Optimism And The Fuel Crisis - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

Optimism And The Fuel Crisis

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By By: Mike Royer

OPTIMISM \ AP-TE-MI-ZIM n., best, fr. Neut. of optimus
1 : a doctrine that this world is the best possible world 2 : an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome.

It’s beginning to affect nearly every part of our lives. It’s not just the cost of gas for our cars; it’s the cost of moving goods like food and clothing and building materials. Whether by air, truck or rail, fuel is involved and the countries with the petroleum have us right where they want us. They have the supply and they decide, for the most part, how much crude oil they’re going to produce each day. The demand is great and that really is the bottom line.

Some would have you believe that it’s all because of the evil and greedy oil companies. Some may be greedy and some might even border on evil, but they don’t set the price of oil. Supply and demand sets the price and competition is virtually non-existent, at least for now. But, that may be about to change.

I spent part of a pretty spring day last week with Dr. David Bransby. David is a professor at Auburn University in the area of Energy Crops and Bioenergy. He teaches in the Department of Agronomy and Soils. David is a smart guy and a good guy. He’s from South Africa and one of the reasons he came to the United States was because of what he described to me as the American attitude about solving problems. David says that there is no other country on the planet where people can tackle a problem with all the resources they can muster and figure out a way to fix it. David is searching for alternative ways to produce fuel, both gasoline and diesel fuel.

David is convinced, and he convinced me, that some solutions and even competition with foreign crude oil may not be that far away. Though he can’t take me there yet, David tells of a place not far from here, where by August of this year, diesel fuel will be produced in an alternative fashion using materials like wood chips, hay straw and switchgrass. A process exists that can, for the first time, produce large quantities of diesel fuel that has already been tested by one of the largest producers of diesel powered equipment in the world. At first, it will just power off-road diesel engines like farm tractors and generators, but in time will be able to be sold at the pump at very competitive prices.

It is David Bransby’s belief that the private sector will lead the way in all forms of alternative fuels. But in this country, government support is critical and individual testing and experimentation is allowed to go forward without interruption. David told me that while he’s excited about these new technologies, it will take time to refine processes and build plants.

Will such breakthroughs solve our energy problems overnight? Of course not, but in time with hard work and by tapping the best and brightest minds we can find, we will find alternatives to foreign oil.

If the price of foreign oil continues to climb, we may finally realize that we must tap into our own oil supply. Other countries are drilling new wells and building new platforms. We must find safe, environmentally sound ways to go get oil that is under American soil in Alaska and off our own coasts.

Our country has faced many challenges since her founding. This is another one, a very difficult one. We’ve never, as a country, shied away from tough challenges and we can’t this time either.

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