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Editor's Note: Energy Independence through Fuel Choice
by Kristin Brekke

I’m looking forward to hearing Anne Korin speak next month at the American Coalition for Ethanol’s conference in Kansas. She is co-author of the book Turning Oil Into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice, which makes some very thought-provoking points.

Korin and co-author Gal Luft argue that the threat of our dependence on oil comes not from how much we consume or import, but rather because oil is a “strategic commodity” – strategic because of its virtual monopoly over our transportation fuel system. It is so valuable because there are no other choices. An example from history, and the namesake of their book, salt was once a strategic commodity as well because it held a virtual monopoly over the preservation of food. Wars were fought over it, they say, and colonies were formed in remote places where it was found. But when other forms of food preservation became available – canning, refrigeration, electricity – salt lost its status as a strategic commodity because there were other options.

In the introduction to their book, the authors state, “In order to strip oil of its strategic status, we must break its monopoly in the transportation sector through fuel choice.” We as Americans can make choices with every other product we purchase, but at the pump we have only gasoline, gasoline, or gasoline – all made from that strategic commodity, oil.

While reading the book I was surprised to learn about what other countries are already doing to work toward fuel choice. Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline and has limited refining capacity of its own. To counter this, President Ahmadinejad is investing billions to build new refineries and is converting the country’s automobiles to run on both gasoline and natural gas. Hugo Chavez is doing something similar in Venezuela, instituting an energy plan that calls for 30 percent of vehicles sold there to be natural gas capable. More than 100 conversion centers will allow drivers to convert their gasoline-only cars to run on natural gas, and the national oil company is stalling hundreds of new natural gas fueling stations.

Brazil has already accomplished fuel choice through a very successful flex-fuel program, which has opened the transportation fuel market – previously dominated by petroleum, as it is here – to competition. We need to learn from these examples of those willing to take action to break oil’s status as a strategic commodity.

To become energy independent, the United States needs fuel choice. Ethanol is simply asking for the opportunity to compete at the pump, and flexible fuel vehicles and blender pumps can make this happen. I look forward to hearing more on this topic from Anne Korin. Hope to see you next month at the ACE conference!

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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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