Bush, Automakers Discuss Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuels are on the agenda as President Bush meets with the CEOs of GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler. All agree more alternative fuels should be available. But they decline to discuss fuel efficiency.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

President Bush is trying to squeeze some mileage from the topic of alternative fuels. NPR's business report begins with the president's alternative fuel road tour. It's a short trip today. Conserving some energy, perhaps. The president visits the postal service facility in the nation's capital where he will kick the tires on some flexible fuel vehicles, including a UPS truck and a FedEx van that can run on gas or biofuels. The president talked about alternative fuels last week during a tour of Midwestern auto plants.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The same theme was front and center yesterday as the president met with the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler. Automakers want the White House to come up with a plan to increase production of fuels, like corn-based ethanol and biodiesel. Noticeably missing from the conversation, urging the CEOs to make cars that get better gas mileage. Jack Speer has this report.

JACK SPEER: Emerging from a closed door meeting at the White House, Mr. Bush praised the automakers who are promising to significantly increase their production of flexible fuel vehicles.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: American automobile manufacturers recognize the reality of the world in which we live, and are using new technologies to give the consumers different options.

SPEER: The domestic car companies have promised by 2012 half the vehicles they build will be capable of running on fuels like E85 ethanol, something GM CEO Rick Wagner says is already reducing oil consumption.

Mr. RICK WAGNER (CEO, GM): There's nothing that can be done, which can reduce the curb of growth and imported oil like using E85, taking advantage of what's there today.

SPEER: However, while Detroit is all for building more flex fuel vehicles, the automakers oppose a plan that would require them to increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles by four percent a year. A requirement that Sierra Club's Dan Becker says would save a lot more energy.

Mr. DAN BECKER (Sierra Club): The biggest single step that we can take to cut our oil addiction and curb global warming is to make cars go further on a gallon of gas. The auto companies need to get off their tailpipes and get into gear to get it done.

SPEER: And with fewer than one percent of the nation's service stations now offering E85, environmentalists say most of those flex fuel vehicles will continue running on regular old gasoline.

Jack Speer, NPR News, Washington.

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