APPLETON — It may be too optimistic to hope that British Petroleum’s reckless destruction of the Gulf of Mexico is a wake-up call, that our sedentary, wasteful, plastic, oil-powered American lifestyles are unsustainable, that fossil-fuel-extraction for heating, cooling, traveling, consuming and appliance-operating are devastating Planet Earth.

Not that long ago, when the 21st century was our future; we anticipated higher levels of progress, but now that the future has arrived, we see more pathetic, antiquated, destructive fossil-energy pursuit ruining Spaceship Earth.

In his campaign when our articulate president, Barack Obama, advocated ending foreign oil dependency, no one publicly disputed him. Yet, the United States is now more petroleum-dependent than ever. Many say our goal should not just be freedom from foreign oil, but freedom from fossil fuel itself.

Statements have been made that Americans are “addicted to oil.” Nothing is more false. Fossil-fuel-invested global elites prevent oil alternatives from becoming competitive — using corporate media and government to maintain a monopoly. Americans have no choice.

Tax breaks, oil-depletion allowances, low-interest loans and other government incentives reduce oil drilling costs, yet oil’s water contamination, air pollution and safety hazards are completely overlooked, except when corporations are caught in situations like today’s Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.

Like closing a barn door after horses escape, the commander-in-chief put a moratorium on deep–water drilling after the blowout. Then an oil-investment-interest-conflicted federal judge overturned the moratorium and other corrupt judges confirmed it. They should be impeached.

Obama was right to impose his drilling ban and he deserves more time to sort out the Pandora’s box he inherited. A moratorium, by definition, is not permanent. The Gulf may never be restored. Oil is still oozing out of Alaska’s Prince William Sound 20 years after a much smaller oil spill. A permanent ocean drilling ban is needed.

The end of oil affects transportation much more than other sectors. Without alternative fuel, spark-ignition and compression-ignition vehicles will be worthless.

Brazil overcame foreign oil dependence 30 years ago and is now completely oil-import-free while the United States imports 60 percent of its oil.

Following the 1970s OPEC oil shocks, Brazil installed alcohol pumps in refueling stations, offered auto companies tax breaks to produce alcohol-fueled cars, and increased sugar-cane-alcohol production.

Dr. Robert Zubrin in “Energy Victory” stated: “Before 1980 was out, every auto company in Brazil had alcohol models for purchase. In the mid-1990s Fernando Damasceno designed a simpler, cheaper flex-fuel engine.”

As worldwide oil prices soared and gasoline became twice as costly as alcohol, Brazilian car makers introduced flex-fuel models. 2007, 90 percent of Brazil’s spark-ignition vehicles were flex-fueled. Net-oil-imports shrank to zero. Brazil’s transition to alcohol reduced carbon-monoxide concentration six-fold, dropped sulfur-dioxide content nine-fold, and lowered fuel prices 20 percent.

Zubrin said: “Alcohols are not cancer-causing. Gasoline contains many (cancer-causing chemicals) including benzene, toluene, xylene, ethyl-benzene, and n-hexane. Oil leaks, spills, incomplete combustion, and refueling release these mutagens increasing cancer in the public (causing) deaths and billions of dollars of health costs.”

Alcohols also burn more efficiently than gasoline. Producing alcohols is low-priced and competitive. Nobel Prize-winning chemist George Olah in “Methanol Economy” indicated that methyl-alcohol can be cheaply produced by reacting carbon dioxide, (the greenhouse gas) obtained from air cost-free, with water (also free) and heat (also free from sunlight).

Creating “CO2-to-methanol” plants nationwide would let us replace gasoline with methyl-alcohol and decrease CO2 (reducing climate change).

Today, U.S. alcohols are scarce and most spark engines only run on gasoline. As long as flex-fuel engines are elective, spark-ignition cars must use at least 80 percent gasoline.

Few flex-fuel car owners can find alcohol distributors, distributors cannot stock alcohols unless cars use them. Gasoline containing 85 percent alcohol can be purchased in the Midwest, but for energy independence, alcohol must be available everywhere.

The solution to our petroleum problem is to follow Brazil’s example: Require all new spark-ignition engines be flex-fuel engines and mandate all gasoline contain at least 15 percent alcohol. Produce methanol from CO2 in every state. Eliminate fossil-fuel incentives and providing inducement for alcohol.

What does it mean if the United States cannot become oil-independent while Brazil can? If they did it, we can do it too.

– Special to The Press Herald