuel fleet vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2010. Brett Smith, an alternative-vehicle analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said that it will be “tough” to use ethanol in these vehicles if there isn’t any infrastructure.

On March 30, Obama said that as part of plan to lessen the country’s dependence on oil imports, all the vehicle that will be purchased for the federal fleet by 2015 will be fuel-efficient or will make use of alternative fuels.

To attain this goal, the E85 will need to be part of the plan since hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles aren’t produced as widely. They’re also more expensive and they don’t offer the durability needed for some jobs performed by government vehicles.

According to the GSA and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. government (in 2009, Obama’s first year as president) increased gasoline in vehicles by 3% compared to the previous year. Obama had also increased hybrid purchases to about 10% of the federal fleet from 1% in 2008.

Topics: united states

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