Miracle Fuel Powers Cars And Trucks
By: Alan Levesque
First Published at: The Daily Pamphlet
Often you will hear people in the present administration and in Washington talk about reducing our dependence on oil. At first this sounds fantastic until you realize that they didn't say they wanted to reduce our dependence on foreign oil but simply oil. That's it in a nutshell. They want oil gone. Period. This is why calls to exploit our own God given resources are met with new regulations, denial of drilling permits and mocking derision. While the politicos in Washington have enough faith in science and technology to call for minimum mileage standards that may not even be possible to achieve given current technology, and call for the development of "alternative fuels" and other things that may still be fifty years off in the future, they see no irony in also believing that science can not harness the power of coal or our own oil reserves safely and in an environmentally conscious manner. When the government wants the scientific community to develop unicorn snot as an alternate fuel source, scientists are geniuses but if it is suggested that we could use clean coal technology, or drill for our own oil, scientists are not smart enough to pull it off in the governments view.
I don't have a problem with ending our dependence on oil, domestic or otherwise. As long as there is an immediate and suitable replacement, most thinking people would be on board for this. You see, this is America. We love our cars and trucks. It's a cultural thing. Most of us love the sound of a throaty V8 engine. When you hear the word Mustang do you think of horses or horsepower? A train or two isn't going to cut it for most of us. We require personal transportation in the United States. Much of the country is not set up for mass transit and in most cases the economies of scale are not in place to make it profitable. Like I said, we require personal transportation in the United States. That being the case, we require fuel for our vehicles. Presently, we use mostly gasoline, which of course is derived from that dreaded oil. Getting off of oil would likely produce some beneficial side effects. We would no longer need to be as actively involved in the Middle East for one thing. Might this make us safer and more secure? Quite possibly as unfriendly oil producing nations would have less of our money to fund terrorist groups and other actions against us. If we had a homegrown substitute for gasoline it would boost our GDP and our deficit would be a lower percentage of the GDP. It would create jobs. How many jobs would be created is hard to say as some people would simply transition over to a new industry but it would certainly create some jobs. What if the replacement for gasoline was cheaper than gas or at least stable in price? This would have the net result of allowing people to keep more money in their pockets as their energy costs went down. This would create a ripple effect as the money was spent elsewhere in the economy. This would also calm the markets and remove some of the uncertainty that is holding back the American economy.
So what do we do about this? I'm calling for a "moonshot" type program to get the United States off of foreign and or domestic oil. I'm calling for the federal budget to be stripped clean of all unnecessary spending and the savings allocated towards this undertaking. The benefits of replacing gasoline and diesel with a homegrown equivalent liquid fuel would be enormous for our country. There may be some unintended consequences, but overall I believe it would be a good thing. It would also be far less expensive than you are probably thinking. Why is that you ask? I'll tell you why. It is because we already have this miracle fuel and we have quite a bit of it at that. We presently have two quadrillion cubic feet of known reserves. Put in perspective, this is more energy than all of Saudi Arabia's known oil reserves. It is estimated that we have enough of this fuel right now to last nearly 200 years. That's right, 200 years. Plus we're finding more of this fuel every day. Your car won't go as far on a gallon of this fuel but it only costs about $2.50 per gallon ( about $1.50 per gallon with a home fill unit) and the price is stable and would likely come down once fully exploited.
What is this miracle fuel? Natural gas. The United States has been called the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas." That's how much of it we have. At present about 22% of the electricity generated in the United States already comes from natural gas. Natural gas is clean burning and costs about 70% less than foreign oil. Millions of cars in Europe already run on natural gas and many fleet vehicles within the U.S. do as well. Why do we need a "moonshot" to make this happen? Simple. While the technology exists and is proven, and we have the gas, there doesn't appear to be a recognition on the part of government of the need to do this or the political will to do it. There are some hurdles to overcome. Some are regulatory hurdles and some are infrastructure related. While any internal combustion engine can be converted to run on natural gas, kits are only available for a select few models of vehicles utilizing a select few engine families. Presently, converting your existing car or truck is an expensive undertaking and there are few places that are certified to do it. There are only about 1500 fueling stations nationwide making the act of "getting gas" more difficult. There are home fueling stations available but we need more public fueling stations.
To make this work we need to fast track the certification of more repair facilities to perform conversions on existing vehicles. This would lower the price considerably and there is legislation pending in Congress that would allow for tax credits for converting an existing vehicle. There are tax credits already available for purchasing a new natural gas powered vehicle. Conversion kits need to be made available for many more engine families. Getting a kit certified costs as much as $200,000.00 right now. This really is an insignificant amount when you realize that this would likely be done by large auto makers who could amortize the expenditures over a number of years. Also there is a finite number of engines which would cap their costs. The benefits of getting in front of this could be huge for an automaker and well worth the expense. Perhaps the government could back off on some of their more egregious regulations and mandates to the automakers in exchange for the automakers footing the bill for this? More pumps need to be installed across the country. This is a case where the government needs to get involved. People will not convert unless and until they see the natural gas pump right next to the regular unleaded. Station owners will not install the pumps until people start pulling into their filling stations demanding it. It's a catch 22 and it appears that some incentive will need to be put forward to get the station owners to act.
There needs to be a coordinated effort on the part of business and government to educate people and make this happen. Natural gas is our best hope to become truly energy independent and it is only a matter of time before attitudes and the free market catches up to this fact. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can start reaping the benefits. Or we could simply do nothing and wait for the scientists to capture the power of unicorn snot.