Berkeley, California - July 20, 2004 [SolarAccess.com]
There are approximately 75 vehicles, out of a fleet of 250, at the lab that are capable of using ethanol-85 (E-85), which is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Fleet manager Don Prestella said it is the lab's goal to run all of the vehicles on ethanol. Berkeley Lab is one of 300 fueling facilities for E-85 in the U.S. All federal facilities received an executive order in 1999 to reduce air emissions through the use of alternative fuels.
Much of the laboratory's vehicle conversion was made possible by a grant for $83,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy. A new vapor-recovery system on the ethanol storage tank is being tested for the next three-years by the California Air Resources Board.
"Within the next five years, (ethanol) will be everywhere," Prestella predicts.
Ethanol normally contains 35 percent oxygen, which results in more efficient fuel combustion. Toxic gasoline components such as benzene are displaced, and an ethanol additive helps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 12 to 19 percent, as compared to regular gasoline. Tailpipe carbon monoxide is reduced by up to 30 percent, and exhaust volatile organic carbon (VOC) emissions by 12 percent.
The trend toward such alternatives is growing, and just over five million acres of corn are currently used to produce ethanol each year.