I come to the alternative scene from a different direction. My interest lies in better automobiles. I am a car guy.
Ever since I was a little car guy, I have seen that racing engines run on special fuels, like ethanol. Even when racing regulations limited the size of an engine, these special fuels allowed more power. It follows, logically, that if more power can be obtained for a given engine size, then one could build a smaller engine with the same power as a larger gasoline engine.
Ford's Bobcat engine; the Ethanol Boosting Systems concept [EBS] it was based on; GM and Ricardo’s 3.6 liter alcohol turbo engine; and others have all built lighter, smaller, cleaner running engines. Even in medium-duty trucks like the one my business is in, a four-liter engine on alcohol can replace a five-liter gasoline engine or a much heavier six-liter diesel engine.
Now, electric cars - offering smooth operation and instant torque - are interesting and exciting, but batteries still have to mature, in terms of price, weight, and longevity. Fuel cells have been 20 years into the future for 40 years now, diesels are expensive, heavy, and produce soot. Other alternatives, even synthetic petroleum from oil shale, have most of the hang-ups of ethanol with less power density and more toxicity.
Then there are hybrids, gasoline or diesel or ethanol or natural gas engines working in concert with electric or hydraulic or compressed air to power cars.
I love all this stuff, but I see more promise in the advancing technology of alcohol engines, or the fuel being made from trash, sewage, old tires, corn stalks, algae and ditch grass.
I am a car guy. I want cars to be good and remarkable things, not a leading cause of accidental death or pollution or blight on the landscape.