Printer Friendly

Replacing gasoline.

Researchers evaluate alternatives for effects on energy security, urban pollution, and global warming Fuels synthesized to replace gasoline may not be viable alternatives in the short-term future, but could provide significant benefits in the longer term. Interim results of an ongoing U.S. government study indicate that alternative fuels, such as ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, electricity, and natural gas, have potential long-term advantages over using gasoline in vehicles, though many questions remain as yet unanswered. The report, written by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, evaluates the alternatives on their ability to improve air quality, increase the level of energy security for the United States, and ameliorate the potential effects of global warming. Potential cost to the consumer was another important factor. Many uncertainties exist regarding the production and delivery infrastructure for any of the alternative fuels, says the report. These uncertainties will have a bearing on how successful each of the fuels is in replacing gasoline for America's vehicles. The fuels' greatest benefits would be for cars and light trucks.

The projected costs of the different options vary widely and depend on many different factors, according to OTA. Most alternative fuels can expect a high initial cost, with decreasing prices as economies of scale are reached.

Another issue is availability: Consumers will be unlikely to buy automobiles using alternative fuels without a steady supply of moderately priced, readily available fuel to run them. The infrastructure costs needed to cover this necessity are quite high, and there is likely to be significant resistance from the well-entrenched gasoline market.

Yet another factor will be handling the new fuels. Automobile storage tanks for alternative fuels are likely to be larger because the fuels are not as efficient per weight and volume as gasoline is. Refueling may be another consumer factor because of handling-safety requirements.

All of the fuels offer some potential to reduce urban ozone and toxic emissions, and if costs are competitive, hydrogen, electricity, and natural gas offer "large and quite certain per vehicle reductions," says the report. However, new standards must be set, and vehicle emissions must be monitored in order to really obtain benefits.

The most likely short-term alternatives - methanol, reformulated gasoline, and compressed natural gas (CNG) - would be imported largely from distant sources, many in the Middle East. Thus, they do not offer energy-security advantages like the coal-derived liquid fuels that can be produced in the United States. Use of methanol and CNG can still enhance energy security, OTA says. Their use would diversify supply sources, possibly into domestic or more-secure foreign sources: These alternatives could ease pressure on oil supplies by lowering demand for gasoline, and they would also reduce

The longer-term options, such as electricity, hydrogen, and ethanol or methanol from wood and plant wastes, could be produced domestically and would bring low energy-security risks if their costs can be kept competitive, according to the OTA report.

The use of alternative fuels is unlikely to have any immediate effect on the potential sources of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere related to global warming, the report cautions. The use of methanol or natural gas, for example, would produce less carbon dioxide per unit of output than gasoline, but the energy necessary to produce and transport the fuels would produce enough other emissions to counteract the savings generated. Only the longterm prospects of low-chemical-input, renewable fuel sources will cause a significant drop in the output of greenhouse gases, concludes OTA. Source: Replacing Gasoline: Alternative Fuels for Light-Duty Vehicles, Off ice of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress. 1990. 148 pages. Paperback. $7. Available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Off ice, Washington, D.C. 20402-9325. GPO stock number 052-003-01206-5.

More people represent themselves

As legal costs rise, more people are writing their own wills and handling other simple legal matters themselves.

This self-help law movement is actually a return to how people dealt with legal affairs in a less-urbanized America, says Richard J. Frank, vice president of Sphinx Publishing, which produces self-help legal material. With few experts to turn to in early America, many people handled their own simple legal matters with the help of manuals such as Every Man His Own Lawyer, which once sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Now, with lawyers charging $100 an hour and up for their services, people are again taking the law into their own hands. Uncontested divorces, wills, name changes, and adoptions are a few of the matters that can be resolved by citizens working alone or with independent paralegals or by using court-provided fills in-the-blank forms, according to

HALT (Help Abolish Legal Tyranny), a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. HALT has developed a series of manuals to help people handle their legal affairs simply and affordably. Topics include settling an estate, buying a house or condominium, and making one's way through small-claims court. HALT's Using a Lawyer: And What to Do If Things Go Wrong offers advice on how to art, range fees, draw up an employment contract, monitor the case, and handle potential problems.

The market for such manuals appears to be growing. Nolo Press of Berkeley, California, sells $5 million worth of self-help law books and computer software a year. Even the legal establishment, which is often perceived as being hostile to do-it-yourself law, has gotten into the act: The American Bar Association has produced a consumer guide entitled You and the Law, which describes how the legal system works and answers commonly asked questions. Sources: Sphinx Publishing, P.O. Box 2005, Clearwater, Florida 34617. HALT, 1319 F Street, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20004.
COPYRIGHT 1991 World Future Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:The Futurist
Article Type:column
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:Child-friendly cities.
Next Article:Chinese criminals in America.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters