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More fuel options a good idea

A hybrid decal on a Ford Fusion hybrid

A hybrid decal on a Ford Fusion hybrid Photo Credit: John Dunn

Autos that get better gas mileage would be good. Competition at the pump between gasoline and other fuels would be better.

The higher mileage standard President Barack Obama proposed last month would reduce domestic oil consumption. But imagine having a car that allows you to pick from a menu of fuels when you pull up to the pump. That daily competition for motorists' dollars would curb our reliance on oil and free the economy now held hostage by oil producers.

That's the goal of a bill in Congress that would require 95 percent of new automobiles to operate on a nonpetroleum fuel in addition to, or instead of, gasoline by 2017. The Open Fuel Standard Act has the added virtue of not relying on Washington to pick which fuel to back. That would be left to the market, as it should be.

Automakers can inexpensively modify their cars to run on ethanol, liquid natural gas, biodiesel, hydrogen or other fuels. And a large number of flex-fuel vehicles would drive investment in the infrastructure needed to make various fuels available.

Automakers don't like the bill's aggressive timetable, but after Brazil committed to ethanol the proportion of flex-fuel vehicles built there soared from zero to 70 percent in three years.

Obama's proposed requirement that new cars and light trucks average 56.2 mpg by 2025 is a feasible goal. Using a flex-fuel mandate to get there would help finally free the nation from its slavish dependence on oil.