Planet Gore

More viewer mail on flex fuels

Well, Planet Gore readers haven’t had enough of the flex-fuel debate quite yet:

With respect, I did not see where Iain Murray’s “Bringing Planet Earth to Planet Ethanol“ post addressed the most essential and powerful point of Robert Zubrin’s plan to convert America to a flex-fuel automobile standard:  that it can profoundly undercut the funding of Wahhabism. This very desirable goal trumps almost every objection listed in his post and in the Cato paper by M. A. Adelman he links to. And, of course, the secondary benefits Zubrin details, like spurring a self-help agricultural boom in the world’s poorest nations, only make this momentarily heavy-handed federal mandate all the more desirable.
If an FFV mandate costs every American an additional $150, and costs Detroit $150 million, so what? If the world is in no danger of running out of oil (a point with which I agree), so what? If America’s conversion to an agricultural-based ethanol / methanol economy consumes more energy than it creates (a debatable point), yet undermines our most dangerous enemies, so what? At $4 billion a piece, America’s 13 aircraft carriers are a loss on the nation’s balance sheet, but a net positive to American stability and world peace and. In matters of national security, cost is not a principal concern.

 Another reader is unconvinced that FFV will kill OPEC — or help national security:

The success of the industrial revolution in this country was in large part due to the availability of cheap energy. This success is what made this country an economic force and led to all of what we enjoy today. Let’s say we spend billions to develop more expensive alternate fuels — create the infrastructure to produce these fuels and abandon oil. So now OPEC lowers the cost of oil. Other countries not tied to this silly alternative-fuel scenario take advantage of the cheap energy, become world economic leaders, and then we become a second-rate power.

Most Planet Gore readers are dubious about veggie ethanol, but still have questions about liquid fuels derived from coal:

I am as averse to gummint mandates as the next conservatarian, but the auto industry already labors under such a crushing weight of regulation that mandating flex-fuel vehicles is fairly small beer considering the possible foreign-policy payoffs. Even if Mr. Zubrin’s projected benefits turn out to be illusory it’s certainly worth more of a shot that such mandated marginalia as tire-pressure monitoring. I take as dim a view of crop-based ethanol as do most of you, but coal-based liquid fuels may be another matter entirely and could be the economic chicken that the technological egg of flex-fuel may be capable of hatching. My apologies for stretching that metaphor so outrageously.

 Not all those questions come from coal optimists:

Why is it that nobody ever asks: “How many miles to the pound of coal do this electric car get?” I suspect that the answer isn’t pretty.

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