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Senators Request Investigation into Whether Corporations are Restricting Access to Biofuels

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.



While they're at it, can they also inquire why there are no electric cars?


This could be of great interest for the Illinois state attorney general. It smacks of anti-trade practices.


Electric Cars -- What every one forgets is that both GM and Ford produced electric cars (way back in the 90's) and while the few people who bought them loved them the key words here are -- "the few people who bought them" -- Both GM and Ford lost billions because no one bought them -- please stop blaming the major car companies -- they are in business to make money -- nothing wrong with that!! New advances in batteries and also advances in electric motors will make new advanced electric cars that can compete with other froms of trans -- and I'm positive that will happen but remember that electric is only as green as the source of power. If it comes from solar, wind or nukes then OK but if it comes from coal w/o carbon capture then it's at best a wash.


Uh, dude. The EV1 wasn't for sale. GM obstinately refused to sell them. People were begging GM to sell the cars to them even when it was appearent that GM was killing the program. GM subsequently crushed the cars. Ford was going to do the same thing with the !Think cars but many were eventually saved and sent to Norway.

Toyota only made 800 Rav4 EVs and they were in incredible demand.

No, I think it's safe to say that GM, Toyota, and Ford were never very serious about the EV.


JJ, read some more, even if EVs recharged from coal stations they are still way cleaner then ICE counterparts.
Its easier to clean one big pipe(plant) then thousands of small ones(cars). Oil depletion is upon humanity and I believe every effort should be made to smooth the transition to new energy resources ( if that is possible at all). I believe u will be a first one in line for EV when gas will cost 10$ per gallon. Question is when. 2006 or 2016.


I'm not sure I buy the "electric and bio are better so there should be more" argument. Clearly, there may be some fishy business going on with the major oil companies. But there are scores of independent gasoline stations which could sell E85 or biodiesel, but don't. Why?

Regarding EVs, GM acted in bad faith with the EV1, and somewhat Ford as well, but so what? They are not the only two auto manufacturers in the U.S., let alone the world. Numerous chop shops have been offering EVs for years, often with tax incentives, and have gone nowhere. Why?

I'll tell you why. These technologies are just not as good as mainstream gasoline/diesel. Batteries are heinously expensive and have pathetic range (until iron phosphate lithium batteries, but they're not quite here yet), and engines need dramatic redesign to efficiently use E85.

When a product is failing in the market, there may be sinister forces pulling strings behind the scenes to make it happen, but more often than not, that product is just plain inferior.

[q->t to email]

tom deplume

Actually flex fuel engines only differ in the software used in the engine's computer. There may be some cars which use plastic parts in their fuel delivery systems which wouldn't tolerate ethanol but these wouldn't be costly to replace at the productiopn level.

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