Energy Experts Call for Focus on Alternative Fuels

Article excerpt

The United States must reduce its dependence on oil imports and develop alternative fuel vehicles quickly as a matter of national security, energy experts attending a national conference in Oklahoma City said Monday.
Speaking at the Eighth National Clean Cities Conference and Expo in Oklahoma City, former CIA Director James Woolsey said the nation's dependence on oil from the Gulf states, particularly Iraq and Saudi Arabia, has made the United States vulnerable to price fluctuations. Woolsey said the nation should focus on developing biomass fuels, which use such things as prairie grass and feedstock, to create new sources of fuel for motor vehicles.
Others at the conference said more must be done to improve vehicle fuel efficiency.
"It's substantially important that we begin to focus on some sources of energy other than oil," Woolsey told more than 300 people attending the conference. "It is important, especially now, that we begin to make progress quickly."
The conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy is intended to advance the public use of cars and trucks that use alternative fuels and the building of refueling stations to provide the new fuel. Many of the major supporters of the conference are automakers, energy producers, and community organizations.
Woolsey, a proponent of developing vehicles that use biomass as fuel, said as much as 35 percent of the nation's oil demand could be replaced with alternative fuels. More efficient vehicles, some using biomass fuel, could theoretically get the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon of gas, he said.
"The interesting thing about biomass is it is available pretty much everywhere and pretty much in great quantity," Woolsey said.
Woolsey said it would take little effort to convert existing vehicles to use biomass-based fuel.
In Oklahoma City, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority began using biodiesel in all 12 of its downtown trolleys and two buses ahead of the conference. The fuel is made from vegetable oil and has lower emissions than regular diesel fuel.
Other energy experts said the United States could reduce its dependence on foreign oil by increasing the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles or through a combination of new fuels and better vehicle efficiency.
David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, said a national program is needed to improve mileage on vehicles to reduce the need for oil.
Doniger called for targeted tax credits to promote the purchase and development of hybrid vehicles and for government efforts to roll out new technologies and new fuels into the broader market. …