France To Unveil Ethanol Action Plan

France plans to launch an ambitious scheme designed to encourage motorists to put ethanol in their tanks, a major push for "green" technology, the government has announced. The initiative, which aims to promote ethanol as an alternative to gasoline, is expected to tempt more drivers to buy ethanol-adapted cars and provide impetus for the creation of a national distribution network.

Speaking on French television channel France 3 on Sept. 24, French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said: "In a few days, I am going to announce the launch of green ethanol pumps throughout the country."

In France, the use of ethanol, an alcohol made from wheat, beetroot, corn or sugar cane, is far less than in leading countries such as Brazil or Sweden. Biofuels, which includes ethanol and the more widely used biodiesel, represent just 1.2% of all fuel consumption in France, according to Prolea, a French oils and vegetable product association. The French government had announced in September that it aimed to increase the amount of ethanol used as a proportion of total fuel to 5.75% in 2008 and 7% in 2010.

Adoption of the technology also depends on the development of new car models able to use ethanol, with the E-85 grade of fuel expected to spur progress. E-85 is made up of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, but requires special "flex-fuel" engines that are able to work with the mix of fuels.

The head of French manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen, Jean-Martin Folz, said in May that the idea of a push to sharply increase the number of ethanol-enabled cars in France would be "stupid". Nevertheless, PSA plans to launch the Peugeot 307 and the Citroen C4 next year that will be able to run on gasoline or E-85.

French rival Renault said in February that 50% of its petrol vehicles would be able to run on E-85 by 2009.

In Brazil, the largest producer and exporter of ethanol fuel, 80% of new cars sold are able to run on ethanol and the fuel provides 17% of the country's fuel needs.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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