But wait, you may say, my car cannot run on these fuels. You are right, not currently, but it easily could. For a maximum of $300 per car, most of the cars built in the last 10 years can be converted to run on fuels like methanol and ethanol and then you, not the government, could choose the one you want to use.
So what's the problem? It's this: You are not allowed to convert your car. In fact, you cannot even add a gizmo that will improve your mileage on gasoline. It is all part of old EPA regulations created in the 70s and the 80s. We don't even need laws to change them—the EPA can do it tomorrow.Once it is done you could improve your car mileage on gasoline or convert your car to run on other fuels.
But those fuels are not available at the pump. At fault here are the oil refiners, who also control most of the distribution system. They do not want competing cheaper fuels in the system because it will hurt their refining profits. It is the same kind of monopoly that AT&T enjoyed for so long—that company did not want to allow access to cheap long distance calls from MCI and Sprint. It took a federal judge to force AT&T to allow American citizens to buy whichever the long-distance service they prefer. Within three years, the price of long distance went from $3 a minute to 30 cents a minute. A decade later we had cell phones and Internet.
This modern, AT&T-like fuel distribution monopoly needs to be broken. Like any monopoly, it's helped by friendly regulation. If your car could be converted to run on replacement fuels, Wal-Mart, Costco and Safeway could offer you fuels that will be more than $1 cheaper than gasoline. What will you do then? What if we changed the regulation a bit more, and your church could offer you those cheaper fuels? It does not take much to change the system.
Think of it—if we opened the fuel market to competition, Americans could save $300 billion a year. That's $1,000 net in the pocket of each American every year, or $4,000-$5,000 for each family—your family. You deserve it, and you can demand it.
Yossie Hollander is chairman of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to open the fuel market to competition. He also serves a member of the advisory board of the Cornell University Center for a Sustainable Future.