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Alternate energy: what’s it worth?

July 6, 2009

The search for alternatives to oil-based fuels to keep North Americans on the road to success continues, but not without some wellreasoned questions on the true cost of everything from ethanol to electric to hydrogen.


July 6, 2009
By Delta Farm Press

July 6, 2009

Hembree Brandon

Without fail, when we write about alternative energy for vehicles -whether it be ethanol, hydrogen, electric, natural gas, whatever -we get e-mails (1) congratulating us on our insight and astuteness and predicting that oil’s ready for the scrap heap of history, or (2) telling us that, however distasteful, we’re going to be shackled to imported oil for a long time to come.

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Realistically, the latter is probably the more accurate assessment. The gasoline/diesel infrastructure has been built over more than a century, with mega-billions of dollars invested. However much we may rail about cost, that infrastructure works and works well … as long as everything goes as it should from the oil well to the refinery to the gas pump.


The following are some of the more reasoned comments from a long-time reader about the difficulties in weaning ourselves from the oil spigot:


“It would be nice,” he writes, “to be free of Middle East oil dependency for a variety of well-known reasons, but difficult for one simple reason: Middle East oil is, on average, the most plentiful, low production cost, and most easily refined source of energy on the planet, other than U.S. coal. Coal works well for power generation, but not for vehicles, obviously. Would that any of the alternative fuels were so plentiful and cheap.


“Government gets involved because alternatives need subsidy to compete. In addition to subsidy, any widespread use of electric vehicles will require massive additional power generation, and windmills won’t cut it. That means more coal-fired plants, or nuclear, or both.


“I wonder how attractive electric cars will be when electric rates go up by 50 percent or more under cap and trade (tax) to solve the so-called global warming crisis?

Low cost producers still win