By Peter Robison, Alan Ohnsman and Alan Bjerga
The U.S. Postal Service purchased more than 30,000 ethanol-capable trucks and minivans from 1999 to 2005, making it the biggest American buyer of alternative-fuel vehicles. Gasoline consumption jumped by more than 1.5 million gallons as a result.
The trucks, derived from Ford Motor Co.’s Explorer sport- utility vehicle, had bigger engines than Jeeps from the former Chrysler Corp. they replaced. A Postal Service study found the new vehicles got as much as 29 percent fewer miles to the gallon. Mail carriers used the corn-based fuel in just 1,000 of them because there weren’t enough places to buy it.
“You’re getting fewer miles per gallon, and it’s costing us more,” Walt O’Tormey, the Postal Service’s Washington-based vice president of engineering, said in an interview. The agency may buy electric vehicles instead, he said.
The experience shows how the U.S. push for crop-based fuels, already contributing to the highest rate of food inflation in 17 years, may not be achieving its goal of reducing gasoline consumption. Lawmakers are seeking caps on the use of biofuels after last year’s 40 percent jump in world food prices, calling the U.S. policy flawed.
“Using food for fuel has created some unintended consequences: food shortages, the high price of livestock feed,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. “I think it’s leading a lot of people to wonder whether our corn-based ethanol goals need to be adjusted.”
Read the rest of this story at Bloomberg News.