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Alternative fuel vehicles

READ MORE: Alternative fuel vehicles
For Ashley High School senior Katie Mallard, alternative fuels are the way of the future. "Gas prices aren't going to stay low forever, they are going to jump again, resources aren't going to last forever, gasoline will deplete one day, and if we get a head start on it, we will all be better," said Mallard. Mallard organized an alternative fuel car show at the Battleship. It was part of her senior project, it seemed to get a lot of attention. Drivers from all over spent the day showing off their hybrid, bio-diesel and electric cars. Topsail High School students Arik Jones and Robert Ward said there are good and bad things to owning an electric car. One good thing about it is you can plug it in at night and when you wake up in the morning it's fully charged. Robert Ward said, "Some cons might be that you might not get as far as you would with an electric charge that you would with a full tank of gas." Topsail High School senior Arik Jones said, "No emissions are good for the earth, we only have so many renewable resources, that we just have to go on." People took a walk around looking at the different cars. The big hit was the Volkswagon Jetta that runs on vegetable oil. The same oil that you use to fry up dinner. "A lot of them are normal cars that they bought, that a lot of people have that they converted and added stuff to their car to boost their gas mileage and be more environmentally friendly," said Katie Mallard. Ward said, "There is so much diversity in alternative fuels, you have your electric cars, your bio diesel." Katie Mallard hopes the high demand for alternative fuel cars is just beginning. With Hybrids driving off the lots in record numbers. Some say eventually these new technologies will eliminate the need for petroleum gasoline based engines.

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few points...first we will NEVER...EVER be totally independent of petroleum products. I agree that we need to move forward in more fuel efficient cars, etc...HOWEVER our OWN GOVERNMENT has blocked this for YEARS. They COULD have upped the MPG ratings LONG AGO, but they didn't. They COULD have pushed for fuel efficiency and other ways of powering cars YEARS AGO...but they didn't. They always quiet the storm of outrage...then go RIGHT BACK ignoring the issue. The government DOESN'T WANT us to be independent...look at how our government is COWERING behind pressure to hold up the automotive industry...what do you think would happen to jobs in this country if petroleum products went away? When the silent majority wakes up from their Rip Van Winkle...maybe we can press forward together...until ain't gonna happen.

Wonderful enthusiasm!!

Thank you Katie for this "project" and your enthusiasm that there is a different way to power our beloved autos! Your efforts to bring our community together for the better of the world was truly a special gift! I hope you continue this for several years focusing on numerous answers and inventions to reduce our dependence on oil, helping create sustainability, as well as responsibility. Thank you again!!! I'd give you a BIG A+!!

No emissions?

How do you think that electricity was generated, young Einstein? 49% of the electricity generated in this country comes from coal fired power plants. So you are simply replacing one type of emission with another. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for any magic bullet that is going to make petroleum obsolete. Don't misunderstand - biodiesel makes sense. Hybrids make sense. Natural gas/Propane makes sense. (The Pickens Plan has a lot of good points to it) In all three cases, however, you are simply adapting existing technology that uses the internal combustion engine. In two of those applications, you are using petroleum or coal byproducts. We can't "grow" enough biodiesel to avoid drilling for oil. Hybrids still require gasoline or diesel to run the engine when needed. Natural gas/Propane requires drilling, often over oil. (They're not going to leave that oil in the ground.) Oh, we'll get very good at using our petroleum resources wisely, but my grandchildren will be using gasoline and regular ol' diesel when they are my age.

pluggin' in

Coal does generate about 50% of the electricity in the country. The best plan to cut this back would be to invest much more into nuclear power, supplemented with wind and water. That way plugging in your electric car would be better for the environment.


I'm very sorry you feel that way. Everyone has their own opinions, and I am just trying to educate the public. It is true that some alternative fuels have downfalls, but the good that comes out of them far outweighs the bad. My car show was not just about electric cars. Yes, there were many there, but it was not the main focus. One of them had a solar panel on top, and that is not creating harmful byproducts. Also, Topsail High School brought 2 electric cars that students built. I think it is absolutely fantastic that students of that age are trying to find alternatives. There were vegetable oil/grease car kits there as well. With those, used vegetable oil (which people will probably never stop using) is filtered and put into a kit installed into the car. Grease is being recycled, and mileage is boosted. One car got 200 miles per gallon with this installation. Gasoline is NOT renewable. It will not be around forever. Alternative fuels are not perfected yet, but there are numerous companies, programs, and schools trying to figure out the answer. It will take time, and no one is saying that is has to happen right now. I am not even saying that there needs to be just one fix to the petroleum problem. I am just trying to make people aware. Changes do need to be made, and I believe that people need to be open about them. If more people would just make these simple changes to their life, the environment COULD be bettered. Check out this link: It might help you understand where I am coming from. Every fuel is going to have some type of emissions and negative side effects, but the intensity of them can be controlled.

First of all, Katie, let me

First of all, Katie, let me say that I commend your choice for a senior project. It was well thought out and is an issue most people need to be made aware of. However, no point in the story did I see the mention of cost. Most of these alternatives being discussed would cost so much in terms of time and money that it would far outweigh the good. Especially in the state of the economy right now. Although gas will not last forever, it is the cheapest form of fuel available right now. Solar power is unreliable as it takes too much to generate too little. Wind power is the same. Nuclear power is inexpensive, however in cars it might leave an extremely big crater in the ground the first time a wreck occured. And the cars that are really fuel efficient won't pass emission inspections in this country. So it really is a matter of cost and efficiency. Now, having said that, I still think your project was well planned and thought out. In the future i would include everything as well as the downside of costs to the consumer. (And if you did, and the newspeople didn't mention it, I apologize)

Good for you, Katie. That

Good for you, Katie. That is a great senior project. Ignore the armchair environmentalists who just want to nay-say. No one has ever said that our economy should be redesigned around sucking grease out of a fryer. Too many times people harp on the shortcomings of each alternative, as has gone on for the last 30 years and our country has gone no where in terms of becoming independent. Sadly, the US as a nation has such a short memory now that oil is artificially cheap again mainstream demand for alternatives will dwindle. Hopefully young people like Katie can affect a positive shift in our national will to put up with a little pain and kick our addiction!


Be advised that a good, hard dose of reality is not "nay-saying." You simply cannot ignore the reality of physics or logistics in any alternative energy program. If you do, it's going to go nowhere. We not driving fuel cell powered cars not because oil is cheap again, but because we still haven't figured out how to produce the massive amounts of hydrogen we will need to fuel them. Ethanol is primarily still nothing more than an additive to replace MTBE because it is energy negative - it costs more BTUs to distill than you recover when burning it. Bio-diesel is still not in mass production because the leading companies that are researching it still haven't figured out how to make the numbers add up for relatively consistent production and a positive bottom line. These are just a few of the painful, hard facts surrounding new technology and alternative fuel sources, and if you ignore the realities of what we're up against you're living in a fantasy world. You have to start exploring what you can do, and acknowledging what you can't do. Maybe fuel cells won't be viable outside the desert Southwest? Maybe annual bio-diesel production will be infinitely variable and unpredictable; feast one year and famine the next....and thus requiring predictable production of conventional diesel for many years to come? I'm not a dreamer. I'm a practical man who has made more than a few dollars by knowing the energy field inside and out, backward and forward. My current investments include wind power, bio-diesel, natural gas, and oil. I've already told Katie that she did a great job. Her efforts were not even the impetus for my first posting. That honor fell to the young man who believed that electric cars were emission-free. That right there tells you that some people simply don't understand how things are connected or the trade-offs we will be facing as we try to find a replacement for petroleum. Straining french-fry oil for your VW may be cool and save you a few bucks, but until we can figure out how to produce the massive amounts of bio-diesel this nation needs, it's of little value. My hope is for folks like Katie and the rest of the participants to start thinking out-of-the-box on the macro scale. "Is this idea as practical in Seattle as it is in Winnemucca?" "What else will we have to do to recharge millions of cars on a national power grid that is barely capable of delivering power now?" "Hey, we could adapt my car to run on cooking oil, but a thousand other people have done that one. Let's explore the possibility of growing jatropha in a temperate climate. Can we genetically modify it?" "This Pickens Plan sounds pretty good. Are there pitfalls we're missing? Can we improve it?" "How can we make ethanol cheaper and non-corrosive?" In no way do I intend to criticize Katie's efforts. I am simply saying that we are going to be using petroleum for a long, long time. There's NOTHING in the pipeline even close to being remotely ready for our national market.

Why be sorry for how I feel?

Did I not say that biodiesel, hybrids, and natural gas/propane fueled vehicles make sense? You did a fine job. Now, let me tell you where *I* am coming from. The easiest source of information for you to get hold of quickly is the DVD from the "Modern Marvels" series about gasoline. Take a look at the infrastructure in this country that has evolved over the past hundred years, and tell me what is in place to make a significant gain in replacing it? Even our natural gas distribution system, which has been around even longer, is not ready for a massive switch to natural gas fueled vehicles. We would have to enhance it at the local distribution level substantially. Electric cars may be marketable to urban or suburban residents who have a fixed schedule and can live with the reality of an extended down-time for recharging. That said, you have a major impedimenmt to that recharging in your prime markets: Many people park their cars at the curb in cities. They don't have garages. Where do they recharge the car? Biodiesel is your most promising short-term solution, but it has had more than its fair share of birthing pains. So far there is no national distribution system (only small, regional distribution) and you're not going to see such a system until we figure out where all the biodiesel is coming from. The specter of crop failure also weighs heavily. If biodiesel becomes a major fuel source, what happens when a prime growing region suffers a major drought, or a disease breaks out. We can't stop driving. Solar is a joke and until we make MAJOR advances in increasing efficiency (which IS happening, very slowly) and reducing cost (which is NOT happening) it's not going past fixed plant installations in sunny locations. Remember that thirty years after solar energy was predicted to be our savior, it still has the highest cost per Watt of any generation system. So when you consider alternative energy sources, BTU efficiency and logistics are just as important as getting the vehicle to move. We are not going to evolve into a nation of grease strainers or people who carry extension cords instead of jumper cables. You have to think on the macro scale, and everything that comes along must be analyzed for a national application involving hundreds of millions of vehicles. That's a LOT of Wesson oil. But keep going, because we need people to be searching for that big breakthrough...