The Ethanol-Powered Bandwagon

After years of stubbornly dishing out gas-guzzling SUVs in the face of ever-rising oil prices, American car companies are slowly shifting gears to produce cars that aren't entirely dependent on gasoline.

The latest to get on the bandwagon is Chrysler, putting "flex-fuel" engines in some of its models, with the ethanol-capable Jeep Cherokees and Dodge Dakota pickups rolling onto the market in September. (For some background on how American companies fell behind foreign car manufacturers like Toyota when it comes to this sort of innovation, check out this story by the Post's Anthony Faiola.)

The Hybrid Car blog looked at GM's move toward hybrids back in June, using the rest of the post to discuss the idea that "cheap gas is a fiction" and our dependence on foreign oil needs to end.

There's vast agreement on that -- but much disagreement over the solution. When it comes to getting from Point A to Point B, are ethanol-powered cars the answer? Hybrids? Hydrogen fuel cells? More focus on mass transit?

By Emily Messner |  April 26, 2006; 6:28 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
Previous: Should Gasoline Really Cost $5 a Gallon -- Or More? | Next: Use Less Oil vs. Find More Oil (Part I)

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I feel like I'm just repeating myself ad nauseum, but I believe what I say.

Oil independence can only be reasonably expected if Americans decrease their consumption which is facilitated by a higher price at the pump. Once this price hits a certain point, investors will recognize "alternatives" as economically viable. Until such time, expect American consumers to complain with little results.

If you care to wait it out then so be it. I think there should be a gasoline tax to accomodate our ever-increasing government spending deficit and to speed up American oil independence and development to alternative solutions. At the very least it will hasten the debate on what direction America should take.

Posted by: Will | April 26, 2006 06:42 PM

Emily, you are quite the little research fiend! Thread after thread..What do your mean bosses do? Lock you in a new journalist dungeon to toil on WP databases to show your chops that you can one day serve as a "setting the table" journalist to one of their rock star reporters? What happened to the interview stuff about being free to walk through the cherryblossoms on a beautiful DC day with a high-ranking politician giving you background on a Senate Democrats luncheon agenda ---Before you head up to Dupont Circle for a 80 buck a plate lunch hosted by a leading defense contractor eager for you and 9 other journalists to understand why their new "evildoer terrahist" detection system is a bargain at 9.17 million dollars per machine?

Where's the glamour, babe??

******************

Will, I agree with you on taxes as a theoretical. They are the best way to force Americans to cut down on oil, especially if they target private transportation only and do not hit diesel or home heating oil (until nat gas infastructure is developed for states lacking that for home use) The problem is that for years the state and federal governments have pilfered those taxes away from road, bridge maintenance and construction into "general fund spending" to fund critical things like Laotian welfare recipient translators, pork like bridges to nowhere, and the mass transit boondoggle du jour.

********************

With more and more cities choked by the immigrant-driven population explosion, a kill two birds with one stone solution is to have non-union bus or train lines set up to transport more people from suburb carparks. Its been going on. It needs to be pushed far harder. At the same time, less cars in cities makes for less congestion.

Ethanol faces the twin problems that we can't make enough to replace gas, and what we can make costs 6-7 dollars per equivalent gallon of gas without subsidies. Otherwise, excellent stuff to drive with or drink.
Hydrogen is fine but you have to make it from the 4 real energy sources: Coal. Oil. Nuclear. Gas. Cracking natural gas is by far the most efficient to make hydrogen. But using that to replace oil means replacing tight natural gas supply with coal or nuclear for nat gas allocated to power gen and dwelling usages - and you have sunk investment (all the new nat gas fueled power plants the enviromentalists deigned to keep their lawyers from blocking, nat gas heating and cooling in industrial facilities) and switching costs (buying new coal, nuclear facilities). And adding more LNG import capacity if we use more net nat gas to lower oil use(something the evironmentalists and Ruling Elites detest - yachters and enviroweenies are out in force to block offshore LNG terminals).

Hydrogen is also very tricky stuff. Its the second most "leaky substance" for it's tendency to slip past seals and microscopic defects in materials that would stop larger molecules. Under pressure, it actually slowly oozes through some solid metals and ends up hydriding (embritling alloying) others. It is not easily treated with odorants like can be used with nat gas and which would foul up fuel cells inner workings anyways. Any vehicle would need a H2 explosive detector, and the stuff is a bit scary in that it burns without a visible flame. The safety issues are significant. Kinda killed off the Zepplin industry and firefighters I know say it is one sort of fire they get puckered up about from seeing training films on hydrogen fires...

Posted by: Chris Ford | April 26, 2006 07:26 PM

We use 30% less oil per capita than we did in 1970..we did the easy stuff...stopped most electric generation from oil burning, lightened cars, put electronic controls on them. Yet we use 35% more oil as a nation than in 1970. Reason? We added 90 million new Americans, most from unchecked immigration, 3rd World village reunification programs, and their attendent spawn..

Posted by: Chris Ford | Apr 26, 2006 3:33:39 PM | Permalink


Let's take a moment and do some calculations based STRICTLY on Mr. Ford numbers and see if they compute.

US population added 90 million since 1970 per Mr. Ford. Current population is around 300 million (298,605,411 today per US census). That gives us a population of 210 million in 1970. Check.

We use 30% less oil per capita today than we did in 1970. But as a nation we use 35% more oil. Also per Mr. Ford. For the sake of our computations assume we used 100 barrels of oil per capita in 1970. With a 30% drop we each use 70 barrels today. Check.

Our oil consumption as a nation goes up 35% more per Mr. Ford.

Now the calculations:

For 1970:

Total US consumption = 100 X 210 = 21,000 million barrels.

For 2006:

Total US consumption = 70 X 300 = 21,000 million barrels.


Where's the 35% increase due to population growth Mr. Ford?

As usual numbers don't lie so who's fibbing here?

Posted by: Chrisoroid Fordoloid | April 26, 2006 08:00 PM

One says that reducing demand will raise the price. Another says raising the price will reduce the demand. I say that the last time radical change occurred in the price of energy - to wit, oil pricing in the late 1970s - the country hit a recession two years later that lasted nearly 4 years. What seems to be forgotten is that for a good many people, gas is not a discretionary purchase. There are more than half the population for whom the deeper bite of petrolium product costs is already creating hardship. These are the same people for whom the decision to purchase a more fuel efficient hybrid or some such is not an option.

Speculation is forcing the price up, not the cost of production, refining, or delivery. We have the means to regulate speculation. Until the unknowns have been sorted out, that would be the decent thing to do. But the "free market" gang has sway; don't do anything that hurts the precious free market! No, just let people starve, or freeze, or lose jobs because they can no longer afford to show up. That's the American way!

Posted by: Jazzman | April 26, 2006 11:15 PM

Chris Fordloid" - as expected, your math is off - and at your expected grade school level - because you are talking apples and oranges.

This is what, the 2nd or 3rd thread you have reposted this on? Why repost? Are you proud of the math you superficially can do on usage factors you don't understand?

Your answer is back on the 5 dollar a gallon thread.

Posted by: Chris Ford | April 27, 2006 02:19 AM

My math is correct as can be verified by all. You on the other hand present and manipulate these numbers to appear authoritative in order to back up a racist xenophobic agenda. From now on all your numbers should be suspect. Your logic flawed. And your motive questioned.

Five dollar a gallon gas will be here sooner than you can dig up more phoney statistics. All it will take is a hurricane threatening Houston or New Orleans this summer or some shooting "incident" on the Iraq/Iran border.

Fortunately all it takes is grade school math to prove your numbers don't compute!

Posted by: Chrisoroid Fordoloid | April 27, 2006 07:23 AM

Solve three problems at once (cultivation costs, little land, low-skilled immigration): Grow sugar cane for ethanol in Mexico. But we might need to pump some water down there.

Traditional trade economists call it comparative advantage.

Posted by: On the plantation | April 27, 2006 07:33 AM

"As far as the vehicle goes, fuel cells are significantly more energy efficient than combustion-based power generation technologies. A conventional combustion-based power plant typically generates electricity at efficiencies of 33 to 35%, while fuel cell plants can generate electricity at efficiencies of up to 60%. When fuel cells are used to generate electricity and heat (co-generation), they can reach efficiencies of up to 85%.

Internal-combustion engines in today's automobiles convert less than 30 percent of the energy in gasoline into power that moves the vehicle. Vehicles using electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells are much more energy efficient, utilizing 40-60% of the fuel's energy. Even Fuel Cell Vehicles that reform hydrogen from gasoline can use about 40 percent of the energy in the fuel."

--- Shell Oil Company

New Process Could Help Make Hydrogen Fuel Affordable

Stephanie Peatling in Sydney
for National Geographic News
August 27, 2004

Scientists in Australia say they have have made a breakthrough in the efficiency of using sunlight to generate hydrogen from water. It may be a step toward an affordable source of clean energy.
A renewable source of energy to replace the world's declining fossil fuel reserves is perhaps the scientific community's holy grail. Hydrogen is all around us. It is seen by many as the cleanest and most efficient fuel for powering everything from vehicles to furnaces and air-conditioning--if only we can find an affordable way to harness it.

Now two researchers in Australia say they have made substantial progress.


Scientists have known for a long time how to split water into its two elements, oxygen and hydrogen. But the problem is that the process requires electricity--typically derived from fossil fuels--which makes the process counterproductive and expensive.

Janusz Nowotny and Charles Sorrell are researchers from the Centre for Materials Research in Energy Conversion at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. They have been looking for an economical way to use titanium dioxide to act as a catalyst to split water into oxygen and hydrogen--using solar energy.

The Stuff of Toothpaste

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is widely used as a white pigment in paint, paper, cosmetics, sunscreens, and toothpastes. It is found in its purest form in rutile, a beach sand but is also extracted from certain ores. Rio Tinto, a mining company that produces titanium oxide, helps fund Nowotny's and Sorrell's research.

Nowotny and Sorrell announced their breakthrough today at the International Conference on Materials for Hydrogen Energy, hosted by the University of New South Wales in Sydney. They believe they have found a way to considerably improve the productivity of the solar hydrogen process (using sunlight to extract hydrogen from water) using a device made out of titanium dioxide.

"This is potentially huge, with a market the size of all the existing markets for coal, oil, and gas combined,'' Nowotny said in a news statement released ahead of the conference. "Based on our research results, we know we are on the right track."

Although Australia's sunny climate makes it an ideal place to generate solar energy, Sorrell said the technology could be used anywhere in the world.

"It's been the dream of many people for a long time to develop it, and it's exciting to know it's within such close reach," Sorrell said.

Honda-Fujishima Effect

The Australians' research has not been tested yet by other scientists, although the findings were applauded by the pioneers of the solar hydrogen process, Akira Fujishima and Kenichi Honda.

In 1967 the Japanese scientists discovered that titanium dioxide could be used to extract hydrogen from water in a process that has become known as the Honda-Fujishima effect. The finding was reported in the journal Nature and led to numerous awards, including the 2004 Japan Prize in the category Chemical Technology for the Environment.

Hydrogen is "very simple but very efficient,'' said Fujishima, who is also in Sydney for today's conference. "We must keep working hard on it.''

Since the 1967 discovery much research has focused on the materials that might be used to split water with sunlight.

Fujishima, chairman of the Kanagawa Academy of Science and Technology, says using titanium dioxide as a catalyst means energy production will result in "cleaner air, cleaner water, and a cleaner atmosphere."

Many Years to Hydrogen Power

The world is still a long way off from large-scale conversion from fossil fuels to hydrogen for its energy needs. For one thing, the Honda-Fujishima effect, even if it is greatly enhanced by the research breakthrough announced today, still has to be adapted into devices that can be used on a commercially viable scale. Engineers will have to design fuel cells that collect sunlight from rooftops and elsewhere.

The world's energy infrastructure is primarily based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Transitioning from gasoline-powered vehicles and gas stations to hydrogen-fuel replacements would require a huge investment and many years. Storage and safety issues still need to be resolved.

But the vision of a world powered by hydrogen is gaining momentum and science and technology is catching up.

T. Nejat Veziroglu is the director of the Clean Energy Research Institute at the University of Miami and the president of the International Association for Hydrogen Energy. He was called a "hydrogen romantic'" when he first started talking about a world powered by hydrogen in the 1960s.

Veziroglu recently appeared before a U.S. Congressional hearing. Afterward, he said, he was stopped by a committee member who told him hydrogen would never be as cheap as existing forms of energy. "I said, make the companies responsible for environmental damage and no one will use anything but hydrogen. That way the whole world will benefit.''

Posted by: Bob-C | April 27, 2006 08:22 AM

What Jazzman | Apr 26, 2006 11:15:05 PM | said.

The quickest way to drop oil and thus gasoline prices is to get out of Iraq. Here is a nice chart showing how mideast conflicts affect the price of gas:
http://zfacts.com/p/35.html
Pull our troops out now and gas next year should go down to about half its current price.

Corn is not a very good source of ethanol since it takes almost as much energy to make it as it produces. Sugar cane is much better but does not grow well in the US. If we are to have a viable ethanol industry, we'll need to import a sugar source or develop (GM) crops that produce lots of sugar. This is not going to happen without hands-on government involvement. Right now the government involvement is mostly in tax breaks and subsidies. I see nothing on the government's end working out the problems with producing ethanol as a fuel source from aquiring the source to filling the tank at a reasonable cost. Until this government takes this problem on in a serious way, ethanol will never become more than a 10% additive to gasoline.

On thing the government could do today is require all engines produced in gasoline vehicles be of a hybrid design by 2010 with a rise in required fuel economy twice what it is today. The car makers will scream, but better them in Detroit than us at the pumps. They can do it, the only thing stopping them from wanting to do it is the profit motive. This is not an issue of what we pay for gas. Its an issue of national security. If you doubt that, ask yourself where America is at war today and will likely be at war tomorrow.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 09:22 AM

This may be just tangential to the "national security and energy" theme, but what happened to the big Pentagon Solar Energy Farm display? For years, it reminded drivers passing by on 395 that there are alternative ways of generating power(at least when it worked). Now there's a tiny sign that's so illegible that it's not only non-informative, it creates a road hazard of people trying to read what it says!

Posted by: cpwdc | April 27, 2006 10:15 AM

Jazzman-

"One says that reducing demand will raise the price. Another says raising the price will reduce the demand. I say that the last time radical change occurred in the price of energy - to wit, oil pricing in the late 1970s - the country hit a recession two years later that lasted nearly 4 years. What seems to be forgotten is that for a good many people, gas is not a discretionary purchase. There are more than half the population for whom the deeper bite of petrolium product costs is already creating hardship. These are the same people for whom the decision to purchase a more fuel efficient hybrid or some such is not an option."

No, the last time a "radical change" occurred was September of last year... and we survived. A 50 cent tax on gasoline would not be drastically more radical than the 3.20-3.40 people were paying after Katrina.

What you seem to be suggesting is that this would be wrong because some people could not afford. I appreciate this point. However, if you are serious about reducing consumption you must reduce price. Lower gasoline prices will encourage fuel inefficient cars because they are cheaper, and all the more so as oil prices decrease. If you want to be oil independent, some people are going to have to make tough, damaging decisions. Some people's quality of life is going to decrease. That's an unfortunate reality.

I do not ride the bus to work. It would be cheaper, but not cheap enough for me to bypass the convenience of driving.

If you want to drive down oil prices than expect much of the status quo. Truck and SUV sales will continue unabated and fuel efficiency will become a non-starter as always. *ANY* solution you have to increase oil efficiency will come with some direct cost on consumers. If you "force" Detroit to make them more efficient (which means more expensive) than Detroit will pass this cost on to consumers. And in the 2nd or 3rd generation of used car sales these costs will eventually be passed on to poor Americans.

If you want consumption to decrease, price must go up.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 11:03 AM

Correction: In third paragraph "However, if you are serious about reducing consumption you must reduce price" should read INCREASE price.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 11:04 AM

Remember, Remember the 5th of November, the Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot...

I see no reason the Gunpowder Treason should EVER BE FORGOT.

Thank you Emily Messner for your thought provoking article... solving the energy crisis has nothing to do with increasing cost or taxing gasoline or otherwise punishing the American Working class who have no choice but to buy gasoline at whatever cost the fat cat oil companies decide we can pay.

It has to do with waking up to the evils our government has done to us by sleeping with the corporations and the lobbyists that live to suck the life out of us. We need to take back our government.

We need some Common Sense!


It is about educating ourselves and taking on the hard work that needs to be done and not letting our government spoon feed us the crap they have been feeding us so that we will be "safe".


If energy is a National Security Crisis then we need another Manhatten Project and solve the problem. If Brazil can do it I amd quite certain we can do it too.

We don't need to be protected from terrorist. We need to be protected from our own government and power hungry fools.

Let's quit spending our treasure and spilling our blood in foreign lands for the fat cats and making ourselves look like fools in the eyes of the world and Let's git 'er done!

Posted by: donnerboy | April 27, 2006 11:57 AM

Will, I've heard you say this before but maybe I'm not getting the picture. Why do we need to reduce consumption? It will not make us oil independent. It will only affect the price of oil slightly. Why is consumption an issue? Do we not have enough oil, enough capacity to turn it into gasoline? I do not seen where adjusting consumption gets us anything except less CO2 and smog, angry former drivers riding smelly busses, and maybe a few more dollars in my pocket but that is not a national issue.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 11:57 AM

Just in case some missed this, here is a link showing the price of gas and how it is affected by middle east conflict.
http://zfacts.com/p/35.html
To drop gas back to normal prices this suggests pulling out of Iraq and stop talking about nuking Iran. Bush talks about ethanol, no wonder...

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 12:01 PM

Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Ethanol and Mass Transit are ALL part of the long term solution. BMW and others have been driving around Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars and buses for a couple of years now and the problem is the amount that can be stored, not safety.

Ethanol comes from a renewable source that can also help our farmers.

Mass transit, INTEGRATED, with all other public transit is really one of the best answers. Combine it with a safe and reliable nuclear strategy to produce electricity and you have something that can really serve the people.

PRIORITY NUMBER ONE: Get off the black crack! HOWEVER we do it, we just need to do it.

Posted by: AfghanVet | April 27, 2006 12:20 PM

Sully-

Some people have deemed America "Oil Dependent". It is to those people who I say, the only reasonable means of adjusting American consumer behavior is to adjust the price of oil.

The viability of "alternative" energy sources is tied to the viability of oil. Ethanol, for example, costs about 5.00 per tank of gasoline currently. That means gasoline is preferrable to ethanol up until we reach that 5.00 mark.

If we want to ween ourselves off of oil we have to make alternatives to oil economically viable. Ultimately the price of oil will determine whether or not these alternative sources are legitimate investment opportunities.

And we are running a 500 billion dollar deficit, so I favor a gasoline tax as a good source of revenue.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 12:37 PM

Sully-

Postscript: If you do not think that shifting from oil to alternatives or from oil to semi-conservation is important then obviously you will find my proposal semi-useless (except for the added revenue). If that's your opinion, just ignore it.

Personally I am in the sooner the better crowd. Eventually oil will necessarily price itself out of the market because it is a non-renewable resource. I'd rather we have the infrastructure in place to deal with this when it comes up.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 12:40 PM

When the oil supply, foreign and domestic, is no more, a replacement will be introduce into the market. The Gasoline price increase is not the "crisis" that will lead to revolutionary changes. Experienced in customer reactions to high prices in Europe Big Oil knows that people will fuss but will pay the price. This debate may be good for the soul but the cast is set _ We will pay the price having no other consumer choices. End of debate!

Posted by: camus | April 27, 2006 01:46 PM

Will wrote:
"If we want to ween ourselves off of oil we have to make alternatives to oil economically viable. Ultimately the price of oil will determine whether or not these alternative sources are legitimate investment opportunities."

I could just as easily be done by giving tax benefits or other incentives to the ethanol industry, maybe take the oil industries benefits and apply them to ethanol. But I don't see a need to smack consumers in the wallet to achieve your goal. And the ethanol bandwagon is fueled by oil. Using current American resources (mainly corn) it takes almost as much energy to produce a tank of ethanol as to make it and get it to your tank. The best approach is to require, REQUIRE, all gasoline vehicles have hybrid technology, a technology that exists today, and impose high fuel economies on vehicles. You might say that will impose a hardship on those buying cars due to the higher price of hybrid cars. I agree to some extent but I would expect the price of hybrids to come down due to volume manufacturing. I actually prefer PHEV vehicles but I think the market will make them attractive.

Will continues:
"Postscript: If you do not think that shifting from oil to alternatives or from oil to semi-conservation is important then obviously you will find my proposal semi-useless..."

Oh I'm all for alternatives, I just don't see any real alternatives ready for market. Corn is a lousy source of ethanol producing 1.2 units of energy for every 1 unit of energy used to make it. Now sugar cane is 8:1. That is how Brazil has almost reached energy independence. There is also the question of how to distribute any alternative fuel. The distribution of gasoline is well established via existing pipelines. So though I feel ethanol is the future, well, its just that, the future. Today the only way we can reduce consumption and not punish drivers, drive up inflation and otherwise ruin the economy and the lives of millions is by pushing hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles through legislation. America has clean air because of legislating the automobile industry, we can also have fuel efficiency if our leaders only wanted it more than big oil's campaign contributions.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 01:49 PM

Ethanol is a solution in the long term at best. Let's talk about NOW.

Will, you must be either senile or retarded, I must've mentioned something to that effect lately, no? Anyway, it's a common knowledge that due to the lack of an alternative, some 70% of American workforce is FORCED TO DRIVE to and from work. Has it occur to you how your, er, unwise, proposal may affect them?.. Will it decrease gas consumption? Nein. The government, on the other hand, will undoubtedly piss the money away on the lame foreign adventures or supporting "energy consultants" such as that a**wipe Chris Ford. So what good is your gas tax? It's a simple question, Will.
The fair thing to do is to tax the oil companies, the Wall Street and the super rich, on condition the proceeds chanelled directly to the working motorists. Which is unfeasible due to th apparent lack of will on the part of the govn't.

"We have the means to regulate speculation," types Jazzman.

What exactly are they, Jazzman? And who are "we"?

From the mouth of the poster Camus comes the sad truth. The only realistic option is to pick the tab. One can also commit suicide, n'est pas, Camus?

Posted by: | April 27, 2006 02:42 PM

Sully-

"I could just as easily be done by giving tax benefits or other incentives to the ethanol industry, maybe take the oil industries benefits and apply them to ethanol."

To the latter (taking of oil industry benefits) who do you think the oil industry is going to make pay for this shift? Probably consumers?

To the former (tax benefits/incentives/subsidies) I think we are well past the point where spending our way out of a problem will work, although your proposal would probably go down well at the current whitehouse.

In my opinion you don't start subsidy programs when your deficit is half a trillion dollars annually --you eliminate subsidies wherever possible. At some point Americans are going to have to realize that funding growth through lower taxes without cutting spending will eventually cost *someone* *something*. If tough decisions are going to be made they should be made by the ones who accrued those costs, namely: us. Forcing the costs of our fiscal irresponsibility on our children is immoral and undemocratic.

That is why I support a gas tax. It is a tough decision that forces Americans to change their consumption habits that also generates much needed government revenue. Deficit spending cannot go on forever unabated.

"But I don't see a need to smack consumers in the wallet to achieve your goal."

Because it is the only reasonable way to change consumer behavior outside of flat out paying them the difference in cost between a hybrid and a cheaper gasoline-only car. By the way, how will you pay for that?

If you don't think consumption needs to be reduced then ignore that proposal. If your solution to the problem is to pay our way out, I respectfully disagree with you.

"The best approach is to require, REQUIRE, all gasoline vehicles have hybrid technology, a technology that exists today, and impose high fuel economies on vehicles."

Which will be expensive for car manufacturers who will turn around and force those costs on customers. The cheapest car available will cost the same as the cheapest hybrid available thus eliminating the only possibility that some poor and middle class americans have at owning a new car (not the end of the world). Further this will not generate any of that much needed government revenue.

Anonymous-

"Will, you must be either senile or retarded"

I'm actually quite young, so it's probably just retarded.

"Anyway, it's a common knowledge that due to the lack of an alternative, some 70% of American workforce is FORCED TO DRIVE to and from work."

Source? I drive to work but I am not forced to drive to work. I sympathize with those workers who absolutely MUST drive to work, but wages will adjust. If employers cannot court workers because the cost of commuting makes the jobs undesirable, than employers will have to raise wages.

"Has it occur to you how your, er, unwise, proposal may affect them?"

Yes, that's the entire point. These people will probably be forced to make some difficult decisions about their current oil consumption. They might even *gasp* be forced to sell their cars for more efficient vehicles or learn to take public transportation and/or carpool. Or ride a bike. Or walk. The horror! The horror!

"So what good is your gas tax? It's a simple question, Will."

Simple answer. It will reduce American oil consumption immediately, it will increase the economic viability of investment in alternative energy sources, and it will generate desperately needed government revenue.

"The fair thing to do is to tax the oil companies, the Wall Street and the super rich, on condition the proceeds chanelled directly to the working motorists."

Who do you think a gasoline tax taxes, exactly, besides people who sell gasoline (oil companies)? If you tax oil companies they will pass the tax onto the consumer, so the effect is the same. I'm suggesting a direct tax at the pump, you are suggesting a what? Windfall tax? And you don't think oil companies will pass this tax on to consumers?

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 03:07 PM

Two problems: Illegal immigration. High Gas prices.

Solution: Rickshaws.

Posted by: D. | April 27, 2006 03:34 PM

We need to free ourselves from oil and do it NOW! Ethanol in one form or another has been available in ths country for at least 20 years. I used to buy it when stationed in OK in the early 1980's cause it was cheaper than gas. As for distribution, all the stations would have to do is add another couple of pumps and a tank, just as they do when they decide to carry diesel fuel. As for pipelines, they're building new ones all the time. The sad truth is most of America has no choice but to drive since in all but the largest cities public transportation is nonexsistant. Hybrids sound good, but they are expensive, STILL use gas and are only fuel effecient in city driving. Besides, it's unrealistic to expect people run out and buy a brand new car. What the major car makers haven't told the public (but should) is that the majority of cars all ready on the road can be modified to run on E85. Even if it were to cost 5,6,7 hundred dollars it's cheaper than a new car. Aside from reprogramming the computer any decent mechanic can do it. Replace the fuel line, gas tank, and fuel injector, and you don't have to do it all at one time. Ford, GM and Mo-Par have been selling cars in Brazil for years and HAD to come up with conversion kits. I've seen them advertized at Brazilian dealerships.

Posted by: Jackie | April 27, 2006 03:41 PM

Ethanol is promising but there is a problem. We currently produce about 4 billion gallons of ethanol each year. The ethanol industry consumed some 1.5 billion bushels of corn, equivalent to about 13 percent of the nation's second largest corn harvest.

Now that sounds like a lot except that American consumes about 350 million gallons of gas each DAY! That's 125 billion gallons of gasoline each year. If we used ALL of our corn to produce ethanol it would produce about 30 billion gallons or about one quarter of the gasoline we consume. Other technologies need to be developed to make enough ethanol such as cellulose derived ethanol (you use corn stalks or other waste plant material).

So, though you may find ethanol at a gas station or two here and there, it is unlikely to replace gasoline and only likely to be the additive (5% - 10%) it currently is for a long time. That's a good thing, but it is not going to replace gasoline or even give us E85 everywhere in the country anytime soon.

Hybrids are here today. They have been proven in small, midsize and large SUV type vehicles. It is time to really promote this proven technology while the research into ethanol and other ideas continues. Even better, PHEV hybrids, which are still being researched but seem to work, can be plugged into your house. Not only could you use house power to power your PHEV vehicle, you could use the PHEV vehicle as a generator during power outages to power appliances in your house. Hybrid technology has a lot to offer and is the only effective short term solution we have to reduce the consumption of gasoline.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 04:10 PM


Mass transit will not serve as a practical remedy. Distances too great (versus, say, Europe), too much suburb-to-suburb commuting, etc. to make it economically feasible.

Ditto for 'hoping' the price of gas will drive drivers into becoming bicyclers or such.

Observe that the two greatest short-term technological breakthroughs of the 20th-century - the atomic bomb and a trip to the moon - were results of GOVERNMENT programs in a perceived national emergency.

Energy independence is only plausible in the near-term (10-15 years) with the same type of commitment. Sure, contract the work out to private industry (Exxon Mobil, GM, etc.) if possible, but under strict contract conditions: solution X will be produced by deadline Y at a non-renegotiable total price of Z, or else! If doable, as with the moon shot, fine; otherwise, let Uncle do it himself, as with Fat Man and Little Boy.

To rely on private business to 'somehow get around to it' when it's profitable for THEM ensures the crisis will only get FAR worse long before it gets better. The same applies to people voluntarily buying hybrids, taking fewer trips, or other 'human' solutions.

This is a pure technological problem, ideally suited for a coordinated governmental solution.

How to bring it about? Simply remember all this in November and vote accordingly.

Posted by: Judgito | April 27, 2006 04:12 PM

Judgito wrote:
"This is a pure technological problem, ideally suited for a coordinated governmental solution. How to bring it about? Simply remember all this in November and vote accordingly."

Absolutely right. Remember which party thinks government is the solution and which thinks government is the problem.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 04:20 PM

Government is the solution? Bloody fascists....

Posted by: don't make a hill of beans | April 27, 2006 04:24 PM

Government is a solution when you have people in the government who believe in government's abilities. Conversely, when you have people in government who do not believe in government, who believe the government is a trouble maker that needs to be supressed, you get the kind of government we have today that throws its hands up when a national crisis occurs since it has no idea how to use the wheels of government to solve national problems.

If you want a functional government you have to remove republican control.

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 04:36 PM

Will,

Anyway, prohibitive prices at the pump may work in Europe. Here, it's a severe blow to the masses, financially speaking. For many (70% in my approximation) bus, metro, scooter or bicycle is not a realistic alternative, even in the metropolitan areas. Now think of the millions "out there" with their trucks, SUVs, ATVs and tractors. What choice do they have?

Regardless, it certainly looks like the gas price is to soar to an extent as to make the talk of any additional tax obscene.

The answer to the prohibitive gasoline is efficient public tranportation, difficult indeed change in cultural habits and, call me Pinko, taxation of the scandalously rich. I'll not name names.

Posted by: Emilio | April 27, 2006 04:40 PM

Judgito-

"Mass transit will not serve as a practical remedy. Distances too great (versus, say, Europe), too much suburb-to-suburb commuting, etc. to make it economically feasible."

What do you think "economic feasibility" is a measure of, exactly? Maybe gasoline prices? As private commutes become more expensive the political and economic viability of developed mass transit increase, no?

"Ditto for 'hoping' the price of gas will drive drivers into becoming bicyclers or such."

We don't have to hope, it is happening right now. After Katrina consumers remedied their behavior and started purchasing more hybrids and fewer SUVs/Trucks because it was cheaper, in the long run, to do so. Ditto on bicycles/taking the bus/walking.

"Sure, contract the work out to private industry (Exxon Mobil, GM, etc.) if possible, but under strict contract conditions: solution X will be produced by deadline Y at a non-renegotiable total price of Z, or else! If doable, as with the moon shot, fine; otherwise, let Uncle do it himself, as with Fat Man and Little Boy."

Or else what? We jail the oil execs? Why would any private company sign such a restrictive contract? And how can the American government pony up the amount of cash to make it worth their time?

And how exactly will "Uncle Sam" pay for it when he is making 200 billion dollar interest payments per year?

"To rely on private business to 'somehow get around to it' when it's profitable for THEM ensures the crisis will only get FAR worse long before it gets better."

There is no one else to rely on. You cannot spend your way out of this problem. At some point gasoline will price itself out of the market by necessity (because oil is non-renewable). That's when private industry will step in and change the world because it will be feasible to do so. People are going to buy 8.00 tanks of "energy" just as they buy 3.00 tanks of gasoline. Private Industry has no incentive to invest in the 8.00 alternatives because... they don't have to!

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 04:43 PM

frankly Sully, I find your naive faith in the government childlike, really. They are vicious.

Posted by: Emilio | April 27, 2006 04:43 PM

Emilio-

"Anyway, prohibitive prices at the pump may work in Europe. Here, it's a severe blow to the masses, financially speaking. For many (70% in my approximation) bus, metro, scooter or bicycle is not a realistic alternative, even in the metropolitan areas. Now think of the millions "out there" with their trucks, SUVs, ATVs and tractors. What choice do they have?"

I guess they will just lay down and die? Well, not exactly.

When gasoline prices actually do reach 3.50, which they will, you will see the very managable effects of a proposed .50 gasoline tax at 3.00. What will happen? The public will utilize mass transit more, SUV/Truck sales will plummit, and hybrid sales will increase.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 04:46 PM

Emily, good luck finding any fuel besides standard gas to put into those "flex fuel" vehicles. There are exactly 10 E85 fueling stations in Flordia, Texas, and California COMBINED. And there are 0 in New England.
http://afdcmap2.nrel.gov/locator/

Posted by: Miles | April 27, 2006 05:03 PM

"What will happen? The public will utilize mass transit more, SUV/Truck sales will plummit, and hybrid sales will increase."

Will,

What if there's NO mass transit to speak of? Some Centerville, Burke, Nashvile, TN, or the entire state of Wisconsin, to name afew? Many will suddenly get way less off, that's what'll happen. Unless the govn't help'em the masses finance the hybrid trucks and SUVs, which I doubt.

Posted by: Emilio | April 27, 2006 05:05 PM

If Chris Ford was any dumber, he'd be a tree, verdad?

Sully, on the other hand, is a supreme example of how one should debate the issues.

Posted by: Emilio | April 27, 2006 05:18 PM

Jackie - The only time ethanol was cheaper than gas here was when a few Congressional pork-funded pilot programs 100% subsidized by the Fed Gov't churned out a modest amount of farmer subsidized corn-derived ethanol. Even in Brazil, where they are knocking down 100 square miles of rain forest every 3 years (making the OTHER environmentalists not adoring of ethanol over rainforest very unhappy) ethanol is subsidized.

Which puts you in Sully's argument. Is it a better use of taxpayer dollars to give the poor relief at the pump, subsidize the wealthy so they can get the newest high cost hybrid status car, or divert much of our arable land to making heavily subsidized corn to essentially burn and then import most our food?

I side with Will in that we have bad consumer behaviors that the market should correct - not subsidize with taxes to help perpetuate those bad choices when we have 500 billion dollar deficits.

Long term, we need coal and nuclear - plus for the sake of argument those "exciting alternate power sources" that will never be primary energy sources - but are wonderful rhetorical devices activists use to deflect from the core fact that they have blockaded all coastal exploration, Alaskan exploration, walled off half the West from exploration, blocked LNG, blocked nuclear, blocked new coal, and blocked new refineries for the last 35 years.

Besides the gridlock on new energy production by the Lefty activists - we indeed also have a problem with radical conservatives that think Jesus wants us all to drive 10MPG ultimate behemoths on 100 mile commutes every day as the penultimate expression of "God-given American freedoms" and to have a chain of wars to "liberate" those who disagree.

Both sides are nuts.

Just the cancer of Lefty activism has gone on far longer than the stupidity of the gas hog loving Bushies has.

So what are our current best options?

1. Seek out and punish the speculators. Agree with the G-8 that we must have mechanisms to stabilize the spot market and end the manipulation of it by the rich fatcats.

2. Since this pain is global and stems in great part from ME instability, have a reapproachement with Europe, China, Russia. All of us are working at cross purposes, undercutting one another on matters like the Palestinians and Iraq and foster wild oil moves as a result. The Islamic instability and bad experience Russia had with the Oligarchs has delayed development of the vast Caspian deposits.

3. My amigo Presidente Chavez is absolutely right that if OPEC establishes a new benchmark price of 50 dollars a barrel, that would free up use of Venezuela's heavy bituminous crude - which is a reserve bigger than KSA's. This would also power new exploration, production from marginal deposits, and start large scale development of US oil shale and Canadian oil sand deposits - both of which are larger than KSA's oil reserves.

4. The USA has got to move past being captives of fanatic special interest activists, which are a small minority but who have given us massive new gas guzzlers (free market morons, corporate lackey morons), blocked all energy development (Lefty morons), put America on track to have 1 billion people by 2100 (Open Borders morons), further destabilized the ME through organs like the Israel Lobby (zionist morons). Both our Parties have to reach consensus on a National energy strategy - and support a global plan we must formulate with the energy exporting and key industrialized nations.

5. There is enough oil and oil derivative fossil fuel to keep us in business for another 30-40 years PLUS feed Rising China's needs and India's too. But just as we can't tolerate blockage of near term solutions by blind, intolerant ideological opposition by minorty special interest groups any longer, we must start seriously planning for the long-term.

The long term is what realistic, scientifically and economically valid energy sources should we start building the infastructure of for that will serve our children and grandchildren. Many of the nuke, coal, and nat gas plants of today will be running 30 years from now. Many oil, nat gas fields and coal mines will still be providing needed energy 30 years from now. What else will they need that will help maintain a high standard of living? What "exciting alternate power" will they realistically use to provide their needs. This is dollars and cents stuff - not ideological. No different than a bridge we cross today over a gorge that was built 120 years ago and designed to last 600 years and designed, though they didn't know autos would exist, for capacity to serve 10X the traffic they had in 1886. Do we go with renewable, CO2-free next gen fission power for them? Or continue business as usual, not invest in future energy, and count our grandchildren having fusion and "exciting solar energy" - or if not, "their problem, screw 'em"?? Do we design a national and international energy program that has the flexibility to add fusion if it ever proves commercially viable or drop ethanol if it chokes off too much land needed for wildlife and future food needs?

My opinion? Both Democrats and Republicans must get serious and end the feckless dithering that has crippled us since 1970 or so. Get the special interest groups warping domestic and foreign policy under control and serve the collective good, not the few.

Posted by: Chris Ford | April 27, 2006 05:40 PM

Emilio-

Centerville is one of 4 cities in 50,000 - 200,000 cities in Tennessee that has a public transportation system.

The reality is, some cities in the United States do not have public transit. To compensate, living expenses in these cities, like Burke, Tennessee, are typically lower because it lacks a certain amnenity. The people in Burke, Tennessee will survive with 3.50 gasoline just as they do with 3.00 gasoline... or 2.50... or 2.00. They will adjust their living habits to accomodate. Or, if you'd like, I could update my proposal to only tax those gas stations that are near cities with accomodating Public Transportation systems.

Nashville:
http://www.nashvillemta.org/setpage.asp?page=generalinfo.html
You can purchase a bus fair online if you'd like.

The State of Wisconsin also has a public transportation system. You can find information about it here: http://www.apta.com/links/state_local/wi.cfm#A5

Yes, a gasoline tax would cause many people to suffer. That's the whole point. If they suffer they will make difficult decisions about how to get from point A to point B.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 05:41 PM

Correction:

Centerville is one of 4 cities with populations between 50,000 and 200,000 people in the state of Tennessee with public transporation systems.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 05:45 PM

To Emilio-

You haven't exactly pulled your punches so I am going to take the gloves off.

You are perfectly representative of what I call "Drastic Pussyism" in the United States whereas any decision that "hurts" a particular group of people is prima facie wrong.

The logical result of this is that Politicians only make decisions that have 0 political consequences. So we rack up 500 billion in deficits while simultaneously cutting taxes (in the middle of a war, no less) because the only political group that could possibly complain --our future beleaguered children-- can't voice their frustrations in a ballot box.

So spend on, chief. But don't expect me to lose any tears for the Burke, Nashvillians who might suffer the indignity of having to sell that 1988 Ford Bronco for merely a Ford Ranger effectively doubling their miles per gallon.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 05:55 PM

Emilio wrote:

"Sully, on the other hand, is a supreme example of how one should debate the issues."
_____________

The policy philosophy of Sully can be summed up in one approach. That is, tax as broadly as possible, and make the benefit as specific as possible. This was exactly demonstrated in the proposal to take excess oil profits and assign them to energy R&D.

On the other hand, there is the mentality that says, tax as narrowly as possible (and voluntarily if possible), and make the benefits as broad as possible. The conceptually perfect example is the lottery, which is a voluntary tax on the numerically impaired. Another example, more relevant for this debate, would be putting an explicit price on the extravagancy of fuel hogs, and passing these sums directly to fuel conservers. A simple way to do this is to ration gas equally via transferable vouchers to each licensed driver, enabling pigs to buy the amounts they need in the secondary market for vouchers with a profit to those who conserve.

Respectful of the free market, rewarding for right-acting conservers, and taking government out of the money-grabbing picture except as agents to issue the vouchers. BTW, didn't Jimmy Carter have such a contingency plan in the works? He certainly had millions of gas-ration coupons printed and stockpiled (an easily confirmed historical fact).

Posted by: On the plantation | April 27, 2006 06:17 PM

An Island Parable:

In a far, far away ocean, sat the prosperous island of Atlantila. For many years, it's wheat crop and native and imported fish from the archipelago of Raging-On were enough to feed its people and it's livestock. But overtime, it's population grew and became a little more wasteful and preferred bigger and bigger bovines as status symbols. Which began to strain it's food supply. Worse, it's population grew unexpectedly as masses of poor people from nearby South Bumholia began landing on it's shores, begging for work and in many ways making certain Atlantinians richer and what they bought cheaper. And then the supply of fish from Raging-On became uncertain as a small island began hosting an incoming people that worshipped a different Idol and kicked some rager's butts - which enraged the already raging residents of Raging-On more than they ordinarily raged and fish trade went as nuts as them. Pacification missions by Atlantilians only made them madder, and many Atlantilians were killed - including some by attacks launched by the fish-rich Raging-On residents in Atlantilia itself.

Over the years, of course, Atlantilia had tried to diversify it's agricultural base away from wheat, but ran into intense ideological opposition from people opposed to beans (they make one pass wind - horrible stuff - and we will never tolerate such a terrible potential pollutant! We will march on and block all beanfields), opposed to potatos (can be poisonous!), and corn (the mills that grind corn can explode!). For decades, they blocked those sources...preferring to speculate how wonderful strawberries, cherry trees, wild rice, and "exciting new alternate crops yet proven to work and maybe making starfish edible would be". And encouraged people to eat less. And not have so many bovines.

The Prime Minister met with worried experts who said Atlantilia was in a food crisis. He tried meeting with the parties.

The fatcats of the island had a cow when he proposed reducing the number of big bovines...claiming that freedom, comfort, and their ability to get laid by having such status symbols tied to them would be jeopardized.

The mindless oppositionists initially tried shutting down debate by chanting "Strawberries! Beautiful pure strawberries!" and responded that while strawberries, wild rice capable of being planted on a few acres of land, and unreliable cherry trees that also killed plenty of birds and bats with their poisonous pits were only able to feed 5% of the people, they were just so aesthetically wonderful and pure that the main focus should be on them...plus exciting alternate crops not yet invented or proven. Meanwhile they shook with anger as they reaffirmed their complete opposition towards potatos, corn, and beans. And said that people should eat less as a solution.

Coincidentally, many of the oppositionists were the biggest defenders of the South Bumholians arriving, saying they had a right to Atlantilia and if we only lived and ate like the Bumholians there wouldn't be such a food crisis. Ignoring of course, why people were leaving Bumholia in the first place.

And the oppositionists said that fish dependency and all the rage in the Raging-On archipelago was Atlantilia's fault and we should be "fish-free" and eat strawberries instead. They proposed research into a magic new exciting crop that had the protein of the imported fish but tasted like wild rice with a hint of strawberry...

The Prime Minister came from the Big Bovine lover's society, so he knew that there would always be wheat and fish for themselves and their high status livestock, but the kids of others on the island may be going hungry soon. Not that he cared that much...and though not too bright, knew more pain and hunger had to come before the oppositionists realized their "strawberry fields forever" fantasies were unscientific and infantile, their "exciting future alternate crops" still a dream.

Knowing that corn, beans, and potatos were coming anyways, he adjourned the meeting. And did a little pandering to the oppositionists saying he too loved cherries and hoped the "starfish edibility" problem could be solved with massive amounts of money going to the Big Bovine lover class to further study the starfish protein source.

And prepared, just like the day before to wave more Bumholians in to serve the Big Bovine lovers needs, and deal with the fish-mongers of the Raging-On Archipelago.

Posted by: Chris Ford | April 27, 2006 06:59 PM

Thanks, Will, but your point-by-point critique of my earlier post seems to stem from an inherent belief that the marketplace is the only solution.
I, too, believe in capitalism - it's the best way to handle the ca. 95% of problems it can routinely handle. Addressing the other 5% or so - and I'm convinced our long-term energy problem has been one of these for decades (not just since last month) - is one of the few real reasons governments are necessary.
To respond to two of your points:
For mass transit to work to the extent needed to solve this problem quickly in the geographical U.S. would require a network of construction, condemnation and labor contracts that would bankrupt whatever level of government that tried to do it. A 'Manhattan-like' project would be far less taxing - which, incidentally, albeit unfortunately, is one source of the revenue that would pay for it, but I believe would prove to be a valuable long-term investment.
No crystal ball here - you may even be right in many respects - but all the indications I see do not point to a satisfactory free-market-only solution.

Posted by: Judgito | April 27, 2006 07:10 PM

plantation wrote:
"The policy philosophy of Sully can be summed up in one approach. That is, tax as broadly as possible, and make the benefit as specific as possible. This was exactly demonstrated in the proposal to take excess oil profits and assign them to energy R&D."

Hmmm, I thought I wrote:
"I could just as easily be done by giving tax benefits or other incentives to the ethanol industry, maybe take the oil industries benefits and apply them to ethanol."

Not oil profits, tax benefits. But hey, this is a debate about facts right?

Posted by: Sully | April 27, 2006 07:55 PM

Judgito-

Maybe we got our signals crossed somewhere but I did not propose a free market solution. I proposed a gasoline tax.

The one proposal above that I take serious issue with is additional subsidization or governemnt "initiative" a-la moon landing which is essentially just a large subsidy. We run half a trillion dollar deficit annually. We do not have any money to spend on fixing this problem. We need revenue coming in, not the other way around.

At some point Americans are going to have to realize that "the good times are over". That's what happens when a short-sighted electorate buys growth with constantly decreasing taxes (even during warfare) and constantly increasing government spending.

The bottom falls out, eventually.

Posted by: Will | April 27, 2006 11:48 PM

Will, thanks for the clarification.
But if you're serious about a gasoline tax, why not use the proceeds to fund the initiative I suggested? This resolves the question of where the money's coming from, as well as encouraging changes in behavior. I simply stated that encouraging these changes alone would constitute, at best, only a small part of the solution.
While we're at it, I just heard that George W., reversing his policy of over five years, seems to be proposing mandatory increases in mileage for autos of the future. This fits in with my 'or else' statement; in this case, the 'or else' would be 'you cannot import or sell the new vehicle in the United States, at any price.' This should have been done decades ago - the technology would have easily been found (even by the private sector) and we would not be talking about $3/gallon (or anything close to it) now.
Let's also add a requirement that these future vehicles run on something less scarce in the United States than oil. And, of course, immediately order the EPA to stop classifying SUV's as 'trucks' in order to escape the existing mileage requirements for passenger cars. Again, all this is eminently doable and requires nothing more than political will.

Posted by: Judgito | April 28, 2006 11:34 AM

Judgito-

I don't necessarily have a problem with using additional taxes to fund a new initiative. At the very least it would be a political attitude change on the status quo whereas things that we want to spend money on must actually be funded.

I still think funding anything *besides* the deficit, when it sits at 500 billion annually, is really spending money where we have none to spend.

Also remember that fuel efficiency standards will have costs for consumers (which isn't the end of the world). I don't want anyone to think that efficiency standards are a cureall for our problems, or functionally all that different from a gasoline tax except for they don't generate any government revenue.

Personally an advantage of a gasoline tax is that it forces consumers to pick efficient vehicles. Car companies will have to follow suit, as their fuel inefficient vehicles become non-sellers on the lot. And the money is constantly rolling into the federal government.

But again, I don't have a problem with raising the efficiency on vehicles. I do have a problem with the Republican proposal to offer 100 dollar tax rebates to "most taxpayers" to compensate for high gasoline prices. I have an equally large problem with the Democratic proposal to suspend a portion of the current gasoline tax.

Why are Americans entitled to a particular price of gasoline?

Posted by: Will | April 28, 2006 11:51 AM

Will -
Finally, some points of total agreement: the $100 rebate (tied to drilling in ANWR) is obviously nothing but a political gimmick; suspending the gas tax is one, too.
And, of course, neither addresses the problem of energy self-sufficiency, as they still posit gasoline-powered vehicles.
Getting away from gasoline moots the question of Americans 'deserving' a low price, which, I agree, we do not! What we must strive for is an affordable source of home-grown energy, and - when we develop one - maybe we WILL deserve low prices. My whole original point is that leaving it primarily up to a free market - which arguably caused the problem - cannot be the preferred solution.

Posted by: Judgito | April 28, 2006 04:13 PM

I'm old enough to remember the Arab oil embargo of the 1970's-lines at the pump that were MILES long. We've known this day would come for over 30 years and our leaders refused to prepare, chosing to pander to big oil instead. Gasohol, as it was called then, was in its infancy. We wasted a good 20 years that could have been used to perfect production methods and setting up an infrastructure. By the way Ethanol can be made with anything cellulose not just corn or sugar cane. I've done my research and something I found out is that IT'S AGAINST FEDERAL LAW TO CONVERT A VEHICLE DESIGNED TO RUN OFF GAS TO RUN ANYTHING ELSE! Now who could THAT law been passed to protect! Ethanol is still our best bet because we need something done yesterday and it's a technology we all ready have. E85 vehicles are being produced by the big three for the general public and GM proudly admits that it costs only $500 more to produce a flex fuel vehicle. The difference in price between a hybrid Highlander and a gas one is over $10,000 which is why folks aren't rushing out to buy one. And again most cars already on the road can be converted to use E85. That ridiculous law is the only real obstacle to mass producing a kit, and as a do it yourself project is fairly easy once the parts become available. Changing the gas tank, lines, pump, sensors, and fuel injector can be done by any half-assed shade tree mechanic. The fuel injector would be the only really costly part on the list. You would probably have to go to the dealership to have new software installed which would take all of 10 minutes. And if you're on a budget you wouldn't have to get it done all at one time as I've said. I live in Pensacola FL and after Katrina this area came to a standstill due to gas shortages. I'd have given my eye teeth for a choice. Problem is the governments never allowed one. The minute parts become available at least one Kia Spectra will be flex.

Posted by: Jackie | May 2, 2006 04:51 AM

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