We are actually very close to a solution to the petroleum problem. Tomorrow, President Bush could make the following speech: "We are all concerned that the industrialized world, and increasingly the developing world, draw too much of their energy from one product, petroleum, which comes disproportionately from one volatile region, the Middle East. This dependence has significant political and environmental dangers for all of us. But there is now a solution, one that the United States will pursue actively.I like it! Screw the hydrogen car nonsense and build hybrid cars that run on gasoline or ethanol/methanol. Allow these cars to plug in at night to get energy from the electrical grid (which can start using more wind, solar, biomass and nuclear). Decrease our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels without requiring major infrastructure upgrades.
"It is now possible to build cars that are powered by a combination of electricity and alcohol-based fuels, with petroleum as only one element among many. My administration is going to put in place a series of policies that will ensure that in four years, the average new American car will get 300 miles per gallon of petroleum. And I fully expect in this period to see cars in the United States that get 500 miles per gallon. This revolution in energy use will reduce dramatically our dependence on foreign oil and achieve pathbreaking reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions, far below the targets mentioned in the Kyoto accords."
Here's the math (thanks to Gal Luft, a tireless and independent advocate of energy security). The current crop of hybrid cars get around 50 miles per gallon. Make it a plug-in and you can get 75 miles. Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of 15 percent petroleum and 85 percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. (You don't get 500 miles per gallon of fuel, but the crucial task is to lessen the use of petroleum. And ethanol and methanol are much cheaper than gasoline, so fuel costs would drop dramatically.)
Smart government intervention would include a combination of targeted mandates, incentives and spending. And it does not have to all happen at the federal level. New York City, for example, could require that all its new taxis be hybrids with flexible-fuel tanks. Now that's a Manhattan Project for the 21st century.
via Fareed Zakaria.com