Bush, U.S. automakers look for easy way out of fuel standards
March 27, 2007
At a press event on the White House lawn featuring Vice President Dick Cheney, General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda, President Bush thanked American car makers for their increased emphasis on flex-fuel vehicles.
"That's a major technological breakthrough for the country," Bush said. "If you want to reduce gasoline usage like I believe we need to do so for national security reasons as well as for environmental concerns, the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice."
Bush said he was pleased "that American automobile manufacturers recognize the reality of the world in which we live in and are using new technologies to use the consumers different options," apparently not aware that fuel-flex vehicles have been available in the United States for more than a decade.
Environmentalists note that while flex-fuel cars use significantly less fossil fuels and produce fewer emissions than conventional automobiles they are not necessarily more fuel-efficient. Accordingly, The Associated Press reports that General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said the executives spent "very little time" talking about gas mileage standards with the president.
Further, some green groups are concerned that demand for corn-based ethanol is driving prices for agricultural products ever higher as fuel demands are now competing with food demands. Corn prices have more than doubled since last year, while wheat prices are at 10 year highs, according to a study release last week by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Environmentalists warn that demand for biofuels abroad is also driving conversion of biologically rich forests for oil palm, soy, and sugar cane farms.
High oil prices fuel bioenergy push. High oil prices and growing concerns over climate change are driving investment and innovation in the biofuels sector as countries and industry increasingly look towards renewable bioenergy to replace fossil fuels. Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has recently invested $84 million in an American ethanol company, while global energy gluttons ranging from the United States to China are setting long-term targets for the switch to such fuels potentially offering a secure domestic source of renewable energy and fewer environmental headaches.