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Easing gas pains with new fuels?

Peter Van Doren of the Cato institute speaks to MSNBC-TV's Amy Robach about what alternative fuels may be available in the short and long term.
/ Source: msnbc.com

As gas prices continue to climb in this country, there is a loud call for new ways to save money at the pump.

The answer for both the short and long term could be new alternative fuels not only for cars, but power plants as well.

MSNBC's Amy Robach spoke with Peter Van Doren of the Cato Institute on Tuesday to find out what's being done to find solutions to our country's fuel crisis.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

AMY ROBACH: So with prices continuing to climb, everyone is digging a little deeper into their wallets. Is their anything that can be done, in the next year or so, in terms of alternative sources of energy?

PETER VAN DOREN, CATO INSTITUTE: Well alternative fuels take a long time, the recent energy bill put some R and D into it as well as tax credits, and over the long term their may be some renewable or alternatives, but in the short run, believe it or not, all that people can do is try to curb their discretionary driving and in effect, react to the high prices by consuming less.

ROBACH: Lets talk about driving, because there are a few out there that are driving around on bio-diesel fuel. If fact, there are reports people getting vegetable oil from restaurants, and then using that for gas, can something like that be marketed nationwide?

VAN DOREN: In the short run, it’s available only in certain areas of the country, and to develop a nationwide marketing network would require years and years of work and lots of capital and investors don’t believe that these high prices will last forever, so that’s why they’re reluctant to embrace these kind of alternatives.

ROBACH: By using ethanol, which is a corn-based gas, is that a viable alternative?

VAN DOREN: Well ethanol is added to gas in the United States and it replaces MTBE, which is the additive that has such a bad environmental reputation, so ethanol is entering our gas stream, and the energy bill passed last month actually requires it to be used in the nations gas supply.

But it is more expensive than conventional fuels and it does require taxpayer subsidy.

ROBACH: Another widely talked about form of energy is biomass, which is basically recycled waste. In Texas, a group plans to cow pies. Lets talk about that!

VAN DOREN: Well one of the main uses of recycling in that manner is the nations sewage plants. The big sewage plant in Los Angeles actually creates methane, and that is used by the plant as fuel for its operations so it doesn’t have to use electricity and other fuels. So that’s a main use of those kinds of fuels in large industrial facilities that are next to sewage plants in the U.S.

ROBACH: What about nuclear energy?

VAN DOREN: Well again, nuclear energy doesn’t have much to do with transportation, but the new energy bill does put investment incentives and some loan guarantees in place so that we may see some new nuclear plants built in the United States in the next few years.

Although, I’m somewhat skeptical that that will happen is natural gas prices come down, because of liquefied natural gas, and then I think most new power plants be natural gas.

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