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Wednesday, 01 August 2007 00:00

Alternative ramblings

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I don’t know the source but in my college days there was an aphorism — “If you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance, baffle ‘em with BS.” There appears to be a lot of baffling going on in the alternative fuel arena. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of intelligent, creative, conscientious people out there trying to pull the fossil fuel needle from our collective vein — but it ain’t gonna happen cold turkey. Believe me, there’s more than your commute to work at stake here.

When you look at the petroleum fuel infrastructure in this country, you’re looking at trillions of dollars worth of investment. Add to that the corporate sharks like ExxonMobile, Chevron-Texaco, General Motors, Ford, Toyota and the like who feed from and help sustain this infrastructure and you can see a formidable roadblock on the road to alternative energy.

And then there’s me, oh, and you. In the words of one great American philosopher, James Taylor, “Now when I die I don’t want no coffin; I’ve thought about it all too often. Just strap me in behind the wheel. And bury me with my automobile.”

And what about, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” There’s something uniquely American about jumping behind the wheel and two hours later being 100 miles from wherever you started — it’s part of that fossil fuel narcotic. Mass transit is as un-American as school uniforms.

And then there’s utility. Yes, I’m part of the scourge of the Earth that owns an SUV — a four-wheel-drive SUV. It’s one vehicle that will take my family of four and our luggage to New Jersey or Louisiana to visit family and take me to my Forest Service bird points in the wilds of the Tusquitee, Cheoah and/or Grandfather forest district and give me some winter mobility.

There’s a lot to overcome to kick our petroleum habit. But we will kick it. We have no choice. Fossil fuel is limited. It is not renewable.

We are in our methadone phase now, substituting ethanol, biodiesel, hybrids and natural gas for the real stuff. Where will this treatment get us?

Big Oil knows that fossil fuel is finite. Chevron-Texaco has created a biofuels business unit. Shell owns half interest in Hydrogen Source and hydrogen researchers at Princeton, MIT, Stanford and other universities are benefiting from grants from the likes of Exxon-Mobile and BP, while Archer Daniels Midland and ConAgra are poised to wring ethanol and biodiesel out of America’s heartland.

Petroleum is still king for the foreseeable future. Ninety percent of the hydrogen produced is produced from natural gas and other fossil fuels and its production is dependent upon fossil fuel. The majority of tractors, cultivators and combines used to plant, plow and harvest biomass for ethanol and biodiesel run on fossil fuel and then the product is blended with fossil fuel.

As we are weaning ourselves the major corporate players are positioning themselves so that when the transition comes their bottom line will not suffer. Hopefully there will be environmental benefits that come with alternative fuels but at this point its hard to see through the smoke from the rain forests burned to plant palms for biodiesel.

I will end my sojourn in the land of alternative fuels with this thought: To paraphrase and old Buddhist adage, if you want to sing perfectly, make yourself perfect then sing naturally. If you want renewable energy, create a sustainable world, you’re energy will, naturally, be renewable.

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