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February 25, 2004

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Michael C. Morris

At $357,500,000,000.00 per year to run our cars, will America kick its habit?
A commentary by Michael C. Morris

Americans will spend approximately $357,500,000,000.00 to purchase barrels of oil of which a great percentage is used to fuel our nations automobiles. As you read this article, crude oil prices are about $55.00 per barrel, the highest they have ever been. With the newly emerging industrial countries of China and India increasing demand for crude oil, the price will only continue to skyrocket. With America’s reluctance to give up our “oil junkie mentality” and trade our SUV’s for fuel-efficient models, the price outlook is bleak. Being that crude oil is not renewable fuel and once it is gone, it is gone for good, the future of supplies and availability is also bleak, returning America to the gas lines of the 70’s and then nothing. So what does America do to recover from this addiction?

As I see it, the only “methadone” treatments for America are the proven replacements of ethanol and biodiesel. These are proven technologies that still need additional research, development, outreach and education to wean America from its habit. Given time and effort, these renewable fuels can replace crude oil as the source for fuel for the nation’s automobiles.

Ethanol is a renewable fuel that is made from primarily corn and has been use as part of the national Clean Air Act RFG (Reformulated Gasoline) Program since the 1990’s. It has been used too oxygenate our nation’s fuel so that it burns cleaner and “cleans” the air in nationally designated RFG areas. Ethanol is renewable, environmentally safe and viable source of replacing crude oil gasoline as fuel for our nation automobiles. Ethanol has received engine manufacture’s acceptance from companies like GM that have produced a line of “flex-fuel” vehicles that can use ethanol in any blend from 0% ethanol to 100% ethanol (as ethanol is blended with standard oil based gasoline to create a “blend fuel”).

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that is made from primarily soybeans (vegetable oil) but can also be made from sunflower seeds, rape seeds, palm oil or algae. Recycled oil from local restaurants is another source of vegetable oil. Approximately 4.5 billion gallons a year of waste vegetable oil is generated in the USA. This renewable fuel source has great potential, and with the proper research, development and education to convert the nations trucking industry and inner city vehicles to biodiesel power, we can “seamlessly” replace our nations oil based diesel with biodiesel.

Being that President Bush has stated that he supports renewable energy development, and that the handwriting is on the wall about the future of oil based fuels, it is my hope that the industry will take the right steps to “blend” these fuels with our present supply. While this change will happen slower than most that support these renewable fuels want, and faster than oil supporters want, it will happen. But it will only happen as long as the renewable fuels industry takes the approach of education, acceptance and support, making the transition seamless. If the approach is one of force (political legislation), without education, without acceptance or support, it will take only one problem to ban the fuels.

Niblet

What do you say to critics that indicate that it takes more energy to produce ethanol & biodiesel than each provides? To me that would me more energy & output from Coal fired plants in the midwest that pollute the east...

Vic

Biodiesel, while as a concept has been around for a few decades, has started coming into the mainstream only now...it is only natural that the costs will be higher (per unit) when compared to petro-diesel which is produced in quantities that are hundreds or more times than biodiesel...what needs to be explored is if there are economies of scale that can play a role in biodiesel as well

One interesting site you might want to check out is the Biodiesel Encyclopedia

Vic, BPO

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