Fuel efficiency is our best weapon against over-priced petroleum and the security problems posed by drilling for it in politically unstable regions.
If American vehicles could be run on less than 38% of the fuel they currently use, then US domestic oil production capacity would exceed national consumption. Oil prices would plummet. Terrorism, funded in large part by oil revenues, would wither on its wretched vine. Consumers and companies would save vast sums every day (year after year) by virtue of what they won’t spend on gasoline for their engines.
Granted, Mobil and other companies would have to make do with significantly lower profits, but that’s a price I’m sure the public would be happy to pay.
So, how do we get from here (the desperate situation in which we find ourselves) to there (a world in which terrorism, economic insecurity and high oil prices are a thing of the past)?
Answer: The Oil Bomb
The “oil bomb” is my nickname for a technological advancement that effectively (and rapidly) degrades the perceived value of petroleum. Ideally, it should be compatible with the infrastructure that has been put in place to service our present addiction to ‘fossil fuels’ and not require that new types of fueling or charging stations be built in order to gain consumer acceptance. It should be convenient to use and not be contingent upon foreignly-sourced material content. In a perfect world, it would make cars less expensive and reduce the amount of parts used in their manufacture — which also means fewer things to break down.
And here it is: US Patent document #7327105. (PDF – 1.2 MB)
(There are other devices, of course, but I rate this one Most Promising.)
The design depicted in the attached art offers a highly efficient electric drive suitable for operating a motor vehicle. It features variable torque (basically, a virtual automatic transmission) and surprising power (imagine a motor not much bigger than a proverbial breadbox pulling a loaded 767 around the tarmac). It’s compatible both with fully electric car designs as well as with serial-hybrid [gas:electric] technologies (where it really shines), offering the advantages of both AC and DC drives — and the sort of performance one would expect from a sporty gas-powered vehicle.
Implementation should be relatively quick and painless. Maybe we set up a government-subsidised retrofit program for existing cars… which might even recoup some of our lost auto sector assembly jobs… and also give our parts manufacturers a needed boost.
Of course, there are other “oil bomb” options as well, though some of these will completely invalidate petroleum as a fuel. I won’t go into too many details on those other options because oil happens to be an almost perfect fuel, though we shouldn’t use nearly as much of it as we do.
Other ways to quickly degrade the value of oil:
Oil could be made useless as a fuel by biological means. (We already have anaerobic bacteria that will eat oil spills.) This would be very disruptive to the world’s current economic and industrial systems and many, many millions of people would perish; or
Oil could be completely replaced by a more advanced technology. This, though, may lead to extremely dangerous developments in the world of weapons, not to mention the possibility of do-it-yourself’ers blowing themselves up — along with their neighborhoods.