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State vehicles switching to ethanol, Riley says

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The state government is switching its fleet of vehicles to ethanol and is trying to make it easier for consumers to find alternative fuels, Gov. Bob Riley said Thursday.

Riley arrived for a news conference at the State Motor Pool in a "flex fuel" Avalanche provided by General Motors. At the news conference, he announced that the state is spending $324,0000 to install a 12,000-gallon E-85 fuel tank and two pumps at the Motor Pool.

The equipment should be ready in May. The Motor Pool, which provides vehicles for state employees to use on trips across the state, has 132 of its 207 vehicles that can use flex fuel and all of its future purchases will be flex fuel capable.

The State Motor Pool is only the first step, Riley said, because "we understand how important it is to break our dependence on foreign oil."

Next, fuel stations for alternative fuels will be installed at the Department of Transportation's pumping stations for its equipment, Riley said. About 2,000 of DOT's 3,000 vehicles are flex fuel capable.

On the consumer side, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is taking applications for commercial stations along Interstate 65 that want to offer alternative fuels to the public.

$312,000 federal grant

A federal grand of $312,000 will provide funds to help six stations add E-85 ethanol pumps and five stations install B-20 biodiesel pumps. Alabama is working with Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee to create a "clean fuels corridor" from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, Riley said.

E-85 is 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol, which is derived from starch crops like corn. Biodiesel is made from soybeans and other crops that produce oil and can be used in conventional diesel engines.

The federal grant followed President Bush's visit to Hoover in September to see how the city uses alternative fuels for its police department.

Riley was joined Thursday by David Bransby, an Auburn University professor at the forefront of research in alternative fuels and one of the people who met with the president in Hoover.

Bransby said the availability of timber and switchgrass in the Southeast is putting the region at the forefront of developing alternative fuels from those products.

"The Southeast is the Saudi Arabia of the cellulosic biofuels," he said.

With Riley and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks emphasizing biofuels, Alabama will play a prominent role, he predicted.

After being re-elected in November, Sparks created the Center for Alternative Fuels at the state agriculture department and described it as a one-shop stop for people interested in producing biofuels in Alabama.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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