U.S. Automakers Press Bush On Ethanol

They want government and fuel providers to increase infrastructure.

The chiefs of the Big Three U.S. automakers pressed President George W. Bush on March 26 to create more government incentives for the development of ethanol and other biofuels. Notably absent from the discussion however was much talk on improving fuel economy standards and little time was devoted to other alternative fuels such as hybrid electric technology or hydrogen-powered vehicles.

"(Corporate Average Fuel Economy) only came up in the sense that the automakers believe if there is CAFE reform it's better done through regulatory and rulemaking processes," General Motors Corp. spokesman Greg Martin said.

Bush proposed a significant tightening in fuel economy standards in his January State of the Union address, which Martin described as a "significant hurdle" -- both economically and technically.

GM, Ford and the Chrysler Group did ask the president to expand funding for the development of batteries which could be used for plug-in hybrid vehicles, noting that both Japan and Korea already have invested several hundred million dollars in the technology.

All three automakers have committed to making half of their vehicles capable of running on either biofuel or fuel with an 85% ethanol content (E85) by 2012 as a means of reducing gasoline consumption. There are currently more than six million flexible fuel vehicles on the roads capable of running on gasoline or biofuel, and a million more will be sold in 2007.

The automakers said in a statement that those vehicles would displace more than 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline a year if they were running on E85. "Right now there are approximately 1,100 E85 pumps in the U.S. and 1,000 biodiesel pumps, out of 170,000 gas stations," the automakers said.

"We expressed to the president that we are willing to lead the way, but we need government and fuel providers to increase infrastructure before we can make a meaningful impact."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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