Legislation aims to increase availability of flex fuel vehicles

By Erin Voegele | April 14, 2009
Web exclusive posted April 23, 2009, at 3:30 p.m. CST

Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate seeks to increase the availability of fuel choice-enabling automobiles, which are defined by the legislation as flex fuel vehicles capable of operating gasoline, E85 or M85 or automobiles capable of running on biodiesel.

The bill, titled the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2009, would require that 50 percent of the vehicles made or sold in the U.S. by each manufacturer be fuel choice-enabling from 2012 to 2014. Beginning in 2015 the requirement would increase to 80 percent.

According to information contained within the legislation, the status of oil as a strategic commodity presents a clear and present danger the U.S. However, Congress has found that increasing fuel competition and consumer choice would serve to end oil's monopoly in the transportation sector and strip oil of its strategic status. The legislation states that alcohol fuels - like ethanol - could pay a major role in securing the energy independence of the U.S., but only if a substantial portion of vehicles in the country are capable of operating on such fuels.

The Senate version of the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2009, S.835, was introduced on April 20 and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. S.835 is sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and cosponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (ID-Conn.).

A U.S. House of Representatives version of the bill, H.R.1476, was introduced in March and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. H.R.1476 is sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and cosponsored by Representatives John Barrow (D-Ga.), Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.), Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), Bruce L. Braley (D-Iowa), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-Pa.).