Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennessee has an answer to a variant of an old riddle: Which came first, the biofuel vehicles or the bio-fueling stations?
The legislature approved a budget in late May that included $4 million in new biofuel funding that will primarily go toward building fueling stations. Governor Phil Bredesen has set a goal of building 50 E-85 stations (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline), most of which will dot I-40, a major thoroughfare that crisscrosses the state.
The hope is that having the stations will prompt more motorists to buy vehicles that can accept ethanol. Currently, around 5 million vehicles on American roadways can run on E-85, with many major automakers now producing flex-fuel vehicles that can use either E-85 or traditional gasoline. "No one is going to buy such a vehicle," Bredesen says, "unless they have fuel stations."
Those plans come on the heels of an executive order signed by Bredesen earlier this year setting up an alternative-fuels working group that brings together transportation, environment, agriculture and economic development officials. The group will build on efforts already underway by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
This spring, TDOT solicited proposals from fueling stations interesting in providing either B-20 (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent traditional diesel) or E-85. Under the public-private partnerships, the state--with the help of federal grants--will kick in 80 percent of the cost of offering the alternative fuels while the stations themselves will be required to pay the remaining 20 percent.
Construction on the stations is slated to begin this summer, with the department aiming to provide E-85 or B-20 at 15 to 20 stations. In TDOT's own fleet, more than 130 B-20 vehicles are already on the roads under a pilot project in East Tennessee.