Advising leadership and management

Orange County can lead in turning oil into salt

Many years ago, before refrigeration, salt was the only way to preserve food. Because the sellers of salt held a monopoly on this essential product, it was rare and expensive.  But soon after refrigeration offered an alternative to salt the previously scarce product became a low-priced, easily available commodity.


This is what many leaders of the Open Fuel Standards movement are saying could happen with oil.  Imagine you drive into a fueling station with the same vehicle you drive now. And now you have the option of fueling your vehicle with gasoline, methanol, or ethanol. You would be experiencing not only fuel options, but pricing options as well.  Choice.  Freedom.


There is no cost to enable most existing and all new vehicles to run on gasoline or alcohol fuels. You simply have to turn on a software option that is currently disabled in cars sold in North America. Manufactures selling gasoline only vehicles in the United States, are selling the same vehicles in Brazil with the software enabled. That allows the on board computer to adjust the fuel air/ mix for pure gasoline or any mixture of gasoline and ethanol.


We are in a natural gas boom in this country.  Imagine that every 18-wheel truck on the roads today were fueled with natural gas instead of diesel fuel. The cost savings alone would impact the cost of goods shipped around the country today.  CNG (Compressed natural gas) sells at an average per gallon gasoline equivalent of $2.11.  In some parts of the country, the price of CNG is a dollar!  The national gasoline per gallon price in the country today is around $3.86.


Ford’s new 2014 F-150 truck that can gasoline, burn CNG and ethanol is in production now.  This truck with the added CNG tank could run between 880-900 miles before needing refueling.


At USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, researchers have learned how to produce methanol at much lower prices than gasoline, from captured and sequestered carbon dioxide Instead of carbon dioxide being a court declared toxin, it can now be recycled into methanol fuel for cars, trucks and ships. 


Alcohol fuels can be made from so many different raw materials.  Wheat, barley, straw, rice bagasse, sawdust, paper pulp, small diameter trees, and agricultural waste such as the stalks and husks left after the corn harvest. Imagine selling farming equipment to African and South American countries so they can grow their economies with bio for alcohol fuel.


In addition, methanol can be inexpensively manufactured from any form of biomass including natural gas, coal, forest waste, roadside weeds, household garbage and industrial waste.


We could be converting garbage into fuel.


Ethanol mostly gets a bad rap mostly from PR campaigns from the Petroleum Institute. Ethanol can be produced for about $1.50 a gallon without subsidies from natural gas or coal.  We have so much natural gas we are burning it off to get rid of it.  Instead of expensive subsidies, we need incentives.  Financial incentives offered by bringing free market solutions that would grow businesses not only in the United States but around the world.


Corn was used to make ethanol because we had too much of it and the price was too low for the farmers to make a profit. We learned that by using ethanol in our fuel, we could eliminate lead, a major polluter, from gasoline.  The ethanol offered the same octane boost necessary to start your engine and keep the engine from knocking as it could before using lead.


But corn isn’t the best crop to make ethanol.  Corn yields about 354 gallons of ethanol per acre.  Yet, sugar beets can yield 714 gallons per acre and Switchgrass brings in 1,150 gallons per acre!  In addition, sweet beets and Switchgrass require less fertilizer than corn. With genetically altered strains of Switchgrass, ethanol yields per acre can be increased another 38%.  Both beets and switch grass are the clean, renewable energy sources the environmentalists are seeking.


Orange County can take a Statewide and even a national leadership role by offering multiple fuel sources to consumers. In addition, Orange County could take every opportunity by promoting our current distribution infrastructure of gas stations offering additional fueling sources.  Environmentally the alcohol sources are much safer than gasoline.  If the Exxon Valdez was carrying either ethanol or methanol, both water based, you would have not seen any change to the bay 15 minutes after the leak occurred. The alcohol would have quickly dissolved in the water.


The County and their Cities could waive costly environmental studies while encouraging stations to offer more choice.  Private companies, and even start-ups, could lease from the current station owners the space necessary to sell their product.  This could also include electric vehicle rapid charging stations.  Imagine the disposable income made available in Orange County with lower consumer fuel prices and increased fuel competition.


We can destroy the OPEC oil cartel in a very few years.  We can follow the proven path of choice as the antidote to monopoly.  No longer would we be subsidizing country’s that hate us and enjoy our own national security by decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. It matters little how much oil we have in this country.  We cannot extract enough oil for the world’s needs and as long as OPEC continues to manipulate prices, our oil would fall into the same pricing trap.  For OPEC, the more we drill, the less they drill.  And the less we drill, the less they drill.


We cannot compete with OPEC in oil, but we can dramatically reduce their influence by offering fuel choice to Americans that are cleaner, cheaper and American made.  By working with local businesses in distribution we can create free market solutions and change oil to salt beginning right here in our own backyard.

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