Time for alternative fuels

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 30, 2015

Choices. It’s one of the things that make this country great.

When you purchase a cellphone, computer, home or even a vehicle, Americans have plenty of choices in the brand, model and features of these items.

But there’s one thing we don’t have a choice in, the type of fuel we put in our vehicles. Sure, you can pick between octane levels, and even if you want to drive a diesel vehicle or not. But all of those fuels come from one source, crude oil.

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That means oil producers, for the most part, have a monopoly on how we fuel our internal combustion engines.

But did you know there are alternatives to fueling your vehicle?

There are three types of fuel that almost every modern vehicle can utilize, gasoline, ethanol and methanol. To run the latter two types through an engine your vehicle may need minor modification, but the cost to do this procedure is cheap, especially when you consider the fact these fuels are cheaper, and you won’t have to buy a new car to use them.

The use of alternative fuel to power a vehicle is not a new idea. When Henry Ford produced his Model T, it was capable of running on gasoline, ethanol and kerosene.

Recently Ford began producing vehicles with the “Flex-fuel” badge, indicating those engines are capable of running on gasoline or a blend that is up to 85 percent ethanol combined with 15 percent gasoline.

While there are some drawbacks to using E-85 fuel, such as a decrease in miles per gallon, ethanol is renewable fuel, and thereby much cheaper.

Methanol, which can be made from any plant material, is another renewable fuel that could potentially be used in  today’s internal combustion vehicles, again with some modifications.

A lot of modern racecars already use methanol because of the affordable price and because it is less likely to explode if the vehicle is involved in a collision.

So, why do we continue to have only one choice at the pump?