Cliff May

“We are financing a war against ourselves,” writes Robert Zubrin, nuclear engineer and author of a new book responding to the distressing fact that Americans and Europeans are sending trillions of dollars to militant Islamists whose goal is our destruction.

But in his new book “Energy Victory,” Dr. Zubrin does not just complain. He proposes a way to break free of dependence on a resource controlled by those who have declared themselves our mortal enemies. The technology already exists. It’s not expensive. All that is lacking is for voters to make this a priority -- and to communicate that to the political class.

Right now, 97 percent of the cars on America’s roads run on gasoline. Only three percent are Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) – automobiles that can be powered by either gasoline or alcohol fuels, or any mixture of the two. The additional cost to make a new car an FFV is only about $100 per vehicle.

For the sake of individual security, the government mandates that all cars have seat belts. For the sake of national security, Dr. Zubrin proposes, the government should mandate that all new cars be FFVs.

In three years, that would put 50 million FFVs on the road. The free market would then mobilize to do what it does best: Entrepreneurs would compete to produce alternative, non-petroleum fuels for these potential customers.

Dr. Zubrin expects those fuels to be made from alcohol: ethanol and methanol. Ethanol is made from agricultural products, from plants of all kinds. Methanol can be made from biomass – even biodegradable garbage – as well as from natural gas or coal.

Ethanol can be produced right now for $1.50 a gallon; methanol for 93 cents a gallon. Dr. Zubrin expects the first generation of alternative fuels would be high alcohol-to-gasoline mixtures. These would provide better mileage while still dramatically reducing dependence on petroleum.

The key is you’d be free to choose: You could buy gasoline as you do now or you could buy fuels made mostly of alcohol, giving less money – and hence less power – to Iranian mullahs, Saudi clerics and Venezuelan despots.

As they say in those television ads: Wait! There’s more! Substituting alcohol for gasoline also would mean cleaner air and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Since alcohol fuels are water soluble and biodegradable, a spill would not have the harmful environmental impact that oil spills bring.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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