At a news conference on the south lawn, where several alternative-fuel vehicles were parked, Bush repeated his call to Congress to support his goal of reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next decade.
"Right now, most of our ethanol is made from corn, but the federal government is spending a lot of money to try to develop new technologies that will mean that ethanol could be made from ... woodchips or switchgrass," Bush said. "It's in our national security interests that we do this, it's in our economic security interests we do it, and all at the same time it'll help us be better stewards of the environment."
The president said the auto executives told him half of U.S. vehicles would be capable of running on flex-fuels by 2012.
Bush was flanked at the briefing by GM Chairman and CEO G. Richard Wagoner, Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Tom Lasorda, Chrysler Group president and CEO.
Public Citizen said a switch to ethanol-capable flex-fuel vehicles would have a net effect of actually lowering overall U.S. fleet fuel economy.
"The automobile industry is aware of this discrepancy but markets and sells many flex-fuel vehicles in states where there are no or few E-85 fueling stations available to the public," said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen's president.