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Flex-Fuel Vehicles: is E85 Ethanol Based Fuel the First Step to Beating “Oil Addiction”?
During the State of the Union Address on January 31,2006 President George W. Bush presented a plan to the people of the United States and to the U.S. Congress to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.He spoke of hybrid cars, hydrogen based fuel cell cars and the expansion of ethanol fueled vehicles. The ethanol-based technology is already here, there are already somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV) already on the road in the USA.FFV can run on regular unleaded gasoline or a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent regular unleaded gasoline (known as E85) or any percentage of ethanol and gasoline blend in between.
The expansion of FFV is, in my opinion, an opportunity for General Motors and Ford to step forward and show the American people that they can compete by building vehicles that are friendlier to the environment and not dependent on products imported to us from the politically volatile Middle East.
Ford showed off an ethanol-hybrid SUV this past January at the Washington, D.C. auto show, as reported by USA Today writer James R. Healy. This E85-burning hybrid Ford Escape is part of “a development program, not a research program”, according to Ford Executive Vice President Anne Stevens. This means that the American consumer will find these vehicles in showrooms sooner rather than later.
USA Today writer James R. Healy did a cover story on Thursday February 2,2006 highlighting the message from the States of the Union Address indicating that E85 is not the answer because among other things the infrastructure is not in place, except for the Midwest, and, if you do not own one of the 5 million FFV currently on the road you would need to buy a new car that can use E85. I understand these very valid points but I also must say that it is February 2006 as I write this article and 2025 is still 19 years away. The technology is here; we just need to get on board with the new technology now in order to cut the dependency on foreign oil imports in the future.
In his USA Today feature article Mr. Healy noted that Ford CEO Bill Ford states his company will boost FFV production 25% this year to 250,000. Also noted was that General Motors has pledged to build more than 400,000 FFV annually, starting this year. Noting that a barrel of oil is saved for every 37 gallons of E85 that is used.
Mr. Healy’s feature article raised an interesting point: most cars on the road today in the USA require no modifications at all to run on Gasohol, which is a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. By taking the first step of using the 10 percent ethanol blend we, as the American driving public, can accomplish a couple of things. First we can help the environment by burning a cleaner fuel in our current cars. Second we can give the automakers the acknowledgement that the American consumer is serious about alternative renewable fuel. This perhaps would spur other manufacturers to join General Motors and Ford in offering expanded choices in the FFV line-up. Third this would give production facilities time to tool up as well as a ready and willing market to expand into. Fourth this should help American farmers by boosting the price of corn that is widely used in ethanol production. Fifth this would also give more fuel stations the time to begin making the necessary additions to their storage facilities to accommodate E85 fuel. This will not happen over night but instead slowly over time. The next time you are in the market for a new vehicle a FFV may be a viable choice for you.
The manufacturers will build the vehicles that are demanded by the public. If you feel that an E85 fuel vehicle may fit your needs the next time you purchase a vehicle do your research and do what is right for you. Remember that the flexibility of an E85 fueled vehicle does not restrict your travel to only areas that have E85, because it will also run on regular unleaded fuel. To get additional information you can visit www.e85fuel.com for the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.
Copyright 2006 Dana Buttenhoff
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