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Can the US sustain multiple national fuel standards?

  1. May 9, 2006 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    One issue that I see quickly evolving is that of an eclectic national alternative fuel market. Until now we have enjoyed the luxury of only two real fuel options for transportation, which has made thing simple for consumers. However, we may now face as many as a dozen options before this all sorts itself out. When one considers distribution costs in both energy and dollars - the overall system efficiency - does it makes sense to allow the market to sort out our best options, or would it make more sense to set national standards to drive the market to a calculated position?

    Presently we see ethanol taking a lead, but we could just as easily switch the focus to biodiesel options, which I believe is a more [much more?] efficient well-to-wheels option. At the same time, natural gas powered hybrids, and everything from gasoline powered to H2 powered fuel cells are being developed.

    In many cases, in addition to and as a consequence of the local natural resources that can be used to produce fuel - corn, wood, sugar beets or cane, waste products from humans and animals, coal, algae...and maybe even grasses - large industrial operations will also be able to produce any of several possible fuels as a byproduct of existing processes. So we might expect local pockets rich in one of hydrogen, methane, ethanol, or other bio-fuels, but possibly with only one or two abundant in most areas.

    How to best apply each of these resources: As part of a national strategy, or as individual enterprises to be left to market forces? Will a natural, uniform market evolve in which, for example, a car from Long Beach California will be able to find the needed fuel in Portland, Oregon, or, if left to market forces, will we find ourselves constrained to stay within the geographic limits of local fuel options? The latter would certainly impede the change to domestic energy sources.

    On the other hand, at this point we don’t really know which fuel options will be most practical; so at what point should we intervene with a national plan, if ever? And can we trust politicians to sort this out better than market forces could?
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2006
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  3. May 11, 2006 #2

    russ_watters

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    Two? How 'bout four? Few gas stations have less than the typical 3 different grades of gas (plus diesel). I don't see a problem in requiring them to replace one with, say, ethanol, but a better solution may be making flex-fuel cars that don't care what you put in them as long as it is gas-like or diesel-like.
     
  4. May 11, 2006 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    By two I meant gasoline and diesel, both of which use the same refineries and distribution system. And flex cars would be great. Now, how do we know these will be the option of choice? I would like a flex-fuel diesel hybrid, but no such thing exists on the market. It could; the technology is all there.
     
  5. May 11, 2006 #4

    russ_watters

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    I posted something, but I guess it didn't go through. I know what you meant about the 2 fuels, but if the distribution means 4 separate trucks to each gas station, it wouldn't be hard to replace one with something else. And the refining can likely just be converted - they already make 4 product lines for gas stations (and likely several more for other purposes), it shouldn't be that hard to shift a product line.

    And I'm in favor of government incentives/pressure to help accomplish this.
     
  6. May 11, 2006 #5

    Pengwuino

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    Sounds like Beta vs. VHS or whatever :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    I say if hydrogen sources don't become too unreasonbly priced, force that on people. Otherwise let market forces sort it out.
     
  7. May 11, 2006 #6

    Art

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    It's HD-DVD vs Blu Ray these days. :biggrin: And market forces only work properly in a free market.
     
  8. May 21, 2006 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    I guess the biggest problem that I see is that it may not make sense to distribute all fuels to all areas. Also, when we are comparing basic petroleum products to each other, the distribution systems are mostly interchangable, but methane can't be carried by gasoline tankers, and hydrogen can't be carried by methane delivery systems, etc.

    A story in the news:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=1983907

    What programs do we support? How do we decide given so many directions to go at once?
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2006
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