Video: Alternatives to oil

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/27/2006 9:12:47 AM ET 2006-04-27T13:12:47

Everyone agrees America must do something to reduce its nearly 21 million-barrel-a-day addiction to oil, but the proposed solutions vary greatly. Here’s a look at four options.

Alternative fuels
The future may run through Minnesota. Here, gasoline must contain at least 10 percent ethanol, and all diesel fuel must contain 2 percent biodiesel, made from soybean oil. Starting this summer, public buses in Minneapolis and St. Paul will use 5 percent biodiesel.

“We want to provide that service in a way that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, is less injurious to the environment, and really gives a boost to our local economy,” says Peter Bell, chairman of the Minnesota Metropolitan Council.

There are more than 200 gas stations that sell E-85 in Minnesota, the most in the nation. E-85 is 15 percent gasoline and the rest ethanol. Minnesotans use it to power 150,000 flexible-fuel vehicles, including the one driven by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“We take great pride in Minnesota in being the nation's leader in renewable fuels,” Pawlenty says. “We like to dub ourselves the Saudi Arabia of renewable fuels.”

Iraq oil
More than three years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, analysts report Iraq is producing only about half of its prewar oil output. If it were to churn out 2.5 million barrels a day again, that could lower prices by putting more oil on the market and reduce the so-called geopolitical premium that adds about $20 to today's barrel price.

Arctic drilling
Is the controversial issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge the answer? Proponents say it would produce 1.5 million barrels of oil a day.

“It would have at least, if not a reduction in gas prices,” says Jerry Hood with Arctic Power, “certainly a stabilizing effect on the petroleum products that Americans consume.”

Fuel economy
Environmentalists say a better alternative to drilling is to increase fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks.

“Had we committed to increased fuel efficiency by just one mile per gallon, per year, over a five—year period,”says Daniel Lashof, a senior scientists at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “we could be saving over 1 million barrels of oil a day within the decade.”

There is, all agree, no magic bullet. But the most immediate solution is for each and every one of us to start using less gasoline, today.

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