Sweden Leads Ethanol Drive

By: Anthony Fontanelle

The spotlight is zooming in on America as a champion in transforming road machines into green vehicles. But a small country with just 4.2 million cars has started the initiative ages ago and is now far ahead. With the help of a number of auto giants, Sweden is leading the ethanol drive - a scheme designed to put more green vehicles on the roads.

"Sweden has made a major commitment to ethanol," Michael Wood, the United States ambassador to Sweden and a Flint native, said in an interview in Detroit.

How dedicated is Sweden? In 2006, the country started converting smuggled beer, wine and hard alcohol into biofuel used to run trucks and buses. In 2007, Sweden turned 180,000 gallons of alcohol into biofuel.

Some vodka distilleries are switching to ethanol production and some paper mills in northern Sweden are working to develop cellulosic ethanol, said Bo Andersson, a Swedish native and General Motors Corp.'s vice president for global purchasing.

Sweden has cuddled ethanol unlike any other country outside Brazil. By far, the Nordic nation is the most successful. As such, it could serve as a worthy model for America in its goal to slash foreign oil reliance.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and other Michigan officials are looking to Sweden for guidance and see the push for alternative fuels there and the transformation in various industries as something that could be emulated here. The governor made a trip to Sweden last year and has praised the country's commitment to alternative energy. She said Michigan must follow suit and is planning a summit of Michigan and Swedish energy leaders later this year in Michigan.

"To understand the connection between renewable energy and jobs, just look at Sweden - a country with striking resemblances to our state: the same size population, similar geography with two-thirds of their land covered by forests, a strong automotive sector," Granholm said. "Sweden set high goals for their use of renewable energy. The result? They created over 2,000 businesses and 400,000 jobs in their renewable energy sector - 400,000 jobs."

Last year, about 12 percent of vehicles sold in Sweden were E85 models, versus an expected six percent in America. According to a Detroit News release, America has about 121 million drivers and just more than 1,200 E85 pumps, mostly in the Midwest. But Sweden has five million drivers but over 1,000 ethanol pumps. This fact is mainly attributed to a 2006 Swedish law that requires stations to have an alternative fuel pump.

The Swede government has taken steps to encourage the use of E85 vehicles while America has not. The former has given 20 percent tax break on qualified vehicles. Additionally, many local governments give flex-fuel vehicles free parking. Those benefits have been extended to hybrids in some American cities but not to the six million flex-fuel vehicles on the roads.

The American automakers should also exert more effort to achieve greener environment. To prevent dirt and sludge, there are . But how about the protection of environment which is a more important concern?

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