Oil-Free Transportation on the Horizon?

Congress has paved the way to an oil-free transportation system, according to the report, Driving Our Way to Energy Independence, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). ILSR has been advocating for small scale, local-based economy using bio-based fuels and other products since 1974.

Although widely criticized for not going far enough, The Energy Independence and Security Act, passed by Congress in December 2007, could still tip the balance toward a renewable fuels infrastructure.

"The Act’s vehicle efficiency mandate will force car companies to hybridize most of their new vehicles which makes it possible for plug-in hybrids to use electricity as their primary fuel," explains David Morris, ILSR Vice President. "The biofuels mandate will result in the production of sufficient biofuels to meet nearly 100 percent of the fuel needed to run the backup engine."

Driving Our Way to Energy Independence envisions a 75-25 split between miles driven on electricity and biofuels, noting, "Once drivers have the ability to fill up with electricity, they will, because an electric powered mile costs only 3 cents, while a gasoline powered mile costs over 15 cents."

"An electric-biofuel transportation system is nearly oil free," says Morris, "since only 2 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated with oil, and oil supplies only a fraction of the energy needed to grow crops and convert them into biofuels."

The report stresses that electric-biofuel vehicles and policies that support them can transform not only our transportation system, but make our agricultural and electric systems more democratic.

"Energy consumers can become energy producers," Morris observes. "Millions of electric vehicles will have sufficient storage capacity to overcome the intermittency problem of renewable energy. When the wind blows and the sun shines, the electricity generated by household solar arrays and locally owned wind turbines will be stored in these batteries for later use."

On the biofuels side, the report envisions the current 75 farmer-owned biorefineries blossoming into thousands of small-scale facilities that use local crops or agricultural residues to satisfy local and regional demand for engine fuel.

"The future is now," says Morris. "Congress is currently designing new incentives for energy and agriculture. They should do so with an eye toward achieving not only energy and environmental goals, but economic and social goals as well. Ironically, the car, the driving force behind our current energy and environmental crises, may well become the vehicle for a more democratic and environmentally benign energy system."

Enter Diversified Ethanol Corp

One emerging company, Diversified Ethanol Corp., is already developing innovative, small scale solutions to the ethanol dilemma.

Conventional ethanol production is getting hammered because it depends on expensive, fuel intensive, crop-based feedstocks such as corn, and for its extensive water requirements. The use of basic foodstuffs to make ethanol has driven prices so much higher that many plants are closing.

Diversified’s small scale ethanol plants offer a compelling solution: it reduces water use by up to 85% and uses existing liquid waste products as feedstock, to convert into ethanol or biodiesel.

The plan makes sense: small ethanol plants would be attached to manufacturing facilities that have liquid waste streams, such as breweries, beverage recycling and food processing plants. Besides providing feedstock for ethanol production, the plant would create an additional revenue stream for the manufacturer. A five million gallon per year plant is under construction for a major soda recycler in Southern California and is expected to be operational by this summer.

Diversified’s "Butterfield Closed Cycle System"TM combines several technologies, including ElectroHesionTM, a proprietary water recycling system that reduces water use by up to 85%. It separates the solids from the process water, ensuring the majority of the water can be infinitely recycled. ElectroHesion has a single chamber, continuous flow through design that can treat up to 2500 gallons a minute, using a fraction of the electrical energy required by other systems.

Many studies conclude that conventional ethanol production generates more greenhouse gases than gasoline when land use and fuel intensive agricultural practices are factored in. Adding to fuel costs are the necessity to truck the ethanol across country from the Midwest to the markets on the east and west coasts. Ethanol facilities – which often use 300 million gallons of water for processing the product and cooling equipment – are having a harder time finding sites because municipalities fear they will drain the aquifers needed to supply their water.

On-site waste to ethanol production solves these problems. From citrus in Florida to wood chips in the Northwest to potato waste in Idaho, each part of the county has waste streams that can be converted to energy using cellulosic and other innovative forms of production. The resulting ethanol can be used locally, instead of shipping it around the country.

Yes, small is beautiful!


Read Driving Our Way to Energy Independence

Diversified Ethanol is a subsidiary of Greenbelt Resources (Pink Sheets: GRCO)

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