Two weeks ago I reviewed, “Two Billion Cars” by Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon. I focused on several aspects but I did not tie together this important point: Daniel Sperling vehemently dislikes corn ethanol and he is the lead researcher for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that just passed the Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS). The LCFS was a huge set-back for the corn-ethanol industry in California, but even more so in light that other states and/or the federal government may adopt similar if not identical standards.
So, how does someone with such an outspoken, biased view have such prominent role in developing this legislation? Most people would consider this a conflict of interest.
I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you that Sperling founded and runs the Institute for Transportation Studies whose main research focus is hydrogen fuels (including from coal), natural gas fuels and fuel cells. Don’t forget California’s Hydrogen Highway and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s hydrogen powered Hummer. I surmise that Sperling had a major role in the support of a statewide hydrogen initiative.
Now I can’t criticize Sperling for supporting hydrogen. Many supporters of renewable energy support hydrogen for valid reasons but according to experts it is still 20 years away. Everyone must understand that it’s going to take all kinds of technologies to help us move away from fossil fuels – there is no silver bullet. Corn-ethanol is not perfect but it has a positive impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions and has offset some of our need to purchase foreign oil. In the future, biofuels will continue to play a major role. It is not in the best interest of our country to adopt the attitude, “Let’s wait and see. Something will save us.” We don’t have to wait. We have great technology right now.
So the moral? When making policy decisions, we need people who have an open mind, and are willing to review both current and future technologies and the roles they will play in our new energy economy.