Acknowledging America must reverse its reliance on imported oil, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman voices support for increased production and distribution of E85 ethanol — and for more vehicles capable of burning the alternative fuel.

General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have turned up the volume on the discourse regarding E85, a fuel comprised of 85% ethanol — currently derived almost exclusively from corn — and 15% conventional gasoline.

Both auto makers have announced plans to increase production of vehicles capable of using either E85 or gasoline and have joined initiatives to widen retail distribution of the fuel, currently available at only 600 fuel stations nationwide.

Although some critics have raised concerns about the cost of adding flex-fuel capability to light vehicles, Bodman says he is convinced the cost is “quite modest” — about $100 or less per vehicle.

Bodman says he believes E85 is the best current option for reducing the nation's appetite for imported oil, which last year came with a $250 billion price tag.

Meanwhile, GM is launching a collaborative effort with Cleanfuel U.S.A. and Meijer Inc. superstores aimed at establishing some 20 new E85 fueling stations in southeast Michigan.