NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 12, 2007

Clean-air advocates are enthusiastic about Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's worldwide reputation as a "green" governor.  But "green" is nothing but a façade when it comes to the state's fleet of eco-friendly cars, says the San Jose Mercury News.


  • During the past two years, Gov. Schwarzenegger's administration sunk more than $17 million into the cars designed to be environmentally friendly.
  • So far, the 1,138 "flex-fuel" vehicles have traveled a collective 10 million miles and burned more than 413,202 gallons of gas.
  • But not one drop has been high-grade ethanol -- the fuel that promised to turn the passenger fleet into clean driving machines.

Indications don't look positive for an eco-friendly future either:

  • The vehicles have no access to ethanol pumping stations; there were no such pumps available to the fleet when the vehicles were purchased, and no stations are scheduled to open until December 2009.
  • With ethanol being made largely in the Midwest, it has to be hauled in from out of state in gas-guzzling tankers or diesel-powered trains -- that alone nearly cancels its clean-air benefits in California.
  • Even worse, the flex-fuel vehicles are churning out more smog and greenhouse gases than many vehicles in the state's old fleet -- as much as 2,000 extra tons annually.

"This is about California politicians wanting to be leaders in alternative energy.  They just jump on whatever is sexy.  Right now, it's ethanol," said Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute, which is working with the administration to reduce greenhouse gases. "However, ethanol, particularly from corn, is not a likely fuel source for California."

Source: Kimberly Kindy, "Green facade: Why the state's eco-friendly cars aren't doing the job," Mercury News, July 8, 2007.

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