Last weekend, I stopped at an Avis Car Rental office because “they try harder” and asked for a flex-fuel car for a couple days of driving through beautiful Southern California. The attendant, a wonderful, smart and very attractive woman, didn’t bat an eyelash or reflect a “what is that” look. Instead, she had me sign the right papers. Holding my hand, since I was nervous, she took me outside to show me this beautiful Detroit made tri-flex-fuel automobile. It was filled with what she lovingly said was a safe blend of $2.50 a gallon methanol, ethanol and natural gas. She, with her slow drawl (she had come to California from Texas), made sure I knew that it would be cheaper for me to fill the tank up with non-gasoline fuels, and to do it before I returned the car. She (I think she liked me) gave me a map showing several stations with flex-fuel pumps within a two hundred mile radius of the Avis office. I was so overwhelmed. Tears of joy started streaming down my face. I could only say to her, “you were the first and I had such a wonderful time. Can we do it again?” I was really excited, and in love with her, the car, and the fuel. It was a dream come true–Nirvana–a flex fuel American-built automobile and the ability to choose my own fuel. No conversion required. I know I will see her again and someday I will own the car, and choose the fuels that will drive us off into the sunset.
What do you think? Are you happy for me? Do you have a warm glow in your heart? Do you want to go trade in your car for a flex fuel car or convert your existing car to a flex fuel car? I bet you cannot wait to ask Apple’s iPhone Siri why it is that U.S. automobile companies have not started to produce flex cars for us all.
Not to break your hearts, however, truth compels me to tell you what, you as a bright reader of “Over a Barrel,” probably know. The event at Avis never happened. When I was in grade school, we would say [belated] “April Fools.” As adults, we look to literature, sometimes, to understand the cogency of April Fools. Here is my take. Paraphrasing, with some editorial liberties, the writer Edgar Allen Poe, “All that we see [or want to see] or seem is but a dream within a [larger] dream.” For me and hopefully you, the dream of reduced oil dependency and as a result a healthier American economy and environment.
Why can’t we have the Avis imaginary experience or Poe’s dream become reality and why can’t my unrequited love affair become requited?
Ethanol is already accepted in the marketplace as a substitute for gasoline. Indeed, Americans generally, if unwittingly, use ethanol when they fill up their tank. We know that methanol is growing in acceptability. It is safe, it can be made relatively easily from accessible, cheap feedstocks. It is environmentally better than gasoline and the price is lower. We know that natural gas has been and can increasingly be used effectively as fuel for automobiles and heavier weight vehicles. If we had a choice at the pump between and among methanol, ethanol, natural gas, and gasoline, we could significantly bring down transportation costs and reduce U.S. dependency on oil. That could finally start us on the road to making our American Dream–of less dependence on foreign oil–come true.