2018: The Year of Petroleum Independence?

Former Vice-President Al Gore says we cannot wait until 2050 to curtail our carbon emissions.  In Washington this week Gore made his case for eliminating petroleum from the United States economy by the year 2018.  Is his goal too ambitious?

Editor’s Note: This is Anthony’s first post as a contributor to Gas 2.0. Anthony works on sugar-based biofuels at the Raines Lab of Petroleum Alternatives, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I have a lot of admiration for Al Gore.  I was in the 7th grade when he lost his bid for the presidency, and even then I could feel that something awful was upon us.  Fast forward eight years and we find ourselves in a world where Al Gore is running a campaign to help mankind in a much more focused manner.  Instead of defecting to the private sector, Gore remains a public servant dedicated to the environment.  Recently, he called for the United States to lead the way to stop global warming, and now he is calling for the United States to be off of carbon based fuels by the year 2018.

Gore’s battle cry could not have come at a better time.

I’ve often heard people say that this generation needs a man on the moon, someone who inspires us to think outside the proverbial box.  We do need this symbol of unabated grandeur and testament to the reality of mankind and what it can do.  Al Gore knows he isn’t that man, but he is the messenger.  He’s the Paul Revere of environmental ethics, and people are really starting to listen.  In his speech in Washington this week, the former Vice-President and Nobel Prize Winner called for America to focus its ingenuity and imagination on the petroleum crisis.  It took eight years for us to reach the moon once President Kennedy made it a national priority, and Gore thinks that the same collective tenacity should be applied to the energy crisis.

We can expect that this benchmark set by Gore will be met with skepticism and fact-less arguments, but that’s not going to stop him from speaking.  “Of course, there are those who will tell us that this can’t be done,” he said during the speech.  “But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise.  As one OPEC oil minister observed, ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of stones.’”

Gore is calling for an end to all petroleum consumption.  His goal doesn’t just apply to importing foreign oil.

I work in a lab where we try to turn table sugars into combustible fuels. From where I stand, Gore’s 2018 deadline seems almost too generous.  With Th!nk Motors set to release the Ox EMV in the next few years (not to mention NICE Motor’s Ze-O and maybe even someday the Chevy Volt), we have already taken the first step.  It’s almost safe to say that buying any petroleum based car is not a good idea right now because who knows what we will be using for fuel in the next three years? Nobody wants to be that awkward neighbor who still drives a car that runs on petroleum.

Last weekend I saw The Dark Knight, leaving me with little to look forward to now that the excitement has passed.  Thanks to Al Gore for filling that void with some faith in the human race.

Quote from the New York Times

Photo from the World Resources Institute.

More information at Al Gore’s web page.

Anthony Cefali

Anthony is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in biology as well as English. He became interested in the biofuel initiative after getting a job in the Raines Lab of Petroleum Alternatives at the university turning sugars into biofuels. He is the first to admit that he doesn't fully understand everything that he does or is trying to do, but enjoys doing his bit to help the environment. Anthony has very few plans for his future, but is interested in how natural systems work and how urban development changes these systems. On a good day, Anthony enjoys riding his bike really far away and reading Kurt Vonnegut books.