Monday, January 12, 2009

Blue Fuel/DME, ethanol, and President Obama

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Though I can’t say for sure, and would love to be proven wrong, I rather doubt that President Barrack Obama has the slightest idea what the acronym DME stands for. He is in good company, I would think. How many government leaders around the world know what these three letters represent? Precious few. The problem is, President Obama is now laying the foundations for energy policy in the US that will have global implications—for decades. And there is little indication that Blue Fuel/DME is part of that policy.

Blue Fuel/DME has indeed kept a low profile in the US, despite merits that had authors of a 2005 study partially funded by the US Department of Energy concluding:
Compared to some of the other leading alternative fuel candidates (i.e., methane, methanol, ethanol, and Fischer–Tropsch fuels), dimethyl ether appears to have the largest potential impact on society, and should be considered as the fuel of choice for eliminating the dependency on petroleum.

–Journal of Power Sources Volume 156, Issue 2, 1 June 2006, Pages 497-511

Blue Fuel/DME has run into roadblocks in the US that have prevented it from reaching its rightful position as the alternative fuel of choice, one of the most unfortunate of which is the corn-based ethanol industry. Nicholas Hollis, president of an agriculture industry watchdog in the US called Agribusiness Council, has described ethanol as the largest scam in American history. This assessment is not only based on years of unethical, illegal and monopolistic practices, but also because so many prominent scientists have concluded that ethanol’s low energy conversion efficiency, and the energy intensive process to produce corn ethanol, result in an overall process that yields no significant net energy benefit. In other words, it takes as much energy to make it as you get from burning it. Worse than the tar sands of Alberta, Canada! On top of that, the production of corn-based ethanol is associated with a host of other problems, including the production of fuel from food in a hungry world, destruction of the soil, depletion of water resources—and a host of others. In 2008, some 30% of the US grain harvest went straight to ethanol distilleries—to provide energy security. A scam indeed. One subsidized by the US Government.

The reason I link Blue Fuel/DME, ethanol, and President Obama is that the president is from Illinois, where the corn-based ethanol industry is a powerful force. In fact the New York Times has noted that President Obama’s strong support of ethanol helped propel him to his first caucus victory in Illinois. “As befits a senator from the country’s second largest corn-producing state, he delivered a ringing endorsement of ethanol as an alternative fuel.” This, of course, raises the question of whether President Obama is a true reformer, or a lesser, mortal politician, one whose views are shaped by special interests. Is politics as usual going to prevail—in a field as crucial to the future of the planet as energy? A full read of this New York Times article is disturbing and highlights the challenges facing proponents of Blue Fuel/DME in the US.

But persevere we must. The key, of course, is getting access to President Obama—as soon as possible—to explain in no uncertain terms why Blue Fuel/DME, and not ethanol, is the fuel for today. This access will no doubt be gained through a trusted ally of the president. Mr. Gore, perhaps? A man who not only knows about Blue Fuel/DME, but who once had a prototype Blue Fuel/DME vehicle. Where there’s a will there’s a way. . .

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