Will requiring flex-fuel capable cars free us from foreign oil?

Robert Zubrin thinks so. Zubrin is an aerospace engineer and long-time advocate of manned missions to Mars. While going to Mars is a highly dubious proposition given the issues we need to deal with on our planet right now, making all gasoline engines flex-fuel capable as Zubrin promotes in his new book is probably a very good idea. The incremental cost of flex-fuel capability is only about $100 per vehicle and that would provide the ability to use any alcohol fuel including methanol and butanol. The corn ethanol that we use today will make little if any dent in our oil imports.
Cellulosic ethanol, methanol and butanol do hold a lot of promise, though. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and his wife, Helen Smith, have an interesting interview with Zubrin on their podcast that's worth a listen. Some of Zubrin's arguments for using alcohol fuels are a bit over simplistic and ignore some of the pitfalls associated with them. That includes draining fields of nutrients if all the leftover material is converted to fuel. Alcohol fuels are unlikely to free us from oil dependence on their own, although they can make a dent. What they can really do is help diversify energy supplies and domestically produced fuels can also help to fund research into other renewable energy sources. What we really need to do, however, is find different ways to reduce our total consumption of energy while maintaining our current lifestyles. Let the flames begin!

[Source: Instapundit]

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