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Originally published December 29 2005

Energy specialists review alternative fuel solutions available to the consumer

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

Scripps Howard News Service examines five alternative fuel measures, including hybrids, hydrogen, and ethanol, taking into account the disadvantages of each solution.

Japanese automakers have led in developing hybrids that shift back and forth between battery and gas power, getting 60 miles per gallon or more; the battery recharges when the driver hits the brakes. Honda put the first hybrid on U.S. roads _ its Insight _ in 1999. Toyota has a backlog of orders for its hybrid Prius and plans to steadily expand until it's making 1 million hybrid vehicles in 2010, said spokeswoman Martha Voss. Under the new energy law, early hybrid buyers can get federal tax credits of as much as $3,000, roughly the added cost. Clean-burning ethanol, made from cornstarch, powers nearly all of Brazil's vehicles. U.S. ethanol production has soared to 4 billion gallons a year _ there are more than 90 plants _ enough to offset about 1 percent of the petroleum that America uses. The new energy law requires a doubling of ethanol production by 2012, but Minnesota is the only state that requires gasoline to contain at least 10 percent ethanol (20 percent in 2013). Most major automakers are taking a wait-and-see posture toward plug-ins, though Chrysler-Daimler is experimenting with a plug-in Sprinter van with a 20- to 30-mile battery range. Europeans have dramatically improved fuel efficiency by buying diesel-powered cars, made by DaimlerChrysler and other automakers that get up to 70 mpg. These engines burn far cleaner than the diesels that polluted the air with carbon dioxide in the 1970s. Except for pickup trucks, diesel vehicles have yet to catch on in the United States. Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, said a diesel option pickup costs about $5,000 extra, but diesel cars cost only $350 to $1,000 more. In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush pushed for the development of pollution-free hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that could be "the first car driven by a child born today."

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