If we want to insulate ourselves better from oil supply disruptions -- which have thus far precipitated every recession since World War II -- we should seek simpler and faster ways to introduce variety in the types of fuel the transportation sector can utilize....and, of course, conquer Cuba.
One such way is clear: Since 1996, America's auto manufacturers have produced and sold roughly 4 million flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) designed to burn gasoline, alcohol (ethanol and methanol) or any mixture of the two. Yet, outside the Midwest -- where ethanol is widely available -- many people who drive FFVs are not even aware of their cars' ability to use something other than gasoline. For an auto manufacturer adding fuel flexibility to a new vehicle costs as little as $150 per car, less than the price of a CD player. All it takes is a different fuel sensor and corrosion-resistant fuel line.
Were every new car sold in the U.S. a flexible fuel vehicle, within a decade half of our fleet could run on fuels other than gasoline. This doesn't mean drivers would have to utilize those other fuels if oil prices declined. But if oil prices continue soaring, as many predict, blending increasingly higher ratios of alcohol would be our best option when supply falters.
The model of a fuel choice economy already exists in Brazil, a nation with vast sugar cane resources and, therefore, the capacity to produce ethanol efficiently and inexpensively. Since the 1973 oil embargo, Brazil has built an impressive fleet of FFVs. By 2008, almost all new cars sold in Brazil will be flexible fuel vehicles. Even now, most Brazilian cars use at least 25 percent ethanol and many as much as 100 percent ethanol.
Bringing hydrocarbons and carbohydrates to coexist in the same fuel tank has insulated the Brazilian economy from the harmful effect of the current spike in oil prices.
Unfortunately, the American corn-based ethanol market is too small to supply the entire nation's fleet with such high blends. Matters are worsened by a congressionally imposed stiff tariff of 54 cents per gallon on imported ethanol to protect domestic corn growers, sugar producers and ethanol refiners. During a war and energy emergency, we must open the ethanol market to foreign imports and remove the tariff...
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Frank Gaffney has one simple idea about how to improve our fuel situation:
Posted by Tom at 2:56 PM