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Bush touts flex fuel to America's carmakers

He urges doubling production of autos that run on ethanol and biodiesel.

Associated Press
Published March 27, 2007


WASHINGTON - President Bush touted the benefits of "flexible-fuel" vehicles running on ethanol and biodiesel on Monday, meeting with automakers to boost support for his energy plans.

Bush said a commitment by the leaders of the domestic auto industry to double their production of flex-fuel vehicles could help motorists shift away from gasoline and reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil.

"That's a major technological breakthrough for the country," Bush said after inspecting three alternative vehicles. If the nation wants to reduce gasoline use, he said "the consumer has got to be in a position to make a rational choice."

The president urged Congress to "move expeditiously" on legislation the administration recently proposed to require the use of 35-billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017 and seek higher fuel economy standards for automobiles.

Bush met with General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group chief executive Tom LaSorda. They discussed support for flex-fuel vehicles, attempts to develop ethanol from alternative sources like switchgrass and wood chips and the administration's proposal to reduce gas consumption by 20 percent in 10 years.

The discussions came amid rising gasoline prices. The latest Lundberg Survey found the nationwide average for gasoline has risen 6 cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $2.61.

Bush welcomed the CEOs to the Oval Office for the second time in the past five months. While the November meeting was broad in its scope - with discussions on trade, health care and energy policies - Monday's gathering was focused exclusively on energy issues.

The president generated criticism in Michigan when he told the Wall Street Journal in January 2006 that the automakers need to build "a product that's relevant." But standing with the executives Monday, Bush said they "recognize the reality of the world in which we live" and are exploring new technologies.