Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Except from Alt Fuels Video Pitch

I'm hoping to create some documentary-style videos on the topics covered in this brief write-up. Any specific ideas or leads would be appreciated.

It is no secret that oil has a limited future as the world’s principle energy source. Conflict in the Middle East, over taxed oil wells and humans’ reliance on plastics are all factors in creating an economy that is going to need new fuels derived from sources other than oil. As gas prices have soared past the $3 dollar mark, people all across America are realizing that it is time for us to think about how we can become less reliant on foreign oil.

Many people are already taking major steps to free themselves from the gas pump. Kits can be purchased for as few as a few hundred dollars ( that will convert vegetable oil into bio diesel. Diesel engines can be easily converted to burn this fuel, allowing their owners to be virtually self-reliant when it comes to filling up their cars. This kind of thing is taking off in some pretty hip areas, such as Silver Lake, CA, a neighborhood in northern Los Angeles ( Converted engines will also run directly on used cooking oil. These ‘grease cars’ smell like French fries but allow their owners to be even more independent.

Large-scale bio diesel production is growing at an astounding rate. According to Soya Tech LLC (, bio diesel production plants can’t keep up with the current boom of vegetable oil production. These plants were equipped to make 250 million gallons of bio diesel in 2005 and have expanded their capacities to 600 million gallons thus far in 2006. Ethanol, another burnable fuel that can be derived from plant materials, is being produced at a rate of roughly 4.5 billion gallons per year. Current data indicates that this rate is increasing 25% each year.

Coal is another solution but is also likely the dirtiest. Although it is a highly polluting fossil fuel, coal is a substance that the U.S. has in spades. The good news is that it can be converted to liquid form and burned in regular combustion engines. Converting coal has some powerful advocates, including Ernie Fletcher, Governor of Kentucky, who are interested in ramping up the U.S.’s ability to liquefy coal (

One other usage of coal would be to convert it into hydrogen to use in fuel cell engines. Fuel cell technology has been refined by GM but is still years away from being a practical, large-scale solution ( Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe but it is hard to keep in an uncombined, pure form. Until we can come up with a way to cheaply and efficiently create and store pure hydrogen, widespread use of fuel cell technology will remain a dream of the future.

While there seem to be many possible solutions to the foreign oil problem, no single one has jumped out as being THE solution for the United States. In this time of uncertainty, many people are taking an interest in alternative fuels and are hungry for information about the pros and cons of each of these fuels. Most people are beginning to understand why alternative fuels are important, but have no idea how such fuels are made, who is making them and how they actually might come to benefit from their production.


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