Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

March 6, 2007

alternative fuels dillema

original post - Monday, March 05, 2007

Alternative fuel dillema

So, I was watching a show called future cars the other night. This particular episode was all about alternative fuels and outlined a host of different fuel types; everything from electric, solar electric, hybrids, bio-diesels made from natural oils and/or recycled auto parts, hydrogen fuel cells and even one that ran off of compressed air of all things. So initially I'm thinking "Cool, always good to see that the smart people are out there trying to come up with some ideas for alternatives!" Being the obsessive type that I am, I can't get the show out of my mind. Then like a bolt of clarity it hits me. How many different types of fuel do we use to fill up our cars now? I don't mean octane levels or diesels; I mean actual types? Petroleum types. That's it! One type! We can go to any fueling station and find essentially the same product. That makes for standardization and simplicity. And that is what made the petroleum industry so successful. It's also what helped to make out current automobile industry so successful.
Now back to the alternative fuels situation; as I said there were quite a few different alternatives to fuel sources and different engines types to run at least half of them. So I refer to the old adage, "United we stand, divided we fall." As long as we debate and try to find and settle on all of the different types of alternative fuel sources we will have a hard time unifying any number of persons together to actually solve the addiction to oil. By our nature I believe that we want simplicity and convenience. I don't see how this is going to be possible if we are forced to look out for that particular station that has a hydrogen fuel cell refilling pump, or to schedule our day around where we can or can't go based on who has an electric car charging apparatus. We really need to settle on some type of standard and move forward in that direction with a unified effort. I don't know what that alternative may be, but I do have some input on what I consider the big three.
1. Hydrogen fuel cells are my least preferred, not because they are not efficient or exciting, but they would require a lot of legislation, and major infrastructure changes and upgrades. They also require a new type of vehicle, with a new engine, which will mean retraining existing mechanics or training new mechanics to repair them. If you know you can't get the car fixed why are you going to invest in one?
2. Electric cars are a very close second. They can be very powerful, and because they have very few moving parts can be exceptionally long lasting with little maintenance. Another thing I like about them is the fact that they have the potential to be "fueled" at home; either by plugging into the grid for pennies a day, or by actually farming your own power through solar, wind or micro hydro power generation, etc. However, how often are people going to want to purchase a vehicle that will require them to also invest in a way to fuel it? And let's not forget that they are notorious for having short distance capabilities so the single car owners will generally pass on them because they are limited in their travel options.
3. I prefer the idea of bio diesels over all of the other fuels sources. That is not to say that they are a perfect solution, but as I see it they are a very good starting point to break the cycle. Although bio-diesel fuels have a higher freezing point (meaning that they will start to gel up in cold weather before standard petro-diesels will; this gel up issue can be overcome in cold environs with a second tank or tank warming system), they are usable with little or no modification in any diesel engine. This brings me to the second issue with them. There are few available models of diesel passenger vehicles other than trucks on the market today. The Diesel engine is a very tried and true technology though, and many models are available overseas. I don't think it would be a stretch to expect that the auto industry could fill in this gap. I am not a fan of government getting in the way of business. I think that the market will work if you let it. If we were able to require a percentage of diesel fuel sold to be bio-diesel and could make it affordable enough, I think we would begin to see a migration to this alternative. It gets greater mileage, the engines run for a long time, there is a large pool of service centers, and its exhaust is much cleaner than regular gasoline. Add to this the fact that if a bio-diesel station couldn't be found, regular diesel can be used with no problems. This creates the simplicity and convenience we need.
As I said to begin with, these are just my opinions; I'd love to hear yours!

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