WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Oil companies and the U.S. federal government should do more to encourage develoment of alternative motor fuels and ensure that consumers have access to them at fueling stations, according to the head of Chrysler (DCX).
Speaking to reporters before a renewable fuel summit got underway, Chrysler President and Ceo Thomas LaSorda said the country should set up greater infrastructure for fuels such as E-85, a 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend. LaSorda is scheduled to speak at the conference after remarks from President George Bush and U.S. lawmakers and the head of oil industry group American Petroleum Institute.
"If Brazil can do it ... the most profitable country should be able to do it as well," he said, referring to the extensive ethanol infrastructure in Brazil, a top producer of ethanol from sugar cane.
"We've got to get away from the reliance on imported oil and the way to do it is flexible fuel vehicles," he said.
He noted that, together, Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. (F), and GM (GM) plan to produce 8 million flexible-fuel vehicles by 2008. The vehicles can run on renewable-fuel blends such as E-85.
"Now it's time for the oil companies" to act, he said. "Now we need the infrastructure."
He noted that Michigan has only six fuel pumps that dispense E-85.
"I think we can do more," he said.
Still, he said that it might not require mandates from the government to spur oil companies to action. "We would hope for joint consensus, he said. "I believe oi companies will come forward and participate."
Meanwhile, the oil industry group API points out that while the cost for automakers to build flex-fuel vehicles is low, the cost to gas station owners to install E-85 pumps is high. The group also says it's a large consumer of ethanol but it has concerns about vouching for a fuel at gas stations that it doesn't produce.
Still, some lawmakers in Congress have called for investigations to see if oil companies have policies that are keeping the number of E-85 pumps from growing.