Turning Oil Into Salt (2): Fuel choice via the Open Fuel Standard

The heart Turning Oil Into Salt’s thesis is the idea fuel choice via the Open Fuel Standard (OFS). This basically means turning car engines into flexible platforms that can use a wide variety of energy sources, incentivizing competition and reducing the strategic predominance of oil. One attraction is that it avoids the picking winners syndrome/game that seldom ends well.

One major pillar is flex-fuel vehicles, a la Brazil. I didn’t realize it cost only $100/car, for corrosion-resistant fuel line and a different fuel sensor, to make a car flex-fuel, and if this is true I think the argument for flex-fuel vehicles is strong (although of course consumers will be the ultimate arbiters). The authors’ other push is for flex-fuel vehicles to be certified for a wide range of alcohols (e.g. methanol, their favorite case study), which certainly makes sense if it is similarly inexpensive (is it?).

The other pillar is electric vehicles – unsurprisingly – but more specifically plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), to overcome the issue of limited range which plagues pure EVs. This is also not a new idea, but for me it gains new life in the context of a broader push for an Open Fuel Standard.

Flex-fuel PHEVs could get 500 mpgg (miles per gallons of gasoline, as the authors say) – note that this is not a measure of energy efficiency, but rather of lessening strategic dependence on oil. That said, it is also easy to see this resulting in higher systemic efficiency (using braking energy and charging on off-peak hours) and lower GHG emissions (if electricity generation is clean and if biofuels are environmentally friendly).

The other tiny obstacle, of course, is making flex-fuel PHEVs economical. More on this here.

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