There is a "perfect storm" of national security, economic, and environmental conditions that compel the United States to begin immediately reducing its dependence upon unstable and hostile foreign sources of energy.
In recent years, the focus has been principally on finding new and larger sources of petroleum globally. But rapidly growing worldwide demand for oil, however, has had the effect of largely neutralizing this initiative, depleting existing reserves faster than new, economically exploitable deposits are being brought on-line.
Under these circumstances, diversification among such sources is but a stop-gap solution that can, at best, have a temporary effect on oil supply and, hence, on national security. Conservation can help, but with oil consumption expected to grow by 60% over the next 25 years, conservation alone will not be a sufficient solution.
Fuel choice in the transportation sector can strip oil of its strategic value, deny our adversaries the wherewithal they use to harm us, and help protect our quality of life and economy against the effects of cuts in foreign energy supplies and the rising costs of oil.
The ‘Set America Free' Project
Long-term security and economic prosperity requires "fuel choice." By leading a multinational effort rooted in the following principles, the United States can immediately begin to introduce a global economy based on next-generation fuels and vehicles that can utilize them:
- Fuel diversification: Today, consumers can choose among various octanes of gasoline, which accounts for 45% of U.S. oil consumption, or diesel, which accounts for almost another fifth. To these choices can and should promptly be added other fuels that are domestically produced, where possible from waste products, and that are clean and affordable.
- Real world solutions: We have no time to wait for commercialization of immature technologies. The United States should implement technologies that exist today and are ready for widespread use.
- Using existing infrastructure: The focus should be on utilizing competitive technologies that do not require prohibitive or, if possible, even significant investment in changing our transportation sector's infrastructure. Instead, "fuel choice" should permit the maximum possible use of the existing refueling and automotive infrastructure.
- Domestic resource utilization: The United States is no longer rich in oil or natural gas. It has, however, a wealth of other energy sources from which transportation fuel can be safely, affordably and cleanly generated. Among them: hundreds of years worth of coal reserves, 25% of the world's total (especially promising with Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle technologies); billions of tons a year of biomass, and further billions of tons of agricultural and municipal waste. Vehicles that meet consumer needs (e.g., "plug-in" hybrids), can also tap America's electrical grid to supply energy for transportation, making more efficient use of such clean sources of electricity as solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and nuclear power.
- Environmentally sensible choices: The technologies adopted should improve public safety and respond to the public's environmental and health concerns.