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At the Management Briefing Seminar in Traverse City on Friday Chrysler's Loren Beard made some remarks that would come as a surprise to those who think that the automakers are in the pocket of the oil companies. Beard is the Senior Manager of Energy Planning and Policy and he spoke about the five groups that are trying to stop alternative fuels.
The first and most obvious is the big oil companies that want to protect their market. OPEC should also come as no surprise since most member countries have economies that are almost entirely dependent on the flow of high dollar crude oil. Another is what Beard describes as "Silver Bullet" carmakers who are trying to sell some new technology that will solve everything as long as there is no competition.

Agri-business companies also get called out because they want the focus to be on biofuels from corn and soy rather than other alternatives. Lastly comes what he calls Fringe Environmental Groups. Their problem with them is that they need to keep people afraid that none of the currently available technology can help. Keeping people on edge helps them attract donations. Click the Read link to hear Loren Beard discuss the five groups.

[Source: Chrysler]
Loren Beard stirred things up at the end of a weeklong industry conference.
The Chrysler Senior Manager of Energy Planning and Policy named the five groups that he says are trying to stop the growth of alternative fuels.
Speaking at the annual Management Briefing Seminars conference, held outside Traverse City, Mich., Beard said the groups have their own interests to protect. What might be a surprise to some is the inclusion of "Big Agriculture", some environmental groups and some automakers.
The five groups are:
1. Big Oil
– Alternative Fuels eat into their market share, complicate distribution operations and may require special components and unique additives at refineries.
2. Big Agriculture
– They support feedstock-specific biofuels such as soybeans and corn and want to maintain current tax incentives that support their crops. The Renewable Fuels Association supports mid-level blends of ethanol, which will effectively kill the E85 program.
3. "Silver Bullet" Carmakers
- They believe that their technology is the only answer to improving fuel economy.
- Look to parochial interests rather than national and global interests
4. Fringe Environmental Groups
- They need "crisis" PR to attract donations
- Focus on imaginary "silver bullet" long-term technologies without respect to real world economics.
5. OPEC
- Need to support high production rates at high prices
- Use their market position to influence political positions
Beard also listed the five reasons they can't succeed:
- Finite petroleum resources
- Petroleum held by hostile regimes
- Greenhouse gases
- Alternative fuels create jobs on American farms, in American processing plants and in American transportation
- U.S. balance of trade
We talked to Beard about the five groups listed above. To hear our interview, click on "download podcast" below.


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  • 9 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Im an engineer to. I agree that solar powered BEVs or Solar powered H2 fuel cells are a better way to go than petroleum or biofuels the only problem is there aren't enough electric vehicles on the roads today. There are what 250 million cars on the american roads today. It will take way way less time to build cellious ethanol plants than it will to replace all those gas/diesel powered cars. Biofuels are a good choice for the short term at least.
      Maybe it would be better to say that nutrients are returned to the soil via fertilizers or biomass.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Bravo to Loren Beard!

      I understand the comment made by Scatter, but that would be best addressed with a 50 cent or so gas tax. Then consumers can still buy what they want, but they will also pay for the long term costs of this choice.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The energy loss from fertilizer is the energy value of the hydrocarbon you start with when making it (NB, the vast majority is from natural gas, not petroleum) and the energy it takes to turn it into a fertilizer and transport it. You apply fertilizer to replenish the nutrients in the soil, not to provide energy for the plants -- they get the energy they need via photosynthesis, making the sugars and materials that can be turned into a fuel. When you harvest the crop you take the nutrients off the field and need to replenish them.

      (My credentials: I'm an engineer who grew up on a farm...)
      • 7 Years Ago
      If he is not fired or shuttled away to a remote location, then the new Chrysler has thrown down.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Chrysler is on the ropes so it has nothing to lose by being candid.

      • 7 Years Ago
      GoodCheer -

      all cultivated plants are energy plants. Food just happens to power livestock and ultimately, people, rather than furnaces and cars. The energy comes from the sun.

      However, it is important to replenish minerals. Extensive agriculture was based on manure plus burning the stubble plus crop rotation plus letting fields lie fallow every few seasons while soil bacteria got on with the business of nitrogen fixation. At the beginning of the 20th century, guano was harvested from faraway places like Chile but that approach was not scalable.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_fixation

      Intensive agriculture is based primarily on synthetic fertilizer made from oil. The original process was invented by two Germans, Messrs. Haber and Bosch. Synthetic fertilizer is among the technologies responsible for the explosive population growth of the 20th century and therefore, the scale of the environmental problems we face today.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm not an ecologist, I'm an engineer.

      I would think that in the 'natural state' the energy contained in plants would be returned to the soil and to the next generation of plants.
      If you are taking energy out of plants to burn in cars, you either deplete the soil, and can only get a couple years worth of crops before you have only dust left, or you need to replace the 'energy' with fertilizers. As far as I know, most of the fertilizers used are petroleum based. Clearly a lot of energy is captured by the plants from the sun, but with the wealth of the soil at stake, I would want to be really sure of the long-term effects this will have on what is ultimately the most precious resource: the ability to grow food.
      (is the 'fertile crescent' still fertile?)
      • 7 Years Ago
      What about a 6th group: rational people who think that the car manufacturers' focus on alternative fuels is not the right solution when much bigger savings can be achieved through developing more efficient vehicles? Or perhaps those that believe that liquid biofuels, in their current form, and hydrogen in any form, are not the right solution either because they have serious detremental effects on the environment or are a dead end and a waste of money?

      But these kind of comments are typical of an industry that blames everyone else for their failings and won't shoulder their responsibility and tackle climate change.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The "Silver Bullet" carmaker jab was obviously aimed at Toyota and Honda for their fuel efficient hybrids, and possibly at Tesla for their emphasis on electric cars. In other words, he was trying to blame companies that actually are improving fuel economy and work on alternative fuels, for opposing alternative fuels! Bizzare!

      No, instead I'd say one of the five groups is:
      "Don't change a thing" carmakers who want to continue making what they've always made and don't want to change fuels or improve economy.

      Of course he couldn't say that, as Chrysler has long been one of the "don't change" automakers.