Are We Serious About Fuel Alternatives?

As you can see from some of our previous articles, government agencies predict about 40 years of petroleum still remains. As usage climbs, the amount of time remaining may shrink even more. New reserves will be found, but developing countries, such as we're seeing in China with their industrial revolution taking place, will demand greater volumes of petroleum to supply energy needs.

People under 50 years of age should be considering this phenomenon as a potentially life-changing circumstance. For most of us, there is little we can do except watch events play out, and perhaps vote when the opportunity arises. Our industries must step up to the plate to meet the task at hand.

Since the first petroleum shortages of the 70's, some groups have come to the forefront to inform others about the dangers and difficulties we will face. Few took them seriously. Radical groups made drastic lifestyle changes to reduce their own fuel consumption, and hoped that others would follow suit.

Not likely.

However, these groups are and have been dedicated to spreading the word to the public that we are running out of fuel as we know it. It won't be today, nor next week, nor even 10 years from now. Maybe it's 80 years from now, but all signs and reports indicate we are running out. Social Security also has 40 years of successful operation, but the Bush Administration has clearly taken on the task of "fixing social security", because in about 40 years it's going to crash too, according to administrative estimates.

We suggest that fuel alternatives are even more important than social security.

Without fuel----and MASSIVE quantities of it--- this nation will dry up like a sand dune. Operations of most business will cease, and we'll be returned to the pre-industrial age. Keep vaccinating the horse population for West Nile Virus?..we may need them for transportation.

It is our belief, although we have no solid evidence, that fuel companies are squarely behind the petroleum pumps, and the scare is played very low-key. Huge profits exist where a product can simply be drawn from the ground, and with one refining process, produce gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, methane, etc. from the run. It is by far, the cheapest present alternative for large companies. All corporate companies are dollar driven, and so it makes perfect sense for them to continue using petroleum. Our government has committed more resources than we can ever afford, to secure and protect our overseas interests where petroleum is abundant.

If new massive volumes of petroleum are located, it will alleviate some of the crisis for the time being. But this looming crisis will never go away. It is imperative that government begin providing the means for business of all sizes to develop alternative fuel strategies. Government does at present provide some incentives, in tax breaks, informational support, and even grants, but more can be done. Investing large quantities of time and money into the research and development of alternatives is crucial.

As supplies dwindle, this ever-growing concern will do just that. It will grow. Oil companies will continue to lobby Congress, and place propaganda in the public eye to insure them that everything is OK??just buy oil. But at the same time, the concern about dwindling supplies, and the subsequent raise in prices for petroleum fuels will begin to catch the attention of the general public.

At present, the best bet for alternative, renewable fuels appears to exist with ethanol, biodiesel, and the newest addition to the list, hydrogen fuel cells. But full compatibility with regard to motors and machinery will require some changes in manufacturing. Since most new vehicles are now monitored by computerized equipment, governments need to encourage engine manufacturers to engineer and develop computerized motors that can determine a fuel mix, ethanol, gasoline, biodiesel, etc. and make adjustments to the fuel burning mix at the injection point. Few changes would be needed on the pistons or block. Piston technology is, in its primitive sense, the same design for the last 100 years when steam coursed through the cylinders instead of fuel explosion force. Air-fuel ratios are the biggest hurdle in engine conversions, and computerized sensors would allow a slow changeover without interruptions. By being able to sense what fuel is being used, engines could run on ethanol/gasoline for gas engines, or diesel/biodiesel for diesel engines, with any proportions, and switch back and forth.

While some may envision a whiskey still in everyone's backyard, that is far from realistic. Americans enjoy their plush way of life, and expect to pull up to a fuel pump anywhere in their travels and fill up their tank. Only the fuel mega-companies are up to the task of maintaining such presence. So with all likelihood, the future of alternative fuel manufacturing still lies with major petro-producers.

Some experts have said that alternative fuels are "unfeasible". Perhaps a true statement when looking at the bottom line profit, but as petroleum prices rise, this gap closes, and may reach a point where feasibility is achieved. Corporations will make the jump when this gap is closed?..it's a simple buck to them. It will be important that the American community at large supports such conversions with their capital stock investments, and with their patronage. In other words, be willing to burn an alternative fuel.

Along the lines of feasibility, how about making it feasible for farmers to produce high-oil crops, or crops for fuel? Millions of acres in the Midwest lay idle, because the government programs that pay farmers NOT to grow crops are more lucrative than the potential profit of growing them. For the farmer, it is also a simple buck. So if the government is going to invest tax dollars in these operations, how about paying a farmer TO GROW a crop used for fuel? At least this would allow such acreage payments to be a benefit to the country??perhaps the world, by moving slowly toward independence with regard to fuel production.

Electrical power generation is another large consumer of energy. Nuclear, coal, and hydroelectric make up the bulk of this grid, but wind power is beginning to make significant additions as well. In the last website we reviewed, electricity from wind power is at about 6%.

There is tremendous opportunity to increase the contributions of electrical power via wind and hydro. Because the amounts of power needed are so great, wind farms and hydroelectric dams are huge development projects, which can have a great impact on the landscape and surrounding environment. Environmentalists that reject such proposals need to give themselves a reality check, and come to grips with the size of the problems America faces.

Yes, hydro and wind will impact the environment. Yes, we'll kill some birds. And yes, some fish (lots of fish) will be re-navigated because of hydroelectric dams. But no American??not even an environmentalist?..is willing to give up their computer, their hair dryer, their car, their massive amounts of printer paper, their telephones, their cell phones, their lovely homes?..well, you get the idea. So the impact to the planet if we do NOT develop these technologies is significantly worse. No one will willingly return to the stone age, so any and every fossil fuel will be seized, stolen, or warred after to make the power?..at far greater environmental harm. It is more likely that America would bomb itself back into the stone age over the last drop of oil rather than "conserve" or adapt the livestyle of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

We believe that true energy freedom will not be acquired until our energy is produced from renewables within our borders.

Mega-consolidators will still hold the reins to alternative energies. They'll still have their lobbyists, and a lot of money in their coffers. However, the American Dream will still live on. Our way of life depends upon the procurement and distribution of affordable energy. Only with public support and the encouragement of Congress can businesses develop the systems needed to make it happen.

---Tom Clouser, Madisonburg, PA

Tom Clouser is a 38 year old farmer in Pennsylvania. In addition to farming, he and his father publish a monthly 16-page newspaper called "Trees 'n' Turf", which targets subjects of interest to those in land use industries and activities. View their website at http://www.clouserfarm.net

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