February 11, 2008

Sweden serves as ethanol model

Sweden has embraced ethanol unlike any other country outside Brazil, and the Nordic nation's example may help the United States in its quest to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

How committed is Sweden, a small country with just 4.2 million cars?

Last year, it began converting beer, wine and hard alcohol smuggled into the country into biofuel used to power trucks and buses. Many Swedes attempt to bring alcohol home because taxes are lower in continental Europe. In 2007, Sweden turned 180,000 gallons of alcohol into biofuel.

Of course simply producing the fuel isn't enough, there has to be outlets for it's sales also.

The United States has about 121 million drivers and just more than 1,200 E85 pumps, mostly in the Midwest. By contrast, Sweden has 5 million drivers but more than 1,000 ethanol pumps, in part because of a 2006 Swedish law that requires stations to have an alternative fuel pump.

Sweden has also used tax credits and incentives to encourage drivers to buy flex fueled vehicles.

About 12 percent of vehicles sold in Sweden in 2007 were E85 models, versus an expected 6 percent in the United States.

Sweden has moved rather aggressively towards ethanol and Michigan is studying it's model for ideas on how to boost it's own economy with ethanol use.

"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."

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