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U.S. must promote clean, alternative fuels

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JOHN O’LEARY
June 10, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is among commentaries written by students in the Washington Seminar program at Janesville Parker High School. The seminar is for students in the advanced placement U.S. government course taught by Joe Van Rooy.

During the 1970s oil crisis, the United States realized it had a crippling dependency on foreign countries. Consequently, the U.S. strove to become energy independent and invest in practical, renewable fuels in order to free our country from the confines of a depleting resource.


The search for these alternative fuels has been an ever-changing process and has led to a variety of outlooks today. In the quest for an economical renewable fuel, three choices have been predominant: ethanol, electricity and hydrogen. However, some of these are more practical than others.


While corn ethanol is currently the favorite in the United States and receives the most government support, it is also proving to be the least practical. Richard Kolodziej, president of Natural Gas Vehicles of America, stated a clear problem with ethanol: “It takes more energy to make ethanol than can be derived from [it].”


The increased use of ethanol also has led to using 40 percent of the nation’s corn for fuel, which raises food prices. Thus, the government must look for a more practical solution.


Ideally, electricity and hydrogen fuel cells could be the solutions because neither discharges harmful emissions into the atmosphere, and each can be completely renewable. However, to make these economical, the electricity must be made renewably. Due to lack of government aid, hydrogen is expensive to produce and transport; meanwhile, electric vehicles are ready for market but are struggling to find popularity.


In order to convince citizens to embrace alternative fuels, the government must show it is willing to promote an alternative, clean fuel. This means reducing support for the well-off oil companies and promoting more aid to companies developing innovative alternative fuels that can help lead the U.S. away from harmful energy dependency on foreign countries.



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