Titled "The Post-Oil Era Begins," the article breaks down the ups and downs of ethanol and other bio-fuels as petroleum substitutes. Unfortunately, the article is not online as of yet, which is rare for the magazine.
Essentially, while ethanol has doubled since 2006, but recent studies have shown that it is "much more costly, both economically and environmentally, than people thought." That, combined with lowering petroleum prices, has made ethanol "significantly less competitive in the energy marketplace." ["The Post-oil era begins." Discover. Jan., 2009. p. 19.]
Another down-side is that most other bio-fuel plants are nowhere near reaching noteworthy production of alternative fuel.
Further, scientists have realized that increased ethanol production could actually increase emissions by up to 100% because farmers would begin using more land that once absorbed carbon. Not only that, ethanol consumes 186 times the amount of water per mile traveled than petroleum.
The seeming solution?
Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrid vehicles. Toyota sold nearly 200,000 of their Prius model last year. The upcoming Chevy Volt is touted to run 40 miles on nothing but electricity before the combustion engine kicks in.
The main hurdle to an EV America is infrastructure. If people are willing to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours at a low rate (which would entail a longer recharge time), no additional electrical plants will be required. However, this means asking Americans to show deference and perhaps suffer some inconvenience. The innovators and early adopters in the field most likely have no problems with such minor trivialities, but what happens when EV becomes the norm?
Do we build more power plants? If so, certainly not coal, and nuclear power still puts a lot of people on edge.
If not, what do we face? A nation-wide black-out and no way to travel in the manner many have grown accustomed?
I think I smell a Road Warrior-esque plot approaching. I can see it now - Snake Pliskenn in: Escape from the Alamo.