The road to fuel choice — government’s role

The road to fuel choice leads through the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and state capitol domes. Breaking the oil monopoly will require a combination of federal and state policies; widely available fuels and the cars to run them; and, finally, an educated and willing consumer base.

On the policy front, there’s actually a great deal federal and state governments can do to pave the way for fuel choice.

Federal agencies could, for example, move to extend the credits automakers receive for producing flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), which are built to run on higher alcohol blends than in gasoline. There are about 20 million of these vehicles on the road in the United States, including some of the most popular makes and models on the market — like the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and GMC Yukon.

That issue is back on the table now that the fuel economy standards are again under review. (Read more about the standards, and our official public comments, at Policy CAFE.) We’re taking every opportunity to ensure that consumers have liquid fuel vehicle alternatives, alongside electric, hydrogen, and others.

State governments can also play a key role in bringing more fuel alternatives to the pump. Among them:

  • California has an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030. Much of that plan focuses on electricity generation, a sector that already has seen gains in renewable sources. But with transportation accounting for about a quarter of GHGs, expansion of an alternative fuel infrastructure could help the state meet its overall targets.
salt lake-air

Salt Lake City, home of Jazz and (too often) smog.

  • Utah consistently has poor air quality, particularly in winter, along the Wasatch Front, trapping smog over the state’s largest population center, Salt Lake City. Expanded use of alternative fuels in transportation could help the state attain its clean air targets.

States also could send a strong message that they’re serious about improving air quality and reducing GHGs by adding more FFVs to their public fleets — police cars, maintenance vehicles — and filling them up with higher ethanol blends whenever they can.

Alternative fuels like ethanol and methanol are not only cheaper and cleaner, they displace the amount of oil we use, including the imported oil that comprises 40 percent of our overall consumption. This sea change in the transportation system could have widespread benefits for our health and environment, as well as create millions of new domestic jobs and strengthen our national security.

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