Last week I fell asleep while watching a documentary about the oil industry, and luckily I woke up in time to hear the kicker: That ever since 1994, American automobiles have been able to burn renewable (not fossil) fuels with only minimal reprogramming of electronic components; but by act of Congress, it is against the law to have your car modified.
We’ve been building flexfuel automobiles for about 20 years (that is, cars than can run on methanol, ethanol, gasoline, or any combination of the three), but most people don’t know their vehicles have this capability. Vehicles without this capability can be converted to flexfuel with kits costing less than $150, but commercial mechanics have been prohibited by Congress from making these inexpensive changes. You can do it yourself if you are handy, but you can’t hire it out.
The reason? Big Oil does not want you to know that we do not need to be dependent on petroleum and Big Oil’s monopoly distribution system. In other words, lobbyists of the oil industry have seen fit to convince Congress to perpetuate an outmoded energy technology that has justified our meddling and war-making in the world, polluted our environment, and added unnecessary and confiscatory costs to the budgets of the nation’s businesses and households—all to make people like Dick Cheney and his cronies richer. Every year since 2006, a simple flexfuel law has been introduced in one or the other houses of Congress, but the bills have never make it out of committee. This is because since 2006 Big Oil has made $36 million in political contributions to Congress.
The cars aren’t the problem; the real problem is getting alternative fuels—ethanol, methanol—in short, alcohol to fuel our vehicles. When Henry Ford invented his first cars, he made them to run on alcohol. But John D. Rockefeller saw this as a threat to his businesses, so he backed Prohibition, which also outlawed the production and transport of alcohol fuel and forced drivers to buy petroleum. Today the oil industry has a stranglehold on alternative fuels, which is enforced at the majority of pumps in the US. Most gas stations have franchise agreements with the major petroleum brands, which gives the oil companies control over what fuels can be pumped.
We have been sold the canard that ethanol production will cause a rise in food prices. But the rise in food prices is attributable to the rise in conventional fuel prices for food distribution. Ethanol is actually a byproduct of food production.
We have been sold the fraudulent story that we are dealing with energy futures based on an economy of scarcity. As a result, we swallow decisions that make absolutely no sense. For example, we spend a half-trillion dollars a year on military bases in the Middle East to protect our ability to import oil worth only about 10% of the military spending. This is just bat-shit crazy. No wonder ISIS wants to cut our heads off. It would probably make us smarter.
If you want to see a success story for the efficacy of flexfuel, just look at the experience of Brazil. Their economy is booming because the cost of fuel is low due to consumers having lots of choices available. They have a free market. We do not.
The documentary is Pump: The Movie (2014). Directed by Joshua and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Jason Bateman, Pump is well-researched, entertaining, and raises important points. It is currently available on Netflix and can be downloaded on the Internet. Watch it.
Its central message is: let a free American market decide.
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