NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shortage Of Ethanol Stations Hampers Government Aternative Fuel Efforts

October 4, 1998

Six years ago, Congress directed federal agencies to buy vehicles that could run on alternative fuels. By 1998, half of all new vehicles purchased were to be in compliance. The U.S. Postal Service announced last month that to comply, it would purchase 10,000 new delivery trucks that can run on either ethanol or gasoline. The alternative would have been natural gas.

The problem is that there are only about 40 stations that sell ethanol in the entire country.

  • The ethanol outlet nearest to New York City -- which will get the first batch of trucks -- is in Indianapolis.
  • Postal officials say the vehicles will be sent wherever new trucks are needed -- regardless of what fuels are available.
  • Trucks which can run on ethanol cost about $200 more, while those that are powered by natural gas cost about $4,000 extra.
  • Environmentalists favor the use of natural gas.

Natural gas, while cheaper than gasoline, requires expensive compressor stations and the fuel tanks must be squeezed into cars. In places where ethanol is available, the cost is 10 cents to 15 cents per gallon more than regular unleaded gasoline.

Source: Matthew L. Wald, "New Postal Trucks Can Run on Ethanol, But Probably Won't," New York Times, October 4, 1998.


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