This is a “reprint” of an article that I wrote back in 2005. The article was published on The Conservative Voice web site (now hosted by Townhall.com). I thought you all should see what I’m passionate about. It’s 4 pages, so grab a cup of brew, kick back and enjoy.
The principles are even more applicable today – with oil prices “speculating” back upwards again (for no reasonable reason). Remember, we simply cannot continue burning up BILLIONS of dollars worth of oil in our cars any longer, it’s draining the wealth of this country. On that, T.Boone Pickens and I agree. What he and I differ on is the solution, he thinks we should use natural gas to power our cars, I think we should use renewable fuels. E85 is simple, can be done today. Natural gas will take time to develop the technology needed (to convert existing cars), costs more. You decide.
The E85 Solution
by Scott deBeaubien
The post 9/11 world is a changed place. In fact, it’s hard to remember what life was like prior to 9/11 anymore. We used to think of terrorism as something that happened “over there” wherever that was. Now we know it can hit any place, any time. The economic impact is still happening to us today. We are seeing a dramatic increase in gasoline costs at the pump such that more of us are questioning the role of alternative fuels as we never have before.
In fact, alternative fuel technology is nearing a watershed moment. Many technologies are at or past a point of “being ready for prime time.” With all the talk of hybrids the other technologies sort of take a sideline, out of the spotlight so to speak. Are those technologies important for us to consider as individuals? As Americans? As world citizens?
My firm answer is “Yes – all of the above!” I have to put it in an argument that all of us can understand here. To do that we must clearly understand the problem. First, my opinion is not that our problem is our “love of automobiles” or freedom, or any such thing. I love my family, and our cars are used to get us from point A to point B, safely, reliably, and with as much convenience and comfort as we need and can afford. Second, we are able to do a great many things as a result of having our cars, freedoms that I do not want to have to give up, nor should we have to. So where is the problem then?
Our problem, as I see it, is dependence on foreign oil. Oil is the #1 reason this country has been subjected to economic swings in the past few years. The two years prior to 9/11 we had dramatic swings in fuel prices both summers. One of those summers even saw a trucker protest descend upon Washington D.C. Gasoline prices at the pump back then neared $2 a gallon for regular unleaded, and we thought that was a bad thing! We had it almost good and we didn’t even know it!
Today, oil prices are causing an upsurge in inflation, chaos in our foreign trade deficit, panic in lower income families who do not have the ability to absorb the extra energy costs in their stretched budgets and wild speculation and uncertainty in the financial markets. One obvious question is why are the oil companies getting to enjoy record profits during a time of so much grief and uncertainty for the rest of us? That’s a question I don’t want to tackle here, but perhaps it should be revisited.
Back to the problem at hand — the one we, as citizens, can deal with. We are dependent on foreign oil, and that is part of the “Big picture problem.” What’s the next most important problem? Again, I may not agree with the average politician out there, but I see our next most important problem (when it comes to energy) as the environment. We must stop raping and pillaging our environment to satisfy our needs for freedom and liberty. We do have the right as Americans and “global citizens” to pay for and use whatever resources we want, but does that give us the right to use and abuse the environment and make it a mess to clean up for future generations? Can we go on postponing the global catastrophe forever?
If somebody has to pay the piper, then I vote it be me and my generation, and not my children. I want to see them grow up in a better world, not one in which we simply used and abused the environment to the point where it no longer could sustain lush forests and pristine wildernesses that could be enjoyed and appreciated for many years to come. I take it now, today, as my responsibility to preserve and protect the natural world around me. Trust me, I may sound like a tree hugger, but I’m really not. Remember, I want and deserve the right to jump in my vehicle and take my canoe up to the mountains to enjoy a beautiful crisp morning on a lake with my wife, or to hike a trail in a gorgeous wilderness just as much as anybody. My R & R is just as important to me as the next person.
That being as it may, if we have identified our two top problems in this country as dependence on foreign oil and the environment, then what role can alternative fuels play in this equation?
Simple enough, if there is a solution to that problem that addresses both of those issues, then we have accomplished our mission and made our world a better place. I did a good deal of research into alternative fuels, in order to determine which is the “best” solution for today. That solution needed to be economic (cost effective), viable as a long-term solution, and healthy for both my family and the environment. What I came up with was E85.
E85, is a fuel based on 85% Ethanol (minimum 85% ethanol) and 15% gasoline. As opposed to most other alternative fuels, E85 is a renewable technology. That means it’s good for the environment. Further, E85 actually has the most impact on greenhouse gases of any of the currently available fuel technologies. I recently purchased a slightly used E85 vehicle and am now enjoying savings of $0.60 per gallon at the pumps. E85 compares very favorably against competing technologies that are available today.
My humble opinion is that hybrid technology is a dead end. The reasons should be apparent to my readers because hybrids, on average, cost roughly $3,000 more from the dealer than comparably equipped “ordinary” vehicles. Then, about every 80,000 miles or so, the batteries in a hybrid vehicle require complete replacement. The expense, coupled with the hazardous chemicals involved, make hybrids a technology I am personally not willing to deal with. That’s not even mentioning that over the life of most hybrid vehicles, the extra cost cannot be recovered, nor can it therefore be justified in my humble opinion.
I don’t wish to get into an argument or debate with those who believe in these “high tech” solutions to our problems, but they hardly can be justified on the basis of increased mileage. Remember, mileage is not one of our “top priority” issues, it only indirectly effects issue #1 and #2. So, why is E85 superior to other alternative fuels such as biodiesel or hydrogen or fuel cells? Biodiesel is an up and comer alternative fuel. Just this week, Mayor Hickenlooper in Denver explained how he has directed part of Denver’s city vehicles to use more biodiesel made by a local (Colorado) company. Many of the city of Denver’s vehicles are also E85 vehicles which says a lot for our current generation of far thinking politicians.
E85 to me is also the solution for the “everyday” person. First, there are over 4 million vehicles on the road today that can burn the E85 fuel. All three major auto manufacturers are offering many models capable of burning E85 gas. Sorry, you cannot burn it in an ordinary vehicle because the alcohol will dry out the rubber parts in your fuel lines, as well as react with the fuel tank. In addition, due to the fact that there is less energy available in E85 than gasoline, you will not get as good of gas mileage as with gasoline (typically about 10-15% less mileage). But, those things aside, if you can upgrade to an E85 vehicle or already own one, then you can immediately cut your family’s dependence on foreign oil by nearly 85%! That’s far better cost effective results achievable TODAY than you could get with any other technology!
And, E85 has been determined to be the most environmentally friendly alternative fuel (currently available in large quantities that is) technology there is! That’s because, when you take into account the growing cycle of crops that are used to make ethanol (primarily corn) you have a net of carbon-dioxide (greenhouse gases) emissions that are much lower than any other fuel type, and ethanol burns clean (virtually zero carbon-monoxide, and other hazardous emissions common to gasoline and diesel).
So, E85 in my opinion is the best technology, available today, that the average American can purchase and use to help our country reduce our foreign oil dependence and help the environment. Where can you get it? Here in Colorado where I live, there are currently 11 stations that have E85 available. That’s not exactly a “stellar” showing, but there are states (Minnesota) that have gotten behind this technology and have well over 125 fueling sites available for E85. I have to admit, when it comes to forward thinkers, Californians are lagging behind in this area — there is only one station in the entire state where the public can go to get E85. I thought those Liberals out there cared about things! What’s wrong with you all out there in California?
Well, I hope my arguments have persuaded a few to at least investigate this technology. Perhaps, even, I have pushed you over the top and you are going to go out and do something about our problem. Remember, we face this together. There is strength in numbers, and if enough of us vote with our feet, we can teach the Saudi Arabians, and the other oil producing countries that we don’t need them or their oil!
I encourage everyone to investigate further. I’ve only touched on this subject in this article and mainly I’ve attempted to stir up some emotion and thought towards solutions. I have a list at the end of the article with web sites and papers you can visit and read on your own to help make your own decisions. Finally, I want to say that as an American, I am proud to be able to have my opinions heard and I hope you all will not find me too abrasive or “cutting.” I’m just a passionate person who cares enough to say something to anybody who’s willing to listen.
Thank you and God bless America!
Articles / Papers
Article Copyright 2005 Scott R. deBeaubien