Four Ways to Solve the Energy Crisis
Four ways to solve the energy crisis
By TIM HEFFERNAN
May 18, 2009
You hear it all the time: We’ve got to reduce our dependence on foreign oil; it’s a matter of homeland security. Fine. Nobody’s arguing. But the solutions that get offered — drilling in ANWR, mandating better automobile fuel efficiency, pushing ethanol — don’t really solve anything. They’re politically impossible, or too expensive, or contrary to free-market forces. They’re losers.
Energy-independence advocate Gal Luft looks for winners. The former lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces and counterterrorism expert fervently believes that the only way to make America safe is to make it energy independent. And so as executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and cofounder of the Set America Free Coalition, he has set out to do just that.
Luft advises Congress and security companies. He briefs industrial and environmental groups. Yet what separates him from other energy specialists are his pragmatic solutions. He doesn’t peddle pie-in-the-sky political strategies. He’s a realist. He has a single goal: freeing America from the grip of foreign oil. And he wants to do it now. Here are four steps he says we can — and should — take today.
1. Make gasoline-only cars illegal
“Every gas-powered car has an average street life of seventeen years, which means that the minute you leave the lot, you’re signing up for two decades of foreign-oil dependence. The easiest way to change this is to mandate that every vehicle sold in the U. S. is flex-fuel compatible so that it can run on just about any blend of hydrocarbon-based fuels — gasoline, ethanol, methanol, etc. The technology already exists, and the process is cheap, about a hundred dollars per vehicle. Detroit will cry about ‘government interference,’ but in fact the mandate would open a vast new free market in alternative-fuel development.”
2. Kill the Iowa caucuses
“Here’s the first thing every presidential candidate who visits Iowa is asked: ‘Where do you stand on ethanol?’ Why is this a problem? Because the ethanol lobby has managed to place huge tariffs on ethanol produced abroad while freezing out the development of other alternative fuels at home. It portrays itself as this sort of savior, the domestic solution to our reliance on foreign oil, but it really just protects a tiny number of Midwestern corn farmers. Anyone who thinks otherwise, bear in mind: Even if every single kernel of corn grown in America were converted to ethanol, it would still only replace about 12 percent of America’s gasoline requirement.”
3. Think of the world in terms of sugarcane
“America hasn’t been very good about making friends in the Middle East lately, but there are still a few countries in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia that like us. And many of them, such as Panama, Kenya, and Thailand, grow sugarcane, from which you can make ethanol at half the cost of making it from corn. We should direct foreign aid throughout the agricultural sector in these countries to increase their efficiency and create jobs. That will make them happy, and it’ll improve our national security. They’ll be our friends forever. Unlike the OPEC nations.”
4. Revolutionize waste
“Sixty-five percent of our garbage is biomass: food, paper, scrap wood. All of it could be converted to methanol. The process has been around for two hundred years. And it’s twice as efficient as cellulosic ethanol, supposedly the next big thing in alternative fuels. Then there’s coal — America has a quarter of the world’s reserve, but we use it mainly to feed power plants, which is a dirty and inefficient use. Instead, coal can be converted to clean-burning methanol for the equivalent of one dollar per gallon. Last, look to recyclables, like black liquor, a toxic by-product of the paper industry. Right now, paper mills inefficiently recycle it themselves. But black liquor can be converted to methanol. Do so and we’d generate nine billion gallons of methanol a year — almost twice the ethanol we now make from corn.”
Actually getting this done
“These are only four of many common-sense opportunities throughout the economy, but we’re not taking advantage of them, because there isn’t a sustainable market for alternative fuels. Yet. Which brings us back to step one: flex-fuel technology. Get that and the other three will take care of themselves. There will be stiff opposition from the oil, corn, and auto lobbies. There always is. But let’s hope that Washington can step up for a change. Because once you take politics out of the energy policy, you get very different — and much better — results.”
Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. Originally Published: Four Ways to Solve the Energy Crisis
Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol. Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program. Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector. On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline. Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.