What a Gas! the Current Politically Correct Promotion of Ethanol and Hydrogen to Power Vehicles Overlooks the Serious Drawbacks of Those Fuels and the Huge Potential of Natural Gas

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After two years of soaring gas prices, and with oil supplies continually threatened by those antagonistic toward America, Americans are searching desperately for alternatives to power our vehicles, our economy, and our future. Congress, influenced by environmentalists, is pushing for ethanol and hydrogen to fuel vehicles. But these fuels have dramatic drawbacks that effectively stop them from ever becoming the necessary answer to our oil shortage, or more accurately oil supply, problems.

Ethanol only seems to be a solution because most Americans aren't aware of its fatal flaws. Without government mandates, little if any ethanol would be produced as a motor fuel. Consumers don't tend to line up to pay more for a fuel that delivers less mileage at a higher cost. But companies such as Archer-Daniels-Midland, which receive a 51-cent subsidy from the taxpayers for each gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline, are eager to financially support politicians who see no harm in laws forcing states to require producers/suppliers to degrade their product by adding ethanol. *

Hydrogen is also flawed, and green dreams of a "hydrogen economy" are scientific nightmares. We are asked to support hydrogen as a substitute for gasoline and diesel when there aren't any natural deposits of hydrogen out there to tap. Hydrogen must be manufactured through the expensive consumption of other energies, only to become a hostile fuel that is difficult to transport and requires cryogenic or high-pressure storage. ([dagger])

Wish List

In looking for an acceptable fuel to replace petroleum, particularly for automobiles, what criteria need to be met? The most important are:

* Extremely large reserves capable of hundreds or thousands of years' supply, accessible at will by U.S. companies;

* Economical (preferably costing less per BTU than petroleum);

* No new technological advances required to implement its use;

* Significant existing distribution infrastructure;

* Billions of passengers-miles of use to demonstrate effectiveness and safety.

Would you believe there is a resource that meets these criteria? It is a naturally occurring product made up of about 85 percent methane, with small amounts of ethane, propane, and butane. We call it natural gas. Could this fuel have the capability of loosing the stranglehold that petroleum has on our transportation industry? Let's take a look.

Natural-gas Resources and Reserves

Arguably the most important question that needs to be answered to determine natural gas's efficacy as a petroleum substitute is whether there is enough of it to last for generations. Currently, U.S. natural-gas usage is about 25 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) per year. The Natural Gas Supply Association (naturalgas.org) estimates that there are approximately 1,200 Tcf in recoverable reserves, enough to provide approximately 48 years of supply--not including using it as a common means to fuel vehicles. But this number is likely vastly underestimated because the stated reserves never really seem to drop, with additional supplies constantly becoming available. Not bad, but consider too that the recent discoveries in "unconventional resources" are becoming practical to tap and could be added to the "reserve" category.

The first of these are "geopressurized zones," gas reservoirs at great depths--on the order of 25,000 feet--where gas would normally not be expected. ** The Gulf Coast of the United States is particularly rich in these zones. Experts in the field estimate these reserves at 5,000 to 49,000 Tcf--200 to 1,960 years at current usage rates.

Even more impressive, and certainly more mysterious, are the deposits of methane hydrates originally discovered in the permafrost regions of the Arctic but later found to be in many ocean-floor formations below about 1,000 feet. Methane hydrates resemble melting ice and contain a crystalline lattice with water encapsulating a methane molecule. …