Switching from expensive imported oil to alternative fuels has moved from a far-off dream to an achievable reality. Today, more than a dozen gasoline alternatives are in various stages of development. Taken separately or together, they promise a path away from the imported-oil addiction that squeezes our pocketbooks, pollutes our air and imperils our national security.
In fact, at least four alternatives are not only already in use, but have what it takes to put us on the road to permanently breaking oil’s death grip on America’s drivers. What’s more, market forces have the potential to mainstream each of these technologies within the decade if commercial and regulatory barriers are removed.
Ethanol – Derived from plant materials, ethanol can be a cheaper, cleaner alternative to the gasoline that fuels our vehicles. Much of the gasoline sold at the pumps is already up to 10 percent ethanol and an increasing number of flex-fuel vehicles run on fuel that is up to 85 percent ethanol. Most ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, yet ethanol can be made from any biomass—including garbage. Click here to learn more.
Methanol – Also known as wood alcohol, methanol is cheaper, cleaner and less flammable than gasoline. Made from both fossil fuels and renewable resources, it is used in race cars and in emerging economies such as China. Methanol fell out of favor in the U.S. in recent years, when the alternative fuel debate settled on ethanol, but it is getting a second look as oil prices continue to climb. Click here to learn more.
Natural Gas – Most of the natural gas used in the U.S. is going to homes and businesses, but it also powers more than 100,000—and counting—vehicles. It’s popular with fleets and buses: non-toxic, odorless, clean-burning and cheaper than gasoline and diesel. And consumers can buy a natural gas-powered Honda Civic that is already on the road. Click here to learn more.
Electricity – Electric vehicles—whether hybrid, plug-in or pure electric—are visible signs that the age of alternatives has arrived. EV-gas hybrid sales topped 2 million in 2011, and, while still modest, production of all-electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and the high-end Teslas and Fiskers, is steadily growing. As more models become available for wider markets, charging stations have spread and technological advances have improved traveling ranges. Click here to learn more.
Domestic Oil – It is both unrealistic and unwise to discontinue oil drilling in the U.S. When you are starving, you don’t go on a diet! We have substantial petroleum reserves that remain untapped, and these should be exploited to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. At the same time, our domestic oil supplies cannot satisfy our transportation needs, either now or in the future. We need to supplement these with cheaper, cleaner American-made fuels.