General Motors Co’s (GM) growing output of vehicles that can run on ethanol-gasoline blends won’t help cut polluting emissions or U.S. dependence on foreign oil until more stations begin dispensing ethanol, according to GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens, Reuters reported.
Half of GM’s vehicle lineup will be able to run on a mix of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, called E85, by the 2012 model year, said Stephens in a speech on Tuesday at the Renewable Fuels Association conference. “GM is spending about $100 million a year adding flex-fuel capability to our vehicles. We can’t afford to leave this capital stranded,” he noted.
Adding the capability to run on E85 costs adds as much as $70 to the production cost of each vehicle, Stephens said.
GM has produced 4 million of the 7.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on U.S. roads now, said Coleman Jones, GM biofuel implementation manager.
Stephens said GM has worked with the National Governor’s Association and ethanol producers and dispensers to add 350 more ethanol-blend pumps in the U.S. He said GM would welcome federal government assistance to finance expansion of that network.
“Today there’s 2,200 (ethanol fuel stations) that are out there but that’s not enough,” said Stephens. “Two-thirds of the pumps are concentrated in 10 states (in the Midwest) and those 10 states have only about 19% of the flex-fuel vehicles that we have on the road,” said Stephens. “That’s a big problem for us.”
Stephens said there are about 160,000 U.S. gasoline stations, and there need to be 12,000 or more ethanol stations “to have ethanol fuel available for every one of our customers within about two miles of where they live. So, we’ve got some work to do there to get the additional 10,000 pumps in.”
Ethanol-gasoline blends emit less polluting carbon dioxide than conventional gasoline and are mainly produced domestically, Reuters noted. Energy legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2007 set binding targets for fuel blending each year. Ethanol use is to rise to about 20.5 billion gallons by 2015 and 35 billion gallons by 2022 from 4 billion gallons in 2006 and almost 13 billion gallons in 2009.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that ethanol-gasoline blends must increase the ethanol portion to much higher than the current limit of 10% and increase use of other sources of ethanol than corn, such as switchgrass and landfill and farm waste.