Why the United States must turn to alternative oil and gain fuel independence Essay

Oil exported to America costs us a lot, starting with the high costs and other unnecessary expenses. The American government has considered promoting the alternative fuels. One of the reasons for this is the obvious fact that the oil reserves are drying out, and that America could face oil shortage in future. Lee, 3-4) The term “alternative fuel”, according to the federal, means methanol, denatured ethanol, or any other alcohols; mixtures containing 85% or more (or such other percentage, but not less than 70%, as determined by the secretary, by rule, to provide for requirements relating to cold start, safety, or vehicle functions) by volume of methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols with gasoline or other fuels; natural gas; liquefied petroleum gas; hydrogen; coal-derived liquid fuels; fuels(other than alcohol) derived from biological materials; electricity(including electricity from solar energy); and any other fuel the secretary determines, by rule, is substantially not petroleum and would yield substantial energy security benefits and substantial environmental benefits. This is an essay to discuss why the American government should consider adopting these alternative fuels. (Simon, 42)

Why America should switch to alternative fuels The modern history of alternative fuels began in the mid-1970s, after the 1973 Arab oil embargo. There was a need to attain energy independence, and most organizations started looking for the possible ways to achieve this.

Today, the American government is still anxious about energy problems; most of which revolve around the shortage for liquid fuels for transportation and industrial uses. Two third of all the petroleum used in the U. S. economy is in the form of refined products to power cars, buses, ships, airplanes and trains. It is also used in running other machinery. However, among all the oils users, the transport sector remains to be the only sector that uses the highest percentage of oil, 97%, with the totality of the dependence being inflexible. It is estimated that America uses about 125 billion gallons of gasoline per year, with the transport sector requiring more oil than is produced domestically. (Freeman, 43-45) These great energy requirements are raising a lot of concerns among the Americans.

The increasing demand for oil is also creating reliance on politically unstable Persian Gulf oil suppliers. Besides that, the vehicles are also a major source of air pollution, and are contributing to global warming. It is predicted that in future the oil reserves will dry out. This could cause a major problem if a solution is not found immediately. America can reduce the amount of oil it uses, but only if another source of energy is available to replace it. This is the only viable solution that would not disrupt the live of the Americans. Adopting the use of alternative fuel is a good way to ensure a continued supply of energy in the economy.

It is also the only way that America can gain fuel independence; reason being that the oil it produces domestically can not be enough to meet the demand. (Stagliano, 109) Alternative energy will help improve the economy When alternative energy is used, economic feasibility is achieved because the costs that are associated with it are decreased. Examples of the alternative fuels with decreased charges include solar, wind and geothermal energy. The alternative fuels have also been promoted by energy regulations like the PURPA (Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act) of 1998. The Act required that the utilities purchase power from small power projects which use renewable sources of energy. Other alternative ways that could be sources of getting energy included coal, oil shale, and biomass.

A source like natural gas has been ignored in most countries because natural gas is a rare resource, including in the U. S. In the 1980s, the government invested tens of billions of dollars in alternative fuel plants, which converted coal and oil shale in to fuel. However, the popularity of coal and oil shale was decreasing because the manufacturing costs were increasing than it was expected. They were also not effective in meeting the environmental needs of reducing air pollution.

Despite the billions of dollars that had been invested on the fuel plants, the U. S. was forced to shift its focus to using natural gas and methanol in internal combustion engines. (DraKoln, 30) The U. S should consider using alternative fuels, as they have been helpful in improving economies of some countries. An example of a country that has been able to improve its economy by using renewable alternative energy is Sweden. It was the first country in 2005 to pledge a commitment to fossil fuel independence by the year 2020. A lot of the renewable energy used in Sweden comes from hydro electric power, but it has also introduced biomass as an energy source. In 2007, the country increased its share of renewable energy use to 28% of the total energy supply due to its reliance on biomass for over 60% of its domestic heating needs. The rest of renewable energies accounted for less than one percent of the total energy supply.

The country has also introduced policies to improve energy consumption; an example is a policy aimed at increasing the energy efficiency in buildings, and has a target of using 50% less energy by 2050. Its Commission of Oil Independence is still working hard to introduce other policies which will enable them meet the goal of fuel independence by the year 2020. (Smith, etal, 90) If America adopted such policies, it would achieve the goal of fuel independence easily. Fuel independence According to the book ‘Lives per Gallon’, it is estimated, using p10 as a guideline, that there is no more than approximately 800 billion barrels, or 20% less than today’s widely accepted estimates of oil. Kenneth Princeton, a Geologist at Princeton University says that we are now living in a “permanent shortage of oil. More people have estimated the oil shortage situation, and it has been said that the peak of oil shortage will be reached before 2011.

There is no doubt that the oil shortage will affect the U. S greatly, considering the high rate at which Americans are using oil. Other developed countries will also face the problem, including China and Japan, whose oil demands are increasing every day. The U. S geological survey also predicts that in the next forty years, we will already have ran out of affordable oil. This is supported by the fact that between 1980 and1990, discovery of new oil reserves added 60% to the world’s proven reserves, but between 1990 and 2000, only 4% more was added. (Tamminen, 69)

It is scarier that our supply of natural gas that is closely associated with the petroleum development will have run out 60 years from now, just two decades after the oil reserves dry out. It might seem impossible for these predictions to occur, but they may be true as BP’s website agrees with them. Forty years may seem to be a very long time to come, but calculations further assume that we will be able to extract oil from all the reserves at a price we are willing to pay, whereas the reality is very likely to be something else. A report done by Goldman Sachs reported that although the oil companies know this, they are not willing to admit it.

The big challenge that remains is not to estimate the amount of oil that is left underground, but the rate at which we are consuming it, together with other forces that might lead to oil instability in future. It is time that America realized that the 1973 Arab oil embargo was a manmade shortage, and that the future expected shortages can not be avoided by any government. (Smith, 90) There are several steps that can be followed in order to gain fuel independence. These include: 1) Conservation Conservation is the first step towards achieving oil independence. This was stated by Vice President Dick Cheney in April 2001 at a speech to the Associated Press in Toronto. In his opinion, conservation would be the solution to the energy problem.

Although it may not offer complete solutions, it could be the first step to fuel independence. In the past, conservation has yielded good results, like the electricity shortage in California a few years ago, which was solved through electricity conservation. 2) Fuel efficiency The next step towards fuel independence is to use the oil that we currently have efficiently. This means that we must buy the most fuel efficient vehicles available. Instead of buying gasoline powered cars, we could use the gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, like those made by Toyota and Honda available in the market. Other car makers should make a point of introducing them too. Stagliano, 64) Such cars have the ability to cover a distance of 60 miles, just by using a gallon of gasoline, thanks to the electric motor that runs at a slow speed, and assists the small gasoline engine at higher speeds. Energy independence also entails purchasing the most fuel efficient vehicles, whatever the class and size.

It also means sending every possible signal to Detroit, Tokyo, Munich and Seoul; they should concentrate in production of the most fuel efficient cars. Hybrids are not the only fuel efficient vehicles available. Auto makers like General Motors are slowly re-introducing the electric vehicles (EV) that are run on battery only, which can be recharged at homes or at the large network of EV charging stations that have been built around the country in the past decade. Gordon, 69) Another alternative could be the use of vehicles powered by natural gas. Natural gas is a renewable fossil fuel, cleaned at every stage of extraction, preparation, and delivery. Renewable natural gas is harvested from decomposing waste materials and landfills, including from sources such as urban green waste and dairies. Biofuels like ethanol, which is made from corn is cleaner than petroleum and can be produced domestically from organic waste materials. The U. S. is already using this fuel, with a number of vehicles designed to use them, containing up to 85% ethanol. The challenge of using biofuel will be to find enough source of biomass.

This means that we would have to plant more Soya beans, in order to make biofuels that could replace the petroleum used allover the country every year. 3) Evolve to hydrogen oil Instead of using petroleum, we could shift to using the hydrogen fuel cells. These are already powering transportation around the world. The first commercial demonstration of hydrogen fueled fleet was seen in 1993 in Canada. In 1994, hydrogen powered shuttle buses shuttled tourists around the common wealth games in Vancouver. Other cities like Chicago, Amsterdam, Singapore, London, Hamburg and Luxembourg, among others, introduced the hydrogen powered vehicles too. Today, they are commonly used in many places worldwide.

This plan has also been supported by companies, for example, the Chevron, AC Transit together with other partners, which opened a fueling station in Oakland in 2006; to fuel hydrogen powered passenger vehicles and buses. Major auto makers in the U. S. , Asia and Europe, already have hydrogen powered fuel cell cars in demonstrations around the world, including at the California Fuel Cell Partnership in Sacramento, California. Hybrid vehicles can also become zero-oils if renewable hydrogen becomes more available. It is possible to completely replace petroleum in cars within a few years, but only if we are determined to do it. It is also possible for airplanes to fly safely, just on alternative fuels.

Generally, hydrogen commercialization all over the world is showing that there is a path to energy independence. Alternative fuels will improve the economy The use of alternative fuels would be important in improving the economy. If America would use the alternative fuels, the dependency on imported oil from the Middle East would reduce. Further more, the expanded fuel standards would create a high demand for alternative fuels. This would be a great boost for American investors and entrepreneurs, and hence accelerating the private investments and the technological department. Use of alternative fuels would also result to an increase in the fuel economy of the American automobiles as fast as the technology would allow.

The economy would also be free and less vulnerable to supply disruptions, as the alternative fuels would be produced internally. (2008 budget, 14) Creation of jobs One of the ways through which the use of alternative oils would benefit the economy is trough creation of jobs. In 2004, the American Biodiesel supporters benefited when the congress passed the American Jobs Creation Act. This Act was designed to stimulate the U. S economy through encouraging domestic manufacturing. Over the next ten years, this Act should deliver $137 billion in tax incentives to the American employers. The biodiesel tax incentive is among the incentives, and it promises to increase the profits for the biodiesel manufacturers and distributors.

It should also lower the biodiesel prices at the pump. The American jobs Creation Act gives the biodiesel blenders one penny for every percentage point of virgin-oil-based or animal-fat-based biodiesel, blended with petroleum diesel. Those blenders who use the biodiesel made from recycled oil are eligible for one half a penny for every percentage point of recycled oil-based biodiesel-blended. The demand of biodiesel is expected to improve if it is made more competitive with the diesel fuel. This increased demand of biodiesel could mean the creation of as many as 50,000 new jobs, all related to production of biodiesel. (Tickell, 194) Alternative fuels strengthen the economy

The renewable fuels industry has the potential to create over million jobs, and at the same time add over $50 to the economy every year, and also decrease the trade deficit by at least 30%. The alternative oils would help to reduce the trade deficit. The trade balance of a country is the ration of the value of exports to the value of imports. When the value of imports exceeds the value of exports, a trade deficit occurs. When a country has a trade deficit, it has produced less then it has consumed, and its wealth has decreased. (Inslee, 271) If a trade deficit occurs every year, the monetary reserves of a country will eventually be depleted and it will go in to debt.

If left unpaid, the national debt can destabilize the country. In 1965, the U. S. trade deficit was $5 billion. That year, petroleum imports accounted for $2 billion of the deficit. At that time, the national debt was roughly $320 billion. By the year 1995, the U. S. trade deficit had increased to $174 billion with petroleum imports accounting for $33 billion of the deficit. In 1995, the national debt stood at almost $5 trillion. The DOE estimates that for every $1 billion reduction in trade deficit, the U. S can gain 27,000 jobs. By producing 100 percent of its fuel domestically, the U. S. could decrease the annual trade deficit by over $53 billion and create 1. 3 million jobs in the biofuels and supporting services industries. (Boyle, 16) The ethanol industry is a good example of an alternative fuel that has created a positive impact on the economy. In 1980, less than 25 million gallon of ethanol was produced in the United States.

Today, more than 1. 6 billion gallons of ethanol are produced annually. Although much of the ethanol produced is sold as industrial alcohol, ethanol is increasingly being added to gasoline to raise octane levels. Every year, the ethanol industry has the following economic impact in the U. S: the addition of $51 billion to the entire U. S. economy, an increase in farm income by $2. billion, or nearly 3%, 5,800 jobs and an estimated 50,000 indirect service jobs, the generation of $55 million in federal taxes and a $1. 3 billion reduction in trade deficit. It is interesting to note that the ethanol industry’s contribution to reducing the trade deficit is only slightly less than the number of gallons of ethanol produced annually. The ethanol industry creates jobs, decreases the national trade deficit, generates tax revenues, and stimulates the economy. The economic succession of the domestic ethanol industry indicates the future economic benefits of using alternative sources of energy. (Tickell, 60-62) If Americans would buy vehicles that are powered by the renewable sources, they would cause a major economic boost.

The money that would have gone overseas would instead be used to pay farmers who grew the fuel crop (soybeans, corn), the truck drivers who transported the crop, the machines to process the crop into fuel, the people who run the machines and the people to market the fuel. These people would definitely pay taxes, and this way, every person will have contributed to the growth of the economy. An alternative fuels economy will result in a higher quality of social services, lower unemployment, and increased national security. (Tickell, 22) The need for a sustainable future What we should expect in the future depends a lot on what we will do in the next ten years.

Americans must embark on the journey to alternative energy supply today if we expect the next ten years and beyond to be prosperous and peaceful in a liable environment. In order to achieve this, there are several changes that need to take place. First, the America’s automobile fleet needs to be replaced with one that utilizes the alternative energy sources, and power plants will be remodeled and used for production of the alternative fuel. This means that we have a good opportunity to replace the inefficient energy-using equipment that we have with more efficient versions. Oil can be replaced with use of wind and solar, and biomass can allow us to cut the electricity costs by more than a half. (Blackburn, 99)

Conclusion. The analysis of the role of fuel efficiency and the switch to alternative fuels means that even if a purely taken technical fix, product level approach were taken, only a combined strategy of both improving fuel economy and developing alternative fuels stands any hope of achieving fuel independence in the United States. In future, America can expect to reap from investing in alternative fuels. The new processes for converting municipal waste and other biomass to useful energy will have been demonstrated and built in large numbers as routinely as gas turbines are built today. If the campaign for the alternative fuel continues, then we should have steady product improvement in solar and wind technologies. There could also be other new comers to the alternative energy scene in a few years time, including fusion power, solar in the sky, tidal or ocean current power, and magnetic power.