The Open Fuel Standard Has Been Introduced to Congress

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) introduced the Open Fuel Standard Act (H.R. 2493) which would require 30 percent of new automobiles in 2015, 50 percent in 2016, and 50 percent in each subsequent year, to operate on nonpetroleum fuels in addition to or instead of petroleum based fuels. The bill also features original co-sponsors Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY-03), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), Tom Cole (R-OK-04), Collin Peterson (D-MN-07) and Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).

The bill allows the full array of existing technologies – including flex fuel, natural gas, hydrogen, ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, plug-in electric drive, and fuel cell – as well as a catch-all for new technologies. This requirement would provide certainty to investors encouraging the production of alternative fuels and fueling stations and to have a variety of pumps supplying those alternative fuels.

Rep. Engel said, “Our economy and our national security are threatened by our dependence on foreign oil. An Open Fuel Standard will help us to get off our oil addiction. For several years, I have championed bipartisan legislation to apply an Open Fuel Standard to all vehicles sold in America – not just those in the federal fleet. I believe achieving energy independence for our nation is of the utmost importance. We are reliant upon too many foreign governments, many of whom are far from friendly, for our oil supply. Our transportation sector is by far the biggest reason we send $600 billion per year to hostile nations to pay for oil at ever-increasing prices. Only through technology changes in our transportation sector will we make a substantial impact on our oil dependence.” Rep. Engel is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said, “An open fuel competition in our transportation sector is one of the easiest ways we can bolster our national security. Instead of providing billions of dollars to regimes antagonistic to the United States, taxpayers can reinvest their money into the American economy and jobs by supporting all of the booming fuel industries here at home. The Open Fuel Standard Act will allow all fuels, including traditional gasoline, to compete for the American consumer, lowering the price of fuel,  and strengthening our energy and national security.”

Every year, Americans send $600 billion overseas to buy oil mostly to power our transportation economy, which is 95% dependent on gasoline and diesel fuel. The Open Fuel Standard is an immediate and effective way to strengthen national security, lower the cost of fuel, and requires no expenditure from the federal government. Providing new cars with flexible fuel capability would cost around $100 per car and provide huge dividends to the consumer.

Rep. Engel has added the Open Fuel Standard as an amendment to 10 appropriations bills over the last three years to conform with President Obama’s 2011 Memorandum on Federal Fleet Performance, to require all new light duty vehicles in the federal fleet to be alternate fuel vehicles, such as hybrid, electric, natural gas, or biofuel, by December 31, 2015.

Rep. Israel said, “An open fuel standard will decrease our dependence on foreign oil while also lowering the cost of fuel for American consumers. We must reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and an open fuel standard is the perfect place to start. I encourage my colleagues to pass this common-sense, bipartisan bill.”

Rep. Schwartz said, "The bipartisan Open Fuel Standard Act is simply common sense. It will decrease our dependence on oil produced by unstable, politically volatile countries, while driving economic growth and protecting our environment."

Rep. Cole said, “We live in a nation teeming with great minds and innovators. For years, we’ve overlooked development and potential use of alternative fuels and instead retained an unhealthy dependence on foreign oil. I am pleased that this legislation encourages the use of alternatives, including natural gas. Oklahoma energy companies have made great strides in discovering, drilling and refining the rich supply of natural gas across the country, and their innovation will do much to move our country away from our dependence on non-domestic sources of energy.”

We will keep you updated on the progress of this bill, and let you know what you can do to help it pass. If you haven't already, please sign up for our email updates here. Or join us on Facebook or Google Plus.

Read more:
Why Support the Open Fuel Standard?
Open Fuel Standard Factsheet
Answers to Objections About the Bill

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Why We Should Stop Transferring American Wealth to Saudi Arabia as Soon as Possible

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Lawrence Wright, in The Looming Tower, which I think is the best book on 9/11, says that with a little over 1% of the world's Muslims, the Saudis control about 90% of the world's Islamic institutions.

"That means those institutions teach the beliefs of Wahhabi Islam — hatred (really, virtually genocidal hatred) for Shiite Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, and apostates. And massive repression of everybody else, including especially women. Those views are the same substantive views of those of Al Qaeda.

"Al Qaeda and the Wahhabis really just disagree about who should be in charge, not about substantive underlying views."

- former CIA Director James Woolsey
from an interview you can watch here.

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If Iran and Brazil Can Do It, So Can We

The following was written by Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and co-founder of the Set America Free Coalition, a bipartisan alliance of groups promoting U.S. energy independence. Luft is also the co-author of Turning Oil Into Salt. The article below was written in 2008, but it could have been written today. We're in the same situation.

When the founding fathers declared our independence, they could not have imagined that, 232 years later, the United States would be so spectacularly dependent on foreign countries. It would be roughly eight more decades before oil gushed from a well in Titusville, Pa., marking the beginning of the global oil economy; it took eight decades more for the United States to become a net oil importer. But the republic's disastrous dependence on foreign oil has increased by leaps and bounds ever since.

In 1973, when OPEC imposed its oil embargo, U.S. oil imports composed 30 percent of our needs; today, they make up more than 60 percent, with a growing proportion of that crude coming from the world's least stable regions. At around $145 a barrel, the United States, by my calculations, will spend more on imported oil this year than it will spend on its own defense budget, and much of that money will flow into the coffers of those who wish us ill.

Since oil dependence is so unappealing, you'd think that energy independence would be an easy sell, especially on this Fourth of July weekend. But in fact, very few policy ideas have been so ridiculed. A 2007 report by the National Petroleum Council, a privately funded group that offers advice from the oil and gas industries to the federal government, calls energy independence "unrealistic"; a recent book, "Gusher of Lies," by Robert Bryce, a former fellow at a think tank funded in part by energy interests, described energy independence as a "dangerous delusion"; and a 2006 Council on Foreign Relations task force went so far as to accuse those promoting energy independence of "doing the nation a disservice by focusing on a goal that is unachievable over the foreseeable future."

Ignore them. Energy independence does not mean that the United States must be entirely self-sufficient. It simply means reducing the role of oil in world politics — turning it from a strategic commodity into merely another thing to sell.

Is energy independence a pipe dream? Hardly. In the electricity sector, the mission has already been accomplished. Remember President Jimmy Carter in his cardigan during the oil crises of the 1970s, urging Americans to save electricity? It took us just one decade to wean the electricity sector from oil. Today, only 2 percent of U.S. electricity comes from oil, according to the Energy Department. Could we do something similar with transportation, where American cars and trucks still gulp oil-based fuel greedily? At least four very different countries — dictatorships and democracies alike — are already making serious headway toward that goal. It's past time to pay attention to their example.

The first country, surprisingly enough, is Iran. The Islamic republic has lots of crude but little capacity to refine it, leaving Tehran heavily dependent on gasoline imports. The country's blustery president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is fully aware that this is Iran's Achilles' heel and worries that a comprehensive gasoline embargo could cause enough social unrest to undermine his regime.

So Ahmadinejad has launched an energy-independence program designed to shift Iran's transportation system from gasoline to natural gas, which Iran has plenty of. "If we can change our automobiles' fuel from gasoline to [natural] gas during the next three-four years," he said last July, "we won't need gasoline anymore." His plan includes a mandate for domestic automakers to make "dual-fuel" cars that can run on both gasoline and natural gas, a crash program to convert used vehicles to run on natural gas and a program to convert Iranian gas stations to serve both kinds of fuel. According to the International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles, more than 100 conversion centers have been built throughout the country: Iranians can drive in with their gasoline-only cars, pay a subsidized fee equivalent to $50 and collect their newly dual-fuelled cars several hours later. Ahmadinejad's plan, which has been largely ignored by the West, means that within five years or so, Iran could be virtually immune to international sanctions.

Brazil's thriving ethanol industry.
While Iran is moving quickly toward energy independence, Brazil is already there. It's a striking turnaround; three decades ago, the country imported 80 percent of its oil supply. But since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the Brazilians have invested massively in their sugar-based ethanol industry and created a fleet of vehicles that can run on the resulting fuel. According to the Sugar Cane Industry Union (Unica), 90 percent of the new cars sold this year in Brazil will be flexible-fuel vehicles that cost an extra $100 to make but can run on any combination of gasoline and ethanol.

Lest anyone think that can't be done in the United States, many of those new cars are made by General Motors and Ford. All it really takes to turn a regular car into a flex-fuel one is a fuel sensor and a corrosion-resistant fuel line.

Discovering how to make hydrocarbons and carbohydrates happily cohabit in the same fuel tank isn't all that Brazil has done; it has also increased domestic oil production. Its efforts have not only broken the yoke of Brazil's oil dependence but also insulated the country's economy from the pain of the current spike in global oil prices.

Gasoline prices have nearly doubled elsewhere since 2005, but in Brazil, they have been almost frozen. This year, more ethanol will be sold in Brazil than gasoline. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Like Brazil, China has decided to replace gasoline with alternative fuels. But unlike the United States and Brazil, where the favorite substitute is ethanol, China has embraced a different alcohol: methanol. Several provinces in China already blend their gasoline with methanol, a clear, colorless liquid also known as wood alcohol, and scores of methanol plants are currently under construction there.

The Chinese auto industry has already begun to produce flex-fuel models that can run on methanol. Shanxi, a province in central China that produces much of the country's coal, has even issued stickers granting cars that use pure methanol free passage on the province's toll roads.

The distinction between methanol and ethanol is just one letter (but then, so is the difference between Iran and Iraq). Both biofuels should be in our basket of options. True, ethanol packs more energy per gallon and is less corrosive than methanol. But methanol is cheaper and far easier to produce in bulk. While ethanol can be made only from agricultural products such as corn and sugar cane, methanol can be made from natural gas, coal, industrial garbage and even recycled carbon dioxide captured from power stations' smokestacks — an elegant way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Israel offers a fourth testament to what leadership, ingenuity and audacity can achieve. Last year, it launched an electric-car venture designed to turn Israel — which obviously has some tensions with the region's big oil producers — into an oil-free economy. Israelis will soon be able to replace their gasoline-fueled cars with battery-operated ones, which they'll plug into the hundreds of thousands of recharging points planned to be erected throughout the country. Israeli motorists, the government hopes, will be able to swap their batteries in a matter of minutes at dedicated stations or recharge them at home or at work. "Oil is the greatest problem of all time — the great polluter and promoter of terror," said Israeli President Shimon Peres, the project's political patron. "We should get rid of it."

For each of the four countries, knocking oil off its pedestal is no longer a theoretical proposition but a reality in the making. But despite the lip service our own politicians pay to the need to reduce our oil dependence, none of the solutions offered by Iran, Brazil, China and Israel are even under consideration in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Just go down the list. Natural-gas vehicles are nowhere to be seen. Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol is barred from the country by a steep 54-cent-per-gallon import tariff, courtesy of ethanol protectionists and their representatives in Congress. (No tariff is imposed on imported oil, of course.) For similar reasons, flex-fuel cars sold in the United States are certified to run only on ethanol, keeping methanol and other viable biofuels off the market — even though they are cheaper and can be made from a wealth of coal and biomass resources. The kind of electric cars deployed in Israel have never returned to U.S. showrooms since General Motors' mass crushing of its EV1 — the subject of the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

It's time to get serious. Policies such as "drill more" and "drive smaller cars" all keep us running on petroleum. At best, they buy us a few more years of complacency, while ensuring a much worse dependence down the road when America's conventional oil reserves are even more depleted — whether or not we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The hard truth is that real energy independence can be achieved only through fuel choice and competition. That competition cannot take place as long as (according to the Department of Transportation) we continue to put 16 million new cars that run only on petroleum on our roads every year, each with an average street life of 16.8 years — thereby locking ourselves into decades more of petroleum dependence.

So let's remember the old saying: When in a hole, stop digging. If every new car sold in the United States were a flex-fuel vehicle and if millions of Americans could plug in their electric cars, gasoline would be facing fierce competition at the pump and the socket. Moreover, our money would have migrated from Exxon to Pepco, from the Middle East to the Midwest — as well as to scores of poor, biomass-producing countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, including the few countries that don't yet hate our guts. This, and no other, is the road to independence.

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"Open Fuel Standard" Proponents Want More Flexible FFVs

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which in the United States can run on straight gasoline or a gasoline-biofuel blend containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85), have become more commonplace on the country's roads over the past decade. For proponents of an "open fuel standard," however, the current fleet of FFVs is not flexible enough. Instead, they maintain that American motorists' transportation fuel options can and should be broader.

"What we see today is the complete absence of any kind of coherent plan for the future of energy, including the future of transportation fuels," said John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil who retired from the company in 2008.

"We are just harming ourselves economically by staying on the course we're on," added Hofmeister, who currently heads the energy policy non-profit advocacy group Citizens for Affordable Energy. In addition, he sits on the advisory board for Fuel Freedom Foundation and serves on the United States Energy Security Council.

The former Shell executive contends that making alternative – or "substitute" – transportation fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), ethanol and methanol more widely available to motorists would unleash a new wave of entrepreneurship, technological innovation and job creation throughout the United States. Moreover, he said that such a scenario would provide consumers a buffer against the price volatility of crude oil.

Hofmeister, who articulates his views on energy policy in the 2010 book “Why We Hate the Oil Companies”, does not oppose the continued use of the conventional oil-based fuels gasoline and diesel; rather, he simply advocates giving consumers more fuel choices. Using a supermarket analogy, he pointed out that shoppers can select different products according to their tastes and budgets. He asserts that motorists, likewise, should have more options when fueling their vehicles.

"You can choose high-end, medium-end or low-end groceries," Hofmeister said. "What we lack in terms of transportation fuels is preference, and I think there's something wrong with that."

Read the rest of the article here.

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Why Support the Open Fuel Standard?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

1. Saves money. It will bring down gas prices at the pump. The main reason gas is so expensive is that OPEC has no competition, so it can (and does) deliberately lower its production to raise the price of oil, and we have no choice but to pay it. OPEC knows this, and takes advantage of its leverage. Fuel choice at the pump will be the end of this long-running and destructive monopoly.

2. Healthier. The fumes from burning alcohol are less toxic than the fumes from burning gasoline — considerably less toxic to humans and other living things.

3. Better economy. Better economy. An open fuel standard will generate jobs in the United States. Americans will build fuel-processing plants, new fuel stations, we’ll grow the raw materials to make methanol from biomass, grow crops to make ethanol, discover new sources, invent new alternative fuels, and come up with new ways to make fuel from waste products. American ingenuity will have a field day. A lot of money goes to fuel for transportation. With an open fuel standard, much more of this money will circulate in the American economy rather than being sent overseas. In addition, becoming less dependent on oil will prevent recessions.

4. Safer. Alcohol is less flammable than gasoline, and therefore less dangerous and less likely to explode. One of the things that makes gasoline dangerous is that its vapors sink to the ground where they can ignite. Alcohol vapors evaporate and dissipate. Alcohol burns cooler than gasoline, too, which also makes it less dangerous. That's why the United States Auto Club banned gasoline from their races.

5. Less carbon impact. Alcohol fuels put less carbon into the air. To drill for oil, you're taking carbon out from underneath the surface of the earth and burning it, adding carbon to the air that wasn't already there. But ethanol and methanol can be made from plant material. So the plant pulls carbon out of the air, and when it is burned as fuel, it returns the same carbon back into the air.

6. Inexpensive. Manufacturing a car with flex-fuel capability adds very little to the price of a car. It is a relatively small tweak, usually adding around one hundred dollars to the production cost of a new car. In Brazil, this cost is absorbed by the car companies and doesn’t raise the price of the car. That will probably be the case in the U.S. too.

7. Budget friendly. It doesn't cost the federal government any money. It doesn't involve any subsidies. Read the text of the bill here to see how simple it is.

8. Environmentally friendly. An "alcohol spill" would not be a disaster like an oil spill. Alcohol dissolves in water and is readily consumed by bacteria. Within a few days of an Exxon-sized ethanol or methanol spill, the ocean would be back to normal.

9. National security. Fuel competition at the pump will reduce the amount of money going to regimes hostile to America (and hostile to their own populations). These regimes are dangerous. The world would be better off if those governments didn't have so much wealth to use to harm or repress others. Read more about that.

10. Freedom. With the Open Fuel Standard Act, every alternative fuel can compete against gasoline, thereby allowing consumer choice. Cars can be flex fuel, electric, hydrogen, natural gas, biodiesel, or anything except monopoly-perpetuating gasoline-only cars.

The Open Fuel Standard Act will bring an end to oil’s long-running harmful monopoly of transportation fuel, and will usher in a new era of economic vitality and energy independence in America.

11. Good for everyone. It will have a positive global impact, for two reasons: First, because the U.S. buys so many cars, when foreign car makers switch to making flex fuel cars, those same cars will be sold in other parts of the world, spreading fuel choice everywhere (and reducing pollution, reducing environmental damage from oil spills, and reducing carbon in the air everywhere, too).

And second, methanol from biomass will probably become the preferred fuel (it's very cheap, high octane, and can be made from almost anything, including municipal waste). And Third World countries — especially those in tropical regions, where plants grow abundantly — will have money-making opportunities to cultivate plants to use for biomass, creating a market for their products, which will raise their income.

For all these reasons, The Open Fuel Standard is worthy of our support. Here's what you can do to help.

Here's another list, courtesy of AlcoholCanBeaGas.com: Why Alcohol Fuel? The Two-Minute Summary.

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Is Ethanol Production Raising Food Prices?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Last week, the World Bank released a new report confirming that rising crude oil prices are the biggest contributor to rising food prices.

Click here to read more about this.

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