Massachusetts Exploring Alternative Fuel Options

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Massachusetts Exploring Alternative Fuel Options

BOSTON -- In response to rising gasoline prices, state lawmakers are looking to explore a homegrown solution to the high cost of foreign fuels.

E85, the ethanol-based fuel produced mainly from corn, is being sold in 37 states -- but none in New England. According to a report in the Berkshire Eagle, the legislation that will be introduced this week, co-sponsored by state Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, would set up a commission to explore ways to bring E85 pumps into Massachusetts.

"Would we want to create incentives for gas station owners to put in the equipment to supply E85? That's the question this commission has to answer," Guyer said in the report. "We need to cut through the chaff and get to the facts."

E85 is a mixture of 85 percent ethanol alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. It emits fewer greenhouse gases and has a higher octane rating than gasoline.

On the downside, E85 does not produce as much energy as gasoline, which means drivers would have to fill up more frequently than they do now.

Some of the biggest automakers are planning to build E85-compliant vehicles, including General Motors Corp., which plans to put 400,000 of the vehicles on the market this year, and Ford Motor Co., which announced it will produce 250,000 this year.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are no E85 filling stations in New England. The bulk of the stations are located in midwestern states such as Minnesota.

Guyer said one issue the commission will examine is whether a portion of the state's 21-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax could help gas station owners convert to E85 and study E85 usage by vehicles in Massachusetts.

Guyer said he's excited about the prospect of an ethanol-based fuel being an economic boon to corn growers in the Berkshires and other parts of western Massachusetts.

"If we had a facility to produce E85, do we have the capacity in our farms to produce enough of the raw material corn where we can be self-sufficient and not have to import the product from outside? That's another question we need to answer," Guyer told the Berkshire Eagle.