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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Alternative Fuels

Now, before you get the wrong idea here. I'm not some hippy tree-hugger. Okay, I look like a hippy, but the last tree I hugged was something really fragrent to lend some taste to the bar-b-que. And my idea of a vegetarian pizza is dead cow (it's a vegetarian, and goes on pizza).

The world has a major dependancy on oil. It has for decades, and it doesn't look like that is going to change any time soon. But it should for the US. I'm not saying this because of global warming, or air pollution, or any other environmentalistic reason. My reasoning for saying this is quite simply national security.

Right now, we send billions of dollars out to hostile countries for the oil they hang over our heads like a guilletine. What would happen to our economy, or our very way of life if all the people that hate us, decided to impose a massive oil embargo? They won't lack for customers. The rest of the industrialized world would be more than happy to pick up the purchasing slack. And we'd be stuck in gas lines a mile long struggling to get to and from work on a daily basis. There's thousands of alternative scenarios where we could be badly hurt by oil, so don't take the one I mentioned to heart. We are in a very vulnerable situation right now, due to oil. In addition, I'd love to see those billions of dollars go to someone OTHER than people that hate our guts. And would like nothing better than to see us roast over an open flame.

The largest objections to alternative fuels to date have been energy efficiency, storage, infrastructure and cost.

The elecric car? Big bust due to limited speed, range, and the time it takes to recharge the batteries. Lack of power was also a major consideration as well. It's hard to cram all the necessities for modern transportation into an electric vehicle that isn't the size of a small semi truck.

Hydrogen? Wow, it's great stuff, but it's got limitations as well. It takes a great deal of lighter than air gas to reach 1 GGE (gallon of gas equivilent). But advances are being made all the time. Some people scream about safety with hydrogen. "Remember the Hindenberg!" being the rallying call for those that would bury hydrogen in an unmarked grave. Unfortunately, those people don't realize it wasn't the hydrogen that burned all those people to death. It was the flaming envelope, and the diesal fuel that powered the engines that came plummeting to the ground and burned for hours. The hydrogen went poof in seconds, and the "explosion" from that went up into the atmosphere.

Gas-Electric Hybrids? Great theory, but the cost is out of reach for the common 4 person/2 dog family with a mortgage and a white picket fence. The average hybrid vehicle costing up to $10K more than the equivilent gas vehicle. The savings in gasoline expenditure do not sufficiently offset the extra cost of the vehicle. Economically it takes the life of the vehicle to save enough money from increased mileage, to make up the extra money out of pocket to purchase the hybrid in the first place. Advances are being made all the time, but not fast enough. And not enough automotive manufacturers are embracing the concept. A Diesal-Electric hybrid would be much more efficient anyways.

Ethanol? There's that infrastructure issue. Not enough made, and not enough vehicles utilize the flex-fuel technology that would make it viable. To the best of my knowledge if your vehicle can't handle flex-fuels, it's one or the other as far as go-juice is concerned.

The United States has the greatest capacity for change in history. We proved that in WWII. We went from a peace-time footing, and the destruction of a large part of our Naval forces. To play a large part in winning the war in a few years. The only reason we "can't" overcome any of the limitations regarding alternative fuels, is a complete and total lack of desire to do so. On the part of our government, and the part of our citizens.

I think the main problem we as a country have to embracing alternative fuels, is we're not willing to take a single step towards fixing the problem. We want a total solution, or nothing. And that's just begging for problems. We have the knowledge, the technology, and the ability to impliment partial solutions immediately if we would just take that one step towards the ultimate goal.

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