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cornConservation of our energy resources can make a big difference in our national future.  We turn off lights when not in use; we lower our thermostats in the winter, and we add extra insulation to our homes.  Americans are trying to reduce their energy waste because conservation is one way to make our energy sources last. It is estimated that in the Southeast alone, if we adopted stricter energy efficiency regulations, we could reduce our energy intensity by more than 50 percent!  * Now that’s smart.  

While conservation makes a difference today, our best bet for energy independence is to have our own sources—clean renewable sources of transportation fuels. We can’t do it all at once, but every day, we do more.

Our gas is now 10 percent ethanol. That’s 10 percent less fossil fuel in the tank.  Flex-Fuel vehicles can use Ethanol E-85, a blend of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent gas.  There are five million flex fuel vehicles on the road, and they conserve millions of gallons of gasoline yearly. 

Cellulosic ethanol technology is developing rapidly. It’s made from renewable agricultural crops like switchgrass and byproducts of the paper and lumber companies. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 30 per cent of our overall fuel for transportation can be made from ethanol by 2030 with NO change in current land use.

hybridBiodiesel can power trains, ships and trucks with a fuel produced from the oils extracted from vegetables and seeds or produced by algae. Waste cooking oil is already recycled into biodiesel by refineries nationwide.  Most of our virgin oil stock for biodiesel comes from soybeans.  Soy oil is a low-priced byproduct of soy meal production and is available in relatively large volumes.  Other American crops such as rapeseed can produce 122 gallons of oil per acre, far surpassing soybeans for oil.  For every unit of energy required to produce biodiesel, 3.2 units are gained giving biodiesel a positive energy balance. 

By using renewable agricultural products for transportation, we conserve fossil fuels for chemical applications for which there are no easy substitutes.

Electric cars can also conserve energy. They are far more efficient than internal combustion.  Advances in battery technology and weight-saving carbon fiber technology make a good idea even better. Commuters are already zipping to work and back via their electric vehicles. Of course, to make it work, we’ll need infrastructure for charging, but still….

Conservation Now. Biofuels Now. More alternatives to come.

For further information, see

* electricity intensity: electricity use per dollar of state gross domestic product (GDP), per capita. The per capita GDP figures were taken from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, for 2007. Electricity sales figures came from the Energy Information Administration – “Energy Self-Reliant States Second and Expanded Edition” New Rules Project www.newrules.org