A Real Solution
- Powering automobiles with advanced technology and renewable energy sources is the best way to reduce dependence on oil and lower vehicle emissions.
- U.S. energy policy should enable the development of alternative fuels and promote the adoption of advanced technologies.
- A key to energy independence and a reduction in fossil fuels is energy diversity; finding the right mix of gasoline along with several alternatives including bio-fuels, hybrid technology and fuel cell technology.
- CAFE is not the most effective way to cut dependence on foreign oil. For instance, the current standards for light trucks are expected to cut 11 billion gallons of gasoline exports over the lifetime of the vehicles. While this sounds like a large amount, the lifetime of the vehicle is set at 25 years. After dividing, the annual amount is only .44 billion gallons of savings. As the United States currently imports 316.6 billion gallons of gasoline a year, this will drop imports by only .1% per year.
- E85 ethanol is available now but out of 170,000 commercial fueling stations in the U.S. only 1,100 carry ethanol. This makes the fuel unavailable in many parts of the country. The government should support an increase in these stations so the fuel can become widely available. This fuel is made from renewable organic materials, reduces dependence on petroleum and adds diversity to the nation’s energy supply and sources. E85 ethanol supports rural communities and the domestic agriculture industry.
- U.S. energy policy should further support cellulosic ethanol which can emerge to offset great amounts of imported oil. This fuel is produced from agricultural waste products such as corn stalks and rice husks or non edible crops like switch grass and trees. Using cellulosic ethanol puts no pressure on food prices and can be created in areas that do not support the growth of food crops.
- For every barrel of ethanol produced (1 barrel = 42 gallons), 1.2 barrels of petroleum are displaced at the refinery.
- Electric vehicles are being developed that use a large lithium ion battery and a small gasoline engine to produce enough electricity to go over 600 miles while providing triple-digit fuel economy.
- When fully charged, these vehicles are capable of 40 miles of electric only operation. The vehicle takes only six hours a day to charge fully and can be plugged into a 110-volt outlet in any garage or parking lot. If the battery becomes depleted, a small gasoline engine is used to create electricity and replenish the battery.
- More than half of Americans live within 20 miles of where they work, and this 40 mile round trip would allow for a completely gasoline and emissions free commute. For those that live 30 miles from work the gasoline component of the vehicle would have to be used, but the vehicle would achieve better than 100 miles per gallon.
- A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle generates electricity on board when hydrogen is reacted with oxygen to produce electricity; this electricity is used to power the electric motor. The only by product of this reaction is water and water vapor.
- This onboard creation of power can be utilized without using petroleum- based fuel, without harmful greenhouse gas emissions and without dependence on foreign producers.
- Unlike gasoline, hydrogen can be made from diverse energy sources such as the reformation of ethanol, propane or natural gas, solar or wind power, hydroelectric power and waste hydrogen from other industrial process.
- Hybrid vehicles reduce gasoline consumption by taking advantage of their ability to run electrically. This electric operation allows for the vehicle to shut off the combustion engine during idling or sitting in traffic, thus saving gasoline and limiting emissions. Hybrid vehicles also use a process called regenerative breaking which allows the vehicle to turn wasted energy into kinetic energy that is used to recharge the battery while driving.
- Hybrids also allow for smaller, lighter and more efficient engines. Current combustion engines are sized for peak power demand, but because of the extra boost given to the vehicle by the electric motor the engine does not need to be as large and does not face the same stress. Allowing the gasoline engine to operate in only average power conditions rather than peak improves fuel efficiency and curtails greenhouse gas emissions.
- One feature of electric motors is a flat torque curve which gives 100% of torque at zero rpm. This ensures consumers will not have to sacrifice power and towing when using a hybrid system, a very important consideration for American drivers.
Funds for Alternative Fuels
- Forcing automakers to focus on incremental improvement of existing combustion engines compels automakers to reallocate scarce resources that could be used to develop alternative fuels and accelerate the advancement of technologies into the consumer marketplace.
- Without prompting from the federal government, the United States auto industry invested 15.6 billion dollars in research and development in 2004. This investment is greater than any other manufacturing sector and has directly contributed to the current availability of 60 models of alternative fuel vehicles, up from only 12 in the year 2000.
- The automobile can drive the world toward a hydrogen based economy and the automakers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel cell research. This will remove the automobile as a negative in the debate on the environment while leading toward a sustainable future.