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A Review By Ben Cerruti of
Energy Victory by Robert Zubrin
If one where to agree with the author's premise that "the war on terror?\" in which the U.S. is now engaged is directly connected to energy dependence, he has presented in this book a rational approach to winning that battle in the next decade. By finding a way to diminish the outrageous profits that Saudi Arabia, the major source of inexpensively produced oil, both their direct and indirect funding of terrorism would, in turn, be diminished.
According to the author, in 1983 there were 600 methanol-fueled automobiles including 561 Ford Escorts operating in California's state fleet that were a great technical success. Further, "after seven years of use and abuse, more than 90% of the original Escorts were still running strong". He points out that Methanol can be made from any biomass, as well as from natural gas or coal, and the U.S. has a 243-year supply of comparatively inexpensive coal. A reader can then reasonably make the case that the U.S. has the supply of at least one alternate fuel necessary to wean itself away from its pure dependency on gasoline. However, the author also proposes a market driven option that includes the use of Ethanol along with Gasoline.
He states that, flex-fuel cars with advanced exhaust monitoring technology would allow the use of methanol, ethanol and gasoline in any proportion. However, to drive the market, a government mandate stating that all new cars sold in the U.S. must be flex-fuel vehicles capable of burning any combination of gasoline and alcohol would be required. Service stations would add pumps to supply the alcohol-derived flex-fuels. The relative price of the fuels would determine the amount of their individual use.
By providing technical and economic information to that effect he skillfully counters the use of Hydrogen as a meaningful fuel. Regarding Ethanol, he less skillfully attempts to debunk the claims that subsidies to corn producers are legitimate use of tax dollars. He also does not address the fact that the demand for corn for Ethanol use increases the overall demand and that increases the price to the corn-eating public.
Regarding other alternate sources of energy he adroitly points out their characteristics and relative potential contributions to the mix. Wind and solar, although helpful, are obviously not reliable since they are dependent on climatic conditions. He also points out that Nuclear has proven to be a reliable and relatively safe world source of power despite the highly publicized accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island; that the effective solution for the disposal of nuclear waste has been known for years but shunned by DOE bureaucrats. He encourages concerted effort in developing our nuclear resources extensively to meet the future energy needs of this world.
To mollify the "global warming" zealots he makes statements like "global warming will have to be addressed in due course". However, in his chapter on the subject his analysis is one that an objective reader would consider as having a meaning that global warming is not necessarily as serious as is has been presented to the world. To which I concur.
There should be no doubt to a reader of this book that the author has made a convincing argument for mandating flex-fuel cars as the vehicle of the future in the U.S. However, it is apparent that it will take leadership, especially in the executive branch of government, and should be a prime issue for debate during the period leading up to the November 2008 Presidential Election.
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