Picture this.

You’re driving down the road and you notice your tank is almost empty — time to fill up. You pull into a fueling station and see the price of gasoline has gone up quite a bit since the last time you were there. Instead of gritting your teeth and shelling out more than you’d like on gasoline, you look to see what the price per gallon is for kerosene and ethanol. And you’re in luck: Both kerosene and ethanol are selling at a lower price than gasoline, with kerosene being the cheapest. You refuel your car with kerosene, keeping that extra money you would have spent on gasoline in your pocket, and go on your way.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Sure, it would be nice if the world worked like that and we could choose what fuel we used, but we simply don’t have the technology. Take your unobtainable, utopian pipe dream somewhere else and talk about realistic solutions to our oil addiction.

Well, I’ve got some news for you. That paragraph up above? That’s not wishful thinking or science fiction. That’s how many people lived as early as 1908. The first mass-produced car — the Ford Model T — was designed as a tri-fuel vehicle capable of running gasoline, ethanol, kerosene, or a mix of the three. It allowed for competition in the fuels marketplace, keeping the price of fuel low and ensuring drivers weren’t charged a premium to fill up. That’s how the world used to work, and how, ideally, it could work again. That’s what fuel choice was.

Unfortunately, despite Ford’s conviction that biofuels like ethanol would be the “fuel of the future” because it was a higher-octane, cleaner fuel and could be made easily in farms across the nation, that was not to be. Through a combination of dirty market tactics from the oil industry and the introduction of toxic lead instead of ethanol as a gasoline additive, ethanol was strong-armed out of our fuel infrastructure, and the American people lost the ability to choose and make their own fuel.

However, a century later, America is finally in a position to fight back. There are 19 million flex-fuel vehicles in the U.S. that can run both ethanol and gasoline, and gas stations are adding more ethanol (E85) pumps every day. But that alone won’t be enough to give back the right of fuel choice to all Americans.

To do that, Americans like you and me need to work together. We need to tell our local gas stations that we want them to sell ethanol. We need to check our vehicles to see if they’re already flex-fuel capable. And if we’re in the market for a new car or truck, we should consider a flex-fuel capable model. We need to start converting our existing vehicles to be flex-fuel capable. We need to send a message to the fuel retailers, to the car manufacturers, and to the oil companies that says: We want our fuel choice back, and we want it now.

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