Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating.

There is only one reason why we, in the USA, are paying +$3.50/gallon for gasoline. It's because our energy policy was created by politicians (too stupid to ever hold a real job), for politicians (to fund their re-election campaigns).

Most people don't know that before we had the department of energy, we EXPORTED oil... now we import half of all we use.

Back during WWII, the Germans ran out of oil, so they made it out of coal with a rather simple process. Some parts of Africa still use this system today, but not us... not the country that has a 1,000 years of coal. We refuse to use it.

Ethanol is made from corn, and every year we destroy enough of our crops to end starvation on the entire planet, just to create enough ethanol to replace the oil that we could easily get from ANWAR or the Canadian pipeline. Our 'moral' politicians would literally rather see millions of poor starve to death every year than let the Indians in Alaska drill another well in the dirt.

To me, this isn't the moral decision.

But you see, corn is political. It has a powerful lobby behind it. The politicians give the farmers 'subsidies' then 'mandate' that we buy it (driving up the price/profits in the process), then the farmers give the politicians a nice kickback for their campaigns every few years.

You see, if a politician can't find the re-election money in it, they just won't do it. Period.

But what if engineers looked at the same problem?

Well, as a simple engineering problem, oil wells are easy to drill. We know where the oil is, how to get it, and about how much it will cost. If you take zoning and permits out of the equation (BUT still meet all the safety standards!) we could be energy independent within 5 years and an exporter in 10. Easily. There really is no question about it. And we would make enough to last for the next 100 years just with today's technology. Easily.

"But oil is bad!"

Well, take a step back and look at ethanol again and remember it's made out of a crop that could literally feed millions, each and every year.

Ethanol is very close to methanol, chemically as well as in spelling. But they come from profoundly different sources.

Ethanol is made by fermenting sugars. It turns calories, the food part of food, into fuel. It's an alcohol almost the same as moon shine and made in a similar way.

Methanol is also called 'wood grain' alcohol. Wood grain doesn't depend on bacteria to break down sugars, and, in fact, it doesn't need sugars at all. With a name like wood grain, you already know it can be made from wood, but it can really be made from nearly anything. Coal, natural gas, scrap wood, kindling, corn cobs/stalks, hay (even rotted or moldy), grass clippings, tree leaves/branches/debris, peanut shells, garbage, old paper... pretty much anything that will burn can be turned into methanol. It is simply the most versatile and easily obtained liquid fuel in the world.

Simply put, you can make literal tons of this green fuel from what's discarded and left behind on the fields AFTER you've fed millions of people... today, on an industrial scale, but ONLY if that fuel is methanol.

Have a bad crop, drought, fire? Doesn't matter. You can make up the shortfall with coal, natural gas, wood scraps, lawn clippings... the list is endless and it all make exactly the same grade of methanol.

Methanol is a vastly superior fuel for energy independence and is environmentally greener than ethanol. It was a win win with everything going for it as the green fuel of choice. As a simple engineering equation, it was elegantly simple, perfect, and ideal. In fact, there are a lot of cars on US highways today ALREADY ready to burn it. Mechanically, it's almost identical to a normal car engine, most would require little or no modification. WITHOUT subsidies, it currently goes for $1.30 a gallon, TODAY. It's got everything going for it as the fuel of the future. It can be made from the parts of the plant that nobody eats, paper that nobody wants, kindling and 'waste' wood that is the fuel that burns millions of acres of forests a year (wouldn't it be nice if there was an economical incentive for someone to clean that stuff out : ), garbage, or coal (as we faze out coal powerplants it would be nice to recycle that infrastructure, keep those jobs, and avoid the politics of a "WAR ON COAL"). It has everything going for it...

Except a lobby. And without that, ethanol wins every time.

And corn ethanol wins every time because out of hundreds of politicians, only a handful could tell you the difference between ethanol and methanol. But all of them could tell you they can't get the corn lobby kickbacks when methanol can be made from just about anything... and for a fraction of the price.

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