Three Step Plan to Ending Oil Imports
Can the US really kick the petroleum habit for our transportation needs? It sure seems like a long way off from our modest amounts of renewable fuels we have today. In 2004, the US produced enough ethanol to displace 2.8% of the petroleum used for gasoline and enough soy biodiesel for .5% (one half of one percent) of the petroleum used for diesel fuel.
Wow! All this effort going into building ethanol and biodiesel plants here in the Midwest but so far achieving less than 4% displacement of the petroleum we use for transportation.
Is there enough crop production to get even close to getting off of petroleum?
Every year, we plant about 75 million acres in corn and about 70 million acres of soybeans. If every bit of corn were used for ethanol, at a rate of about 300 gallons per acre, that would be 22.5 billion gallons of ethanol or about 19% of what is needed to displace gasoline usage.
If every acre of soybeans was used for biodiesel, at a rate of 49 gallons per acre, that would be about 3.7 billion gallons of soy biodiesel or about 6.2% of what is needed to displace petroleum diesel. By the way, both crops still produce food products even after the fuels are extracted.
Wow! Only enough corn ethanol for 19% of our gasoline and only enough soy biodiesel for 6.2% of the diesel fuel. Can we ever get off of petroleum fuels?
Yes! I believe we can. But if we do, we will have to use today's situation only as a starting point for new ideas about our transportation. Here is my three step "road map" for getting off of petroleum:
So how soon can our society get off of petroleum?
Most of these technologies are here today and work today. It isn't as though we need amazing new breakthroughs to get started. If we start now, and really focus our policies on energy independence, I believe we could be off of imported oil (currently 55% of our oil is imported) in 10-15 years. We could be off of the rest of it in another 10 years after that.
What if you personally want to get started now?
Well, I've been using 100% soy biodiesel in my VW Golf TDI most of the year since March of 2003. It works fine and I've been getting 44 mpg that whole time on fuel we grow! E85 vehicles (85% ethanol) are readily available both new and used although E85 stations are not so commonly available yet. You can already do a lot right now, today, to cut your connection to petroleum and start using renewable fuels.
To find out more, visit my web site at www.itsgood4.us.
And come to the I-Renew Expo in September (www.irenew.org) in Hiawatha, Iowa. This year, I intend to build my workshop around the technologies to get us off of petroleum: imports first ... then off of petroleum entirely!
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