Democrats & Liberals Archives

From the Past; The Fuel of the Future

Innovation is defined as the conversion of knowledge and ideas into a benefit, which may be for commercial use or for the public good. A great American innovator, Henry Ford, designed his Model T Ford to run on alcohol; he said it was “the fuel of the future”. While many of his innovations in the auto industry took off, his “fuel of the future” has taken quite a bit longer.

Two hundred and ninety million people live in the United States and make up just five percent of the world’s population, but we consume a quarter of the world’s oil supply. By 2020, according to the Department of Energy, domestic oil producers will be meeting less than a third of United States needs, and the Middle East will be supplying up to two-thirds of the world’s oil. In a May 2001 report, the National Energy Policy Development Group warned,

This imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably undermine our economy, our standard of living, and our national security. But it is not beyond our power to correct. America leads the world in scientific achievement, technical skill, and entrepreneurial drive. Within our country are abundant natural resources, unrivaled technology, and unlimited human creativity. With forward-looking leadership and sensible policies, we can meet our future energy demands and promote energy conservation, and do so in environmentally responsible ways that set a standard for the world.

According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy

If the United States were forced to rely on its own resources, it would run out of oil in four years and three months. This calculation takes into account the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which President Ford created in 1975, and which is stored at a number of sites in Texas and Louisiana.

The increased demand of developing countries, in combination with the United States' endless thirst for fuel, will pose a serious risk to the global energy economy and the environment if new technologies are not sought and developed.

In 2003, President Bush announced a deeply flawed hydrogen fuel cell program and pledged $1.7 billion for hydrogen research and development over five years to make fuel cell cars a reality (never mind that fuel cell cars were already a reality in Japan). Hydrogen fuel cells may very well be the key to future energy independence, if the problems can be worked out. Hydrogen for fuel cells can be produced either using renewable resources (including the sun and water) or as in the Bush administration's plan, fossil fuels.

The 2002 National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap requires that up to 90 percent of all hydrogen be refined from non-renewable resources, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. While the car itself will only release water vapor into the atmosphere, the process of burning fossil fuels to obtain the hydrogen will release carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming. Then there are the dangers of the hydrogen itself being released into the atmosphere. A study published in the British Science Journal of Nature finds that substantially increased hydrogen production has the potential to damage the upper atmosphere.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology estimate that leaked hydrogen in a hydrogen economy could cause as much as a 10 percent decrease in the stratospheric zone. If hydrogen replaces fossil fuels as the world's main energy source, the researchers believe that each year 60 trillion to 120 trillion grams of hydrogen could be released into the atmosphere. This is four to eight times the amount that is currently released. The technologies to safely mass transport hydrogen are not nearly as efficient or cost effective as those that can be used for transporting fossil fuels or biofuels.

Bush certainly deserves a lot of credit for promoting fuel cell research and development, and we should continue to explore the potential of fuel cell technology. However, any worthwhile fuel cell program must not rely on the use of fossil fuels. To do so will only extend our reliance on foreign oil and continue to contribute to environmental damage. Furthermore, the low efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells must be resolved. A solution may be cogeneration with high heat fuel cells, but the energy carrier would need to be something other than hydrogen for it to work. Such a solution may not be appropriate for automobiles, but may become a key power generation technology. We should continue to pursue long-term alternative energy innovation, but we must also invest R&D dollars in technologies that can be rapidly developed and deployed in a cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally sound manner today.

The 1973 oil embargo and energy crisis turned thoughts towards Henry Ford and his "fuel of the future" as an alternative energy source. Unfortunately, then President Richard Nixon only paid lip service to energy independence when he said, "Let us set as our national goal, in the spirit of Apollo, with the determination of the Manhattan Project, that by the end of this decade we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy source." Over three decades have now passed and we have never been more dependent on foreign energy sources.

Brazil’s economy was hit hard by the 1973 oil embargo and vowed to become energy independent as well, and while it took over thirty years, you will find no empty lip service here. With the help of public subsidies and tax breaks, farmers planted more sugar cane; investors built distilleries to convert the crop to ethanol and automakers designed cars to run on 100% ethanol. The government financed the distribution network to get the fuel to gas stations and kept ethanol prices low. Brazil will not only be energy independent in a few years, but they have already become the world's largest exporter of ethanol.

Brazil uses sugar cane to produce its ethanol, which is a much cleaner fuel than gasoline and can be produced using sugar cane, corn, grain sorghum, wheat, barley, soybeans, beets, potatoes, cornstalks, cheese whey, cellulosic feedstock such as municipal waste or recycled products, rice hulls, bagasse, small diameter trees, wood chips, and native grasses. Ethanol is a very high-octane renewable fuel and burning it does not increase the greenhouse effect. Ethanol is biodegradable without harmful effects on the environment and according to the U.S. EPA, ethanol's high oxygen content reduces carbon monoxide levels more than any other oxygenate; by 25-30%. The best part? If you are running a little low on cash, with the right equipment, you can make fuel alcohol in your own back yard. (You can even have a couple swigs for yourself; just don't let the law find your still!)

Brazilian ethanol production plants are also very efficient. The pressed sugar cane juice can either be fermented to make ethanol or can be spun down to produce sugar and molasses. The production plant even supplies its own electrical power by burning the crushed outer stalk of the cane. The non-profit American Coalition for Ethanol says ethanol production is "extremely energy efficient", with a positive energy balance of 125%, compared to 85% for gasoline, making ethanol production "by far the most efficient method of producing liquid transportation fuels".

Once the ethanol is produced it can either be mixed with gasoline to produce a blend called "gasohol" or it can be sold as 100% ethanol. Brazil, larger than the continental United States, has an infrastructure of 29,000 gas stations that offer everything from 25% ethanol-blended gasoline, the lowest percentage allowed by law, to straight ethanol.

In 2000, a team of Brazilian engineers perfected flex-fuel engine technology. Using complex sensor software they were able to precisely calibrate the engine performance according to the fuel mix. Car manufacturers General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen, Fiat, Peugeot and Renault all build flex-fuel vehicles for Brazil. VW says that by next year it will be producing only flex-fuel cars in Brazil. These cars can run on 100% gasoline, a blend of any ratio, or 100% ethanol. When Brazilians go to the pump they get to decide which fuel to put in their car. If gasoline is cheaper than ethanol on any given day then you can fill up on gasoline. If the next time you need gas, ethanol is cheaper, then you can filler-up with ethanol. Right now in Brazil, 100% ethanol sells for about half the price of a gasohol blend.

The change from gasoline to ethanol, as you can imagine, has had a positive effect on Brazil's farm sector. Billions of dollars have been poured into the industry by private investors, creating much needed jobs. Another positive side effect is that the expanded use of ethanol has helped to improve air quality in Brazil's cities. Brazilian engineers are now working on a tri-fuel engine that will run on a combination of gasoline, ethanol, and natural gas.

The Democrats, as part of their Innovation Agenda, have proposed making the United States energy independent in just ten years. But, is that possible? Perhaps, but many believe it will take an Apollo type program.

In 1961, JFK challenged the nation to send a man to the moon and return him safely home again within the decade. The technology did not exist yet, but he used the resources of the nation, focusing public investment, research, science and technology education, worker training, and industrial might on a common purpose. It was leadership toward a common positive goal and it worked. In less than eight years Neil Armstrong placed the first human footprint on the moon.

When America is focused on a common goal and makes a commitment to make things happen, then we can do almost anything. There are several challenges the Democrats will need to overcome in their Innovation Agenda. First, there are the oil lobbyists who will put pressure on Congress to derail any effort to end our dependency on fossil fuels, as witnessed in the Bush hydrogen fuel cell project. Farm subsidies are another obstacle, because the nation only subsidizes conventional crops and provides no markets for the crops that produce the highest energy-efficient ethanol. Money, though, is an amazing motivator; when it becomes profitable to switch to an alternative fuel source, believe me, all the naysayers will disappear, and it will happen. The recent energy price spikes are pushing both public pressure and economic feasibility in that direction. In addition, there is the pushing force of the national security issues of being so reliant on foreign energy sources.

That said, what I do think can happen over the next 10 years is a dramatic reduction in foreign energy dependence through a combination of reaching short term goals of diversifying the fuel market, and mapping out long term goals in energy innovation. Brazil has already perfected the flex-fuel engine, and right now there are over 4 million vehicles on U.S. roads, mostly Ford Explorers, that can run on 85% ethanol. Ford recently announced it was stepping up its production of ethanol vehicles for the North American market to as many as 280,000 cars and SUVs in 2006, including the F-150 truck and Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car sedans.

The problem then becomes that there are only a few hundred service stations around the country that sell high ethanol blends, and there is no infrastructure to transport ethanol around the country. The needed infrastructure can be put into place through a public-private partnership and would be much more efficient and cost effective than technology needed to transport natural gas or hydrogen for fuel cells. Every year the U.S. spends billions to protect it's oil interests around the globe. Americans want low prices at the pump even if they have to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes to support a U.S. military presence in the Middle East and elsewhere. If we end our dependency on these sources of energy, that is money that can be reinvested in American innovation. Besides, if Brazil has been able to put the infrastructure in place then certainly the wealthiest nation in the world can do it too.

What about ethanol production itself? Ethanol fuel production is good for the domestic economy, providing local jobs and a market for local materials, and helps to keep money and investment within the country. That's why so many of the farming states in the U.S. back ethanol and other biofuels. (This would also help to reduce or eliminate farm subsidies as well)

Currently the United States uses mostly corn to produce ethanol, which is far less energy-efficient than the sugar cane used in Brazil. Many point out that there is not enough land available in America to grow enough corn for a nationwide ethanol program in the U.S. That may be true, but corn is not the only possible source of biofuels.

Someday very soon, we may be fueling up our vehicles with garbage. The most promising new biofuel technology is called cellulosic biomass or organic waste processed by thermal depolymerization. According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the United States generates more than 250 million dry tons of forest, crops, and urban wood wastes that could be recycled to produce more than one million barrels a day of trasportation-grade biofuels. In addition, a similar technology called Thermal Conversion Process (TCP) can convert plastics and animal byproducts, including sewage into biofuel. The TCP process is also very efficient. The solid biomass is broken down into three componds during processing. Methane gas which is burned onsite to provide power to the processing plant, the actual oil that is used to produce biofuels, and a solid which can be used as a fertilizer. Renewable Environmental Solutions recently went online with the country's first TCP plant in Carthage, Missouri. The plant which converts turkey waste from nearby ConAgra Foods into biofuel was recently shut down, though, until an odor issue could be resolved.

This is just one new source of fuel that may be available to us through innovation. The more choice Americans have at the pump the more competitive the market will be, and the less control OPEC and the Middle East will have over our energy needs. There is no need to go to 100% ethanol right off the bat, but we should get the ball rolling and follow the Brazilian model of offering consumers a choice at the pump. The less reliant we are on just one source of fuel, the better off we will be.

In the long run, innovation is the key to the competitiveness and safety of the nation. A strong and well-developed innovation system and culture will advance economic growth and social well-being. When an economy is more innovative, it is more open to new ideas and technology. This increased flexibility can lead to improved productivity and competitiveness and will result in a higher standard of living. In order to make serious progress towards energy independence, the federal government will have to make considerable investment in research & development, planning and infrastructure. An investment in innovation today will pay off big in strengthening the nation and our security tomorrow.

Posted by JayJay Snow at January 13, 2006 3:39 AM
Comments
Comment #112732

Oil is an addiction we have to rid ourselves of. First, it’s horrible for the environment, both in terms of it’s use and the aquisition of it. Second, I really feel that the next generation of fuel solutions hold the key to our financial future. If we’re not first to market with the solutions, we will not own or control them, and that will be the end of our standard of living.

It seems also that their are two potential flavors to work with, (1) clean & renewable sources & (2) recycling, waste use sources. Both have benefits, but the recycling waste options seems to be amazing efficient - in that they remove some major issues we will be facing with watse disposal.

The one issue I have with current approaches, is that it seems to want to keep the development and control within the current energy corporations. I don’t see these guys really pushing public benefit that might be contrary to their profit motives.

Posted by: tony at January 13, 2006 8:37 AM
Comment #112766

So What woul be the outcome to all these problems? Are we going back to a time were there were only horses and carriage?

Posted by: Rhoyt at January 13, 2006 9:51 AM
Comment #112767

I thought this column was to bash bush. why are we talking obout oil?

Posted by: rhoyt at January 13, 2006 9:53 AM
Comment #112776

Great Post JayJay. Hopefully the Democrats will make this a major voting issue in the ‘06 and ‘08 elections. Ninety percent of all hydrogen has to be refined from non-renewable resources? That’s outrageous! These are the kinds of things that aren’t mentioned in speaches and that the public really should know about.

Posted by: Jules Winnfield at January 13, 2006 10:22 AM
Comment #112778

god we’ve wasted the last 5 years.

Posted by: Schwamp at January 13, 2006 10:26 AM
Comment #112790
In 2003, President Bush announced a deeply flawed hydrogen fuel cell program and pledged $1.7 billion for hydrogen research and development over five years to make fuel cell cars a reality

The only reason yaall think it’s flawed is because a Republican thought of it.

Some sort of alternitive fuel will be the fuel of the future. But when it’s fesible, expect the oil comapnies to jump in with both feet. They aint going to go out of business just because cars don’t run on gas anymore.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 13, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #112791

Damn computer, been smoking the left handed cigarettes again.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 13, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #112792

So What woul be the outcome to all these problems? Are we going back to a time were there were only horses and carriage?

Posted by: Rhoyt at January 13, 2006 09:51 AM

We cann’t do that. It would be animal crulity. Just ask PETA. We’ll most likely be walking.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 13, 2006 11:12 AM
Comment #112797

Ron,

only reason yaall think it’s flawed is because a Republican thought of it

Per Jay; The flaw is that the Bush plan is based on hydrogen and fossil fuels instead of of the more environmentally friendly and renewably sourced ethanol. Also at issue is the NIH (not invented here) problem of $1.7B pork to develop something that already exists (fuel cells in Japan).

Posted by: Dave at January 13, 2006 11:20 AM
Comment #112798

Great article, Jayjay. And ditto, Schwamp. We’ve wasted five years. More years than that, really, because we’ve known for decades that reliance upon imported oil is a vulnerability for national security. Only recently did this issue become even more compelling because of Global Warming which is the biggest long term threat facing us.

Most likely it will be 2008 before Democrats will be able to implement ideas like this one. In the meantime, plans like this should be made.

Posted by: phx8 at January 13, 2006 11:21 AM
Comment #112807

Fantastic Article.

This has always been the solution to our dependency on foreign oil. If the American farmer was turned loose in a short time sufficent raw materials would be available. Most likely most farm subsideies would be able to be ended. The changes necesary to convert from oil to alcohol would provide many new jobs both in the refining, transportion and distribution areas not to mention all of the peripheral ones. Seldom has there ever been a situation where Govt. venture capital funds to stimulate economic growth been more appropriate, necessary or profitable not to mention political stability. This changeover could well be the most important way possible to improve our “national security”. The automobile industry has the technology now, the only missing ingredient is the energy companies. Unfortunately, this will only happen when the same companies that controll fossil based fuels now gain the same kind of control over alcohol based fuels.

Posted by: Richard at January 13, 2006 11:58 AM
Comment #112814

Richard,
Well said. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s so unfortunate, both for the environment and national security, that we are saddled with the current administration. It’s a fossil fuel administration which sees the world through an oil-smeared lens, and it couldn’t be more tragically inappropriate for what this country needs.

If only the Republicans had ideas as good as this! Why, oh why don’t Republicans have any ideas? (tossing a bone, wouldn’t want rhoyt to be disappointed!).

Posted by: phx8 at January 13, 2006 12:14 PM
Comment #112828

Excellent article, Jay Jay! Five stars — highest rating!!!

Your quote from the National Energy Policy Development Group:

This imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably undermine our economy, our standard of living, and our national security. But it is not beyond our power to correct. America leads the world in scientific achievement, technical skill, and entrepreneurial drive. Within our country are abundant natural resources, unrivaled technology, and unlimited human creativity. With forward-looking leadership and sensible policies, we can meet our future energy demands and promote energy conservation, and do so in environmentally responsible ways that set a standard for the world.

Question: Why haven’t any Democratic presidential contenders stood up before the American people to say this very thing in just that way?
I truly believe that because they’ve never delivered this message in these kind of terms, the majority of our citizens simply haven’t been able to take this subject seriously or personally to heart.
That quote contains a warning, an inspiring call to progress, and clearly lays out a goal that must be met. People (even people who aren’t interested in learning anything about this topic) are practically guaranteed to have an overwhelmingly positive response when a debate is framed in this manner.
So why don’t they know this?

Posted by: Adrienne at January 13, 2006 12:44 PM
Comment #112840

Re U.S. energy consumption, we use energy in relation to our production. We use about a quarter of the world’s energy and produce about a quarter of the world’s GNP.

Ethanol production is not without environmental hazards or costs. The Brazilians can easily grow sugar, which provides a good feedstock, but acres devoted to sugar cane are not the most environmentally benign use of land, as any resident of Florida knows. Beyond that, processing feedstock into energy takes energy and makes pollution. Probably a bit more than the ethanol institute says. We have our own program of ethanol (pushed by corn state legislators). There is some doubt about its net value. As you note, the Brazilians have more than a quarter century of investment and experimentation. Exactly how are they doing, BTW? If it is such a good idea, why has it not spread farther?

But I don’t want to be only negative. This is a good initiative, as long as we know that it will not solve our energy needs. Hydrogen remains the Holy Grail of transport fuel and nuclear energy will provide the bridge to a more renewable future.

Biotechnology will be very helpful in the production of ethanol, so make sure you don’t sign on to any attempts to limit that progress.

One more thing re ethanol and Brazil. There are several reasons why Brazilian ethanol cars are not the wave of the future quite yet. Brazil is mostly a warm country. Alcohol fuel works well when temperatures are warm. It tends to work less well when it gets cooler. Even in Brazil, you find more alcohol only vehicles in Rio Grande do Norte than in Rio Grande do Sul.

Posted by: Jack at January 13, 2006 1:12 PM
Comment #112860

phx8

I think the reeson for this is:

Rebublicans traditionally are “Conservatives” and conservatives have always been elitists. They see “Capitalism” as the unfettered pursit of profit with no social obligations answerable only to stockholders.

Democrats tradionally are “Liberals” and liberals have always been populists. They see “Capitalism” as not only the pursuit of profit but also with inherent social obligations to the workers who made that profit for them.

Conservative see regulations as an impediment to profits. Liberals see regulations as the guarantor of societal equality and well being.

If we look back into the past:

The reocurring depressions and market collapses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries leading to the Great Depression were caused by Conservatism. The new Deal’s Social Regulations, SEC, labor rights, Social Security, et. al, was the solution that ended those reocurring cycles.

The Savings and Loan crash was caused by
“conservative” deregulation but was only stoped by a “Liberal” Government bailout.

ENRON was the direct result of “conservative” deregulation which was the directly cause of the elitist corruption that resulted.

The vast increase of mergers forming giant conglomerates which results in fewer people having a lot more control {conservatism}ultimately leads to a lower income and quality of life for the vast majority of society.

Fundamentally,and history verifies, it all comes down to “Conservatives” want to retain the wealth for themselves. “Conservatism” causes a vast polarization of the wealth,a small middle class, and a vast number of subsistence level workers with little chance of upward mobility. the end result is increased social disruption.
“Liberalism” wants to share the wealth more equitably throughout society and causses a very small upper economic class, a large middle class, and a much smaller worker class that has the possibility of upward mobility. The result is a much more harmonious, functional, and stable society.

“Conservatism’ = ECONOMIC FUEDALISM
“Liberalism” = ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY

That is why Republicans generally fail to come up with ideas unless they have a disportionate amount of conroll and neo-cons ae exponetially worse.

Posted by: Richard at January 13, 2006 1:42 PM
Comment #112861
Why haven’t any Democratic presidential contenders stood up before the American people to say this very thing in just that way?

Adrienne,

I think we will see messages like this more and more. The problem in the past has been that oil has been so cheap, as long as people are happy with what they are paying at the pump it will not be a politically charged issue.

Exactly how are they doing, BTW? If it is such a good idea, why has it not spread farther?

Jack,

Actually it is. There are many countries looking into the Brazilian model. The roadblock to most countries has been that sugar cane, which has a very high energy efficiency, can only be grown in tropical climates, corn, used in the U.S. has a low energy efficiency and may not be seen as worth the effort by other nations. However, the TCP process to produce cellulosic biofuels may open the doors to other regions. One country that is now getting serious about ethanol is Japan. Leaders of Japan, Brazil Agree on Need to Promote Ethanol Use

Additionally, Brazil will be ramping up its production and export of ethanol. Currently, Brazil has about 13.5 million acres planted with sugar cane, but more than 200 million acres are ready to be cultivated.

It tends to work less well when it gets cooler.

I really think this is a minor roadblock and can be resolved with investment in biofuel innovation. We may not be able to go to 100% ethanol right out of the gate as a primary fuel, but we can certainly increase the % currently used, probably substantially.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 13, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #112866

JayJay

I am not throwing cold ethanol on the whole idea, which I think is sound. It is just that ethanol will be one of our fuels in our energy future, but probably not the dominant one. The Brazilians still haven’t solved the problem of cool inefficiency and they have been working on it for more than 25 years.

Re sugar cane and other things, it comes down to calories essentially. Things that are high calorie (a measure of heat) can produce a lot of ethanol. That is one reason we will not be able to generate too much ethanol from waste products. Usually we strip out the good parts when we consume the products. Husks and scraps have little energy left in them. That is where the biotech my eventually help to convert cellulose etc into ethanol more effectively.

As a plug for my own hobby, we may soon be able to make fuel out of forest wastes with the help of biotech.

The other thing is something you mentioned - 200 million acres ready to be cultivated. What is growing on those acres now? It might be rain forest or it might be grass or it might be food crops. Putting that many acres under cultivation for one sort of product has its own problems. You just can’t generate energy without some tradeoff.

Google sugar, florida and environment and take a balanced look at sugar production.

Posted by: Jack at January 13, 2006 2:04 PM
Comment #112889

One overlooked problem with hydrogen is the safety factor. It is EXTREMELY volitile. Even static electricity is enough to set off explosions. It might be feasable to generate it in the vehicle itself,in small enough quantities for locamotion but the idea of large amounts of it at the cornor gas station is frightening. This is experience talking. I worked for a time at a hydogen plant and the stuff exploded all the time inspite of rigorious precautions.
Bio-mass is most promising but it too produces carbon dioxcide.
We need a manhatten-appolo type national commitment to energy independance but the neo-con kleptocracy is not going to let that happen anytime soon.

Posted by: Bill at January 13, 2006 2:32 PM
Comment #112899

Well, I think this is a terrific thread, informative about a topic I’m vaguely aware, but never spend much time on. Anyway, there are articles both pro & con on ethanol. To me, solar energy makes the most intuitive sense, but personally, I’m not married to a solution. I’m not sure one particular source will ever be the answer. I am married to the idea of investigating alternatives, and making plans NOW.

Posted by: phx8 at January 13, 2006 2:45 PM
Comment #112919
What is growing on those acres now? It might be rain forest or it might be grass or it might be food crops.

Jack,

Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to your question. It is my understanding that the 200 million acres are “unused” & “dormant” and ready to be cultivated. What those terms mean I am not sure, but if it is a case that those acres are rainforests, then certainly their destruction for ethanol production is absolutely unacceptable. But as I said, I don’t know if that is the case.

You just can’t generate energy without some tradeoff.

I agree, any new energy technology will require a balancing act, what we need to look at, though, is if those tradeoffs are more or less than what we have today, and how much potential each has to be perfected. I personally, believe that the risks of the current incarnation of hydrogen fuel cells far outweigh the benefits. I am not discounting fuel cells by any means and believe we should pursue the technology as a long-range goal that can be refined into a better model.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at January 13, 2006 3:19 PM
Comment #112936

JayJay

You created an excellent post. The replacement of oil with ethanol is one of several new fuels we will need to develop. I believe hydrogen produced by solar or by other non petroleum based method is also critical to our future.

There is an interesting new development for those interested in safe hydrogen storage. See this link http://www.amminex.com/index.htm

This is a Demark company that has produced a hydrogen tablet that you can keep in your shirt pocket. It only releases the hydrogen after it is heated up above 300 degrees.

As for getting the big oil companies involved it all comes down to return on investment. It will take trillions of dollars to convert to new energy sources and we better hope we can get the big oil companies to fully engage. They are not the problem and they will eventually be part of the solution….And yes they will make lots of money in the process……so what. I like driving my big vehicles and I want an endless supply of fuel.

What we need is leadership that understands that we are running out of oil and does something to fix the problem. This should not be conservative or liberal issues. Our problems with Iraq will be nothing like the future problems we are going to have when we try to compete with China and its growing economy over diminished supplies of fuel.

Posted by: RJacob at January 13, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #112953

JayJay

There is really no such thing as unused and dormant land. If there is enough soil and rainfall to grow sugar cane, there is enough soil and rainfall to grow trees or grass. It is not necessarily a bad idea to change land use, BTW. It does depend on what the change entails.

Fuel cells need to improve before they can be viable. One thing certain is that we will need more energy in the future. We can’t redistribute or conserve our way out of this problem.

Re hydrogen, it takes a lot of energy to make hydrogen. One way it can be viable is to make it using renewables WHEN conditions are right. We tend to get wind and sun in big doses and then none at all.

Posted by: Jack at January 13, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #112978

Of course it should not be a right/left issue but it is. Years ago I was discussing electric cars with some friends. I suggested the way to get around the range problem was to equip them with small gas engines to charge the batteries. Two of them listened to right wing talk radio and told me by rote that I was living in a dream world.Now we call those cars hybreds. The plutocrats have marsheled their propaganda machine to fight progress in this area.It threatens their power. For heavens sake global warming is a political issue.
They will resist real improvements of the proposed techs because the only way they work is on a small scale. For example large solar power plants do not pencil out well but many small roof top systems do. Oh oh, How are we going to bill people for that? How are we going to keep them working for us. BIG plutocrat problem.

Posted by: Bill at January 13, 2006 5:57 PM
Comment #113053

Petroleum based fuels are the most expensive of all if we have to go to war to keep the oil flowing. Aviation fuel knocked down 2 of the largest buildings in the world. Few people ever survive airplane crashes because of the volatlility of the fuel. Many people think that Hydrogen is being touted by the government right now because they know that nothing will ever come out of it.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at January 13, 2006 8:08 PM
Comment #113342

Jack, the quality of fuel cells isn’t the problem. Fuel cell pilot programs are running all over the world right now.

The problem is that they’re hand-made by PhDs and cost an arm and a leg. The other problem is that hydrogen stations don’t exist in the numbers necessary to promote fuel-cell vehicles as a viable alternative to petrol.

And BTW, both those problems also apply to bio fuels.

The trick is to jump start fuel-cell vehicle development and sales until they start coming off the assembly lines as cheap as any other car (perhaps with a tax deduction like hybrid car buyers get — except bigger). And a parallel track needs to create the infrastructure (probably as part of a federal highway bill or state-run programs).

Calls by the administration and conservatives like yourself for more studies are just a delaying tactic. The technology exists now. The job is to commercialize it.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 15, 2006 7:03 AM
Comment #211910

Just Corn?
I would like to know just how much “corn for fuel” the United States can produce and for how long without depleating the soil? With a portion of our land desert, a portion already dedicated to the production of food, a portion already dedicated to raising animals for food, a portion that is mountains, a portion lakes, rivers, swamps, etc.; just how many acres of land would be available to plant for fuel? In the event that we won’t have enough, won’t we have to purchase corn from other countries? Will “Big Corn” replace “Big Oil?” Will the “big bucks” just change hands? If there is not enough land available to produce all of this ethanol, then will industry begin infringing on private property owners and begin “taking their land—legally, of course”

I, like most of you, know diversification is needed, so, I am just suggesting that we will still need oil, and other sources, as well, for many years to come. I hope we can avoid an “us vs. them” philosophy, that politicians seem to create to “mine” the people for votes, I think Americans need to start working TOGETHER as Americans, and most importantly, to THINK things through before we act, while we act, and after we act.

All that to say: “Corn is not a cure all.” And “Big Oil” is not the enemy. We do not have to destroy oil to convert to corn—and we Should Not.

What I always say to those who berate the oil companies so is, “Which oil products have you given up today?”

Clothing Ink
Heart Valves
Crayons
Parachutes
Telephones
Enamel
Transparent tape
Antiseptics
Vacuum bottles
Deodorant
Pantyhose
Rubbing Alcohol
Carpets
Epoxy paint
Oil filters
Upholstery
Hearing Aids
Car sound insulation
Cassettes
Motorcycle helmets
Pillows
Shower doors
Shoes
Refrigerator linings
Electrical tape
Safety glass
Awnings
Salad bowl
Rubber cement
Nylon rope
Ice buckets
Fertilizers
Hair coloring
Toilet seats
Denture adhesive
Loudspeakers
Movie film
Fishing boots
Candles
Water pipes
Car enamel
Shower curtains
Credit cards
Aspirin
Golf balls
Detergents
Sunglasses
Glue
Fishing rods
Linoleum
Plastic wood
Soft contact lenses
Trash bags
Hand lotion
Shampoo
Shaving cream
Footballs
Paint brushes
Balloons
Fan belts
Umbrellas
Paint Rollers
Luggage
Antifreeze

Model cars
Floor wax
Sports car bodies
Tires
Dishwashing liquids
Unbreakable dishes
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Combs
Tents
Hair curlers
Lipstick
Ice cube trays
Electric blankets
Tennis rackets
Drinking cups
House paint
Rollerskates wheels
Guitar strings
Ammonia
Eyeglasses
Ice chests
Life jackets
TV cabinets
Car battery cases
Insect repellent
Refrigerants
Typewriter ribbons
Cold cream
Glycerin
Plywood adhesive
Cameras
Anesthetics
Artificial turf
Artificial Limbs
Bandages
Dentures
Mops
Beach Umbrellas
Ballpoint pens
Boats
Nail polish
Golf bags
Caulking
Tape recorders
Curtains
Vitamin capsules
Dashboards
Putty
Percolators
Skis
Insecticides
Fishing lures
Perfumes
Shoe polish
Petroleum jelly
Faucet washers
Food preservatives
Antihistamines
Cortisone
Dyes
LP records
Solvents
Roofing

Posted by: Sue Racine at March 14, 2007 10:35 AM
Comment #211909

Just Corn?
I would like to know just how much “corn for fuel” the United States can produce and for how long without depleating the soil? With a portion of our land desert, a portion already dedicated to the production of food, a portion already dedicated to raising animals for food, a portion that is mountains, a portion lakes, rivers, swamps, etc.; just how many acres of land would be available to plant for fuel? In the event that we won’t have enough, won’t we have to purchase corn from other countries? Will “Big Corn” replace “Big Oil?” Will the “big bucks” just change hands? If there is not enough land available to produce all of this ethanol, then will industry begin infringing on private property owners and begin “taking their land—legally, of course”

I, like most of you, know diversification is needed, so, I am just suggesting that we will still need oil, and other sources, as well, for many years to come. I hope we can avoid an “us vs. them” philosophy, that politicians seem to create to “mine” the people for votes, I think Americans need to start working TOGETHER as Americans, and most importantly, to THINK things through before we act, while we act, and after we act.

All that to say: “Corn is not a cure all.” And “Big Oil” is not the enemy. We do not have to destroy oil to convert to corn—and we Should Not.

What I always say to those who berate the oil companies so is, “Which oil products have you given up today?”

Clothing Ink
Heart Valves
Crayons
Parachutes
Telephones
Enamel
Transparent tape
Antiseptics
Vacuum bottles
Deodorant
Pantyhose
Rubbing Alcohol
Carpets
Epoxy paint
Oil filters
Upholstery
Hearing Aids
Car sound insulation
Cassettes
Motorcycle helmets
Pillows
Shower doors
Shoes
Refrigerator linings
Electrical tape
Safety glass
Awnings
Salad bowl
Rubber cement
Nylon rope
Ice buckets
Fertilizers
Hair coloring
Toilet seats
Denture adhesive
Loudspeakers
Movie film
Fishing boots
Candles
Water pipes
Car enamel
Shower curtains
Credit cards
Aspirin
Golf balls
Detergents
Sunglasses
Glue
Fishing rods
Linoleum
Plastic wood
Soft contact lenses
Trash bags
Hand lotion
Shampoo
Shaving cream
Footballs
Paint brushes
Balloons
Fan belts
Umbrellas
Paint Rollers
Luggage
Antifreeze

Model cars
Floor wax
Sports car bodies
Tires
Dishwashing liquids
Unbreakable dishes
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Combs
Tents
Hair curlers
Lipstick
Ice cube trays
Electric blankets
Tennis rackets
Drinking cups
House paint
Rollerskates wheels
Guitar strings
Ammonia
Eyeglasses
Ice chests
Life jackets
TV cabinets
Car battery cases
Insect repellent
Refrigerants
Typewriter ribbons
Cold cream
Glycerin
Plywood adhesive
Cameras
Anesthetics
Artificial turf
Artificial Limbs
Bandages
Dentures
Mops
Beach Umbrellas
Ballpoint pens
Boats
Nail polish
Golf bags
Caulking
Tape recorders
Curtains
Vitamin capsules
Dashboards
Putty
Percolators
Skis
Insecticides
Fishing lures
Perfumes
Shoe polish
Petroleum jelly
Faucet washers
Food preservatives
Antihistamines
Cortisone
Dyes
LP records
Solvents
Roofing

Posted by: Sue Racine at March 14, 2007 10:35 AM
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