The Open Fuel Standard Act Gains an Important New Sponsor

Friday, October 28, 2011

Congressman Dan Burton
Coinciding with Tuesday's event, Congressman Dan Burton, a very senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, became our newest co-sponsor. Danny "Dan" Lee Burton is the U.S. Representative for Indiana's 5th congressional district, and previously the 6th district, serving since 1983. He is a member of the Republican Party.

The Energy Security Roundtable and Press Conference Tuesday was a big success, and the momentum is building. Take a look at what's being said about OFS since Tuesday:

10-24-11 The Hill: Overnight Energy
10-25-11, Michigan Farmer - Coalition Presents Roundtable Discussion in Continued Push for Open Fuel Standard
10-25-11, BiofuelsDigest - Open Fuel Standard Coalition Forms
10-25-11 Rep. Engel’s Press Release
10-25-11 All AG All Day
10-25-11 Farm Futures
10-26-11, Ethanol Producer Magazine - Open Fuel Standard Backed by Big Name Supporters
10-26-11, DomesticFuel - Ag Secretary Wants Biofuels Support in Farm Bill

If your representative or senators have not yet become co-sponsors, now is the time to urge them to do something that can help the American economy recover and reduce our dependence on foreign oil without costing taxpayers a cent. Get them to understand why this bill is urgent.

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CONGRESSMEN ENGEL & SHIMKUS, KENNY WALLACE AND ROBERT MCFARLANE DISCUSS OPEN FUEL STANDARD

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Washington, DC — Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) and John Shimkus (R-IL-19) joined with members of the Open Fuel Coalition on Tuesday afternoon to present an Energy Security Roundtable. Afterwards, the two lawmakers, along with NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, outlined their support for the Open Fuel Standard Act (HR 1687). Also joining the Congressmen at the event were representatives from the Renewable Fuels Association, the Methanol Institute and ACT! For America.

Rep. Shimkus said, “Consumers should have a choice when they pull up to a refueling station. Why are we currently limited to petroleum gasoline? At a minimal cost, vehicles could be able to accept multiple fuels with consumers choosing based on price or even feedstock for the fuel.”

Rep. Engel said, “Dependence on foreign oil is one of the greatest challenges that our nation has ever faced — our national security and our econom­y depend on breaking free of it. By employing the Open Fuel Standard, we can create competition for petroleum on the open market with other types of fuel. We don’t have to wait for the perfect technology. We can turn this around right now, at little to no cost, and create a safer and more prosperous America.”

The Open Fuel Standard Act is a bill before the U.S. Congress that would promote fuel competition in the U.S. transportation sector for the first time, reducing the number of cars on the road that can operate solely on gasoline made from oil. With implications for national security, economic welfare, and impact on health and the environment, the bipartisan Open Fuel Standard Act creates an effective way forward with no cost to the government. The Coalition represents allied trade associations including the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the Methanol Institute, Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, The U.S. Energy Security Council, ACT! For America, and others.

Wallace said, “Ethanol is a high performance fuel that is clean burning. It's safe, we use it in NASCAR and there is no reason we cannot use more of it in our vehicles.”

McFarlane said, “National security has several fronts. Our reliance on a cartel to determine oil supplies and prices is not in our national interest.”

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Could Alternative Fuels Compete in a Free Market? Let’s Eliminate the Barriers and Find Out

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nicolas Loris at the Heritage Foundation wrote back in June that an open fuel standard for vehicles would “inevitably end up hurting consumers”, claiming, “The reason there are not more cars running on batteries, natural gas, methane, or other alternative fuels is the result of competition, not the absence of it.”

Do advocates of an open fuel standard want a “rigged marketplace in which they, rather than competition, dictate the outcomes”?

These claims strike this writer as disingenuous. Investors will not risk their capital on a product unless they are confident that there will be a market for it. One obvious barrier to investment in alternative fuels is an automotive market that can only run on gasoline.

The Open Fuel Standard Act offers an excellent test of Mr. Loris’s hypothesis: that “competition, not the absence of it” inhibits investment in alternative fuels. Moreover, it would test this hypothesis with negligible costs and potentially tremendous benefits to our economy, national security and environment if passed.

The Heritage Foundation should express its support for the bill on the basis of its experimental and educational value. If the Open Fuel Standard Act does not accomplish its intended purpose, we will have lost nothing and the Heritage Foundation will have taught the public a valuable lesson in economics. If the bill does accomplish its intended purpose, its patrons will have done our country a great service by accelerating our transition away from dependence on one of the most politically unstable and hostile regions of the world. It is time that we do something to alleviate sixty years of mutually antagonistic relations driven in large part by our own energy security concerns.

Thomas J. Buonomo is an Energy Policy Advocate for the Open Fuel Standard Coalition. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Middle East Studies from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has spent the past six years researching U.S. energy policy toward the Middle East.

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Congressmen Shimkus and Engel, Kenny Wallace Talk Open Fuel Standard Tuesday

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rep. Shimkus (center), June conference.
On Tuesday, October 25, members of the Open Fuel Coalition will present an Energy Security Roundtable. Afterwards, Congressman John Shimkus (R, Illinois-19), Congressman Eliot Engel (D, New York-17), NASCAR Driver Kenny Wallace, former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane and others will participate in a news conference supporting the Open Fuel Standard Act (HR 1687).

2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Energy Security Roundtable
2218 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC
The roundtable is open to Congressional staff, media, and other interested parties.

Participants will include NASCAR Driver Kenny Wallace, former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association Bob Dinneen, Executive Director of the Methanol Institute Greg Dolan, and President and CEO of ACT! for America Brigitte Gabriel.

3:15 p.m. News Conference
2218 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC

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Open Fuel Standard Event Next Week

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Tuesday, October 25th, in Washington, D.C. is a roundtable and press event for the Open Fuel Standard Act. You're invited. And we urge you to ask your representative to (at least) send one of their staff members to attend. This is an important, informative hour and a half event that none of our leaders should miss. (Contact information for your Members can be found here and here.)

The event has two parts: A one hour roundtable moderated by Anne Korin, and a half hour press event with Representatives John Shimkus and Eliot Engel.

The roundtable will have several guests for the panel discussion, including Robert McFarlane, Brigitte Gabriel, Bob Dinneen, and Greg Dolan. A special guest — NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace — will also be speaking.

Read, download, or print a flyer for the event here: OFS Roundtable and Press Event Flyer. Get these to anyone you know in the D.C. area, including all the Hill Members who will listen to you.

To RSVP the event or find out more, contact Representative Shimkus' Legislative Director Grant Culp at grant.culp@mail.house.gov.

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Looking For Job Killers? Look at Gas Prices, Study Suggests

According to Consumer Affairs:

The oil price spike of the past year, which saw gasoline prices increase by over $1 from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011, will drive household expenditures on gasoline to a record average of $2,900 this year, according to a study by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

Crude oil is about $30 higher than costs or historic trends justify, CFA found, generating needlessly high prices for petroleum products that will drain about $200 billion out of the economy.

This $200 billion drain is over one percent of gross domestic product and almost 2 percent of consumer spending.

“Since consumer spending is the main driver of the U.S. economy, when speculators, oil companies and OPEC rob consumers of that much spending power, the inevitable result is a dramatic reduction of economic activity and employment,” said Mark Cooper, CFA’s Research Director and author of the report.

A 2% reduction in consumer spending on goods and services translates into the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Read the rest of the article here.

Looking for a solution? The Open Fuel Standard would create millions of jobs in America. Read more: America's Economic Recovery.

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Department of Defense Makes First Strategic Strike on OPEC

Friday, October 14, 2011

By Alan Anderson

The Department of Defense has been talking a lot lately about its plans to put OPEC out of business for good. Now more than 10 years into the 21st century the United States is looking to change its National Security Policy from protecting oil interests in OPEC nations to developing its own renewable fuels program (read more about that here). Leaders at both the DOD and DOE have for months been discussing ideas of changing the way the DOD it fuels the military arsenal. Many defense contractors have suggested numerous types of future and far off ideas and technologies that will require years and years of wasted funds that can be put to use today.

Since the Oil Crisis of the early 1970’s the United States has been in R&D mode looking for the replacement for oil and has studied everything from mice dung to emptying landfills to produce the world’s next great fuel source. While the United States has been researching all these years, other nations such as Brazil and many European countries have taken action and already solved their National Security issues using the one fuel that has proven decade after decade to outperform petroleum fuels in every category. Sugar ethanol has taken Brazil from one of the poorest countries in South America to now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It was less than 10 years ago that Brazil was a large oil import country and today it is a net exporter due to its countrywide use of ethanol for transportation.

As much of the world already knows, sugar is the one component to ferment alcohols to make ethanol. Brazil was the world leader in sugarcane production so it was a simple transition that took many years to reach its goals of being the world’s largest producer of ethanol. Brazil flourished in the past decade with its newfound independence from oil. Meanwhile, America stood still and watched the rest of the world take bold steps forward in the field of renewable fuels, only to now realize that it is 10 years behind. The United States has used one of its most abundant agricultural commodities to produce ethanol for well over 30 years now (corn). Farmers are great at growing corn across America and ethanol producers here have adapted their production processes for the crop only to have the market stand stagnant for years.

When it comes to National Security here in the United States the farmers of America have always stood up and made the sacrifice to help feed or fuel the fighting forces of our great country. Farmers stand ready to do the same today. When the military asks for fuels to supply them in the battlefield I think it deserves only the best America can give them. The American ethanol industry sat back and allowed countries like Iran and China to outperform them in the production of the simplest form of fuel, Sugar Ethanol. As many new companies are now in research mode for new alternatives, some businessmen and farmers are reinventing the most cost effective form of ethanol using the world’s highest yielding form of sugar, the Energy beet which has been developed to produce yields that corn growers can only dream of.

Today in America there are three plants in development that will utilize the new non-food Energy beet to produce ethanol and supply existing ethanol plants with beet pulp to make corn fermentation more energy efficient and lower costs for the whole industry. This is the first step to the best drop-in biofuels to come along since Henry Ford first used ethanol in every car that left his factories. This is also the one way the United States can again start to consider itself Energy Independent from OIL. But this is just the first step to my idea of shaking the OPEC monopoly. The second is the change in engine technology for our Military.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have asked for ways to make their fighting vehicles more efficient and run on these new fuels. The one way this will happen is if the American auto industry makes every new vehicle produced for the military capable of 100% ethanol or methanol. Now most of the auto manufactures will tell you that it could take up to ten years to make this happen, which is simply not true. Nearly 90% of all cars and trucks produced by GM today are already Flex Fuel Capable. The only missing component to a non-FFV is the software upgrade in its onboard computer. All of the big three American automakers already produce FFV’s for markets abroad. So what is needed for our military is Congress to pass a bill to mandate FFV’s for all new government ordered vehicles, including those for the military.

That type of bill already exists in the halls of Congress today, The Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011. If lawmakers can agree that for National Security reasons the bill can be modified to include all currently contracted military vehicles it should be passed as soon as humanly possible.

The one issue I waited to address was the one of land use to produce drop-in biofuels for our military. One major argument against agricultural biofuel is that of land use. This issue has been one that was invented by industries that would lose support with the expansion of biofuels. The claims made by these industries are all false and have been proven untrue by scientists and government research alike. But let’s just consider for one moment that we were going to expand drop-in biofuels right on the installation, that would decrease the cost even more by eliminating the costs to transport the fuel to such sites. In states like California, the production can continue year round.

The ideas I’ve provided you with today are ones we can do immediately to change the course of our National Security and not kick it down the road for the sake of argument at a later time. The men and women of our Armed Forces depend on us to make the tough decisions that help save their lives. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. This is an issue of National Security and Independence from the OPEC oil monopoly.

In April 2011, The Energy Department sponsored a forum on energy security at the White House in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. William Lynn and Daniel Poneman announced a joint plan between the Defense and Energy Departments. The departments will work together on energy issues by developing clean energy technology and improving energy security. Also attending was Jane Harman from The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, she made it clear during the forum that these are issues that are going to save the lives of our brave men and women who serve our great nation and they deserve the best we have to offer them now. So as you can see, these issues go hand in hand. Energy Security equals National Security.

Alan Anderson, a freelance writer focusing on green renewable alternative fuels such as sugar based ethanol and biodiesel. He has written for many online publications including Newsvine.com, EnergyBoom.com and The Energy Collective. President of the newly formed National Association of Proficient Renewable Biofuels (NAPRB) And Supporter of the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011.

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American Jobs

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I just read a few surprising facts. Even though Facebook has had a global impact and changed the lives of millions, the company only employs 2,000 people. Google has about 29,000. In contrast, General Motors employs 200,000.

It made me think about the Open Fuel Standard. The opening of new markets for American made fuel would add millions of American jobs, quickly putting to work far more people than Facebook or Google ever will.

Just something to think about...

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Higher Mixed Alcohol Fuel: An Introduction

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The following was written by: Jay Toups, CEO, Bioroot Energy, LLC, and Mark C. Radosevich, Chief Scientist, Bioroot Energy, LLC.

Imagine vehicles that can run any alcohol fuel whether blended with petroleum or as a substitute, neat fuel.

Imagine an economy that no longer exports $.65 cents of every petroleum dollar to foreign countries.

Imagine a powerful 138 octane alcohol fuel formula that makes money and doesn't hurt the environment.

Imagine converting municipal solid and liquid wastes, biomass, coal, refinery wastes, methane and CO2 into clean fuels in massive volumes for domestic distribution and seamless use or export.

What is needed to kickstart this dramatic expansion of the liquid renewables landscape? Simply, the political will to stand up to established energy industry interests and pass the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011 bill — for the good of the national economy, the environment and the domestic energy industry. This Congressional bill is instrumental to spurring private investor interest in developing an accessible market for cleaner liquid fuels, while opening up new opportunities for citizens as renewable fuel producers who enable America to reduce its dependence upon petroleum fuels.

If you want more, better and cleaner liquid fuel choices, contact your representatives today!

Meanwhile, Back In The Fuel World...

What happens if the OFS bill doesn't pass? What if it does? Either way, it's clear that the world's increasing demand for liquid fuels won't be met by petroleum fuels. It is also clear that producing more single-alcohol fuels such as C1 methanol, C2 batch-fermented ethanol, or C4 batch-fermented iso-butanol will not provide sufficient additional volume. Demand will also not be met with another float-on-water oil - whether this oil-based fuel is derived from plant or animal substrates, such as waste restaurant greases, algae, dedicated fuel crops, or coal. America will need new and biodegradable fuels yet to be commercialized to meet future demands.

Thus far, alternative and renewable fuels have not achieved true profitability in the marketplace. Corn ethanol for example, has required a subsidy for 30 years, cellulosic ethanol has proven a total disappointment to date, and Fischer-Tropsch synthetic diesel (WW II-era synthetic coal-to-liquid oils) has not proven cost-effective even after 20 years of private sector development and investment. In fact, the Nazis were producing more synthetic oils from coal than today's scientists, even when crude oil is over $100 per barrel!

However, methanol, and its hybrid cousin, higher mixed alcohol ENVIROLENE®, can be produced in massive volumes and less expensively than either petroleum fuels or batch-fermented ethanol or iso-butanol. Which of these emerging fuels is ready to power all types of gasoline and diesel engines, with or without a flex fuel option?

Only higher mixed alcohol fuel blends seamlessly with gasoline and diesel fuels at the current 10.25 percent level or can be run neat as a gasoline substitute fuel in flex fuel vehicles.

Filling the Gen 2 Renewables Gap

Just a decade ago there was little ethanol in the fuel supply, yet corn ethanol was destined to become the first clean renewable oxygenate produced at commercial volumes. However, after ten years of increasing market share, and with corn ethanol production capped by RFS2 mandate at 15 billion gallons per year, the ethanol industry is looking for growth in cellulosic ethanol production which has not happened. Unmet mandates for cellulosic ethanol production, reduced by nearly 100 percent for four years running, are a strong signal that cellulosic ethanol isn't working yet, and that other alcohol fuels will be needed to fill the RFS2 gap of 21 billion gallons per year.

According to the EPA, qualifying production of cellulosic ethanol through June 2011 was zero gallons.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/compliancehelp/rfsdata.htm

In the late 1970's, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide and other companies developed higher mixed alcohol gas-to-liquid (GTL) synthesis as a response to the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970's and the phase out of tetra-ethyl lead as an octane enhancer in gasoline. However, commercial interest didn't materialize with ready supplies of cheap petroleum, and the choice of MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) as a competitive octane booster produced from oil refinery waste isobutylene.

Produced from oil refining waste, refiners could produce MTBE cheaper than purchasing batch-fermented corn ethanol to achieve the same objectives. MTBE was legislated out of existence in the USA by 2007 because it polluted groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams. MTBE's recall furthered the rapid growth of the corn ethanol industry, now capturing nearly 10 percent of the domestic fuel market.

Since the initial research and development conducted by Dow Chemical in the late 1970s, higher mixed alcohol fuel research and development has been quietly lead by a Colorado firm, Standard Alcohol Company of America, Inc., with its patented higher mixed alcohol fuel formula, ENVIROLENE®. In 2000, Robert Jimeson, Dr. Rex Stevens, and Mark C. Radosevich of Standard Alcohol Company filed wide-ranging formula-usage patents to cover a blend of synthetic alcohols based on an optimized GTL process which used a novel and proprietary catalyst. Their goal was to create a family of new and biodegradable oxycarbon fuels which seamlessly blend with every form of petroleum-derived fuel or with any rank of coal before being combusted in power plants or industrial boilers.

Today, ENVIROLENE is protected by U.S. and global formula-usage patents — and has earned EPA registration approval as a blended oxygenate additive or as a neat fuel for gasoline and diesel engines in all 50 states, with no engine modifications required.

"Think good, better, best as a simple way of understanding the comparative value of ethanol, methanol and higher mixed alcohol fuel. Higher mixed alcohol fuel (a synthetic blend of 8 to 10 linear, (n) normal alcohols) contains about 60% more BTUs per unit volume than C1 methanol, and nearly 20% more BTUs than C2 fermented corn ethanol."

138 octane ENVIROLENE can be utilized as a total substitute for gasoline when combusted in a car or truck outfitted with a flex fuel vehicle (FFV) computer chip. Alternatively, ENVIROLENE can be splash blended into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, low grade locomotive diesel, home heating oil and thick bunker oils combusted in ocean-going ships.

Splash blending this twenty percent stronger (90,400 BTU) higher mixed alcohol fuel will upgrade refined petroleum products into premium varieties, providing more complete combustion, increased fuel economy and reduced exhaust emissions from 50 to 69 percent.

Like other alcohol fuels, higher mixed alcohol fuel combusts much cleaner than gasoline, emitting far less particulate pollution. It is also less likely to catch fire in a crash, and its fumes contain none of gasoline's carcinogens, such as benzene. Methanol and higher mixed alcohols are not meant for human consumption. The normal (n) synthetic alcohols within this blend are methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, pentanol, hexanol, heptanol, octanol, nananol and 10-carbon decanol. Yet both these oxycarbon fuels are water soluble, hydrocarbon oil soluble, coal soluble and easily biodegrade, feeding nature's micro-organisms and plants and trees with a free lunch.

The resources available to support higher mixed alcohol production are vast. In contrast to gasoline, which can be made economically only from petroleum — or batch-fermented corn ethanol whose mass production requires the pre-conversion of starches into sugars — higher mixed alcohol fuel can be continuously synthesized 24x7 from any carbonaceous material: oil, natural gas, CO2, coal, municipal solid and liquid wastes, ground tires and biomass such as beetle-killed pine. There is nothing to plant, fertilize, water, weed and annually harvest as base agricultural feedstocks.

The energy used to power ENVIROLENE GTL catalytic fuel synthesis is carbon from the feedstock itself, whether the carbon is gaseous, being converted via steam reformation, or solid waste which is cleanly and efficiently converted through gasification. About 21% to 25% of the carbon in these feedstocks is combusted to initially provide steam energy. The balance of the feedstock's carbon atoms with associated hydrogen ions, plus oxygen from water (steam), is catalytically converted into biodegradable C1-C10 higher mixed alcohol fuel.

FFV Chips Will Get Smart

Today's factory-spec FFV chips are only calibrated for C2 Ethanol's 75,500 BTUs and 33 percent oxygen content in the neat fuel. However, methanol at 56,000 BTU's features 50% oxygen. ENVIROLENE higher mixed alcohols at 90,400 BTU's contains 34 percent oxygen content.

A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline contains approximately 112,000 BTUs. M85 (methanol/gasoline blend) contains approximately 65,000 BTU/gallon, and E85 (ethanol/gasoline blend) contains about 81,000 BTU/gallon. ENVIROLENE contains 90,400 BTU/gallon and when blended with regular unleaded at 85/15 volumes yields 93,640 BTUs per gallon.

Offering more fuel choices which include higher mixed alcohol fuel and methanol requires no additional gasoline station infrastructure than it takes to retail E-85. If future FFV-chipped vehicles were to feature a glove-box calibration setting, for example, the chip could automatically adjust for different oxygen and BTU content in C1 methanol/gasoline or C2 ethanol/gasoline or C1-C10 ENVIROLENE higher mixed alcohols/gasoline blends.

The service station pumps whatever flex fuel blends it can purchase from fuel distributors. And the motorist's car or pickup simply runs this gasoline/alcohol blend at 10% to 85% volume percentages or uses gasoline only. A next generation FFV chip could handle at least three fuel blends and also be programmable for running neat alcohols, with no gasoline.

Of course, the price for different alcohol/gasoline blends would vary based on total BTUs/octane being delivered.

Think Bigger About Renewable Fuels and Flex Fuel Infrastructure

Does the world need a cleaner and more scalable liquid fuel produced from a much wider range of feedstocks, such as municipal solid and liquid waste, biomass, coal, scrap tires, methane and even CO2? Or will corn, sugar cane and crop wastes provide enough raw material to produce the massive volumes of batch-fermented ethanol the world is competing for?

Does it make sense to analyze the total impacts of our fuel choices, employing life-cycle assessment methods to look at the total environmental burden of the various liquid fuels?

Alcohol fuels can do far more than power engines. Production of higher mixed alcohol fuels can also address significant environmental problems, such as lowering tailpipe and industrial emissions, reducing municipal solid and liquid waste volumes, or converting stranded (coalbed) methane, or capturing and recycling CO2 from coal-fired power plant smokestacks.

America needs a widely produced, more powerful, more profitable and less expensive oxygenate fuel to round out the range of options and fill the gap in America's renewable fuels production mandate. Higher mixed alcohol fuel is this game-changer fuel.

About the authors:

Mark C. Radosevich is Chief Scientist of Bioroot Energy, LLC. He has over 30 years in professional research and marketing of alternative energy systems. He is also co-founder of Standard Alcohol Company of America, Inc., and co-author of the company's slate of higher mixed alcohol fuel formula and usage patents.

Jay Toups is CEO/Managing Member of Bioroot Energy, LLC, a Montana cleantech company planning a commercial ENVIROLENE® production facility in Missoula, Montana.

More information:
http://www.biorootenergy.com
http://www.standardalcohol.com
or email: info@biorootenergy.com

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How to Weaken the Power of Foreign Oil

Sunday, October 2, 2011

By Robert C. McFarlane and R. James Woolsey

OUR country has just gone through a sober national retrospective on the 9/11 attacks. Apart from the heartfelt honoring of those lost — on that day and since — what seemed most striking is our seeming passivity and indifference toward the well from which our enemies draw their political strength and financial power: the strategic importance of oil, which provides the wherewithal for a generational war against us, as we mutter diplomatic niceties.

Oil’s strategic importance stems from its virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel. Today, 97 percent of all air, sea and land transportation systems in the United States have only one option: petroleum-based products. For more than 35 years we have engaged in self-delusion, saying either that we have reserves here at home large enough to meet our needs, or that the OPEC cartel will keep prices affordable out of self-interest. Neither assumption has proved valid. While the Western Hemisphere’s reserves are substantial and growing, they pale in the face of OPEC’s, which are substantial enough to effectively determine global supply and thus the global price.

According to senior executives in the oil industry, in the years ahead that price is going to rise beyond anything we’ve seen — well above the $147 per barrel we experienced three years ago. Such a run-up in the price of oil has been predicted as a consequence of an event like an attack on a major Saudi processing facility that takes production off line. But such a spike would be more likely to be caused by the predictable increase of demand in China, India and developing countries, alongside the cartel’s strategy of driving up prices by constraining supply. While OPEC sits on 79 percent of the world’s conventional oil reserves, it accounts for only one-third of global oil supply.

There is, however, a way out of this crisis. Ultimately, electric cars may become the norm, but for the near and middle term, the solution lies in opening the transportation fuel market to competition from sources other than petroleum. American oil companies have come around to understanding the wisdom of introducing competition, as a matter of their own self-interest. But doing so means rapidly ramping up production of the alternative fuels, and that is the challenge. As an example, before investors will expand production capacity for cellulosic ethanol from plant life, or for methanol from natural gas — which on a per-mile basis is significantly cheaper than gasoline — they want to see that a sufficient proportion of the cars and trucks on America’s roads can burn these fuels.

Here too, however, a solution is at hand; it lies in Detroit’s making more flex-fuel cars — cars able to use gasoline, ethanol, methanol or any mixture of these. And because this flex-fuel option costs less than $100 per car, making such a change is not exorbitant. Indeed, some 90 percent of all cars sold in Brazil last year are flex-fuel cars, and many of them were made by Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. That gives Brazilian drivers the option to purchase the most cost-effective fuel, and they can easily switch from one type to another.

But here’s the rub. Although the American manufacturers have stated publicly their willingness to make flex-fuel vehicles up to 50 percent of their production, they’re just not doing it. Hence the need for Congress to require that new vehicles allow the use of alternative fuels. In some corners of Washington, that raises a cry against “mandates.” Of course the response to that is: Doing nothing is equivalent to mandating a monopoly by a single fuel (whose price is set by a foreign cartel).

Competition is a bedrock of our American way of life. It’s time to introduce it into our fuel market.

That is the purpose of the United States Energy Security Council, a bipartisan group introduced to the public last week in Washington, which includes former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and two former secretaries of defense, William J. Perry and Harold Brown, as well as three former national security advisers, a former C.I.A. director, two former senators, a Nobel laureate, a former Federal Reserve chairman, and several Fortune-50 chief executives (including a former president of Shell Oil North America, John D. Hofmeister).

The time has come to strip oil of its strategic status. We owe it to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in its aftermath, and to those whose fate still hangs in the balance.

Robert C. McFarlane was the national security adviser from 1983 to 1985. R. James Woolsey, chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995.

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