Instability Linked to Oil Dependence

Friday, September 28, 2012

US embassy in Libya Sept 11th
In their book, Turning Oil Into Salt, Gal Luft and Anne Korin explain why the Open Fuel Standard will change the world. If you haven't read it yet, you really should. And then share it with everyone you know. Here's an excerpt from the book:

Because most of the world's oil reserves are held by countries that are highly unstable, corrupt, dictatorial and in some cases hostile to the United States and its allies, oil's monopoly in the transportation sector is one of the most destabilizing factors in the international arena today.

For most of the 20th century, world oil supply was relatively uninterrupted, and the occasional conflicts and disruptions (the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the 1990-91 Gulf War) were short lived and relatively contained. They certainly did not merit a fundamental change in our energy system. But in recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that the world is facing a "perfect storm" of security and economic problems, all directly linked to our oil dependence.

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Could Fracking be GOOD for the Environment?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States have
dropped to their lowest level in 20 years
I don't really know what to make of the story below, but it is certainly relevant to the creation of fuel competition because abundant, cheap natural gas can be used directly to run cars, and it can be used to make methanol to burn for fuel, which, at current prices, is far cheaper than gasoline, and based on Robert Zubrin's experiments, would require little or no alteration of the cars already on the road. 

The article is from Slate.com, written by Bjørn Lomborg, entitled A Fracking Good Story:

Weather conditions around the world this summer have provided ample fodder for the global warming debate. Droughts and heat waves are a harbinger of our future, carbon cuts are needed now more than ever, and yet meaningful policies have not been enacted.

But, beyond this well-trodden battlefield, something amazing has happened: Carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States have dropped to their lowest level in 20 years. Estimating on the basis of data from the US Energy Information Agency from the first five months of 2012, this year’s expected CO2 emissions have declined by more than 800 million tons, or 14 percent from their peak in 2007.

The cause is an unprecedented switch to natural gas, which emits 45 percent less carbon per energy unit. The U.S. used to generate about half its electricity from coal, and roughly 20 percent from gas. Over the past five years, those numbers have changed, first slowly and now dramatically: In April of this year, coal’s share in power generation plummeted to just 32 percent, on par with gas.

America’s rapid switch to natural gas is the result of three decades of technological innovation, particularly the development of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which has opened up large new resources of previously inaccessible shale gas. Despite some legitimate concerns about safety, it is hard to overstate the overwhelming benefits.

For starters, fracking has caused gas prices to drop dramatically. Adjusted for inflation, natural gas has not been this cheap for the past 35 years, with the price this year three to five times lower than it was in the mid-2000s. And, while a flagging economy may explain a small portion of the drop in U.S. carbon emissions, the EIA emphasizes that the major explanation is natural gas.

The reduction is even more impressive when one considers that 57 million additional energy consumers were added to the U.S. population over the past two decades. Indeed, U.S. carbon emissions have dropped about 20 percent per capita, and are now at their lowest level since Dwight D. Eisenhower left the White House in 1961.

David Victor, an energy expert at UC-San Diego, estimates that the shift from coal to natural gas has reduced U.S. emissions by 400 to 500 megatons CO2 per year. To put that number in perspective, it is about twice the total effect of the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions in the rest of the world, including the European Union.

It is tempting to believe that renewable energy sources are responsible for emissions reductions, but the numbers clearly say otherwise. Accounting for a reduction of 50 Mt of CO2 per year, America’s 30,000 wind turbines reduce emissions by just one-10th the amount that natural gas does. Biofuels reduce emissions by only 10 megatons, and solar panels by a paltry three megatons.

This flies in the face of conventional thinking, which continues to claim that mandating carbon reductions — through cap-and-trade or a carbon tax — is the only way to combat climate change.

But, based on Europe’s experience, such policies are precisely the wrong way to address global warming. Since 1990, the EU has heavily subsidized solar and wind energy at a cost of more than $20 billion annually. Yet its per capita CO2 emissions have fallen by less than half of the reduction achieved in the U.S. — even in percentage terms, the U.S. is now doing better.

Because of broad European skepticism about fracking, there is no gas miracle in the EU, while the abundance of heavily subsidized renewables has caused overachievement of the CO2 target. Along with the closure of German nuclear power stations, this has led, ironically, to a resurgence of coal.

Well-meaning U.S. politicians have likewise shown how not to tackle global warming with subsidies and tax breaks. The relatively small reduction in emissions achieved through wind power costs more than $3.3 billion annually, and far smaller reductions from ethanol (biofuels) and solar panels cost at least $8.5 and $3 billion annually.

Estimates suggest that using carbon taxes to achieve a further 330-megaton CO2 reduction in the EU would cost $250 billion per year. Meanwhile, the fracking bonanza in the U.S. not only delivers a much greater reduction for free, but also creates long-term social benefits through lower energy costs.

The amazing truth is that fracking has succeeded where Kyoto and carbon taxes have failed. As shown in a study by the Breakthrough Institute, fracking was built on substantial government investment in technological innovation for three decades.

Climate economists repeatedly have pointed out that such energy innovation is the most effective climate solution, because it is the surest way to drive the price of future green energy sources below that of fossil fuels. By contrast, subsidizing current, ineffective solar power or ethanol mostly wastes money while benefiting special interests.

Fracking is not a panacea, but it really is by far this decade’s best green-energy option.

This article was originally published by Project Syndicate. For more from Project Syndicate, visit their new Web site, and follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

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A Convenient Way to Write to Your Members of Congress

Friday, September 21, 2012

Here's a tool you can use to conveniently write your Members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Open Fuel Standard Act. It was created by the American Coalition for Ethanol. It has a pre-written message, but you can edit the text to customize your message. You just fill out your name and address and it automatically addresses your message and sends it to your members of Congress. Click here to use it.

You can also call your Members of Congress. And you can find them on Facebook (most now have an official Facebook page) and "like" the page, and then post messages on your Member's Facebook page. Let's put on the pressure.

When you're done with that and ready to do more, start here.

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The Open Fuel Standard Should Be a No-Brainer, So What's the Hold Up?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The following was written by Robert Zubrin for National Review Online. It was titled: A Conspiracy in Restraint of Trade:

In a previous article for National Review Online, I reported on how easy it is to enable the flex-fuel capabilities in modern automobiles, allowing them to run equally well on methanol, ethanol, or gasoline, thereby giving the customer fuel choice and, with it, a substantial opportunity for savings. For example, at current gasoline and methanol prices, the miles per dollar achieved by running my 2007 Chevy Cobalt on methanol is 40 percent higher than that possible with gasoline. This is not new technology: As extensively documented by Ford’s former director of alternative-fuel vehicle research, Roberta Nichols, the Big Three produced tens of thousands of highly successful methanol-gasoline flex-fuel cars for the state of California more than 20 years ago.

At one time, adding flex-fuel capability to a car increased its production cost by about $100. That is no longer true. Currently, all new gasoline-powered cars sold in the U.S. are flex-fuel cars, but only about 5 percent are being sold as such. The rest are being marketed with their flex-fuel capability disabled by their manufacturers.

This is a very curious situation. One may well ask, why should an automaker choose to disable a useful feature that it has built into its cars? It seems to make no sense for any company to take measures to degrade its own product. Furthermore, given the fact that the auto industry has a fundamental interest in low fuel prices — consumers have only so much they can spend on transportation, and it either goes for cars or for gas — why should it choose to cripple a capability that otherwise could serve to erode prices at the pump? It seems like a very bizarre policy — until you look at who owns and controls the auto companies.

The problem is that the automobile companies are not independent entities capable of pursuing their own interests. Rather, they are owned and controlled by organizations that are much more heavily invested in oil.

Click image to see it larger.
The largest automobile company in the world is Volkswagen. Who owns it? The answer is the government of Qatar. That’s right, the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) of Qatar, an OPEC emirate, owns 17 percent of Volkswagen — potentially a controlling interest — as well as 10 percent of Volkswagen’s Porsche subsidiary. One of the Qatar SWF board members, Hussain Ali Al-Abdulla, accordingly sits on the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG. Elsewhere in Europe, the same story holds. For example, the Kuwait SWF owns 6.9 percent of Daimler/Mercedes, 20 percent of Spyker/Saab, and 100 percent of Aston Martin, which it acquired from Ford for $450 million. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the sovereign wealth funds of the United Arab Emirates, owns 9.1 percent of Daimler/Mercedes and 40 percent of Mercedes-Benz Grand prix, and has a $2.7 billion investment in Chrysler. In addition, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has a major position in Fiat/Ferrari, on whose board it is represented by its managing director, Khaldoon Khalifa. The government of Libya also owns 2 percent of Fiat/Ferrari, which in turn owns 52 percent of Chrysler.

What about the two biggest American auto companies, GM and Ford? The dominant positions in these companies are held by major Wall Street firms whose collective energy holdings exceed $700 billion. Thus, while the $9 billion these funds have invested in GM and the $24 billion placed in Ford are of great weight to the auto companies, the funds themselves are far more concerned about protecting their investments in oil.

It is thus futile to hope that, left to their own devices, these companies will do anything to endanger the ability of OPEC to loot the world. Rather, they will continue to protect the monopoly the oil cartel holds on the world’s vehicle-fuel supply. If the auto companies were free agents, they would act to break the fuel monopoly that is so damaging to their own interests and those of their customers. But they are not, and so they won’t.

The situation is a case of a conspiracy in restraint of trade, with the national interest at stake. It is not just a matter of saving consumers gas money. High oil prices severely damage our economy. Furthermore, as current events concerning Iran make clear, it is essential that the U.S. have copious alternative sources of liquid fuel whose availability and price are not determined by events in the unstable Middle East. This imperative provides strong justification for government intervention.

Unfortunately, rather than move to break the hold of the oil cartel on the management of the auto companies, the Obama administration has acted to reinforce it. When GM went bankrupt, the president appointed Wall Street insider Steven Rattner as his auto czar, charged with reorganizing America’s leading automaker. However, instead of forcing GM to implement flex-fuel capability across the board, Rattner fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner, who was making tentative moves in that direction, and replaced him with Ed Whitacre, a director of Exxon. Subsequently, Rattner moved Whitacre up to be GM’s chairman of the board, giving the CEO position to Dan Akerson, a managing director of the Carlyle Group, a Saudi-funded business partnership. Under this new “friends of OPEC” management, Wagoner’s earlier commitment to have half of all GM cars be flex fuel by 2012 was, not surprisingly, shelved.

Unless Congress passes legislation to force the opening of the vehicle-fuel market to competition from non-petroleum fuels, this situation is not going to be rectified. It is for this reason that the Open Fuel Standards bill (H.R. 1687, S.B. 1603), which would require that most new cars sold within the United States offer fuel choice, has been introduced into the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.

As Adam Smith, the founding thinker of free-enterprise economics, wrote in The Wealth of Nations: “To prohibit a great people . . . from making all that they can of every part of their own produce . . . is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind.” In restricting their vehicles to use only the fuel offered by the Islamist-led oil cartel, the automakers are preventing America from making use of her copious non-petroleum energy resources. Despite being bailed out — in some cases repeatedly — by the public purse, the automakers have shown little public spirit. Rather, they have acted in accord with the larger portfolios of the cartel-linked or conflicted organizations and individuals who have bought into or been placed into their management, to the great detriment of not only their own customers and retail stockholders, but the economy and vital national-security interests of the United States.

This is an unacceptable situation. Congress needs to act.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a member of the Steering Committee of Americans for Energy, and the author of Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. His next book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudoscientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was published by Encounter Books on March 6, 2012.

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Patriotic Americans Choose Flex-Fuel Vehicles

Sunday, September 9, 2012

By Bob Gordon, co-owner of The Auto Channel:

Fuel competition is the answer.
Oh By The Way #1: The U.S. Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. Time to do your job Mr. Chu, or save the American taxpayer $24 billion.

Oh By The Way #2: In 2010 52% of the much dreaded and opined about Trade Deficit was caused by America importing oil*. We think its time to go into the streets and protest how OPEC is ruling (ruining) our country.

After learning and understanding the facts, The Auto Channel along with scientists, politicians and intelligent Americans believe that replacing gasoline with ethanol as the primary fuel for American mobility will result in a win-win-win-win for our country, our people and our economy. Yet despite overwhelming logic and factual proof of flex-fuel's validity, the forces of evil and their ignorant (or owned) minions continue to obstruct flex-fuel's ubiquitous adoption through well-planned and paid-for mis-information and “divide and conquer” tactics.

The only entity to get hurt from the ubiquitous adoption of flex-fuel is the foreign oil cartel, the OPEC nations.

Just imagine the positive effects that production, distribution and use of sustainable, domestic bio-ethanol fuels will have on the United States and the world.

American Farmers will immediately benefit (and why shouldn’t they). Their income will grow by adding additional non-food crops to their harvest, and the remnants from grain used to make ethanol can be used as high grade feed for their own livestock. The remainder can be exported for sale internationally. (It's already happening, last year American farmers exported $1 billion dollars worth, even with the tiny number of current ethanol users…just imagine 1000 times the volume — wow!)

American Car Makers will immediately benefit because they'll have a short term competitive advantage over the off-shore car companies in designing, building and selling flex-fuel vehicles. (Almost 10 million flex-fuel cars and trucks have already been sold here in the U.S. and more promised — U.S. carmakers are already doing their part — thanks! And as the imported brands see how serious the American drivers are about ethanol, I'll bet that every car maker will finally add flex-fuel vehicles to their North American offerings.)

American Labor will immediately benefit from the additional demand for more of the flex-fuel vehicles they are already building at GM, Ford and Chrysler. And when the other brands wake up, their workers will get busier as well.

North American Car Dealers at first, the domestic brand car dealers will sell more cars, hire more people and sponsor more local events and organizations, like your kids soccer or little league, your hospital auxiliary, local library and arts…you know, the things they have historically contributed to their local communities. And as soon the foreign Marques see that Americans are serious about getting off of oil, they will also offer flex-fuel models…giving fence sitters another good reason to buy a new car.

American Entrepreneurs and Employees will immediately benefit, it is estimated that an ethanol society here in the U.S. will support many hundreds of thousands of new small businesses and millions of additional good paying jobs. Who is more creative than American business people… new ways to make and monetize the new manna will explode on the economy giving it a boost never seen before.

U.S. and Canadian Government will benefit. Foreign policy can concentrate on the good guys, not the bad guys and on what’s right, not just on what’s expedient to keep our stash of oil coming.

U.S. and Canadian Military will benefit. No more need to waste another patriot’s life protecting our source of black poison, and we can save tax money too.

North America's Economy will immediately benefit, as we get off of expensive petroleum based fuels and replace them with cheaper domestic renewable bio-ethanol, the cost of domestic transportation, farming and manufacturing will go down, making local domestic manufacturing more competitive, and don’t we really need that? Plus the demand for an additional 50 billion gallons of ethanol will generate almost 1 million new jobs here, and the reintroduction of the $365 billon now going to OPEC for imported oil will boost our whole economy.

Our Planet will benefit. Whether you believe in man-made climate change or not, eliminating tail pipe poison can only help our environment, and because we can reduce our carbon footprint we can take the high road and become the example to other countries.

So what’s the problem? If you find one please let me know: bgordon@theautochannel.com.

*In 2010, Foreign imports of crude oil made up 51% of the U.S.trade deficit. Calculated from Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 17, (under direction of Census Bureau people): U.S. INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN GOODS AND SERVICES, December 2010.

Check out this YouTube video: Food Vs. Fuel Another Diversion From the Fine Folks In OPEC and Their Fellow Travelers.

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Can't Afford a New Flex Fuel Car? There May Be Another Option

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We just received the following email from John K, reprinted with permission:

I thought about this a lot, and realized I will never be in a position financially to buy a new vehicle to enjoy flex fuel, but I found out there are flex fuel conversion kits.

Forgive me if I got these links from you. Once I started searching, I learned so much from so many sources, that I have forgotten whether you provided the initial idea, or if I found out about kits elsewhere.

This technology is all so new that there is a lack of reviews from the mainstream sources we normally trust for our auto technology news, but White Lightening seems to be the main kit out there with the best reputation and lowest price. It also seems the developer is well-connected with the real world in Brazil's flex fuel auto program.

Of course, I also noted with interest your post yesterday about regular non-flex fuel cars sometimes also getting better fuel economy. The main reason I've always been told that I cannot use ethanol in my car is because fuel system plastics and rubbers have to be chosen for alcohol resistance and because the oxygen content of alcohol puts it beyond the ability of fuel injection computers to compensate, and if you have a carburetor, there's nothing at all you can do unless you rejet to run exclusively on ethanol, though I did find your video link to Henry Ford's flex fuel Model T very interesting with its manually-controlled and adjustable variable mixture carburetor jet and manually-controlled distributor advance.

White Lightening solves the mixture issue by adding an auxiliary circuit board that increases the fuel injector pulse so it stays open longer. Then the car's onboard computer is able to reduce the flow when regular gasoline is used. They say this only works on modern cars with an OBD II compliant ECU computer. Their website says that they encourage questions, so I wrote them a letter to ask about their experience with rubbers and plastics, and also whether the car's OBD II ECU is capable of advancing the timing, or whether we are essentially running alcohol on a gasoline ignition advance curve. After seeing their website encourage questions, I was very disappointed to receive no response.

But the issue of rubbers and plastics, and potential engine damage by ethanol in non-flex fuel cars is thoroughly addressed in this web page at Ohio Bio Systems.

The second frame has a video showing a tear-down of a non-flex fuel Chevy Tahoe owned by an ethanol industry executive who ran it on E85 for over 100,000 miles. The video interviews the technician who did the tear-down and discusses the various components of the engine and fuel system as the camera shows them. No ethanol related damage was found, and the plastic parts actually looked better than the the ones in gasoline cars. The additional frames analyzes and compares the part numbers in flex fuel vehicles and their corresponding non-flex fuel versions and finds that in some cases 100% of the part numbers are the same, and at most in other cases only 3 or 4% of the part numbers are different. And even in these cases, in some years and models, the part numbers are the same, but then different in a different year.

So I might try asking a White Lightening vendor the same questions the manufacturer would not answer for me. E85 is still 400 miles away for me, but E20 has just arrived in town, so I might take a chance and see if my car will tolerate it. I hope it doesn't cost me in damage and repairs to my plastic and rubber components. My 1998 Hyundai Accent owners manual says my car can use gasohol, but I'm sure that's only talking about the lower ethanol content gasohol 91 and 95 octanes that were available at that time. Plus I'm a little worried that plastic and rubber in an older car like mine might be more prone to breakdown than in a newer car.

All for now,

John

Editor's note: If you have any experience with converting a car to a flex fuel vehicle or in using ethanol in a non-flex fuel car, please leave a comment or email us. We'd love to hear about it.

Editor's update: There have been further developments. Read about them here: Experimenting With Alcohol.

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