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Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:26 AM

Can flex-fuel cars put US on the road to low oil prices?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/10/oil-prices-climate-change-car


Eyal Aronoff believes the key to reducing oil prices lies in reprogramming the engine's of cars already on the road. Photograph: Robert Landau/Corbis

Eyal Aronoff identifies himself on his business card as an "oil addiction therapist". He's got an unconventional detox method, claiming he can get Americans off oil by making it cheaper to fill up their cars.

The software entrepreneur is a co-founder of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, a new organisation trying to make the case for cutting America's oil consumption both foreign and domestic.

He argues along with backers including James Woolsey, director of the CIA under Bill Clinton that if America cuts its use of oil in half over the next 10 years, prices on the global market would drop below $50 a barrel because of reduced demand. Americans would pay about $2 a gallon to fuel up or about half as much as they pay now.

The foundation proposes to reduce America's use of oil by widespread adoption of other liquid fuels, allowing motorists to fill up their cars interchangeably with petrol, ethanol, natural gas or methanol, at prices well below those prevailing today. The foundation also rejects the idea of subsidising cleaner fuels.

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Reply Can flex-fuel cars put US on the road to low oil prices? (Original post)
xchrom Dec 2012 OP
dipsydoodle Dec 2012 #1
NYC_SKP Dec 2012 #3
CrispyQ Dec 2012 #2
tinrobot Dec 2012 #4
wtmusic Dec 2012 #9
madrchsod Dec 2012 #5
Starboard Tack Dec 2012 #6
Nihil Dec 2012 #13
hunter Dec 2012 #7
NickB79 Dec 2012 #8
LTR Dec 2012 #11
NickB79 Dec 2012 #12
wtmusic Dec 2012 #10

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:33 AM

1. And at $50 a barrell

fracking would cease to be economic.

Would also help lead to the demise of the petrodollar recycling scheme.

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Response to dipsydoodle (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:56 AM

3. Doubtful.

First, this improbable scheme is pitting natural gas against petroleum, which means that our consumption of that resource will RISE.

We are already increasing our use of nat gas in generation of electrical power, sending significant amounts of it into the transportation sector would increase demand and make matters worse.

We need to retire our fleet of gas guzzlers and suvs and get more an more people into hybrids and electrics and small diesels... and off the highways and into public transportation modes.

Doing these things over a ten year period makes a lot more sense.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:55 AM

2. My sister says she pays 25 less per gallon.

She just bought a new Yukon & has a car payment after many years of not having one. She said the 25 would help make up the new car payment. I suggested she try cutting back on driving as a true eco, money saving alternative, but I'm just the wacky green-sheep in our family.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:19 AM

4. Does oil really need to be cheaper?

The more expensive oil gets, the less people will want to burn it.

We need to stop burning it.

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Response to tinrobot (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:12 PM

9. +1

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:23 AM

5. ethanol is no longer an option if the weather continues across the grainbelt

methanol is a iffy fuel for reasonably priced massed produced engines.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:43 AM

6. Bad idea in every way.

How about driving less, consuming less, exercising more and concentrating on saving our planet rather than making it easier and cheaper to expedite it's demise?

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Response to Starboard Tack (Reply #6)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 04:09 AM

13. Exactly right. (n/t)



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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:50 AM

7. Oil refineries have been increasing their use of natural gas, gas liquids, and electricity.

So we are, in some sense, already living in that "flex fuel" world. The gasoline or diesel fuel is the same but it takes fewer barrels of oil to make it.

In some places where natural gas is very inexpensive it is being turned directly into fuel oil and gasoline.

The original MTBE fiasco was a similar scheme. Cheap natural gas was turned into MTBE and mixed with lower octane gasoline to make a higher octane product that cost less than regular gasoline and required less oil to make.

Flex fuel vehicles are most useful for ethanol, but unnecessary. Ethanol could easily be transformed into ordinary gasoline components but that would make the math of ethanol use look even sillier than it already is.

We had a flex fuel vehicle for many years (until my kid let a friend drive it and wrecked it -- nobody was hurt thanks to air bags and seatbelts) but we rarely used anything but gasoline in that car. Higher percentage ethanol mixes were generally unavailable in California.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:10 PM

8. Cutting US demand by 50% would cut oil prices to $50/barrel. Um, no.

He completely ignores the fact that car fleets in Asia and Africa are growing rapidly right now, even at $100/barrel oil. Their added consumption dwarfs any cuts we could possibly make here in the US. Additionally, if you theoretically were able to drop world oil prices down to $50/barrel, it would make it even cheaper for people in developing nations to own cars, accelerating the demand for them.

As has been pointed out, ethanol is a bust. With the crazy weather we're bound to see more of, our ability to grow both food and fuel is pretty much off the table now. The idea of cellulosic ethanol isn't a solution either since that "waste" material is essential biomass vital to maintaining soil fertility in the long term.

Running cars on natural gas sounds appealing at first, and could be good for smaller markets like semi-trailers and tractors, but cheap nat. gas is only possible through fracking, which has a whole host of problems associated with it.

Oh, and need I mention Peak Oil?

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Response to NickB79 (Reply #8)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 01:18 PM

11. The problem with ethanol is corn

Corn is a terrible crop for fuel. It has a low energy yield compared to other products, and it's just a pain in the ass to cultivate and process..

Brazil succeeded with ethanol because they set up a very efficient system with sugarcane. Granted, sugar needs tropical climate to grow, and the U.S. might not have the infrastructure to do this effectively. But sugar's fellow grass plants have way more energy yield than corn and grow quickly and easily. But the agricultural lobbyists got too greedy and started shoving corn down everyone's throats.

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Response to LTR (Reply #11)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 06:21 PM

12. Grass-based ethanol is the cellulosic method I mentioned

The problem with cellulosic ethanol is that it basically stripmines the land of biomass to convert to fuel. This biomass, however, is vital for maintaining soil fertility as organic matter. Ask any gardener how valuable good compost is to their soil's ability to grow plants.

Without long fallow periods with green manure crops, or massively increased application rates of synthetic fertilizers, it is not sustainable to grow grasses for fuel.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:32 PM

10. He wants to make methanol from coal??

Of course...that will fix everything!

http://www.setamericafree.org/aronoffefs.pdf

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