Can Ohio replace Fukushima?....
Shale Sunrise. Shale oil is the hottest energy play today. GOP Senatorial candidate Josh Mandel, current Ohio state Treasurer, now running against super-liberal incumbent Sherrod Brown, notes that Democrats are blocking shale oil exploration in Ohio. Mandel lists benefits of shale for Ohio:
Aggressive and responsible exploration of Ohio's Utica shale, combined with continued mining of more than 20 million tons of coal here every year, can revolutionize Ohio's economy. A September study for the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program found that production in the Utica shale formation has the potential to create more than 200,000 Ohio jobs by the year 2015.
Beyond employing men and women on the rigs, this exploration will produce new jobs for construction workers, truck drivers, hardware-store clerks, hotel maids, restaurant servers and many other laborers who provide goods and services to exploration operations. In its most powerful possible effect, the Utica shale will create thousands of new manufacturing jobs in Ohio.
Along with Republic Steel, U.S. Steel has also announced new jobs and expansion in Ohio, in its case to meet demand for steel piping created by shale exploration. Vallourec & Mannesmann plans to build a plant in Youngstown, breathing new life into the heart of the rust belt. The Canton-based steel manufacturer Timken recently said that its planned expansion is motivated in part by strong sales to oil and gas companies, which make up 20% of the company's sales.
Exploration in the Utica shale could also mean cheaper utility bills for consumers. A Pennsylvania State University study published in July found that natural gas prices there dropped by 12.6% in 2010, saving consumers $633 million. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that summer 2011 natural gas prices in the Northeast were 2%-15% lower because of increased shale production.
Mandel notes that Ohio's recent Governor, Democrat Ted Strickland (who lost in 2010 to GOP candidate Jon Kasich), signed bipartisan legislation mandating strict environmental standards for shale exploration, so as to protect Ohio's water supply. But yesterday President Obama, having just met with Canadian PM Steven Harper, a staunch US ally, reiterated his adamant opposition to early approval of the Canada-US Keystone XL pipeline.
One possible alternative auto fuel is methanol, which can be made from coal, natural gas, or any kind of biomass (includes plants, wood). Energy expert Robert Zubrin tested a methanol-driven car and got 24.6 miles per gallon. He drove his Chevy Cobalt, not a "flex-fuel" vehicle, with a fuel pump change, plus his car's Engine Control Unit software adjustments: He summarizes his test results:
Methanol contains about half the energy content of gasoline, but its high octane allows it to be burned more efficiently, and thus obtain two-thirds of the mileage. The fact that the Cobalt could easily be made to use it should be no shock either: While not a flex-fuel car, the Cobalt uses the same E-37 computer and the same engine as GM’s HHR, which is a flex-fuel car. In fact, all GM cars sold in the U.S. for the past five years use either the E-37 (for small cars) or the equally flex-fuel-capable E-38 (for larger cars), and so all are capable of flex-fuel operation provided they are programmed correctly. The same is true at Ford, whose cars, whether flex-fuel or not, indiscriminately use the same “black oak,” “green oak,” or “silver oak” computers. Without question, the same must be the case for European and Japanese cars as well, since all are sold in Brazil, where flex-fuel capability is mandatory.
Zubrin explains the economic and security benefits of substituting methanol for gas:
There was a time when adding flex-fuel capability to an automobile increased its cost by about $100. This is no longer true. Now almost all new cars already have flex-fuel hardware, and could easily be marketed as flex-fuel vehicles. Yet the automakers have failed to do so. This is an extraordinary disservice to the nation, because it is preventing us from meeting our fuel needs using our own resources. The United States has only about 4 billion tons of oil reserves, but over 270 billion tons of coal, unknowably vast supplies of natural gas, and by far the world’s most powerful agricultural sector — all of which could be used to produce methanol. Yet instead of being able to put these assets effectively to use to meet our transportation needs, we are being forced to buy 5 billion barrels per year of imported oil. At $100 per barrel, this is costing us $500 billion per year, a deduction from our GDP equal to that required to support 5 million jobs, at $100,000 annually per job.
Requires each fleet of a manufacturer of passenger automobiles (including light-duty motor vehicles) to comprise at least: (1) 50% qualified vehicles in model year 2014, (2) 80% qualified vehicles in model year 2016, and (3) 95% qualified vehicles in model year 2017 and each subsequent year.
Defines "qualified vehicle" as: (1) a vehicle that operates solely on natural gas, hydrogen, or biodiesel; (2) a flexible fuel vehicle capable of operating on gasoline, E85, and M85; (3) a plug-in electric drive vehicle; or (4) a vehicle propelled solely by fuel cell or by something other than an internal combustion engine.
Authorizes a manufacturer to request an exemption from such requirement from the Secretary of Transportation (DOT).
HR 1687's text (mercifully brief) offers more definitional detail. Here is the web-page for Open Fuel Standard (OFS), well worth a look. And here is their OFS Fact Sheet, offering a quick-glance primer.
A major obstacle could be that few gas stations are equipped with separate tanks to supply ethanol; some transitional subsidy may be required. It also should be noted that the main flex-fuel currently used in the US is corn ethanol, which consumes so much fertilizer that it has driven up world food prices, harming poor country consumers. Some 10 percent of vehicles use ethanol, but mostly they are fleet vehicles, with less than one percent of consumer cars using it. Iowa, with the nation's first 2012 primary, is the main beneficiary. Methanol can be produced by other means, so food price spikes can be avoided.
Electric cars are imploding, due to performance/price & safety problems; indeed, for six months the feds covered up crash test results showing that the Chevy Volt's lithium battery has a proclivity to catch fire. Team Obama, the Washington Post reports, has wasted $5 billion of taxpayer money on failed electric car projects. Energy maven Robert Bryce notes that electric cars have been touted for more than a century:
The lackluster sales of electric vehicles should not surprise anyone. For 110 years, American consumers have been hearing that electric cars are on the verge of viability. Consider this May 19, 1901, news report from the Los Angeles Times concerning a new battery invented by Thomas Edison: “If the claims which Mr. Edison makes for his new battery be not overstated, there is not much doubt that it will make a fortune for somebody. The electric automobile will quickly and easily take precedence over all other kinds of motor carriages.”
A startup that had promised a 190 mpg car (NOT a misprint) has folded, for inability to raise private capital needed to make it eligible to receive federal seed money.
Climate change is imploding, too; Steven Hayward details Climategate II. Methanol enables us to please at least (surely they exist!) the more reasonable subset of Green voters, while improving our energy picture. Now factor in George Will's ObamaCare regulatory horror tale, one of many that added $1.75 TRILLION of compliance costs in 2008 (a federal agency estimate)--BEFORE Obama added 11,000 more costly regulations. Reduce these, curb federal spending and reform taxes (lower rates, closing loopholes), and the economy will recover.
Bottom Line. Nuclear power plants already in the global queue will likely (most, at least) be built. Yet Fukushima strongly suggests that new technologies, meltdown-proof and tamper-resistant, should be brought online to hedge against another Fukushima type catastrophe.
But shale oil (literally) rocks: it is the leading option for ending American dependence upon oil produced in unreliable countries. The US became in 2010 the world's top natural gas exporter, so shale exploration will find a ready market of buyers worldwide.
Factor in flex-fuel, via enactment of an Open Fuel Standard with transitional funding to accelerate gas-station upgrades. Then reduce car consumption of gasoline, thus reducing demand for imported oil from nasty countries. Couple this to domestic oil/gas supply increases, and a secure energy future is within America's grasp--IF we get positive regime change (almost anyone) in the White House.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Economy, Conservative Politics