Ethanol Fuel Stations Scarce, Even in Iowa

LCT Staff
Posted on October 3, 2008

IOWA CITY - With the financial rescue plan taking the spotlight in Congress, the increase in alternative-fuel options may have to wait.

The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, written by Sen. Charles Grassley, would expand tax incentives for the production of renewable fuel as well as install more additional pumps for ethanol.

Although there aren't many stations selling flex fuel, the desire for vehicles with ethanol-accepting motors has not slowed.

The Iowa City area only has one E-85 station, despite demand at local car dealers.

"Producing isn't a problem, the infrastructure is the problem," said Kevin Hartwig of Hartwig Motors.

Hartwig said fewer than 1,000 stations nationally offer E-85, making it a challenge for people to find a place to take advantage of the technology.

But that hasn't stopped people from buying into the trend, Hartwig said.

"Consumers are feeling better about buying them, but without choices, all they get is a better feeling," he said.

In the car business, Hartwig said, dealers are choosing to invest heavily in alternative options, such as electric and hybrid technology.

But the fear of investing in a young technology exists for many companies, he noted.

It is crucial to buy into the "greener" options, he said, and Congress must act on to lessen the country's dependency on foreign companies.

Michael Wilson, the UI program associate for motor-vehicle services, said 229 vehicles at the university have the ability to run on E-85.

The emissions have been shown to be cleaner and offer a cheaper solution.

Wilson also said that it is important to use this technology at a state level because it helps create economic growth for Iowa's farmers.

"We help create the market," he said.

The UI has 12 hybrid vehicles, he said, and the school is moving toward electric options - four vehicles are 100 percent electric.

Brian Crowe, senior program planner with the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, said that despite some skepticism about the new technology, it is important for the ethanol industry to gain support.

Although he said there will be an effect on the land used to grow plants for the fuel, it is important to measure the debate by what "comes out of a gallon" of fuel- ethanol is always a better option he said.

Crowe also said that progress cannot exist if the stations are not built to offer the benefits for fuel-flex motors.

"It's like the chicken and the egg," he said, "You need one to get the other."

Crowe said that the imbalance in the infrastructure needs to be "set in place" in order to focus on the future.

But he added that 75 percent of the existing ethanol companies in the United States are new within the last three year.

Crowe said while it is difficult to focus on one solution because there is no simple answer, alternative methods must continually be developed in order to make a change.

"We can have a world that is environmental and economical," he said.

Source: The Daily Iowan

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