As it stands right now, there are comparatively few places to purchase alternative fuels. As of 2005, there were approximately 168,987 gas stations in the United States; of those, just 2,200 sell E85 ethanol fuel.
No major oil outlets have fully embraced biofuels, although British Petroleum has just announced that it may begin commercial production of ethanol starting in 2010.
BP has partnered with Verenium to bring a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility online next year to start bringing alternative fuels to a gas pump near you.
BP has big plans for biofuels and seems to be marching towards an alternative fuel future faster than many of its competitors. Verenium already has a demonstration plant in Louisiana capable of producing over a million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually, and BP hopes to ramp production up. The Verenium process uses proprietary enzymes to break down grass feedstock and convert it to ethanol more efficiently.
Now this is all well and good, but historically BP has one of the worst environmental track records… ever. It is the 5th largest company in the world, but has had repeated troubles with oil spills and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. There are numerous examples of spills at their Prudhoe Bay facility in 2006/2007, it was cited as the “most polluting company” back in 1991, and continues to siphon oil from Canadian tar sands despite the increased CO2 output of the process. This is an abbreviated list of their environmental challenges; in short, they have a lot of sins to make up for, but it is never too late for second chances.
In fairness though, BP is working on lots of other alt-fuel projects as well, including wind farms in America and a biobutanol facility to be built in England. Biobutanol is a close-yet-clean cousin of gasoline, and can be put into existing engines without any modifications. BP also has a vested interest in algae and solar power among others. It would be a big step forward to have every BP gas stations carrying ethanol fuel, although, clearly, we still have a long way to go.