By Bob ReinertApril 17, 2009
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - What if you could fill your gas tank with a fuel that was largely produced in the U.S. and that reduced emissions' Would you do it'
Well, if you drive a General Services Administration government vehicle on Fort Lewis, there's a better than 50-50 chance that you can. Of the approximately 950 vehicles under a gross weight of 8,500 pounds in the post's GSA inventory, roughly half are "flex fuel" capable.
"Right now, there's 489 E85-compatible vehicles (on post)," said Gary Bohot, GSA fleet service representative at Fort Lewis. "That means (they) can use anywhere from 100 percent regular gasoline ... up to 85 percent ethanol."
And the number of those vehicles on post is growing. Bohot noted that while only 25 percent of the fleet had E85 capability two years ago, that should rise to around 70 percent two years from now.
"That number keeps (rising)," Bohot said. "As far as GSA is concerned, we get as many E85 vehicles as possible."
According to federal law, E85-capable government vehicles must use the fuel if it's available within five miles or a 15-minute drive. Fort Lewis has a refueling station at the corner of Prescott and South L streets in the Logistics Center, and it's being pumped with greater frequency.
"I know usage has risen, as well as the number of vehicles that can take it," said Miriam Easley, outreach coordinator for the Fort Lewis Public Works Environmental Division.
According to figures provided by Easley, E85 usage at Fort Lewis rose from 86,766 gallons on 7,167 fill-ups in 2007 to 109,304 gallons on 8,876 fill-ups in 2008. In the first two months of 2009, the figures were 17,066 and 1,312, respectively.
Bohot pointed out that E85 prices are competitive with those for regular unleaded gasoline.
"If you buy it here at Fort Lewis, it's a vast savings to the government," Bohot said. "If you buy it off (post), it's comparable right now to regular gasoline."
Using E85 moves Fort Lewis closer to its sustainability goal of zero emissions by 2025 and helps reduce the nation's thirst for foreign oil.
"It reduces the harmful greenhouse gases," Bohot said. "It's domestically produced. We aren't going overseas to purchase ethanol. If anything, we're selling ethanol to other folks."
So how do you know if that government sedan, van, SUV or truck you've been driving can accept E85' That's easy.
"Any vehicle from GM, Chrysler or Ford produced since 2008 has a yellow gas cap," Bohot said. "So you know if it's got a yellow gas cap, it's E85 compatible."
Whether they know it or not, most people already use ethanol in their personal vehicles. Check the pump at your local gas station.
"Any fuel that you get is going to be seven to 10 percent ethanol," Bohot said. "Any vehicle can operate on 10 percent ethanol."
Levels above that require modifications to vehicles, however.
"Basically, the price difference is somewhere between $500 more to nothing," said Bohot of E85 vs. gasoline-only vehicles. "That's the way I steer everybody. If there's anything close that's offered as an (alternative-fuel vehicle), I'll get it for them.
"The Dodge Stratuses - they're all going to be E85. You don't have a choice."
But you can choose which fuel to use. Bohot hopes you do so wisely.
"As long as you've got the vehicle, use the (E85) fuel," Bohot said. "It's right there."
For more information on E85 or flex-fuel vehicles on Fort Lewis, call Gary Bohot at 967-5758.
Bob Reinert is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.