I just finished reading ‘Energy Victory’ by Robert Zubrin. I was most impressed by his presentation at AIPAC and was equally impressed with his book. While I recommend you buy and read the whole book (270 pages) here is the quick summary.
We need to convert to an alcohol economy over an oil economy. The primary reason is for national security; it is just suicidal to transfer the amount of wealth that we do to regimes that are bent on our destruction. Radical Islamic forces that terrorize the world are funded by the oil revenues, primarily to Saudi Arabi.
The secondary reason is the benefit to our economy by drastically reducing our trade deficit. It would also benefit the poor in the third world by giving them an incentive to produce organic commodities to convert to fuel. Instead of funding people who hate us we could help the poor become more self sufficient and less dependent on foreign aid.
The third reason is environmental. While he acknowledges that global warming is real, it is not the urgent crisis that many of its advocates propose. Weaning us of oil would reduce the man made impact.
Zubrin is an engineer and he gives a lot of technical data to support his points. He disposes of the hydrogen based fuel cell technology as technically inneficient. He also describes in detail why alcohol is superior to wind and photovoltaic production as a broad solution. Alcohol fuels do not require a dramatic increase in the production cost of cars or require a new electric infrastructure as battery hybrids require.
He proposes more nuclear energy for the electric grid and his hope for fusion nuclear development would be a huge advancement of epic proportions that would dwarf the benefits of all other fuel sources.
He devotes a chapter to Brazil and how their emphasis on alcohol technology has made them independent of imported oil. In fact they export both oil and the alcohol they produce to replace it. Brazil supported alcohol production even after OPEC lowered prices, making it uncompetitive. The IMF even pressured them to cease the subsidy to help with their debt repayments. Brazil resisted and benefited handsomely.
While admiring Brazil’s long term solution, Zubrin’s critical idea is not to subsidize the production and distribution as they did, but to mandate that all cars SOLD in the US be flex fuel compatible. Flex fuel mean the cars are built to use both methanol and ethanol blends as well as gasoline. It requires very little extra cost and would create such a demand incentive that the private fuel distribution network would create the supply to satisfy demand.
By demanding that all cars sold, not just produced in the U.S., be flex fuel compatible we would in effect force this standard on the world, and deal OPEC a fatal blow.
Killing OPEC for good is Zubrin’s ultimate goal. I’m OK with that.