- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2005

Christopher Lapp’s road trip to San Diego could change the way Americans fuel their cars.

He is driving cross country in a 48-year-old Cadillac that has been converted to run primarily on ethanol. The trip, which is being called the “Coast to Coast Ethanol Journey,” began yesterday after the Memorial Day Parade in downtown Washington.

In 1957, when Mr. Lapp’s Caddy was brand new, the average price for a gallon of gas was 55 cents, according to the Department of Energy. The average price for a gallon of gas today is $2.12.

Mr. Lapp, who is a nuclear and environmental consultant, said one of the reasons he wanted to make the coast-to-coast journey was because he is “interested in a diverse mix of energy sources for America’s future.”

Ethanol, which is made by fermenting and distilling grain, sugar and corn, has been a popular topic on Capitol Hill this year.

Last Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation that would require all refineries use renewable components, most of it ethanol, in gasoline annually by 2012. The bill would double ethanol use in the United States to 8 billion gallons a year.

Officials at the American Coalition for Ethanol said that by increasing the amount of ethanol used in gasoline the need for crude oil would drop by 2 billion barrels annually.

“Ethanol is a cleaner burning fuel, every gallon of ethanol you use displaces seven-tenths of a gallon of petroleum. Using ethanol is almost like removing 1 million cars from the road,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol.

Mr. Lapp doesn’t want to remove cars from the road, but he does want to add them. He is hoping that by making the 6,000 mile round trip he will be able to bring attention to ethanol as an alternative source of fuel.

“I want to show people that ethanol could be part of the equation in solving the fuel issue. It’s a bridge between natural gas and petroleum,” he said.

He has mapped out his route to correspond with his fuel consumption, plotting stops at the handful of ethanol stations that dot the countryside.

“Morgantown (W.Va.) is the first stop then from there I have to make it to Lexington, Ky.,” Mr. Lapp said.

He said his biggest challenge is going to be making it from Colorado to California because of the lack of stations in that region of the country.

“Once you leave Colorado, there are only five stations until California. A lot of them you need special permission to use because they aren’t open to the public. I think I can make it. I’ve got a pretty big tank, but it might be a bit of a stretch,” he said.

Mr. Lapp’s mode of transportation for his epic journey is a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible. He said he wanted to use a classic car because it would be more interesting and show people that “if I can make it in this, then they can take a trip in flexible-fuel car.”

A flexible-fuel car is specifically designed to run on any ethanol fuel blend up to E-85, where 85 percent of the fuel is ethanol and the remaining 15 percent is gas. A special board diagnostic unit reads the fuel blend and adjusts the car’s injection and ignition timing to compensate for the different fuel mixtures.

Unlike the newer models where everything is done automatically, Mr. Lapp has to manually switch his Cadillac over to regular gas or ethanol, but he considers it a small price to pay to get the word out.

“There are a lot of alternative energy ideas out there, and ethanol is just one of them. It probably wouldn’t work to run the whole county on ethanol because we use so much gas, but it could help,” he said.

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