E85 Coupe hot rod from GM

Lawmakers and car manufacturers often find themselves on opposite ends of debates, and a proposed mandate to make most vehicles E85 capable only proves that point. The Detroit News reports that Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has sponsored a bill that would force automakers to make 90 percent of their E85 capable by 2016, but automakers aren't taking this proposed legislation lying down.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes the Detroit Three, Toyota and eight other automakers, is predictably against the idea, saying that the idea would amount to a $2 billion annual tax on car buyers. Shane Karr, vice president for government affairs, points out that there are already over eight million E85-capable vehicles on the road, yet only two percent of all gas stations feature the corn-based fuel. And most of those gas stations are on the Midwest. E85-capable vehicles will often struggle with new emissions standards in states like California, too. That means still more technology must be poured into vehicles on sale in states with the toughest standards, which will further boost the price of new vehicles.

Bob Dineen , CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, supports the measure even though there is a long way to go before consumers use E85 at a meaningfully increased rate, adding "efforts to expand (flex-fuel vehicle) technology must be a part of our energy future."

While increased E85 usage would likely go some way toward decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, we're thinking that adding all that cost to new vehicles could wind up slowing vehicle sales. And if vehicle sales slow, the amount of research and development money shrinks, which doesn't help the future of hybrids, electric vehicles and other fuel saving technologies.

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: General Motors]