CASH FOR CLUNKERS Demonstrates the Huge Economic Potential of Alt Fuel and Vehicle Technologies
Imagine what will happen when we get off gasoline completely
Originally published August 2, 2009
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
Author’s Note: This article includes several videos and text links that are crucial in understanding the points raised. If possible please take the time to view them.
For a few years now, Bob Gordon and I have been preaching the urgent need for the quick adoption of alternative fuels, energy and vehicles; not so much because of the environmental issues, although that’s good too, but because we believe that it is through alternative technologies that the U.S. and world economies will find long term salvation.
In short, we need the products that will be borne by an alternative fuel/energy revolution to provide millions of good paying jobs, along with the revenue streams that will open and pump money (with real profits) through the systems.
What we’re now seeing in America and abroad through the Cash For Clunkers and Scrappage programs, in terms of stimulating the economy, are just the smallest tip of the iceberg. Imagine what would happen if instead of being incentivized to trade-in “gasoline-guzzler” 15 MPG vehicles for 30 MPG vehicles, there were government incentives for trading in gasoline-guzzling vehicles for vehicles that use no gasoline at all (or at least no foreign oil), and they dispense very little or no harmful emissions. We’d have a bonanza on our hands, the likes of which have never been seen by any gold or silver or diamond or oil rush.
So the question is; what will it take to kick off the bonanza?
Well, mostly it will take only the will to get it done, because many of the technologies and no - or low - emission fuels are already perfected: CNG (compressed natural gas), propane, wind turbines, solar panels, and ethanol made from plants we do not eat. You’ll notice that I didn’t include electric in this list; that will come later.
In dozens of stories and editorials The Auto Channel has harped on the fact that every major automaker in the world has and is producing vehicles that run exclusively on CNG or propane. The OEMs have shown that they know how to do it and that the vehicles run as well as any gasoline-powered vehicles. They can be produced for the same costs, and they offer additional advantages aside from environmental and fuel availability benefits: for example, the engines require less servicing and significantly fewer oil changes. But, incredibly, here in the U.S. the manufacturers act like they never heard of these fuels. The only car company selling CNG cars in America is Honda (the Civic GX), and their production run each year is embarrassingly low – as if they were ashamed to build them. Incidentally, Fiat, the Italian carmaker that now owns the Chrysler Group, offers every one of their models in CNG-powered versions.
As for propane, the only one really championing propane-powered vehicles in the U.S. is Roush Performance, the company best known for their enviable racing achievements. Roush started with a Ford F-150 pickup truck and have now added an F-250 pickup and E350 van (coming soon) to their lineup. In Europe, Opel (which is still owned by GM) just announced an extensive lineup of dual gasoline and propane-powered models.
Mysteriously, although Roush has proven that there is a market for propane Fords, Ford has been reluctant to get on board and commit to offering more vehicles and more models. Roush’s production capabilities (or more accurately, their ability to convert Ford’s products to propane) are impressive, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to Ford’s assembly capabilities.
CNG and propane powered engines emit far, far less pollutants than gasoline and these fuels can be made almost entirely from gas reserves found right here in North America. We don’t have to send hundreds of billions of dollars each year to enemy nations, we don’t have to inadvertently fund terrorist groups, and we don’t have to pay attention to any loud-mouth two-bit dictators.
Turning to wind power and solar, the technologies and products for both are no longer high school science projects. Residential solar panels are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Any home in any sun-belt area can get 100% of their electrical energy from solar. The cost would be recouped in about five year’s time. There is absolutely no reason why every new home being built in a sun-belt state is not required to have solar panels. Solar should also be mandated for all new commercial construction to provide, at the very least, the power for lighting common areas in the buildings.
Wind generators work…end of discussion. If the U.S., for example, only gets a couple of percentage points of our national requirements from wind power, it’s not because the wind generators are unavailable or inefficient. It’s because Federal and State governments have not mandated their use and provided the right-of-way needed to deliver the electricity. We can put enough wind generators in New Mexico to power the entire country…right now, today…at least in as fast as we can buy and install them.
Then, there’s the fantastic potential of algae-produced bio-diesel. Again, this technology graduated from high-school labs a long time ago. Companies such as SunEco Energy are able to produce raw “biodiesel” oil at about one-third the cost of raw petroleum oil. And this oil can also be “grown” right here in the good ole US of A. Just as important, every poor landlocked desert country around the world can have algae biodiesel farms and become virtually energy independent.
FINDING THE WILL
Just about one year ago, Barak Obama made his campaign energy speech*, which talked about an aggressive plan to utilize alternative fuels and ideas to do much of what I’ve described herein. But since acceding to the throne, he has done nothing. He’s ignored CNG and propane, forgotten about wind power and solar, and if he’s even heard about algae biodiesel you would never know it. The only kind of commitment he’s made is to say that by 2015 we will have one million electric vehicles on the road.
For Obama to hang his hat on one million electric vehicles by 2015 is a joke: it’s nothing more than a mere novelty. In normal years about 15 million new vehicles are sold in the United States. In five years (from 2010 to 2015), approximately 75 million new vehicles will be on the road. This is in addition to around 200 million existing gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. One million electric vehicles would be hopelessly insignificant.
The presidential commitment should be to make sure that at least 25% of all new vehicles on the road from 2010 to 2015 are 100% alternative fuel powered, regardless of whether motion is fueled by electric, CNG, propane, or rubber bands. Then, the Federal EPA and State governments should drop their gasoline-protectionist rules against converting existing vehicles to CNG, propane and ethanol, and incentives should be given out to ensure that another ten or twenty million vehicles get converted over that time period. This could give us 30 or 40 million non-gasoline, lower (or no) emission vehicles on the road by 2015.
Then, if Obama and/or Congress mandated a plan like the one we suggested last year* (that calls for the elimination of all new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2014), by 2020 we could have as many as 150 million alternative fuel vehicles on the road. That would amount to almost half of all operating vehicles. This is how the depression can be ended. This is how to bring financial prosperity back to America and the world. This is how to create jobs. This is what we can achieve from the small lessons being learned from the Cash For Clunkers program. All it will take is you calling and writing and insisting that Obama and Congress get off the gasoline-lobby gravy train and do something for the public instead of their own purses.