MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Combat Center is on its way to making a greener footprint on the environment by becoming the first Marine Corps base on the West Coast to install E-85, a type of ethanol fuel used in flex-fuel automobiles.
Ethanol is a corn-based fuel widely believed to be better for the environment because of its reduced tailpipe emissions.
The E-85 pumps currently being installed at the Combat Center are scheduled to be ready for use later in the month for government vehicles, said Ken Tyree, the fleet manager for the Southwest Region Fleet Transportation, based here.
“We have 76 of our 300 government vehicles already replaced with flex-fuel vehicles,” said Tyree, who comes from Beckley, W. Va. “Flex-fuel means they are able to use both unleaded gas and E-85.”
Installation of ethanol pumps and the use of flex-fuel vehicles has gone smoothly on other installations, but has been difficult in this part of the country because corn is not as abundant on the West Coast.
“In the Midwest and on the East Coast the fuel is very popular,” Tyree said. “It’s more popular in those areas because they grow corn.”
With all the possible environmental benefits from using E-85, there are still a few drawbacks.
Typical concerns are people being afraid of the lower gas mileage coming from ethanol use, and the fact fuel-grain corn is used to make E-85.
“The same corn used to make feed stock is used in ethanol,” Tyree said. “People get scared at that, but we don’t use the same corn so it isn’t detracting from the food people could eat.
“Also, ethanol does use more gallons than unleaded gas would, because it is a somewhat weaker mixture, and requires more fuel to make the automobile work,” he said. However, “the difference in terms of how much lower ethanol’s emissions are, is massive.
They do benefit the environment, even though it requires more to burn than unleaded gas.”
Tyree said while there will be changes in the government vehicles aboard the base, tactical vehicles will not be effected by the change in fuels.
“We are going to keep the same systems in all our tactical vehicles,” he said. “The only things changed would be the commercial fleet we have.”
By fiscal year 2010, Tyree said they are scheduled to have replaced all 300 commercial vehicles with flex-fuel cars.
Brian Muzii, a lead fuel systems operator at the Combat Center’s fuel issue point for government vehicles, said the installation of the base’s first fuel pump is moving smoothly and is right on schedule.
“The system has been around for a while, we should have no problem running it. Two weeks after it is completed we should be ready to dispense it,” said Muzzi, a Twentynine Palms, Calif., native.
Muzii said the new fuel should work fine and he expects the 20,000-gallon tank of ethanol to be filled and be put to use.