The Purpose of an Open Fuel Standard

An open fuel standard would make a huge difference to everyone. Fuels available right now could be sold for substantially less than the current price of gasoline. These fuels burn cleaner, produce less CO2, and can be made locally. And the cars we are driving right now are perfectly capable of burning these fuels.

But we can't put them in our tanks.

Our cars are not warranted to burn them. Oil has a virtual monopoly over transportation fuel. That gives oil tremendous strategic status in the world, and it has an especially high status in the United States, the top consumer of oil in the world. The main power behind oil's monopoly is OPEC.

OPEC is a cartel that employs illegal price-fixing tactics to restrict supply and keep the price of oil high. This drains America's economy. Legal action could be taken against OPEC, but they would probably retaliate with an oil embargo worse that the one in 1973 that crippled America's economy. Transportation fuel is excessively important to our economic health, but its price has been outside of our control.

So what can we do?

We could make an end-run around oil’s monopoly and its economic threat by making each vehicle capable of burning gasoline AND the other fuels. This is surprisingly easy to do.

The internal combustion engine sitting in your driveway can burn ethanol and methanol very well. With a very small tweak to the fuel system and onboard computer, your car could burn three fuels in any mix or proportion. This is a super-flex-fuel car, and is known as a GEM vehicle (gasoline, ethanol and methanol).

A gasoline-only car maintains oil's monopoly, which leaves our economy a victim of OPEC's whims. A GEM car brings freedom to the fuel market through fuel choice and competition, getting around the monopoly and rendering OPEC incapable of controlling fuel prices any longer (or exerting so much influence on America's economy).

With an inexpensive change amounting to no more than $100 per car, automakers can manufacture GEM cars, and thus introduce fuel competition for the first time in a hundred years.

And it wouldn’t be merely three fuels competing. There are many different feedstocks ethanol can be made from, and the same goes with methanol.

An open fuel standard would do for fuel what the iPhone did for cell phones — it would become a platform for innovation. The iPhone enabled anyone to make apps for the phone, generating a bloom of innovation.

The same could happen with fuel. The market is there. If people had cars that could burn the fuels, innovators and entrepreneurs would be vying to get in on it, constantly coming up with new and better fuels — cleaner, cheaper, more local, whatever people were attracted to and were willing to buy. All of this could come about if car manufacturers could be persuaded to do it.

Automakers are reluctant to make these simple changes for several reasons, but with a small push, they could bring forth a new era. And it would be good for car sales because lower fuel prices almost always increase car sales.

An open fuel standard has been proposed several times in Congress. The law would require that all new internal combustion engine powered vehicles sold in this country must be capable of allowing fuel competition. They would have to be GEM vehicles. And for the first time in our lives, we would enjoy as much choice in our fuels as we enjoy with everything else, from televisions to breakfast cereals. It would be the end of a one-fuel economy.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.

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