I recently read the book “Energy Victory” by Robert Zubrin. It starts out explaining our problems with oil dependency, about the Saudi support of terrorism and their undue influence in our government, nothing new. The main thesis of the book is that we could achieve energy independence by largely switching over to a methanol economy for our transportation needs. He wants to achieve this by having the federal government mandate that all new cars be able to run on any mix of gasoline, ethanol or methanol.
He doesn’t discuss hybrids very much, but his main argument for flex-fuel vehicles over hybrids is that it’s much cheaper to make an existing vehicle compatible with these fuels than it is to make a hybrid. He argues for methanol over ethanol because methanol can be made more easily from coal, natural gas, and cellulose.
He favors methanol, but wants vehicles to also be able to burn ethanol since we’re already producing it, and it would add to our total supplies and flexibility. One thing he addresses is the notion that corn ethanol doesn’t produce a net gain of energy, which has been getting a lot of press lately. He says that isn’t true, that corn ethanol isn’t the best but that it does produce more energy than it takes to make. He says that the idea that corn ethanol is useless came from one study by someone named Pimental (I think) and that the study was flawed; he goes as far as calling it a hoax.
He dismisses hydrogen as completely impractical, basically a scam and a distraction, which seems right to me.
What do you folks think? I’ve been thinking that plug-in hybrids will take over, especially since a combination of those and nuclear power would let us reduce CO2 emissions greatly. I don’t know which would be more economical, but that probably will depend on whether we have any advances in battery technology and production, and maybe also if there are advances in alcohol production. I don’t know that it would be wise to try to mandate one particular solution. One problem I’ve heard people discuss with plug-ins is that the electric grid wouldn’t be able to handle everyone using them. So, upgrading the the grid would be an additional cost to consider.