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November 14, 2009

Veterans Day 2009: Veterans, Persian Gulf Wars, and Energy Security

Freedom is not free: The price may be energy security.

I first learned about energy security, using oil as a diplomacy weapon, and alternative fuels from my father.  My father was a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp for the last 3 1/2 years of World War II.  He rarely talked about his experience as a POW, but one day he did take a moment to answer my juvenile and naïve question “Did you have any fun in prison camp, was it like Hogan’s Heroes?”  His response changed my life.  “We siphoned the fuel out of the Japanese trucks and drank it.”

Dad-AngelIsland My father went on to explain how the U.S. threatened Japan with an oil embargo in an effort to get them to side with us in World War II.  At that time the U.S. was the world’s largest oil producer.  Their answer to our threat was to bomb Pearl Harbor – which was the first oil related attack on U.S. soil.  Because the Japanese no longer had oil supplies from the U.S., and their allies did not have any either, they had to convert their Saki industry to fuel their domestic military fleet. They had to save whatever oil they could buy to fuel their planes and other military equipment that could not be replaced with ethanol (Germany used methanol).

My high school class was the first not to face a mandatory draft for military service in a generation or two. The visions of the Vietnam War on TV were still fresh in my mind, the price of gasoline doubled the year I got my drivers license, and being from a military family I had a sinking feeling that the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 was the prelude to the next military mission.  With a dreadful fear of boot camp, some family photos, and very selfsih desire to stay out of the next war, necessity drove me to search for the mother of all un-petroleum inventions. I started researching alternatives to oil with father’s conversation in mind.  In 1977 I presented my father with my future plan based on his POW story.  At first he did not share my optimism about alcohol fuels and my American [day] Dream. He said “The United States Congress does not have the optical will and private industry does not have a genuine interest in changing status quo. 99% of the people don’t care – because they don’t know – and there are few leaders with the courage or enough money to tell them different.”  I spent the next 30 years proving him right.

Dad-MugshotI sincerely believe we are in a longer term war over oil.  It is becoming increasing clear every day since we did not find weapons of mass destruction and Sadam Hussein’s trail ended that our involvement in the Middle East may be less complex than it appears on the surface.  Some may disagree with my view that that Persian Gulf Wars I, II and II, and the Global War on Terror have everything to do with oil, but most may agree oil accounts for at  least 50% of our mission and can be rated as one of the top two reasons.

But the next 30 years are going to be different!  Times are changing and political will is growing stronger.  We have a renewable fuel standard and there are more democratic and republican leaders everyday that have the courage to tell Americans they are addicted to oil and it’s time for intervention.  The internet and blogs, in combination with the growing number of countries that respect democracy, education, and the freedom of speech will help people find the truth about oil.  In the meantime, our military fights every hour of every day to selflessly protect democracy, capitalism, the world economy and the pursuit of liberty for all – even if one of the root causes is oil.  The next time you fill up with gasoline, even if it is only 10% ethanol, stand tall and know that Americans have been heard, the challenge is being met, and our true national leaders are rising to the occasion.

Dad-Flags The next time you feel like you need a good God Bless America find some E85 and put it in your FFV as your personal effort to acknowledge our energy security mission and hopefully bring the troops home one day -- and God bless you if one of them is yours.  The people who think “business isn’t personal” obviously don’t know anything about the energy  business and energy security.

On Veterans Day I went to Arlington Cemetery to place a flag on my father’s grave. I could not help but notice the rows in Section 60 were growing with Persian Gulf War veterans. As the rows move east the birthdates change from the 1920’s to the 1980’s.  World War II, Vietnam, and Korea are replaced with Operation Desert Storm (Second Persian Gulf War), Operation Iraq Freedom (Third Persian Gulf War) Operation Enduring Freedom (War in Afghanistan).  The memorial for Operation Ultimate Justice (Global War on Terror) is across the street at the Pentagon.

Section 60 Veterans Day 2009 lead me down a path that filled with three generations of conflicts over oil and back to that conversation that changed my life.  Take a moment to talk to a veteran about war and oil – it might just change your life too – and maybe even change your mind about the next type of car you buy.

God Bless America and our troops that protect her.

Some recommended reading to learn more about Energy Security. 

1. Winning the Oil Endgame, by Amory B. Lovins, published by the Rocky Mountain Institute in cooperation with the Department of Defense.
2. Freedom from Oil, David Sandalow, published by McGraw Hill.
3. Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum, by Michael Klare, published by Henry Holt and Company (an Owl Book)
4. Energy Security Challenges for the 21st Century, by Gal Luft and Anne Korin, published by Praeger Security International.
5. Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes, published by Hill and Wang (a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
6. Turning Oil Into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice, Anne Korin, Gal Luft, published by BookSurge Publishing
7. Energy Victory, by Robert Zubrin, published by Prometheus Books
8. Over a Barrel: Breaking the Middle East Oil Cartel, by Raymond J. Learsy, published by Nelson Current
9. Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy by Matthew R. Simmons, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
10. The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World, by Paul Roberts, published by Houghton Mifflin Company (A Mariner Book).
11. The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and The Coming Global Financial Catastrophe, by Jeremy Leggett, published by Random House
12. The Plan: How To Rescue Society When The Oil Stops – Or The Day Before, by Edwin Black, published by Dialog Press
13. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, by Peter Maass, published by Alfred A. Knoff (Random House)


July 30, 2008

Tired of Just Complaining about High Gasoline Prices and our National Oil Addiction? Join the Club!

The Key to Cheaper Gasoline and Renewable Fuels May be in Your Driveway
- Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America sets out to organize and encourage drivers of ethanol fueled cars -

Washington DC, July 31, 2008: The Clean Fuels Foundation, through its Ethanol Across America education campaign helped launch the Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America today at the 11th Annual Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Expo and Forum on Capitol Hill.

The following is my speech at the Sustainable Energy Coalition Expo. I would appreciate your comments.

This is a sign of things to come.


I can not count how many times in the past 30 years I have heard some people say consumers are not willing to do anything or pay anymore to help develop alternative fuels.  On the other hand, I have had thousands of conversations with other people that have said give me a choice and I can not image I would not be willing to help myself.

So, I got tired of hearing myself complain that some were wrong and others were right, so I helped start the Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America.

This opportunity to rally flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) owners would not have been possible without the tireless work of many national renewable energy organizations and hundreds of industry and government leaders (link) that made the national renewable fuel standard (RFS) a reality and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 a law. I am just lucky enough to be able to serve as the Club President and help myself get some more E85 stations for my FFV Club minivan.  When using E85, I get about 100 miles per gallon of gasoline (MPGG), and that is what the Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America is all about.


The Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club has already received support and encouragement from some of the FFV makers, policy makers, our Congressional board of advisors, and other industry and government leaders interested in developing ethanol to its fullest potential. Today a bipartisan effort led by Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE) and Jay Inslee (D-WA) helped introduce a Resolution in Congress that recognizes the importance of FFVs and the role FFV owners can play in helping reduce oil imports and reduce the price of gasoline.

While the new energy bill and ethanol are not perfect today, I believe the majority of Americans have had their fill and reached their tipping point with status quo. Even in its current development stage -- more ethanol is better than more crude oil imports and the -- gasoline only -- choice at the pump.  Now is the time to put the baton into the hands of the concerned citizen in this marathon race toward domestically produced renewable fuels. They deserve vehicle and fuel choice.

The Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America (FFV Club or Flex Fuel Club) is a web-based, membership driven, new community-of-interest. It is a consumer group.  The Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America mission is very focused -- FFV owner awareness and increased E85 utilization.  The objective is to locate and educate the existing and new FFV owners and then motivate them to use higher blends of ethanol. Using higher blends of ethanol allows FFV owners to play a direct role in protecting the progress the nation has achieved by developing a renewable fuel standard (RFS). Demand from this growing group will help the nation jump the E10 blend wall. This will make room for new ethanol production technologies like cellulosic ethanol, and more efficient FFVs that will include hybrid and plug-in technologies. Then we can fight over getting 500 MPGG.

One objective of the FFV Club is to transform the traditional one way flow of clean energy education and outreach and instead corral, nurture, harness, and activate the power of millions of existing and future FFV owners.  The FFV Club will help FFV owners understand their Flex Fuel option will empower them to have a direct impact on improving the environment plus enhancing energy and national security plus protecting their personal health and economic well being.  I believe these core values are much more powerful, popular, and just as noble a cause as being an environmentalist.  This is a very distinct objective that is unique and different from other ethanol stakeholder organizations – yet it will also compliment and support many of their goals.

The Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America message will help move the ethanol/FFV/high blend debate from one of special interest politics and market protection to one of self-interest and preservation of our quality of life.  The opportunity at hand is focused, exciting, and hopeful.  The FFV Club will empower and deputize its members to carry positive messages to other consumers by providing them with public recognition, acknowledgement of their role-model example of active citizenship, useful and repeatable knowledge, and a pride of purpose that one can possess by simply owning an FFV -- and knowing why. Capturing just a small percentage of FFV owners and other biofuel enthusiasts will create a group that will be heard and respected, just like other environmental and consumer groups with similar missions.

Similar to environmental and consumer groups, benefits of an FFV Club membership include getting new knowledge about issues, the use of the information/research on the website, a newsletter, blog commentaries about current events, vehicle decals, the opportunity to purchase or receive promotional and/or reward items, and to be eligible for discounts on products and services that are energy and environmentally friendly.  The enrollment and continuing activist plan is to have members be involved with the FFV Club E3powerment program. This program focuses on empowering consumers, with the use of their FFVs and E85 purchases, to immediately and directly do something about the three critical E's facing them, their families, and their country: Economic development, Energy security, and Environmental improvement.

So what's in it for you?

According to Merrill Lynch the use of ethanol has already lowered the price of gasoline and crude oil by 15%.  That means consumers are empowered today to:

  • Lower the price of their gasoline by 50 cents per gallon and that is saving the world $619 billion on their crude oil bill, and therefore
  • Lower the price of food and everything else with lower oil prices, and therefore
  • Continue to lower the price of gasoline and crude oil imports simply by using more domestic renewable fuels, and therefore
  • Help support our troops by lowering the strategic value of crude oil imports, and therefore
  • Helping to create over 200,000 jobs to help sustain families, and therefore
  • Help lower greenhouse gases, and then...wait there's more...
  • Stimulate the economy with billions of dollars in investment in new technologies like cellulose, and then help to
  • Lower taxes that would have been used to pay farmers not to be productive, and then help to
  • Protect the value of farm land so famers can increase the amount of food and feed to support the world's growing population.

It's time for consumers to help themselves to what they asked for, and what our forefathers fought for -- independence.

True independence is not just about energy, it is about the freedom of choice and economic freedom.  FFVs, ethanol, E85, and the national renewable fuel standard have put consumers back in the drivers seat.  There are proven benefits to ethanol production and the increased E85 utilization in FFVs. The information can be validated with third party data sources that include Merrill Lynch, DOE, USDA, National Labs and other studies.  If the nation is going to continue to move forward in the direction of biofuels and receive more public and policy benefits FFV owners need to step forward and be acknowledged for their existing and future contribution to the country and show the FFV automakers makers that their billions of dollars invested into the production of their vehicle was worth it.

Why are FFV Club Members so important?

Why do FFVs owners and new FFV buyers hold the key to your energy future?

The national renewable fuel standard (RFS) was expanded in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require gasoline refiners/blenders to use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022. 

By the end of 2008 United States will be able to produce and use about 10 billion gallons of ethanol.  It is unlikely gasoline refiners can blend ethanol at a 10% level into every gallon of the 150 billion gallons of gasoline sold in the United States. Therefore only 12-13 billion gallons of ethanol can be consumed each year at a 10% volume level.  That means FFVs owners will soon play a critical role in the growth and continued success of the national renewable fuel standard and the federal ethanol program. The continued success of this law and standard is critical to the continued evolution of new and advanced vehicle and fuel technologies.  If we do not get this one right, it may take a long time to prove again that Americans care enough to do something.

Why do you and Flex Fuel Club members want the U.S. to get past 15 billion gallons of ethanol production?

The first 8 billion gallons of ethanol blended into gasoline already saved you 50 cents per gallon on gasoline and saved the world $619 billion on crude oil just this year.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is not perfect, but it does capitalize on the ability of renewable fuels to reduce foreign oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions and provide meaningful economic opportunity across the country. This places America firmly on a path towards even greater energy stability and sustainability and the freedom of vehicle and fuel choice.

According to a January 2008 study, the economic impact of a 36 billion gallon RFS will:

  1. Add more than $1.7 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product between 2008 and 2022;
  2. Generate an additional $436 billion of household income for all Americans during the same time period;
  3. Support the creation of as many as 1.1 million new jobs in all sectors of the economy; and,
  4. Generate $209 billion in new Federal tax receipts.

You could hold the FFV key to your economic, environmental and energy security treasure chest.  Someone needs to use more ethanol in their car to protect this landmark opportunity and historic legislation.  Is it going to be you?  Are you going to change the world or continue hoping someone else will? Are you tired of just complaining? JOIN THE CLUB! The Flexible Fuel Vehicle Club of America.

Do you have an FFV? You may hold the key to the answer in your driveway.