WASHINGTON, D.C. – With millions of flexible-fuel vehicles on U.S. roads and more coming, major oil companies must install many more service station pumps to provide fuel made mostly from ethanol to run them, a top Ford Motor Co. official told Congress, according to Reuters
. State officials in the U.S. Midwest, where farmers grow much of the corn used in ethanol production, have accused big oil companies of dragging their feet in providing motorists with fuel that is a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. President George W. Bush has called for more ethanol use to reduce foreign oil imports, and the Energy Department is looking into the accusations. Susan Cischke, Ford vice president of environmental and safety engineering, raised the issue at a Senate Energy Committee hearing on U.S. energy security, where she complained there are less than 600 of the so-called E-85 fueling stations out of over 170,000 retail gasoline stations nationwide, according to Reuters
. Most service stations carrying E-85 fuel are independently owned stores in the U.S. Midwest. Sen. Pete Domenici, who chairs the energy panel, said the lack of distribution for E-85 is a big problem and the government should lean on oil companies to install more pumps. The scarcity of E-85 pumps has the attention of U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, who said he planned to ask big oil companies why they were not installing more of the pumps, according to Reuters
. A spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute (API), the trade group for big oil companies, said it costs $200,000 to install an E-85 pump and separate underground tank for the fuel. The API also points out that while most service stations carry a certain brand of gasoline, they are not owned by the oil company that makes it.