Popular Mechanics has just published an extensive look at alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen (you can see the article here), and the prospects are for getting away from gasoline — and for the political system’s getting rational about energy and fuel.
Ethanol is already found blended with gasoline at pumps across the country, and production is continuing to ramp up. Ethanol is probably the main fuel President Bush had in mind both in February, when he announced the Advanced Energy Initiative, and last summer, when he signed new energy rules into law. That legislation established a renewable-fuels standard that will require the use of 7.5 billion gal. of ethanol and biodiesel annually by 2012—a nearly 90 percent increase over today’s usage—and extended tax benefits that favor both fuels.
In the lab, many gasoline alternatives look good. Out on the road, automotive engineers have a lot of work to do, and energy companies have new infrastructure to build, before very many people can drive off into a petroleum-free future. And, there’s the issue of money.