Ethanol Put to the Test

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Ethanol Put to the Test

DETROIT -- Automakers are mounting an effort to build ethanol-powered vehicles that environmentalists charge is a way of dodging fuel-efficiency standards.

Manufacturers are to produce more than 1 million "flexible-fuel" cars and trucks that can run on either gasoline or E85, a mixture of 15 percent gas and 85 percent ethanol, which burns less greenhouse gases. In 2004, automakers plan to build nearly 1.8 million flexible-fuel vehicles, according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, The Washington Post reported.

But there is almost no place for the cars to fill up with E85, so most of the vehicles run on gasoline. Fewer than 150 of the roughly 176,000 gas stations nationwide offer the ethanol-based fuel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But auto manufacturers get credits toward meeting federal fuel-efficiency standards for every ethanol-friendly car or truck they build, regardless of whether the vehicle's owner actually uses the alternative fuel, The Washington Post reported.