Tom Harkin - U.S. Seante

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced legislation that would ensure all new gasoline-powered motor vehicles sold in the United States are able to use fuel blends of up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). At a time when fuel costs are hurting family budgets and businesses nation-wide, Harkin, along with Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced the bill to gradually increase the percentage of “flex-fuel” vehicles — those able to use regular gasoline or ethanol blends such as E85. Under Harkin’s legislation, within roughly a decade all new motor vehicles sold in the United States would be flex-fuel capable, increasing drivers’ access to renewable fuels that promise to reduce their fuel costs while lessening America’s dependence on foreign oil. Generally, E85 is significantly less expensive around the country than regular gasoline.

“For too long, our country has been dependent on foreign oil, and now America’s drivers are paying the price at the pump,” said Harkin. “This legislation will free our drivers from relying solely on oil based gas and allow them the choice of using ethanol blends that could be saving families hundreds of dollars if cars were E85 compatible now.”

Currently most drivers cannot use fuel blends with high ethanol content in their vehicles since only 2% of American cars are flex fuel capable. The legislation introduced today would require automobile manufacturers to gradually ramp up production of flex-fuel vehicles and reward those who exceed minimum requirements for making flex-fuel vehicle by giving credits that can be bought and sold among automobile manufacturers. Our heavy reliance on oil for fuel, the majority of which is imported from foreign countries, has left many consumers suffering from quickly rising gasoline costs with little alternative but to absorb those costs. The Harkin legislation introduced today would eventually ensure all drivers have increased choices in buying fuel, helping keep costs down.

“By expanding driver access to ethanol, we can decrease our reliance on foreign oil while stimulating demand for home grown ethanol,” Harkin said. “That’s a great deal for America’s drivers, the rural economy and the environment.”

The legislation introduced today is part of Harkin’s ongoing effort to reduce America’s dependence on oil through increased use of renewable fuels and alternative sources of energy. Harkin was instrumental in including provisions that will double the use of ethanol and biodiesel by 2012 (renewable fuels standard, RFS) in the comprehensive energy bill enacted by Congress earlier this year. Harkin has also worked to improve driver access to renewable fuels like E85 by increasing their availability in gas stations nationwide and pushing auto makers to put stickers on vehicle fuel-tanks indicating if they are capable of using high ethanol content fuel blends.

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