Friday, October 14, 2011
By Alan Anderson
Since the Oil Crisis of the early 1970’s the United States has been in R&D mode looking for the replacement for oil and has studied everything from mice dung to emptying landfills to produce the world’s next great fuel source. While the United States has been researching all these years, other nations such as Brazil and many European countries have taken action and already solved their National Security issues using the one fuel that has proven decade after decade to outperform petroleum fuels in every category. Sugar ethanol has taken Brazil from one of the poorest countries in South America to now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It was less than 10 years ago that Brazil was a large oil import country and today it is a net exporter due to its countrywide use of ethanol for transportation.
As much of the world already knows, sugar is the one component to ferment alcohols to make ethanol. Brazil was the world leader in sugarcane production so it was a simple transition that took many years to reach its goals of being the world’s largest producer of ethanol. Brazil flourished in the past decade with its newfound independence from oil. Meanwhile, America stood still and watched the rest of the world take bold steps forward in the field of renewable fuels, only to now realize that it is 10 years behind. The United States has used one of its most abundant agricultural commodities to produce ethanol for well over 30 years now (corn). Farmers are great at growing corn across America and ethanol producers here have adapted their production processes for the crop only to have the market stand stagnant for years.
When it comes to National Security here in the United States the farmers of America have always stood up and made the sacrifice to help feed or fuel the fighting forces of our great country. Farmers stand ready to do the same today. When the military asks for fuels to supply them in the battlefield I think it deserves only the best America can give them. The American ethanol industry sat back and allowed countries like Iran and China to outperform them in the production of the simplest form of fuel, Sugar Ethanol. As many new companies are now in research mode for new alternatives, some businessmen and farmers are reinventing the most cost effective form of ethanol using the world’s highest yielding form of sugar, the Energy beet which has been developed to produce yields that corn growers can only dream of.
Today in America there are three plants in development that will utilize the new non-food Energy beet to produce ethanol and supply existing ethanol plants with beet pulp to make corn fermentation more energy efficient and lower costs for the whole industry. This is the first step to the best drop-in biofuels to come along since Henry Ford first used ethanol in every car that left his factories. This is also the one way the United States can again start to consider itself Energy Independent from OIL. But this is just the first step to my idea of shaking the OPEC monopoly. The second is the change in engine technology for our Military.
The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have asked for ways to make their fighting vehicles more efficient and run on these new fuels. The one way this will happen is if the American auto industry makes every new vehicle produced for the military capable of 100% ethanol or methanol. Now most of the auto manufactures will tell you that it could take up to ten years to make this happen, which is simply not true. Nearly 90% of all cars and trucks produced by GM today are already Flex Fuel Capable. The only missing component to a non-FFV is the software upgrade in its onboard computer. All of the big three American automakers already produce FFV’s for markets abroad. So what is needed for our military is Congress to pass a bill to mandate FFV’s for all new government ordered vehicles, including those for the military.
That type of bill already exists in the halls of Congress today, The Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011. If lawmakers can agree that for National Security reasons the bill can be modified to include all currently contracted military vehicles it should be passed as soon as humanly possible.
The one issue I waited to address was the one of land use to produce drop-in biofuels for our military. One major argument against agricultural biofuel is that of land use. This issue has been one that was invented by industries that would lose support with the expansion of biofuels. The claims made by these industries are all false and have been proven untrue by scientists and government research alike. But let’s just consider for one moment that we were going to expand drop-in biofuels right on the installation, that would decrease the cost even more by eliminating the costs to transport the fuel to such sites. In states like California, the production can continue year round.
The ideas I’ve provided you with today are ones we can do immediately to change the course of our National Security and not kick it down the road for the sake of argument at a later time. The men and women of our Armed Forces depend on us to make the tough decisions that help save their lives. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. This is an issue of National Security and Independence from the OPEC oil monopoly.
In April 2011, The Energy Department sponsored a forum on energy security at the White House in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. William Lynn and Daniel Poneman announced a joint plan between the Defense and Energy Departments. The departments will work together on energy issues by developing clean energy technology and improving energy security. Also attending was Jane Harman from The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, she made it clear during the forum that these are issues that are going to save the lives of our brave men and women who serve our great nation and they deserve the best we have to offer them now. So as you can see, these issues go hand in hand. Energy Security equals National Security.
Alan Anderson, a freelance writer focusing on green renewable alternative fuels such as sugar based ethanol and biodiesel. He has written for many online publications including Newsvine.com, EnergyBoom.com and The Energy Collective. President of the newly formed National Association of Proficient Renewable Biofuels (NAPRB) And Supporter of the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011.