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Bush backs more use of ethanol and other alt fuels

From freep| March 27,2007

President George W. Bush reiterated his support today for expanding the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels for cars and trucks in a meeting with the heads of Detroit’s automakers, who fully committed to making half of their new vehicles flex-fuel capable by 2012.

Bush and the automakers spent 45 minutes in the Oval Office discussing his 20 in 10 plan, which calls for reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years through boosting alternative-fuel consumption to 35 billion gallons a year from 7 billion gallons now, as well as raising fuel-economy standards.

“If you want to reduce gasoline usage, like I believe we need to do so for national security reasons, as well as for environmental concerns, the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice,” Bush said. ”I appreciate very much the fact that American automobile manufacturers recognize the reality of the world in which we live and are using new technologies to give the consumers different options.”

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group have long supported increased use of E85, the blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline that about 6 million of their vehicles can use for fuel today. The three pledged last year to make half of their vehicles flex-fuel capable by 2012, but only if more pumps and filling stations capable of handling alternative fuels were made available.

The executives said today that although more infrastructure is needed, alternatives to gasoline are the best option for reducing consumption.

“We are absolutely on the edge of being able to move into a new era with flex-fuel, a lot of developments in batteries and hybrids,” said GM Chairman Rick Wagoner. “We ought to stick with that and play it hard. This is a real opportunity.”

After the meeting, the heads of the three companies showed off an alternative-fuel model – Ford’s HySeries hydrogen plug-in hybrid concept, an E85-capable Chevrolet Impala and a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee fueled with 5% biodiesel.

Wagoner and the other executives said that they told Bush they supported his proposal to allow federal regulators to rework fuel-economy standards for cars, but they did not discuss his target of an annual 4% increase in standards. Congress is considering several bills that would require similar increases, even though the Detroit automakers and their competitors have said a 4% annual increase is unworkable.

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