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Jewish World Review
Dec. 11, 2007
/ 2 Teves 5768
Victory via fuel choice
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
The last days of this session of Congress will feature,
among other legislative spectacles, an effort to thrash out a bill that
purports, at long last, to address what is arguably our nation's most
serious single problem: energy insecurity.
Unfortunately, the product seems certain to be more of a grab-bag
promoting favors for special interests and pet-rocks of senior lawmakers
(many of which have nothing to do with reducing our consumption of
petroleum imported from unfriendly places) than a program for quickly
and cost-effectively ending the main source of that insecurity, namely
our addiction to oil from dangerous places.
This is all the more astounding and outrageous since an option for
doing just that is at hand. Call it "fuel choice."
In a terrific new book called Energy Victory: Winning the
War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil, Robert Zubrin describes how a
simple congressional directive requiring that every car sold in America
be a "Flexible Fuel Vehicle" could rapidly transform our current,
intolerable dependence on oil from unreliable sources. Since there are
already six million of these FFVs on America's highways at the moment,
there is no technological impediment to making this happen. Since the
Big 3 U.S. auto manufacturers have already pledged to make half their
models FFVs by 2012, the question is simply, could we do that and more
According to Dr. Zubrin, a renowned engineer and widely
published author, the pacing item is official certification of the
roughly 150 engines on offer to the car-buying public once they are
equipped with sensors that allow them to burn ethanol (from a variety of
vegetation, not just corn), methanol (from coal, natural gas, trash or
biomass) and/or gasoline. It costs about $1 million to certify each
engine. While $150 million sounds like a lot, Dr. Zubrin notes that we
pay that much for imported oil in three hours.
If every car sold in America were a Flexible Fuel Vehicle,
within three years, 50 million cars here would be able to run on alcohol
instead of gasoline. Perhaps another 100-150 million such cars sold
elsewhere would have that option. With that sort of potential demand,
at current prices for gasoline (nearly $3 per gallon), ethanol (at
comparable energy values as much as $2.25 per gallon) and methanol (at
comparable energy density, $1.70 per gallon), the free market would
provide these (and perhaps other) alternative fuels in large quantities.
Particularly important is the fact that such demand would far exceed the
amount of ethanol that could be supplied by American corn farmers. They
should, therefore, be willing to allow the importation of ethanol from
other sources without the current tariff that amounts to a crippling $29
per barrel surcharge. With roughly 100 countries around the world
enjoying climates that could allow them to grow sugar cane or other
biomass they could use to power their own vehicles and help power ours,
the world would cease to be dependent on oil-exporting nations, most of
whom wish us ill.
Energy Victory describes the benefits that would accrue to the United
States and other freedom-loving nations were oil to be transformed in
this fashion into just another commodity:
The cartel that has wrought incalculable harm on the world's
economy, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, could be
destroyed. As long as some combination of tariffs, subsides or
preferential taxes are put into place in the event OPEC responds by
sharply dropping the price of oil, its stranglehold will be broken for
- OPEC's de facto leaders, the Saudis, would be unable to
continue their dangerous double-game inside America and elsewhere around
the world. Dr. Zubrin documents the corrosive, corrupting and
ultimately seditious effect of Saudi money and the Wahhabi Islamist
ideology it underwrites. There can be no higher national priority than
terminating such behavior and the Shariah theo-political-legal code it
is trying to impose, both here and abroad.
- Societies, including our own, that grow things and that,
therefore, tend to value human life will be empowered at the expense of
regimes that simply exploit natural resources and are, by and large,
tyrannical in nature. This can have huge implications for balances of
trade, foreign aid and quality of life the world over.
- Dr. Zubrin argues that the effect of making the world more
dependent on alcohol than oil for its transportation needs will be good
for controlling both conventional pollution and reducing the production
of greenhouse gases.
My guess is that President Bush could make fuel choice his
most lasting, and laudable legacy if he were to mandate Flexible Fuel
Vehicles via executive order, rather than wait for Congress to legislate
it. He could inspire the country to action by urging Americans to buy a
new FFV car as their tangible and practical contribution to our energy
security, accelerating the transformation of our national fleet.
Failing that, I hope our countrymen will emulate the recent campaign by
proponents of border security, who sent bricks to their elected
representatives as a way of urging them to build the needed fence. Buy
a copy of Energy Victory for your Congressman and urge them to act on
its practical, near-term and highly cost-effective strategy for actually
doing something about energy insecurity. Once legislators have gotten
their copy and the message, they can donate the rest to libraries in
their districts, thereby allowing other Americans to learn how we can
make oil just another commodity, for the benefit of this country and its
friends around the world.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Comments by clicking here.
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© 2006, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.