US Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) today asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate whether big oil corporations are knowingly restricting consumer access to alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel as a result of company policies.
According to an internal memorandum from a major petroleum company obtained by Senator Obama’s office, gas station franchise owners are prohibited from selling non brand-name renewable fuels like E85 and B20 from fuel islands or underneath canopies bearing the oil company’s name or logo. The memo also said that any alternative location of fuel pumps dispensing alternative fuels must be approved.
I believe that it is crucial for our national security and economic security that the United States lessen its dependence on foreign oil. And if big oil companies are standing in the way of consumers who want to fill their vehicles with cleaner alternative fuels made here in the United States, then I believe the American people deserve to know why.—Senator Obama
Senators Obama and Grassley are requesting that GAO, the watchdog arm of Congress, analyze the current state of refueling stations that dispense alternative fuels like E-85 and B20 biodiesel. The investigation would examine whether any oil companies have policies or practices that directly or indirectly prohibit or discourage the construction, installation or operation of E-85 and B20 fueling pumps.
Separately, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting action on “potentially illegal policies by major petroleum companies that discourage the sale of biofuels.” (Chicago Tribune)
He said the number of Illinois stations offering E-85 has climbed from 14 to about 100 since autumn of 2004. But most of that growth has been downstate. Cook County [in which Chicago is located], with much of the state’s population, has only about 10 E-85 stations.