Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Green with envy over this fuel …

Here at the show, we’ve been dealing with the high cost of fuel by talking about what truckers themselves can do to survive the current fuel price crisis.

But we all know about the bigger issues involved. The price of oil and fuel is higher than it’s ever been. And while many think speculation is primarily to blame, others have pointed to different reasons.

The lack of refinery capacity in this country is one. Over the years, because of strict environmental laws here in the United States, more and more have closed, and few if any have opened.

That led one of our callers to ask: Why not locate those refineries just over the border in Mexico?

That would create plenty of jobs for people there, which hopefully would mean fewer entering our nation illegally. It would provide us with plenty of refinery capacity and yet keep those facilities where the EPA frankly doesn’t care about them.

It seems like a win-win. If our environmental laws are holding back construction of new refineries, why not put them there?

I hesitate, however, to suggest moving any business out of this country right now. We really need the jobs here.

The better solution is for them to work out the environmental concerns and build them here. But as everyone knows, we have little control over that.

That same caller asked about the latest trend in supposedly environmentally friendly fuels – using algae to produce biofuels.

Unlike other biofuels that are falling out of favor, that’s pretty interesting stuff – and for a number of reasons.

First, the stuff thrives on carbon dioxide, so the output of power plants could be funneled into it. It would make the stuff grow like mad, and prevent that CO2 from getting into the atmosphere.

Second, growing that algae doesn’t take a fraction of the land required for other biofuels. Farmland could be dedicated to food crops. Land that has little use for crops could be used for algae.

There are still concerns about even this idea – and it’s important to note that it has to stand alone in the long run. Government subsidies may be an option to get something off the ground, but in the long run, no fuel can make it if it continues to require those subsidies past the research stage.

Even if everything goes well, algae-based fuel is still quite a ways off. But it does have some promise.

If you want to read more, click here.