Reforms to ethanol policy key to independence on oil

The United States currently imports 3.3 billion barrels a year of crude oil. This yields 66 billion gallons a year of gasoline, about 50 percent of America’s total gasoline usage.

Recent articles in the Hill have talked about the need for more oil drilling in the U.S. and easier approval for offshore oil drilling. These steps are not necessary.

Electric vehicles are wonderful technology but, with 250,000,000 cars and light trucks already on the road, a few hundred thousand electric vehicles over 10 years cannot possibly make a significant dent in the amount of imported oil.

What can make us independent of imported oil is a mandate that 50 percent of all light-duty vehicles be capable of burning E100 (98/2, ethanol/iso-propanol) with strict mileage requirements by Jan 1, 2017.

The 19-year attempt to promote E85 (85/15, ethanol/gasoline) as an alternative fuel has been a failure. Only 27 million gallons (0.2 percent) of the 13.2 billion gallons of the fuel ethanol made in the U.S. in 2010 went into E85. This is because E85 is being put into an engine optimized for gasoline yielding poor mileage, higher cost per mile, and more frequent refueling stops — all negatives for the consumer.

These negatives cannot be overcome by continuing to put ethanol into an engine optimized for gasoline. The engines need to be optimized for ethanol just like the E98 engines used in the Indianapolis 500 this last Memorial Day weekend.

Engine technology exists to make competitively priced engines that can be optimized for E100 yet could still burn gasoline if E100 were not available. Millions of these engines could be made starting within a year if an all-out effort were made.

Like airbags, seat belts and unleaded fuel, however, these technologies will not come into production without a government mandate. S.187, HR 404, and HR 1687 could be changed with very few words to produce this mandate.

The ethanol industry is capable of increasing production capacity to hit 66 billion gallons of ethanol. This increased production would come through using waste paper, algae or other cellulosic materials. Since these processes use carbon already above ground, we would reduce CO2 emissions by 660 million tons/year, a huge decrease.

This strategy would be similar, not identical, to what Brazil did to turn itself into a net crude-oil exporter. Every gasoline station in Brazil has a dispenser offering the Brazilian version of E100, called Etanol Comun. More than 80 percent of all new light-duty vehicles sold in Brazil can burn Etanol Comun. 

The above strategy would eliminate any need for a complicated cap-and-trade system, greatly decrease the need for bringing up new carbon from underground and, at long last, make the U.S. independent of imported oil.

Sterling Heights, Mich 

US should institute term limits for congressmen

From Ernest Casey 

We need to set up regulations on how long senators and congressmen can serve. Get new blood in there every 9 or 10 years. Get good new ideas. We don’t all have to agree but we have to make sure our country survives. Given the time this administration has been in office even I could have come up with something better than we have. The bottom line is that our elected officials do not listen to those that elected them. Once they are in Washington, it’s good-bye home state and “what can the lobbyist do for me?” 

Since growing up in North Carolina and being in the military and working for the Army for more than 30 years I have honestly learned you can’t spend more than you have. The Democratic Party wants to spend what we don’t have on special projects that just fly through our taxes, and the Republicans want to cut everything off at the knees. Anyone with common sense could work out a normal solution to these issues. Let’s get some new blood in office, then get some money in the bank and cut some of the outlandish programs we have for those that can work but have scammed our so-called government for money handouts. God bless all Americans.


Improve fuel efficiency to prevent disasters

From Dominique Burgunder-Johnson

Drivers are being forced to pay near-record gas prices as Big Oil rakes in billions in profits. We can’t control the price of gas, but we CAN control how much we need to use.

Improving fuel efficiency is a win across the board — saving drivers money, cutting pollution that threatens our public health and natural resources, reducing the need for risky oil drilling operations and helping to avoid catastrophes like the Gulf oil disaster. Global warming pollution is the single biggest threat today to our wildlife and our outdoor traditions. If we want our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities to enjoy the outdoors that we’ve had, we owe it to them to cut pollution now to curb the worst effects of global warming.

Washington, D.C.