The News from Detroit: Automakers on track, half of new vehicles will be FFVs

(Press release from Renewable Fuels Association, October 25, 2011)

Washington – The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) recently commended General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler for meeting their pledge to produce 50 percent of their new vehicles as flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) by 2012.  Flexible fuel vehicles are cars, pickups, or SUVs capable of using any blend of ethanol up to 85 percent of the gallon, or E85.

“Ethanol-ready vehicles are essential if Americans are to increase our use of domestically-produced ethanol and reduce our reliance on imported oil,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.  “In order to see this industry continue to grow and evolve, including the commercialization of new ethanol technologies, we must continue to invest in FFVs, blender pumps, and other infrastructure to maximize the benefits of using a homegrown renewable fuel.  The RFA commends the Big Three for living up to their commitment and challenges other automakers to follow their lead.”

According to data compiled by the RFA from expected FFV model production and conversations with General Motors and Ford Motor Co., America’s “Big 3” are on pace to produce half of all new vehicles as FFVs in 2012.  Currently, there are approximately 9 million FFVs in use.  The RFA has compiled a list of FFVs available by make, model and model year.  To see if your vehicle may be a FFV, download the list here.

“Vehicles are just one part of the plan needed to open America’s fuel market to higher level ethanol blends and other alternative fuels,” said Dinneen.  “Investments in blender pumps that can dispense a wide range of ethanol blends and the passage of legislation like the Open Fuel Standard are needed to end oil’s monopoly on how Americans get to work or go on vacation.  With changing federal regulations and fuel quality needs in the years to come, ethanol producers and automakers have an opportunity to work constructively together to help America achieve its environmental and energy security goals, all while creating jobs and economic opportunity here at home.”

The RFA is joining with national security experts and alternative fuel industries to push for enactment of an Open Fuel Standard (OFS) that would help level the playing field for new fuel technologies. 

Our Take:
Private industry is doing its part. Now is the time for Congress to join the biofuels industry and support the spread of infrastructure so that this impressive commitment from Detroit isn’t in vain.

We need blender pumps—one in every city would be a good start, but once this gets going, we can foresee high ethanol blends available at every gas station. If Brazil did it, we can do it.

Detroit’s ramp up of FFV production assures that the final two billion gallons of grain-based biofuel capacity can come on line with a market space ready to receive it. Cellulose ethanol is on the cusp–yes, the commercial scale first plants—about twice as big as the first dry-grind corn ethanol plants at 27 mmg—are being built in Kansas, Michigan and Iowa.

Minnesota doesn’t have to be the first in every time, but we’d like to see a project develop here, too. The whole point of farm-based energy is to boost our economy and take control of our energy destiny locally. We don’t want to get left behind on this one. The biomass feedstock can come from the farm too.

While ethanol’s naysayers offer no solutions that would be ready within a decade, corn ethanol is going strong and cellulose ethanol is on the launch pad. The “Billion Ton Study” from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, just updated this August, tells us: “the nation (has the) capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without impacting other vital U.S. farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops… with continued developments in biorefinery capacity and technology, the feedstock resources identified could produce about 85 billion gallons of biofuels – enough to replace approximately 30 percent of the nation’s current petroleum consumption.

Why does all this matter? We want to make OPEC irrelevant. When we make our own energy, we keep jobs and dollars here, and add more to our economy. And let’s not forget ethanol is less carbon intense than oil, and is continually moving in a positive direction, while oil production involves greater release of carbon into the atmosphere as time goes on.

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