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May 27, 2009

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Orng Crush

Fuel conservation, while necessary, isn’t going to make much of a dent in the problem. The miles per gallon of our nation’s vehicle fleet are substantially better than that of the gas-guzzlers of the 1970s, yet fuel consumption is far above those previous levels.

There isn’t, nor will there ever be, a perfect fuel. But ethanol’s better than gas; it works in the internal combustion engine so you don’t have to buy an entirely new engine to use it; it can and is made in the United States (helping our economy and national security); and it provides an industry unique to our rural communities at a time when that American culture and lifestyle is dying.

As for how much energy is used to make it, Department of Energy says you get about 1.2-1.3 energy units from ethanol for every 1 unit put into making it. That may not sound great, but you have to realize that you get less than 1 energy unit from gasoline for every 1 unit put into making it. It’s hard to convert energy into a usable, liquid form, and ethanol actually does a lot better job of it than gasoline, something many people forget.

As for government money going to ethanol, our government spends many billions of dollars, not only in tax breaks and subsidies for oil refiners and exploration, but also for U.S. military resources to protect oil routes and oil interests in the Middle East. Take away that support, and the price of ethanol would undercut oil by half or better.

Finally, right now we annually send half a trillion dollars – essentially an annual economic stimulus – to other countries by buying foreign oil. Many of those are petro-dictators that do not have America’s interest at heart. OPEC countries control the vast majority of proven oil reserves, and they manipulate the price by adjusting oil supply at their whim. They could completely derail our economy (and did last summer) at any time if they choose. It makes sense to make our own fuel if we’re able.

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