Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Levin Car Amendment’s Flex Fuel Provisions Yield Phantom Oil Savings
Press Release

RELEASE: Levin Car Amendment’s Flex Fuel Provisions Yield Phantom Oil Savings

CAP Analysis Finds Cleaner Fuel Unavailable, So No Oil Reduction

Washington, DC – “Dual fuel” vehicles made to operate on either gasoline or 85 percent ethanol do not significantly reduce oil use since E85 is rarely available in most states, according to an analysis released today by the Center for American Progress. Although there are 4.4 million flexible fuel vehicles on the road, there are only 1,133 service stations that sell the clean, alternative fuel to the public. There are two-thirds fewer service stations per vehicle available for FFVs compared to service stations available for regular vehicles. Yet Senator Carl Levin’s (D-MI) fuel economy amendment to the Senate energy bill, H.R. 6, attempts to reduce oil use via a requirement that half of all cars be FFVs.

“Relying on flexible fuel vehicles to reduce oil use is like depending on lottery tickets for retirement income,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy for the Center for American Progress. “Flexible fuel vehicles yield phantom reductions in oil use because it is very difficult to find service stations that sell E85 to the public.”

There are 12 states with a total of 400,000 flex fuel cars that do not have a single public service station that sells E85. Instead, these cars operate on ordinary gasoline made from oil. Likewise, California, Massachusetts, and New York have a total of a half million FFVs and only five service stations between them that sell E85.

“Any plan that relies on flex fuel vehicles will not achieve needed cuts in oil use since the replacement fuel isn’t readily available,” added Mr. Weiss. “Senator Levin’s fuel economy amendment relies on flex fuel cars, so the reductions are a mirage. His plan won’t significantly reduce oil dependence, save families money, or enhance national security. The Senate must reject it.”

Sen. Levin indicated that he will offer his amendment to the Senate energy bill, H.R. 6. The latter requires that cars and light trucks average 35 miles per gallon by 2020, which would save 2.1 million barrels of oil per day—nearly the amount imported from the Persian Gulf in 2005. The Levin amendment would rely on flex fuel vehicles to achieve its reductions and require weaker standards and more compliance time, with many opportunities to block fuel economy improvements altogether.

“Flex Fuel Bait and Switch” available at: