D'oh! How the government's flex-fuel fleet leads to increased gasoline use

We've talked before about President Obama's plan to greenify the federal fleet, generally thought of as a good thing. In leading by example, Obama hopes to show the American public that flex-fuel vehicles – and other gas-misers like hybrids and plug-ins – can substantially reduce our dependence on gasoline. However, Automotive News (sub. req.) has posted an interesting article showing that even the best of intentions don't guarantee success.
In 2009, despite increased purchases of flex-fuel and hybrid vehicles, the U.S. government fleet consumed three percent more gasoline than it did in the previous year. While it may sound paradoxical that E85-capable vehicles actually end up using more gasoline, there's nothing mysterious going on here. For example, last year, 55 percent of the government's E85-capable vehicles ran on gasoline simply because there were no stations offering E85 where they filled up. With only one percent of filling stations offering E85, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to fill the tank with this high-ethanol blend.

Then there's a larger problem. "All the E85 vehicles are bigger, less fuel-efficient vehicles," Roland Hwang, transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Automotive News. "And they're going to be filled up with gasoline most of the time. Therefore they're going to use more gasoline than more fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles."
We're not sure if we agree that all E85 vehicles are bigger, but certainly the high-volume players in the E85 market are trucks and sedans. There is hope for the federal fleet, however, as the U.S. Agriculture Department has recently started a program that aims for 10,000 E85 pumps in the next five years, which would more than quadruple the number of existing stations.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.| Image: diaper – C.C. License 2.0]

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