Obama’s fuel alternative vehicle push may lead to fleets using more gas

President Obama getting in his Cadillac

President Obama’s plan to have the government employ a fleet of vehicles that uses alternative fuels, such as ethanol, may actually end up increasing the use of gasoline, rather than decreasing it.

Last year, 55% of fleet vehicles capable of running on E85 – a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol – were given waivers for conventional gas, because E85 was no where to be found. That makes sense however, as E85 is only carried in about 1% of filling stations nationwide.

“If you don’t have the infrastructure, it’s going to be tough to use the fuel in these vehicles,” said Brett Smith, an alternative-vehicle analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Obama said on March 30 that all vehicles purchased for federal fleet use starting in 2015 will be either fuel-efficient, or use alternative fuels, as part of his plan to reduce dependency on oil. E85-powered vehicles will have to be a part of that mix, as hybrids and plug-ins are not as widely produced, cost more to buy, and are not capable of the jobs performed by some government vehicles.

E85-powered vehicles, which allow the use of either E85 fuel or gasoline, constitute about 3.3% of the cars on US roads. That’s about 8.2 million vehicles.

“All the E85 vehicles are bigger, less fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Roland Hwang, transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group that has criticized the use of corn-based ethanol. “And they’re going to be filled up with gasoline most of the time. Therefore they’re going to use more gasoline than more fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles.”

– By: Stephen Calogera

Source: Automotive News

Image Source: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza