Flex Fuel cars. Great idea? Where can you fill up in LA or Orange County?

Last night my wife and I spoke to our neighbors who just leased a Flex Fuel vehicle. In our discussion he said that the only station to purchase the E-85 (Ethanol) fuel is located in San Diego. Great planning Washington, D.C. braintrust. In pressing for energy independence from the Middle East, we failed to close the loop. While we have our farmers shift their crops to focus on corn for Ethanol, driving up the price of feed for beef, chicken, pork and a gallon of milk, we now realize that Flex Fuel cars can be found parked in auto showrooms without locally available fuel to run them.

Oh, let me not overlook that vehicles running on E-85 will get 20 percent less mileage than traditional regular and high test gasoline. Yep. We have surely solved our energy problems haven’t we?

Our state government has added Flex Fuel vehicles to their fleet. This past July reporter Kimberly Kindy of the San Jose Mercury News reported that “federal laws forced them (Sacramento) to buy thousands of alternative-fuel vehicles they cannot currently fill with cleaner fuels. In California, the problem with ethanol-burning vehicles is that there is only one place in the state where the fuel is available – a privately owned station in San Diego that the state doesn’t use.

Both Lieu and Florez, however, pointed out that the U.S. Department of Energy allows state governments to apply for waivers when they can’t buy a truly green fleet.

“Why didn’t you apply?” Florez asked. “Why don’t you?”

Cook, the former General Services deputy director who now has a new appointment with the governor, insisted that the state also must show “leadership” by buying the cars so the stations will eventually be built.

“Demand creates supply,” Cook said.

The first of 47 state-funded E85 stations should be open in December 2009. That’s four years after the first cars hit the road. In the meantime, Cook said the state will go out to bid, as soon as today, to get the E85 fuel for a single pump inside a garage a few blocks from the Capitol. He couldn’t say how many cars and trucks that would fuel.”

The slogan “buyer beware” surely applies here. Before you purchase or lease an E-85 vehicle make sure that you can fill up without driving 50 miles to find a station.
And when you get there be prepared to pay a dollar more per gallon.
It’s called supply and demand. Even the state of CA admits it will take at least two to four years before they have fueling locations for their fleet.

While I support any effort to take money out of the pockets of the OPEC conglomerate, we need solutions that are practical and cost effective.

Until private sector stations come on line, whenever that will happen, we will continue to burn thousands of gallons of traditional fuel.

About Larry Gilbert