The New Saudi Arabia: Indiana, USA: Imagine with me that the pipe from the Middle East was suddenly shut off. What would be the result in our economy? Devastating. The price of gas would likely triple overnight, and the overall cost of goods would soar as the cost to manufacture increased. But, after some time we would learn to travel differently and there would be a rally around new technologies.
Why not work hard to make Saudi Arabia irrelevant? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we could just turn off that connection ourselves? I have been looking at the new ethanol technology and it is getting better and better each year. Just 9 years ago it was estimated to cost more energy to produce ethanol than the fuel could produce itself. No longer! Due to improved technologies and higher yields of corn ethanol has now come into its own. I spent some time plowing through a lot of studies and found that a bushel of corn can yield 2.68 gallons of fuel. Corn producers are now seeing yields of nearly 140 bushels per acre (partly due to new BT corn which is insect resistant). That means that for one acre of corn you can yield 392 gallons!
Now lets assume for a minute that some bright garage mechanic makes the necessary adjustments to his Honda Impact (sorry GM, Honda is the leader here) and converts his care from petroleum to ethanol. Assuming that he can replicate the same performance with ethanol he can now get a conservative 75 MPG (some are seeing closer to 90). That means that one acre of corn could propel this little cruiser for 29,400 miles. There are the naysayer’s who will contest the validity of the figures, the realization of 392 gallons of fuel, or even the 75MPG (although it is being exceeded now), but the point is that things are changing. I read one report that said that to totally replace our dependence on foreign oil we would have to have 50% more land that we do currently (including all of Alaska). Sure, if technologies don’t improve things might be the same, but I am a firm believer in American ingenuity. First let’s start with trucks and fleet vehicles, busses and taxis. A few more years and we can enjoy a new freedom.