Bush's Dangerous Energy Proposal

Moving too quickly on alternative fuels could backfire, says one expert on ethanol fuels.

Published: 25-Jan-2007

In President Bush's State of the Union address this week, he announced several key energy proposals, most notably increasing the use of biofuels such as ethanol. But some critics are skeptical of the president's proposal to rely largely on ethanol to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in a decade. Indeed, this could do more harm than good, says David Victor, director of Stanford University's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. This week Victor is participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where climate change leads the agenda. Technology Review caught up with him by phone to get his views on the president's speech--and on what the United States should be doing.

Technology Review: At least superficially, President Bush's remarks on energy echo some of your own ideas. What parts of his speech did you applaud?

David Victor: The overall strategy, which is to rely on markets and encourage diversity in energy and to encourage efficiency, all of which he said in one way or another, is absolutely right. What was new last night was the goal of doubling the size of the strategic petroleum reserve. That's an extremely important thing to do.


Award-winning ethanol-fueled Saab is concept car that could see production sooner than anticipated due to public interest.

Courage LC75 LMP2 cars -- similar to photo below --will be powered by engines using bio-ethanol fuel, although whose engine to use has yet to be made.

The great danger of the biofuels craze is that it will divert us from stronger steps to limit dependence on foreign oil: higher fuel taxes to prod Americans to buy more gasoline-efficient vehicles and tougher federal fuel economy standards to force auto companies to produce them, writes Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson.


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