ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Is multi-fuel ultimately the best way to go? | Environment

Burning hard, loose and clean

– “Fuel”, Metallica, 1997 Fuel Fire Desire

Recently, the availability of rare or difficult-to-extract minerals required for electric cars, or more specifically for their batteries, has given rise to much concern. If there was no availability for these minerals, current batteries would be too expensive, much less efficient, and too heavy. How long will it take to develop the next generation of batteries? Right now, no one even wants to venture into guessing.

Do we have to consider an alternative now? If so, what about multi-fuels? We have the “flexible fuel”, however, it only relates to the use of gasoline and ethanol in any mixture. I think we need an engine with really diversified fuel consumption.

Let’s first define multi-fuels. In short, it is any vessel that consumes fuel to produce a net benefit. For example, we humans are multi-fuel ships. For me it’s blueberry muffins at LOML, then sweet potato pancakes at Wagner, or Lemon Snicket waffles at Amity Coffee Café or when I need extra fuel, “The Sean” at Penn Yan Having dinner. Yes, in my humble opinion *, just like humans, all vehicles we drive should be multi-fuel.

The same goes for visionary Jimmy Carter, who introduced multi-fuel vehicles in 1977 with his new Department of Energy. The criticality was driven by the shortage of gasoline and the fact that America was making itself vulnerable to only one source of energy – oil – that we lacked. President Carter wanted to have a safety net to prevent this from happening again. His administration therefore invested resources in research for the development of new fuels, that is, biofuels, improved batteries, as well as more energy-efficient vehicles and engines.

However, America ended this by electing Ronald Reagan. A New York Times A January 31, 1982 article, titled “An Idea Whose Time Is Going,” describes how the Reagan administration dismantled the visionary advances in alternative energy of the Carter administration. Today, 40 years later, we suffer from this short sightedness. What we have is accelerated climate change, super high-tech powerhouse in China, Russia as an energy supplier to Europe, et al. Add to this that the previous administration pushed back coal, nuclear and horizontal hydrofracturing. Not to mention the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and now in Africa over oil. All of this could have been avoided if we had adhered to Carter’s policies. We have to add the effects of this myopia to the real cost of oil.

What are multi-fuels?

Ammonia, hydrogen, liquid nitrogen, compressed air, batteries, gasoline, diesel, blueberry muffins, methanol, methane (natural gas), alcohol, electricity, solar, wind, biogas, wood, ocean waves, ethanol, algae, hydrogen, propane .

As you can see there are many sources of fuel.

Wood is a good renewable source. I have to ask what happened to the Trillion Tree campaign? Much of the energy can be produced from this highly renewable source. The “cooking” of wood produces hydrogen and CO. Then the two gases can be burned together for fuel. Such a “cooker” can be solar.

Natural gas is virtually everywhere the ancient oceans were. Siberia is threatened by global greenhouse gas emissions. Methane has 32 times the heat retention of CO2! With global warming, we may have no choice but to burn this gas. Otherwise, if the right conditions are right, Siberia will be the biggest and most volatile air polluter in the world.

The best candidates

Based once again on my very humble opinion * here is my list of the best multi-fuel candidates:

• Natural gas – An evidence. It is abundant. It permeates virtually all of America’s coasts. It is also vulnerable to the issue of climate change. While I disagree with hydraulic fracturing, it may be necessary to minimize the greenhouse effect by extracting gas now and using it instead of gasoline to power our cars before it goes. does become a global pollution problem at the same time, 30-50 years down the road. We could also take methane and convert it to hydrogen through a device like the Bloom box, which then converts directly into electricity. This technology can also take excess energy and store it. This would be extremely useful for energy sources that have energy peaks like wind and sun when that energy cannot be used otherwise.

• Hydrogen – We have talked a lot about hydrogen. Obtaining it as a fuel can be considered in several ways: one with wood, with water and electrolysis, and with the use of a direct current source (direct current) and finally by removing the hydrogen atoms of a molecule with a high concentration of hydrogen such as methane. Details of hydrogen as fuel or for storage as fuel should be for another column.

• Biomass and biofuel – These two are often interchanged. However, biomass is usually what the substance is before it becomes a biofuel. Biofuels can be solid, liquid or gaseous. Some examples of biofuels are biodiesel made from cooking and animal rendering oils, ethanol made by distilling sugar beets from corn or other plant materials, and hydrogen from wood from ” cooking ”. I would strongly oppose ethanol produced from corn or sugar beets, unless it is damaged crops, as ethanol takes too much energy to produce and has fewer BTUs per unit of volume than the fuel it is supposed to improve. I guess nothing beats a good corn lobby. On the positive side, Exxon Mobil, which has brilliant biophysicists, is working on algae. Algae grow where the water is inhospitable, the soil unsuitable. However, Exxon says there is a considerable amount of research to be done before this business becomes profitable.


We must be vigilant. We did not get out of the woods. Lithium may be available for a while, but not with nickel and cobalt. These are key ingredients for the lithium battery electrodes, the + and – battery terminals. So until this can be resolved, we need to consider making multi-fuel natural gas vehicles a primary consideration. We must take advantage of the excess energy produced by wind and solar power to manufacture and store hydrogen or transform biomass into biofuels. We also need to make all of our vehicles multi-fuel. By that I mean any fuel. Batteries, biofuel, methane and hydrogen. Otherwise, we can always ride a bike, fueled by blueberry muffins.

* My opinion is always humble.

James Bobreski has been a process control engineer in power generation for 43 years. He is also the author of “Alternate Energy and Climate Change in the Age of Trump”, available at the Longs bookstore and on

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