Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time to Get Serious About Alternative Fuel Sources

For the second time in two years President Bush went to Saudi Arabia to appeal for increased oil production and for the second time in two years Saudi told him to take a flying leap.

Enough with the begging already. Washington talks a good game about alternative fuels, but there seems to be no sense of urgency to back up the rhetoric. I don't like the idea of subsidies to stimulate alternatives because a solution that requires subsidies isn't a real solution. There are other things that can be done however.

There are companies and researchers making great progress on bacteria and algae that produce fuel, including ASU, GM and Mascoma, LS9, and Amyris.

How can the government move things along without subsidies? For starters they could actually contract with one or more of these companies to produce fuel for government vehicles, including the military. The could also work to alleviate the barriers to progress due to intellectual property rights concerns. They could attempt to form a joint venture between these and other firms to fully develop microbe fuel production, with each participant sharing in the licensing rights.

The fuel situation is more than an inconvenience, it's a very real national security concern. We're funding dictators and terrorists and then spending vast amounts of more money to combat them in the field. I was encouraged when the president proposed something on the scale of the "Marshall Plan" for energy independence. Where is it? We don't just need cheaper fuel. We need a different source. Giving our enemies a bit less money is only a bit less stupid than what we're doing today. We need to cut them out of the picture entirely.

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