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Cover of Alcohol Can Be A Gas by David Blume

President Obama checks out Chevrolet Volt during trip to Compact Power battery plant groundbreaking ceremony in Holland, MI on July 15, 2010.

The Still Revolution

Part one of two part interview with 'Alcohol Can Be A Gas' author, consultant and organic farmer David Blume

By Bill Moore

For David Blume, in the classic 'Chicken 'n Egg' paradox of which came first, it's the internal combustion (IC) engine that came first, the fuel came later and that fuel was, by and large, alcohol, not gasoline.

In fact, Blume contends that the stuff we use almost universally today to power our motor vehicles was the waste by-product of the kerosene distillation business; the internal combustion engine had to be adapted to burn it. Alcohol was the original fuel that powered the IC engine into the 20th century.

Want proof? Blume points out in Alcohol Can Be a Gas that the original Model T included two overlooked and often misunderstood innovations: the spark gap adjuster on the steering column and the manual choke. Both were intended to help the driver adjust his fuel air mixture and spark timing so the engine could burn any blend of either alcohol or gasoline. Today, we rely on sophisticated microprocessor sensors and computers to do what the average Model T owner did manually.

It's interesting insights like this that make Blume's long-delayed opus to alcohol such an informative and entertaining read.

Here's another. John D. Rockefeller funded the Women's Christian Temperance Union and their decades-long drive to outlaw alcohol to prevent it from competing with gasoline just as the nation began to clamor for the automobile at the end of World War One. The result was the 18th Amendment and the imposition of Prohibition. By the time Franklin Roosevelt repealed it twelve years later, Henry Ford had ceased using the spark gap control on his cars and the alcohol fuels industry was in shambles.

But beyond these curious and ultimately short-sighted footnotes of history, Blume makes a compelling case for a carbohydrate economy based on alcohol fuels made from numerous renewable sources and not just corn alone. In fact, the only sustainable way to achieve his goal is the wholesale adoption of a permaculture system that largely abandons the petroleum and natural gas dependent agribusiness system in place today where it takes as much as ten units of fossil fuels to produce one unit of food.

You can listen to part one of my interview with Blume by using either of the two MP3 players embedded in the page above or by downloading the file to your computer hard drive for transfer to and playback on your favorite MP3 device.

IN BRIEF: Synopsis of Part One of David Blume Interview

  • Asked to make his best case for switching to alcohol fuels, Blume responded that first of all, its not a 'big deal' to switch from hydrocarbons (oil, coal, natural gas) to carbohydrates, which are essentially natural, complex sugars. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, water from the soil and powered by photos from the Sun, create carbohydrates that we -- with the help of microbes -- can then convert into fuel. This process has been going on for millions of years and will continue to occur far longer than the one-time event of petroleum.
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