Still Crazy After All These Years
May 11, 2012
By Bob Gordon
President and Co-publisher
The Auto Channel
I am publishing this and value your opinion - the below is a bit of a ramble, so I am looking for your input, I reserve the right to change this as mistakes are brought to my attention…no need for white out.
After feeling like Don Quixote for the past 15 years or so as it concerns our nation's addiction to gasoline - and all of the bad that it brings - I'm feeling optimistic that a solution is at hand (always the Pollyanna). So please send back comments and thoughts and let me know why you think I'm wrong on this. But also, if you think I'm right, send me your suggestions as to what we can collectively do to make it happen before It’s too late.
Ok so here goes.
I was in DC for the Methanol conference (read about it HERE) … very interesting… an old tried and true fuel (used for over 100 years, in fact Henry Ford designed his first car to burn either ethanol or methanol, expensive as both were then (gasoline was then an indefinite liquid waste from the distillation of kerosene from crude oil). The early Model T's could burn ethanol, methanol or gasoline, and it was widely recognized that the alcohols gave a smoother running engine. (See: Methanol Advantages)
In January 2003, the Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research published The Methanol Story: A Sustainable Fuel for the Future Dr. Roberta J. Nichols who was head of research and development for Ford’s alt fuel vehicles program, and in the 1980’s methanol was used as an octane booster in ARCO gasoline. But Methanol, as with other potential competition for Big Oils’ moneymaker, was swept under the rug by ultra-cheap gasoline and various propaganda, mistruths and diversionary tactics, but with today’s petroleum based fuels nightmare is once again back in the hunt as a drop-in replacement for gasoline…
The timing couldn’t be better because methanol can be easily made from our domestic, abundant(er) and cheap(er) natural gas (or coal as the Chinese are doing) and can be produced for 30-50 cents per gallon…thereby increasing exponentially the value of NG…and utilizing that abundant feedstock to quickly help provide consumers with a real, abundant and cheaper alternative to gasoline.
Ok so here is my thinking:
There is a bill in the House, H.R.1687 Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011, and in the Senate S. 1603: Open Fuels Standard Act of 2011, calling for a level playing field for fuels (see summary below)
I call it the GEM for fuel choice:
G - for Gasoline
E - for Ethanol
M - for Methanol
All new cars sold in the US must be TRI-FUEL capable, able to run equally fine on Gasoline (E0 and or E10), M85 or E85.
Smart filling stations will offer each, if they want to remain competitive, and attract customers to buy their cigarettes and coffee …
Those drivers who are down on alts have a choice to use gasoline, the other 99% will use the cheapest (could be in the 1-2 buck a gallon and eventually much less, maybe back to the 30 cents a gallon of the late 50’s) choice which will be either E85 or M 85 depending on the price at the pump that day…
Thereby allowing the market to choose a winner (a capitalistic concept forcing Republicans to support the concept) , while reducing the demand for gasoline (making the Democrats happy), choice will even reduce gasoline prices to drop, but never enough to replace the much cheaper and greener (making us all happier) alternatives, creating a market demand incentive for manufactures to produce the “best for Less” to capture the largest and most profitable revenue and profit share(making the tax collectors and highway fund managers happy).
This choice will ignite an explosive boost to our economy as the billion dollars a day we now send overseas stays in the U.S. Economy and multiplies.
Other future alts that may be 100% green can come along when the technology and marketplace allows them to compete, or maybe never but who cares if we are not beholden to Foreign Princes or Potentates .
The car companies (who today are actively lobbying against the Open Fuels Standard Act of 2011 anyone understand why?) will become long term happy after they get over their initial reluctance to have to produce Tri-fuel cars (estimated $3-400 bucks a car more – no big deal, because virtually all of the domestics already do with their ethanol ok engines and fuel systems).
Lotus has already engineered and produced a high performance tri-fuel vehicle (read about it HERE). The big deal for car makers (mostly domestic brands with UAW workers) is that because MPG will once again become a non-starter, with ultra-cheap fuel ubiquitously available, Detroit can go on to pay attention to produce and sell more of the profitable big car, SUV’s and pickups that Americans want and are happy to pay for (making dealers and stockholders happy), and because of the cheap fuel every family’s monthly transportation budget can include higher monthly payment for their vehicles instead of the high priced fuel they are budgeting for and burning today.
Another economic benefit will come from the on the 250 million on the road non tri-fuel car owners who will be willing to invest in an aftermarket conversion of their vehicle (making the aftermarket happy, and creating opportunities for new chains of shops that convert existing vehicles to Tri-Fuel capable) so they too can enjoy cheap fuel costs (even though the price of gasoline should drop in this scenario) adding jobs and even more fuel (pardon) to the then raging economy.
This fuel choice model will be repeated around the globe reducing the importance of oil and making it once again just another commodity not a monopoly, and delivering all of the positive security, political and international relationship changes and benefits we all know will come on that GEM of a day…
All that has to happen is for the politico’s to do what’s right for Americans.
So wadda ya think???
S.1603 - Open Fuels Standard Act of 2011
A bill to enable transportation fuel competition, consumer choice, and greater use of domestic energy sources in order to reduce our Nation's dependence on foreign oil.
9/22/2011—Introduced .Open Fuels Standard Act of 2011 - Requires each automobile manufacturer's annual covered inventory to comprise at least:
(1) 50% fuel choice-enabling vehicles in model years 2015-2017, and
(2) 80% fuel choice-enabling vehicles in model year 2018 and each subsequent model year. Requires the Secretary of Transportation (DOT) to certify the type and blend of advanced alternative fuel blends that can be used in fuel choice-enabling vehicles, existing vehicles, and by new and existing components of the nation's transportation fueling infrastructure. Defines "fuel choice-enabling vehicle" to mean an automobile warranted by its manufacturer to be capable of operating on:
(1) an advanced alternative fuel blend, if certified for its use, or a mixture of at least 85% denatured ethanol and gasoline or drop-in fuel, if not yet certified; or
(2) natural gas, hydrogen, electricity, a hybrid electric engine, a mixture biodiesel and diesel fuel, or other fuel containing not more than 10% petroleum. Defines "advanced alternative fuel blend" as a mixture containing:
(1) at least 85% (or lower percentage of) denatured alcohol as well as gasoline or drop-in fuel,
(2) at least 70% menthol as well as gasoline or drop-in fuel, and
(3) any other DOT-certified blend of alcohols or liquid fuels. Authorizes a manufacturer with an inventory of less than 10,000 vehicles to request an exemption from such requirements. Authorizes the Secretary to establish an open fuels standard credit trading program to allow vehicle manufacturers whose annual covered inventory exceeds the percentage requirements to earn credits, which may be sold to manufacturers that are unable to achieve such requirements. Directs the Secretary to:
(1) develop a model label for pumps dispensing advanced alternative fuels to help consumers evaluate the expected automobile performance of a fuel blend, and
(2) make it available for voluntary reproduction and adoption. Directs the Secretary to evaluate the need for standardized fueling equipment and facilities that:
(1) dispense advance alternative fuel blends to fuel choice-enabling vehicles, and
(2) prevent the dispensing of such fuel blends to incompatible vehicles.