Environmental group demonstrates alternate fuel vehicles

Environmental group demonstrates alternate fuel vehicles

Four members of a national conservation group touring Florida today to showcase gas-saving vehicles unfortunately had to use petroleum gas exclusively to run their biofuel-burning Chevrolet because ethanol fuel is not yet available here.

“The trick is you only have one pump in the whole state of Florida, unlike in the Midwest, where there are hundreds of pumps,” said Deron Lovaas, vehicles campaign director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental organization with 1.2 million members.

The four were on a 12-city tour in an effort to highlight solutions to volatile gas prices, such as fuels like ethanol, made from corn and other crops.

“Monday morning, we’ll stop at the only E85 (ethanol) pump in the state,” in Tallahassee, said Lovaas, who added that mixing ethanol and gasoline squeezes more mileage from every gallon of gas, thus reducing global warming, pollution and dependence on foreign oil.

Meanwhile, construction on what was supposed to be the state’s first ethanol plant, located at Port Manatee in Manatee County, awaits resolution of a land leasing problem, said Bradley Krohn, president of U.S. EnviroFuels LLC, which has proposed the plant. It could produce 40 million gallons of ethanol per year for use as a gasoline extender, according to a Herald story published in July.

A sister plant in Tampa is “progressing full steam ahead,” and the company could begin construction within 60 days or so if two final permits it needs are issued, Krohn said.

The “Drive Beyond Oil” road trip stopped along the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to showcase a borrowed Chevrolet Impala sedan that burns either gasoline or a mix of gasoline and ethanol; and a rented Toyota Highlander hybrid SUV that uses electric batteries to cut down on gas consumption.

Both cars are commercially available for anyone to buy, but finding ethanol fuel for cars like the Chevy is a sticking point for would-be purchasers, Lovaas said.

“You can get the car, but you can’t get the fuel,” he said.

The Manatee County Port Authority has already approved a 4.75-acre land-lease option for U.S. EnviroFuels’ proposed ethanol plant, but the company sought another 20 acres, and thus far, has not been able to execute a sub-lease agreement to get it, Krohn said.

“The sub-lease is something we were never able to resolve,” he said. However, the Manatee County project, which would create 35 to 40 new jobs, is still viable, he said.

“The Port Manatee project is still a very high priority for us, and we intend to get it on track as soon as possible to follow Port of Tampa,” Krohn said.

Share this post