While I haven’t been posting as often on PB lately, I have managed to keep my reading up. And I just returned a terrific book to the library: Energy Victory by Robert Zubrin. If you aren’t familiar with the man, Zubrin is a remarkably intelligent fellow who is adept at finding the simplest solution to problems in front of us. He might be most well known for his “Mars Direct” plan, which leveraged his experience as a aerospace engineer working at NASA to come up with a cleverly simple plan that could have put us on Mars in the 12 years that have passed since the book was published.
He’s now turned his intellect towards solving our energy dependence problem, and true to form he’s found a very simple, very elegant solution: mandating flex-fuel engines in all cars sold in the US. Doing so would add $100 (or less!) to the cost of every car produced, and result in a massive growth of cars able to run on alcohol fuels (ethanol and methanol). Alcohol fuels that can be generated with agricultural byproducts, at less cost than gasoline.
His sales pitch is primarily concerned with wresting ourselves free of OPEC, and specifically the House of Saud; the lack of such a divorce can be argued as the greatest failure of the War on Terror. He touches upon other reasons for switching to an alcohol economy, including addressing the real (but overblown) global warming problem. He also demolishes the “it takes more gas to make than you get in end product ethanol” myth. At times caustic (even annoyingly so), there are no sacred cows he’s not willing to take a pointed swipe at, “right” or “left.” He’s correct far more often than not, if a bit unconcerned with feathers he might ruffle.
It’s a great read, and he keeps the science detailed and accurate, yet accessible to people with a basic science education. I highly recommend it.