Wal-Mart looks into selling ethanol

As part of its newfound determination to jump on the eco-bandwagon, Wal-Mart is considering selling E85, an ethanol/gasoline blend, at the gas stations it owns and operates. The mega-chain held an alternative-fuels summit for auto-industry reps, oil companies, government officials, and biofuel producers in Washington, D.C., this week. Still, Wal-Mart spokesflack Kevin Gardner stressed that Wal-Mart is not yet ready to commit to anything. Despite ethanol fanfare from federal lawmakers and steady manufacturing of flex-fuel cars that can run on E85, only about 600 of the nation’s 170,000 retail gas stations sell the ethanol blend. Wal-Mart owns and operates 383 gas stations across the country; the ethanol industry hopes that the world’s biggest retailer would have the clout to encourage other chains to carry E85 as well. Meanwhile, oil giant Chevron is eyeing the biofuels biz too; this week it announced a new business unit that will focus on ethanol and biodiesel.