Future Energy eNews IntegrityResearchInstitute.org May 7, 2006
1) Global Warming and Climate Change Banned by White House - Deliberate censorship finally exposed
2) Valone Reinstated by the Patent Office - Article by Science & Government Report makes up for 1999
3) Wave Power Gets a Boost from a Ferrofluid - Magnet field concentrator & lubricator = wave electricity
4) The Snapper Grabs Up Wave Power - UK invention uses parallel magnet chains that pulse electricity
5) Alternative Fuels Ensure a Strong Future - Former CIA Director says hybrids will eliminate oil imports
Researchers Feeling Heat From White House
By Juliet Eilperin, April 6, 2006, Washington Post Staff Writer, p. A27 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/05/AR2006040502150.html?referrer=emailarticle
Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing.
Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.
These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, point climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.
"There has been a change in how we're expected to interact with the press," said Pieter Tans, who measures greenhouse gases linked to global warming and has worked at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder for two decades. He added that although he often "ignores the rules" the administration has instituted, when it comes to his colleagues, "some people feel intimidated -- I see that."
Christopher Milly, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said he had problems twice while drafting news releases on scientific papers describing how climate change would affect the nation's water supply.
Once in 2002, Milly said, Interior officials declined to issue a news release on grounds that it would cause "great problems with the department." In November 2005, they agreed to issue a release on a different climate-related paper, Milly said, but "purged key words from the releases, including 'global warming,' 'warming climate' and 'climate change.' "
Administration officials said they are following long-standing policies that were not enforced in the past. Kent Laborde, a NOAA public affairs officer who flew to Boulder last month to monitor an interview Tans did with a film crew from the BBC, said he was helping facilitate meetings between scientists and journalists.
"We've always had the policy, it just hasn't been enforced," Laborde said. "It's important that the leadership knows something is coming out in the media, because it has a huge impact. The leadership needs to know the tenor or the tone of what we expect to be printed or broadcast."
Several times, however, agency officials have tried to alter what these scientists tell the media. When Tans was helping to organize the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference near Boulder last fall, his lab director told him participants could not use the term "climate change" in conference paper's titles and abstracts. Tans and others disregarded that advice.
None of the scientists said political appointees had influenced their research on climate change or disciplined them for questioning the administration. Indeed, several researchers have received bigger budgets in recent years because President Bush has focused on studying global warming rather than curbing greenhouse gases. NOAA's budget for climate research and services is now $250 million, up from $241 million in 2004.
The assertion that climate scientists are being censored first surfaced in January when James Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the New York Times and The Washington Post that the administration sought to muzzle him after he gave a lecture in December calling for cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. (NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin issued new rules recently that make clear that its scientists are free to talk to members of the media about their scientific findings and to express personal interpretations of those findings.
Two weeks later, Hansen suggested to an audience at the New School University in New York that his counterparts at NOAA were experiencing even more severe censorship. "It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," he told the crowd.
NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. responded by sending an agency-wide e-mail that said he is "a strong believer in open, peer-reviewed science as well as the right and duty of scientists to seek the truth and to provide the best scientific advice possible."
"I encourage our scientists to speak freely and openly," he added. "We ask only that you specify when you are communicating personal views and when you are characterizing your work as part of your specific contribution to NOAA's mission."
NOAA scientists, however, cite repeated instances in which the administration played down the threat of climate change in their documents and news releases. Although Bush and his top advisers have said that Earth is warming and human activity has contributed to this, they have questioned some predictions and caution that mandatory limits on carbon dioxide could damage the nation's economy.
In 2002, NOAA agreed to draft a report with Australian researchers aimed at helping reef managers deal with widespread coral bleaching that stems from higher sea temperatures. A March 2004 draft report had several references to global warming, including "Mass bleaching . . . affects reefs at regional to global scales, and has incontrovertibly linked to increases in sea temperature associated with global change."
A later version, dated July 2005, drops those references and several others mentioning climate change.
NOAA has yet to release the report on coral bleaching. James R. Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said he decided in late 2004 to delay the report because "its scientific basis was so inadequate." Now that it is revised, he said, he is waiting for the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve it. "I just did not think it was ready for prime time," Mahoney said. "It was not just about climate change -- there were a lot of things."
On other occasions, Mahoney and other NOAA officials have told researchers not to give their opinions on policy matters. Konrad Steffen directs the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a joint NOAA-university institute with a $40 million annual budget. Steffen studies the Greenland ice sheet, and when his work was cited last spring in a major international report on climate change in the Arctic, he and another NOAA lab director from Alaska received a call from Mahoney in which he told them not to give reporters their opinions on global warming.
Steffen said that he told him that although Mahoney has considerable leverage as "the person in command for all research money in NOAA . . . I was not backing down."
Mahoney said he had "no recollection" of the conversation, which took place in a conference call. "It's virtually inconceivable that I would have called him about this," Mahoney said, though he added: "For those who are government employees, our position is they should not typically render a policy view."
Tans, whose interviews with the BBC crew were monitored by Laborde, said Laborde has not tried to interfere with the interviews. But Tans said he did not understand why he now needs an official "minder" from Washington to observe his discussions with the media. "It used to be we could say, 'Okay, you're welcome to come in, let's talk,' " he said. "There was never anything of having to ask permission of anybody."
The need for clearance from Washington, several NOAA scientists said, amounts to a "pocket veto" allowing administration officials to block interviews by not giving permission in time for journalists' deadlines.
Ronald Stouffer, a climate research scientist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, estimated his media requests have dropped in half because it took so long to get clearance to talk from NOAA headquarters. Thomas Delworth, one of Stouffer's colleagues, said the policy means Americans have only "a partial sense" of what government scientists have learned about climate change.
"American taxpayers are paying the bill, and they have a right to know what we're doing," he said.
Researcher Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.
2) Patent Office To Reinstate Fired Cold-Fusion-Believing Examiner
Science and Government Report: The Independent Bulletin of Science Policy, Volume XXXV, Number 15/October 01, 2005 http://newenergytimes.com/Inthenews/2006/PatentOfficeToReinstate.htm
Cold fusion must have at least nine lives, or so it must seem to the vast majority of physicists who consider it pseudoscience. Last year, two events brought cold fusion back into the spotlight, if only briefly. The Department of Energy (DOE) completed a secret review of the progress that has occurred in the field since the sensational 1988 announcement of room temperature fusion in a jar, finding nothing to merit a change to its hands-off treatment. Also last year, Eugene Mallove, a cold fusion zealot who founded and published Infinite Energy magazine, was beaten to death during a robbery near a rental property he was visiting in Norwich, CT.
Now, cold fusion has been unearthed once again, as another fusion proselytizer won a six-year battle to overturn his firing as a patent examiner. Thomas Valone's 1999 dismissal had been the direct result of efforts he had undertaken to promote cold fusion.
Valone's boss at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) alleged violations of federal regulations in the course of his efforts to locate and schedule a government facility to house a cold fusion conference he was organizing. In late July, a federal arbitrator overturned his dismissal, ordering USPTO to reinstate Valone. He also ordered the agency to pay the salary he would have received during his six years off.
The mediator, Robert Moore, didn't try to weigh the merits of cold fusion, though he did find "nothing wrong in being in the forefront of ideas and theories whose time may have not yet arrived, and may never." His decision was based on the fine points of human relations practice; PTO had built its case for firing Valone in part on incidents that were too minor to have counted against him, he ruled. Valone had been denied due process, he said, and USPTO had also failed to sufficiently substantiate its two principal charges against Valone—that he had repeatedly misrepresented the agency and that his cold fusion activities had interfered with his job. More about that later.
But Moore's lengthy narrative of the case and his decision strayed well beyond the particulars of Valone's case. The reader is presented with an unflattering look inside USPTO offices, where examiners are expected to meet quarterly "goals" on the number of applications they process, a workplace feature Moore said outside observers might view as contributing to a "sweatshop."
Examiners' ineligibility for overtime or compensatory time is "fully exploited" by the agency, he wrote.
Plenty of evidence was uncovered during the arbitration proceedings showing that examiners routinely must work in excess of 40 hours a week. Job tension, he wrote, "is a way of life for examiners." In such an environment, it was "unimaginable" that Valone had been "counseled" (a disciplinary action shy of a reprimand) by a supervisor for taking an hour off to speak during the public comment session of a DoE meeting.
"With the disruption and destruction of the private and family lives of examiners caused by the PTO's goals systems, it is amazing to have to chastise [Valone] over skipping out on an hour of government time," he wrote.
Moore also took a dim view of a directive issued by USPTO prohibiting Valone from visiting the examiner who handled cold fusion and other "alternative energy" patent claims. USPTO argued the ban was needed to keep Valone from harassing the examiner, but the examiner's own accounts of the meetings seemed to indicate that he didn't feel harassed.
The PTO officials' real motives, Moore judged, were to muzzle Valone's cold fusion beliefs. Moore rhetorically wondered if the same officials would have dared to prevent an examiner who opposes intrauterine devices on moral grounds from meeting with and proselytizing the USPTO examiner who processes IUD claims.
But Moore didn't let Valone off the hook entirely. The "grievant," he said, was "deceptive" and "manipulative," and was incapable of owning up to his actions. By naming Commerce as cosponsor on a conference flyer, Valone had engaged in misrepresentation, he ruled, and for that he received a 30-day suspension from the job he should have had for the past six years. As a practical matter, Moore's finding means Valone's back pay will be reduced by a month.
Moore's treatise also dwelled at some length on cold fusion persecutors Bob Park, the American Physical Society (APS) curmudgeon who authors the weekly What's New column, and Peter Zimmerman, a former science adviser in the State Department's arms control agency. The pair played a critical role in thwarting Valone's "Conference on Free Energy," or COFE, which ultimately led to the firing. The contempt with which the two physicists' treated cold fusion was no mystery to this arbitrator:
"The federal government's budget research and development pie in the areas of theoretical physics and chemistry is limited and, by and large, only traditional physicists represented by organizations like the APS and its counterpart for conventional chemists, have been invited to sup on that pie. The last thing they want is any new guests invited to the table."
Park, he noted, was still crowing in What's New about his part in removing a "heretic" from the patent office eight months after Valone's firing. And the March 2000 edition of APS News carried a front-page story congratulating Park for his years of accomplishments in keeping "non-conventional physicists" away from the federal funding trough.
Moore chided USPTO, and retired Commissioner of Patents Nicholas Godici—who admitted during the proceedings that he once had the job of examining mouse trap patent applications—for continuing to enforce a strict ban on cold fusion-related patents put in place in 1989. "Certainly, some better understandings and approaches to cold fusion and its related technologies must have occurred which ordinarily, and but for the ban, would meet the new and useful criteria for a patent or constitute what I'll call a 'non-obvious improvement of existing technology'."
The events that led to Valone's dismissal began with his diligent attempts to find a home for a conference on "free energy," including cold fusion, to be sponsored by his "Integrity Research Institute." Valone had all but sealed an agreement to use an auditorium at the State Department through a program known as the "Open Forum's Speakers' Program," whose mission was "to explore new and alternative views on vital policy issues of the day."
But when Park got wind of the event, he alerted Zimmerman. Outranking the official in charge of the Open Forum, Zimmerman was able to quash the deal, in part by demanding that only papers and presentations that had undergone peer review would be presented at a State Department-hosted event.
Undaunted, Valone turned next to the Commerce Department, which happens to be USPTO's parent agency. He nearly received the approval of schedulers there for three days' use of the auditorium and hall space. The schedulers later insisted to their supervisors that they hadn't been told that the conference was a private event, but Moore dismissed USPTO's contention that Valone had deceived them into believing the conference was federally-sponsored. He had in fact been working to arrange cosponsorship by the Patent and Trademark Office Society (PTOS), and he had gotten a sympathetic ear from one PTOS official. But those discussions came to a screeching halt when Park blew the whistle again in his column on Valone's machinations.
Soon after that, the patent office began getting its ducks in a row to fire Valone. The procedures for firing an employee are formalized in the collective bargaining agreement with the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA). The agreement calls for binding arbitration to resolve dismissals that are challenged.
POPA represented Valone throughout the arbitration process, sparing him what doubtless would have been huge legal expenses.
Meanwhile, when it became apparent that DoE wouldn't consider hosting the event, Valone reserved space at a Holiday Inn in nearby College Park. He's now planning for a "Victory COFE II" conference for September 2006, also at a Washington-area hotel.
Interestingly, Moore's report notes how two other examiners who were well known as cold fusion advocates have been fired since Valone's removal. While one was dismissed for misconduct, the other, removed for failure to produce, has charged the agency with discrimination based on his religious-like belief in cold fusion. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has allowed his case to proceed through the tortuous bureaucratic process by which such claims are resolved.
Moore said POPA had attempted to argue a religious discrimination claim for Valone in spite of his warnings not to pursue that angle with him. He couldn't resist revealing how he might have ruled in that event:
"Fortunately, the rest of his case makes it unnecessary to determine whether in the absence of an alter (sic) and any special vestments, a belief in cold fusion is any more a religion intended to be protected under Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act) from discrimination than an equally fervent belief in the curative effects of the color blue. Both are more the type of subjects protected by the free speech provision of the Constitution."
Valone said he has completed a doctoral degree and written several books during his six-year hiatus, in addition to continuing the operation of his nonprofit institute. He said he plans to continue campaigning for recognition of cold fusion patents when he returns to the agency this month.
"Almost 10 years ago, the PTO adopted a motto 'Help our customers get patents,' which still has not been fulfilled for cold fusion applicants," he stated. Additionally, he hopes to press for increased funding for the continuing education of patent examiners. Funding is currently so low that 95% of examiners are kept from attending outside conferences and seminars to update them in their field of specialty.
"These are the issues I fought for while I was there and hope to continue when I go back," he said.
Valone is also worried about what he says is the "glut of allowances" that are now being given to patent applications in the nanotechnology area. The relative ease with which such patents are being awarded is liable to encourage patent litigation, he frets.
3) Everlasting Power in the Offing
Caroline Williams, 24 March 2006, Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
"IT LOOKED like a slug moving along the lab bench," says Jeffrey Cheung, a materials scientist at Rockwell Scientific in Los Angeles. "My first reaction was - oh my goodness someone forgot to turn off the sprinkler outside, and this thing has crawled into the lab. The strange thing was, when I moved to the right or the left, it always followed my movements." Then he leaned over to take a closer look. To his surprise, the slug shot off the workbench and rocketed straight at his midriff.
That day, Cheung had been doing some experiments using a commercial ferrofluid. As fate would have it, he made two crucial errors. First he lost a bar magnet, which he had borrowed from a colleague for the experiment. Then he spilt a beakerful of the fluid over his lab bench, leaving it covered with a thick layer of reddish-brown goo.
What happened next led not only to the acrobatic slug, but the beginning of an intriguing new technology which could soon be used for anything from constructing executive toys to large-scale electricity generation.
"I was a mess," says Cheung, recalling the accident. "My lab coat looked like exhibit A from a crime scene." But already the possibilities opened up by the gloop-covered magnet were racing through his head. "Instead of going to wash my face I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and started to jot down a lot of ideas - I think I wrote about two pages."
The slug, it turned out, was the missing magnet with globs of ferrofluid tightly bound to each end. Ferrofluids are simply a suspension of magnetic nanoparticles in an inert liquid of some kind. Pour a little fluid around a magnet, and it quickly migrates to the magnet's poles and stays there, in the same way as iron filings cling to the ends of a bar magnet. It was the coating of liquid on each end that dramatically reduced the friction between the magnet and the bench, so when Cheung's metal belt buckle came into range, the attractive force faced little resistance and the magnet launched itself straight at it.
Cheung's eureka moment came with the realisation that the ferrofluid can act as a super-efficient lubricant, and that there are a wealth of ways to exploit it. One of his favourites is to use a ferrofluid-covered magnet as the heart of an electricity generator that needs no input except gentle motion.
The idea relies on simple high-school physics: move a magnet close to a copper coil and the changing magnetic field experienced by the coil will induce an electric current to flow through it. Cheung placed a magnet in a tube filled with ferrofluid, wrapped a coil around the tube, and stuck a magnet at each end to keep the magnet inside moving. The result is a system that turns random motion into electricity, with almost no loss of energy to friction. The key is the exceptional slipperiness of the ferrofluid coating - around 40 times as slippery as ice.
Now Cheung needed to test out his device in a place that would provide free random motion, and that is not difficult to find. "The ocean waves are always changing," he says. So, armed with a grant from the Pentagon's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, Cheung and his team set about designing a system to provide power for the buoys used for oceanographic monitoring.
Existing buoys use battery packs or solar panels to power their monitoring and communications equipment. Clean solar panels work well when the sun is high in the sky, but have to be backed up by batteries for the rest of the day and all night. After a while, the spattering of guano from perching sea birds will cut down their efficiency even in bright sunlight. Batteries are bulky, need reliable waterproofing and eventually have to be changed - not an easy option for a buoy in the middle of the ocean. Cheung's generator, by contrast, will run day and night on the smallest waves in the glummest of weather, and since it is hermetically sealed corrosion should not be a problem.
Oceanographers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, tested the design in the summer of 2004. "Just a few watts of power is all that's required to run most marine instruments and to transmit their data to a satellite," says Robert Pinkel, head of the buoy development team at Scripps. The team designed a float that amplifies its movement to deliver maximum acceleration to Cheung's device, and electronics to store the electricity it generates in a super-capacitor. The generator proved itself even in calm conditions: in a gentle sea with waves of around 60 centimetres it generated 0.3 watts. With further work to optimise the transfer of wave power to the generator, the team hopes it will be able to deliver on average 1 watt of electricity.
Cheung's latest design uses coils mounted at right angles to the direction of the magnet (see below). The challenge now is to increase the power output by tweaking the design of both the buoy and the generator. Cheung is planning to work with Malcolm Spaulding and Stephan Grilli from the University of Rhode Island in Kingston to model the most efficient designs and test them in a wave tank.
The aim is to generate not merely watts, but megawatts. "Our goal is to build an energy farm on the ocean," Cheung says. Stephen Salter, who heads the wave power group at the University of Edinburgh, UK, thinks that may be a step too far. Though the iron particles in the ferrofluid maximise the current induced in the coil - by increasing the flux density around it - Salter is sceptical about the technology's viability for large-scale generation. "I think this is one technology that's going to run out of puff as you scale it up." Nevertheless, Cheung says he could have a prototype of a wave power system ready within three years.
Even if Cheung doesn't manage to scale it up efficiently, he has dreamed up plenty of other applications for his invention. So many, in fact, that he has set up a company to commercialise them. They include self-powered tyre pressure monitors, computer mice and TV remote controls.
He has an idea for an executive toy, too. Put an even number of magnets coated in ferrofluid into a doughnut-shaped tubular ring - with their north and south poles facing each other - and they will shuttle around chaotically as they repel one-another. The result is somewhere between a stress ball and a pocket-sized lava lamp.
Cheung's first commercial product is going to be much more useful. In the coming months his company will launch a holster-style mobile phone charger. "The first goal is to have enough power to keep the phone on standby forever," he says. All you'll have to do is shake it.
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4) Snap Up Wave Power With a Magnetic Trick
Duncan Graham-Rowe, issue 2542 of New Scientist magazine, 11 March 2006, page 28
A WAVE-DRIVEN generator with virtually no moving parts could make wave power a more efficient and competitive form of renewable energy. The key to the device, dubbed the Snapper, is the way it converts a slow, steady wave motion into an efficient current-generating jackhammer-like action.
Despite growing enthusiasm for wave power in countries such as the UK and Portugal, wave-driven generators are still dogged by heavy start-up costs and low efficiency. Generators produce electricity most efficiently when a small force is applied at high velocity. Waves tend to produce large, slow-moving forces, so most generators have to resort to turbines or hydraulics to convert the forces into a suitable form. This adds to the complexity and expense, and also reduces efficiency.
Now Ed Spooner, a consultant engineer based in the UK at Crook, County Durham, has devised an alternative solution consisting of a buoy linked to a generating unit on the seabed. The buoy is attached to a vertical armature inside the generating unit, and as it bobs up and down magnets mounted on the armature induce a current in static coils fixed to the generating unit.
Mounted next to the armature are a parallel set of fixed magnets, aligned with the magnets on the armature. It is the interaction between the two sets of magnets that produces the Snapper's jerky motion. The attraction between the two sets of magnets tends to hold them in place next to each other. As the buoy tries to rise with a wave, this attraction initially holds it down. When the buoyancy force becomes large enough to overcome the attraction between the magnets, the buoy and the armature attached to it move sharply upwards until the magnets align again. As the buoy continues to rise this behaviour is repeated. Then as the buoy descends after the wave has passed, a spring produces a similar effect as the armature moves downwards.
Spooner told the World Maritime Technology Conference in London this week that the result is a sequence of rapid movements that generate pulses of current.
Experiments on a prototype show the arrangement results in increased current-producing forces compared with existing wave-power systems, suggesting that much smaller generators could be built for the same output, reducing costs.
Spooner has passed the patent rights for the device to the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland. Its director of technology, Keith Melton, says the increased efficiency of the device should help to make wave-powered generators competitive with other renewable energy sources, such as wind power, as well as with fossil fuels.
5) Alternative fuels ensure a strong future
May 2, 2006
Miami Herald Opinion
By R. JAMES WOOLSEY
President Bush's call for America to end its "oil addiction'' sparked a debate about whether the goal is attainable -- or even desirable.
Some say that policies to promote energy independence would hinder prosperity. They claim that attempts to meet this goal after the 1970s oil shocks were expensive failures. These assertions are wrong.
Between 1979 and 1985, when oil demand reduction was a high priority, the typical U. S. car's fuel efficiency nearly doubled. Electricity generated from oil dropped from 17 percent of the nation's power output to 2 percent. The share of homes using heating oil went from 31 percent to 10 percent. Total oil consumption in the United States decreased by 15 percent, and oil imports fell by 42 percent.
Away from petroleum
The impact on the nation's economy was positive. Energy expenditures' share of the Gross Domestic Product fell by 50 percent while real per-capita share of the Gross Domestic Product grew by 10 percent.
Today a majority of the world's capacity to export oil is in the hands of autocracies and dictatorships that can use that wealth to destabilize the international system. Thus, the future of our economic and national security is more than ever coupled to our energy policy. The democracies' ability to prevail in the long war in which we are engaged will be compromised so long as such states control this part of the world's economy.
To ensure stability we must commit ourselves to diversifying our fuel supply and shifting the transportation sector from the conventional petroleum, which comprises 97 percent of our transportation energy, to a robust system based on next-generation fuels and vehicles.
The United States is no longer rich in readily recoverable oil, but it has a wealth of other energy sources from which transportation fuel can be safely, affordably and cleanly generated.
Among them: vast rich farmland, hundreds of years' worth of coal reserves and billions of tons a year of agricultural, industrial and municipal waste.
Each of these can generate alcohol fuels -- such as bio-diesel, ethanol and methanol -- at a price cheaper than current gasoline.
Large-scale deployment of flexible fuel vehicles running on alcohol, gasoline or any mixture of the two will allow Americans to choose secure domestic fuel over problematic foreign oil. Since the additional per-vehicle cost associated with flexible fuel vehicles is currently under $200, fuel flexibility should become a standard feature in every car -- like seat belts or air bags.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles, unlike standard hybrids, can draw charge not only from the engine and captured braking energy, but also from America's electrical grid. They can make efficient use of such clean electricity sources as solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and nuclear power.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can reach economy levels of 100 miles or more per gallon.
· If a plug-in is also a flex-fuel car using 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline, fuel economy could reach the equivalency of 500 miles per gallon for a gasoline-powered vehicle.
· If a diesel engine burns clean fuel derived from waste, it would be using no conventional petroleum at all.
By 2025, if all cars on the road are either diesels burning fuel from renewables or flexible fuel hybrids, and half of the hybrids are plug-ins, U. S. oil imports would drop by more than 12 million barrels per day -- or more than what we import today.
These technologies exist. There is no need to wait for technological breakthroughs, invest billions in research and development or embark on massive infrastructure changes.
What is needed is congressional action to build on the president's call by enacting the necessary incentives for producers to make, and consumers to buy, cars that offer fuel choices while encouraging the development of a mass market for alternative fuels, along with the modest necessary changes in the distribution system. Such policies would make the U. S. economy more resilient and put it on a trajectory toward oil security.
R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is co-chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger, which advocates an aggressive stance in the war against terror. Gal Luft is a member of the committee. For more information visit www.fightingterror.org
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