Oil: Easy to burn, hard to give up
Posted April 28, 2006

Let’s face it–we’re addicted. America’s drug of choice is oil, and we’re all paying for it.

If you have to decide whether to buy your lunch or fill up your tank, you know there’s a problem. Gas prices are higher than they’ve been in more than 25 years, leaving millions of Americans to wonder just how much more we all can take.

As the richest country in the world, we should be demonstrating how to limit spending and use the earth’s resources wisely. Instead, we continue to pay more than $3 a gallon for gasoline and pollute the environment, while Brazilians fill their flex-fuel vehicles with ethanol made from sugar for half the price. They even get a tax break for their low-emissions vehicles.

When’s America going to catch up with these “less advanced” countries?

Brazil responded to their first fuel crisis in 1975 with Proalcool, 75 percent gasoline blended with 25 percent ethanol produced from sugar cane (a major Brazilian crop). They then advanced their vehicles to run on pure alcohol and by the mid-1980s more than 90 percent of cars in Brazil ran on pure alcohol. That changed with the rising price of sugar but Brazil learned a lesson from these ups and downs and they developed flex-fuel vehicles.

From sugar to corn and soybeans to vegetable oil, there are many natural substances that can fuel cars and trucks. We need to harness these alternative fuels.

Maybe the United States could be more proactive, like Brazil, and start to change our gas-guzzling ways. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush committed “to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.” Did you hear that everyone? We just have to be patient for 19 more years.

While we sit back and wait on that one, Brazil expects to be independent of all imported oil this very year. And they won’t even have to depend on just one source to fuel their cars and trucks. Their flex-fuel vehicles can run on any fuel, from pure gasoline to pure alcohol and with 31,000 fueling stations in Brazil, these cars represent more than 70 percent of the automobiles sold there.

Meanwhile we’re being held hostage by oil companies who tell us what to pay and we pay for it, especially in Southern California.

The song’s right; nobody walks in L.A. We drive around in our gas-guzzling SUVs, with only one passenger and pay $80-$100 to fill the tank. If other countries were doing the same thing, we would say they were crazy.

Many politicians, noticing that elections are not far in the future, have decided to “look into the possible gas-gouging.” Possible gouging? Come on, it’s pretty obvious that we’re paying through the nose while oil companies make a staggering profit.

Gasoline producers would have serious competition if we had flex-fuel vehicles like Brazil. Then prices at the pump would stabilize and we could pay for ethanol or gas; whichever was cheaper. Our solution may be just a continent away.

Earth Day just passed and we could all be better citizens of this planet. Using oil and other fossil fuels until they are completely wiped out isn’t the smartest move, especially with Brazil showing us how to do things better. Finding new fuel sources is the only way to break our addiction. We just need a really good rehab. Remember, the first step is to admit we have a problem.

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