Exploring alternative transportation

Aug. 7-8 Renewable Energy Fair features prominent speakers on transportation

When Chairman Oxburg of Shell Oil indicates he is “worried about the fate of the planet” due to global warming, he gets people’s attention. Oxburg also supports the need for increased efforts to sequester carbon dioxide.

No one expects to instantly switch from oil as the fuel of choice for our transportation system. But, if we are to make any progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the global transportation system must change.

Transportation will be addressed by several speakers and exhibitors at the Renewable Energy Fair Aug. 7-8. Economist Charles Komanoff, internationally recognized for his efforts to encourage energy conservation, will make the case for a combination of voluntary efforts and marketplace solutions to lessen our reliance on imported oil.

Dr. Birgit Wolff, recently retired director of the National Center for Vehicle Emissions Control at Colorado State University, is another internationally recognized Fair speaker. Her work involved designing vehicle emission control programs and training personnel to implement these programs in the United States. She was involved in similar programs in Mexico, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. As auto-dominated transportation systems spread around the world, the need to control emissions soon follows.

Other than more miles per gallon or less travel, one of the more promising ways to help curb oil consumption is to switch to hybrid vehicles which use an electric motor as well as a combustion engine. Chris Schneider, Honda Dealer from Eau Claire, Wis., will explain the energy and environmental advantages of hybrids.

Returning with a year of operating experience under Illinois conditions will be Ted Lowe. Lowe redesigned a pickup truck and will explain what is involved in converting a gasoline-powered vehicle to an electric one. The bright yellow truck will be at the fairgrounds. While the automobile industry abandoned their half hearted efforts to make electric vehicles, enthusiasts like Ted are keeping the hope of electric vehicles alive.

The emergence of prototype plug-in hybrid electric vehicles is very encouraging as it allows most travel to be done in an all-electric mode. If the electricity were generated by renewable energy sources, dramatic decreases in oil imports would occur as would contributions to global warming.

Renewable fuels from biomass offer another route to energy independence. Ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans continue to gain market acceptance. Dr. Bill Parton, part of a research team working on improving the net energy yield of ethanol processed from corn stalks, will report on the progress being made in this effort.

Biodiesel from soy oil and its contribution to energy independence and reductions in carbon dioxide releases will be presented by Judd Hulting of the Illinois Soybean Growers Association.

Dave and Eileen Wetzel and Mike Clark will be there to explain the performance of their vehicles powered by reprocessed cooking oil.

These presenters and displays offer hope for a cleaner energy system.

Each year we fail to embrace a cleaner energy system, we increase environmental damage and make the inevitable change more difficult and expensive.

We cannot afford to squander another 20 years avoiding the transition to sustainable clean energy.

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