The Problem: Current regulations are preventing Americans from having increased fuel choices in cars that would reduce our dependence on OPEC and fluctuating global prices.
America spends about $30 billion a year on coal, $88 billion on natural gas and $266 billion on oil, according to the non-partisan Fuel Freedom Foundation. Virtually all the money spent on coal and natural gas stays in this country.
But almost half the money spent on oil, $125 billion, goes to foreign producers -- about 25 percent of our national trade deficit.
We import almost 10 million barrels of oil every day and much of the money for this is going to fund the interests of nations that are hostile to us -- at the expense of hardworking Americans.
The Solution: Encourage car manufacturers to make more automobiles with a 'flex fuel' option.
This would allow consumers to gas up with fuels that are partially made from corn, like ethanol, or from natural gas, like methanol, thus reducing the amount of oil we import.
The Trump administration is currently reviewing tough U.S. vehicle fuel-efficiency standards it inherited from the Obama White House and advocates are urging the president to revise these requirements to encourage greater use of flex fuel alternatives. A final decision is expected this winter.
“If you give manufacturers an incentive by reducing some of their current requirements and making it easier and cheaper to build faster and better-performing cars, they’d love that,” former CIA Director James Woolsey, a board member of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, tells Newsmax.
“They would probably move very quickly to make the tiny changes that are necessary in order to make cars run on ethanol, methanol or whatever.
“This is freeing from regulation,” he said.
In 1975, Congress enacted Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards regulating how far vehicles must be able to travel on a gallon of fuel. The current standards, set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are 27.5 mpg for automobiles and 22.2 mpg for light-duty trucks.
Manufacturers whose cars exceed the mileage requirements in any model year earn “credits,” which also encourages them to develop vehicles that burn alternative fuels -- ethanol, methanol, liquefied natural gas, among them -- or “flex-fuel” cars.
“The government should not pick winners and losers when it comes to commerce and business, but the transportation sector is shaped by government policy,” the foundation said in a report last year.
“With common-sense public policies in place, American drivers will be able to save money by having options for both oil and natural gas, as well as biofuel and electricity, to power their vehicles.
“The result? True and lasting energy independence,” the report said.
That independence comes, Woolsey and other foundation leaders say, by altering the CAFE standards to provide incentives for car manufacturers to make more flex-fuel vehicles, particularly those that burn ethanol.
“Lots of things can be better if we can conceive of them, instead of issuing orders saying: ‘You will do this. You will do that,’” Woolsey told Newsmax. “That’s the way autocratic governments work.
“But we have a free market — and we’re not using the free market now to get cleaner and more efficient fuels,” he added. “We’re bogged down in regulation.”
Yossie Hollander, the foundation’s co-founder and chairman, told Newsmax that America currently has 22 million flex-fuel cars on its roadways, using as much as 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, or “E85.”
By 2011, most cars on U.S. roads could run on “E10” -- 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gas, he said.
The United States became the world’s largest producer of ethanol in 2005, with production increasing after President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
The law required 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel use by 2022.
According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, more than 3,100 E85 stations are operating in 42 U.S. states. The Department of Agriculture has provided $210 million for installing new ethanol infrastructure at over 1,400 stations in 20 states.
Ethanol, on average, costs about 50 cents less per gallon than gasoline, Hollander said.
“We already have a lot of experience with this technology,” he told Newsmax. “All the car companies know how to produce them, because they produce them here or in other countries.
“If we have more cars that are flex-fuel in the United States, then there will be more of a market for ethanol because it’s cheaper,” Hollander said.
Ethanol is made from corn or other sugar-based feedstocks -- cane, beets, molasses -- and natural gas, though federal legislation would need to be modified for such production.
The corn ethanol target was 15 billion gallons a year by 2015. The annual goal for other fuels was 16 billion.
Rising ethanol production brings many other benefits, Hollander told Newsmax: jobs in agriculture, construction, operations and maintenance, mostly in rural communities, and -- ultimately -- energy independence.
“Let’s create more competition,” he said. “If we create a bigger market for ethanol because there’s more flex-fuel cars in the United States, people can plant more corn on the same land.
“People will start building more natural gas-to-ethanol plants, especially in all the places where we have more natural gas because of oil production and fracking -- and you’re immediately creating ethanol that can be delivered locally.
“You’re creating millions of jobs all across the United States -- and with private investment that wants to take advantage of the difference between gas and oil,” Hollander said.
He and Joseph Cannon, the foundation’s president and CEO, said greater use of alternative fuels further weaned the United States from foreign oil.
The United States consumes 18 million barrels of oil a day, though it produces 11 million, with the balance coming from the Middle East.
“We’re an oil price-spike away from economic disaster in the United States,” Cannon adds. “Until we have fuel choice, diversity, options in the market, we will always be stuck with OPEC.”
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