Duke Alumns Hit the Road With Alternative Fuel Campaign

Trip encourages Americans to "Kick the Oil" habit

Mark Pike, William Feldman and Lucas Schaefer with their alternative fuel car.

Mark Pike wanted to take a cross-country road trip this summer, but with gas prices at an all-time high and policymakers bemoaning America's addiction to oil, Pike's nostalgic vision collided head on with his sense of right and wrong.

The Duke public policy grad's solution to his dilemma was creative.

With support from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Ford Motor Co., and other sponsors, Pike is traveling from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, Calif., in a Flex Fuel vehicle using only E85, a gasoline alternative.

"If I was going to drive across country, I wanted to do it in a clean, environmentally responsible way," Pike said. I didn't want to be a hypocrite."

Pike and two fellow 2004 Duke alums, William Feldman and Lucas Schaefer, left last week in a Ford Crown Victoria. The trip is part of American Progress's "Kick the Oil Habit" campaign, and Pike is chronicling their adventure on a blog at www.kicktheoilhabit.org/roadtrip. The goal is to encourage more people to use the fuel and to raise awareness of energy alternatives.

"Many existing U.S.-made cars can use ethanol, but a majority of folks who have them don't know it," Pike said.

The web site includes interactive maps and video of the travelers, along with reflections on the trio's visits with station owners, ethanol producers, elected officials, solar and wind farms and celebrities. The 10-day trip was kicked off in Washington, D.C., July 12 by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at the Campus Progress National Student Conference.

The fuel is 85 percent ethanol, and burns cleaner than gasoline but is in relatively short supply. Only 750 gas stations in the nation sell E85, so the stops had to be planned carefully around fuel availability. On the first day, the team had to reroute because a planned stop had run out of the fuel.