Venezuela's Hugo Chavez says he wants to send oil to $200 a barrel. Robert Zubrin has a plan to stop him. In his just released book, Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil, Zubrin, an American aerospace engineer known previously primarily for his inventive approach to Mars exploration, lays out the strategy.
To say the book is remarkable, would be a severe understatement. Combining soaring idealism, incisive thinking, and a viscous go-for-throat killer instinct in a single package, Energy Victory is the first book I have ever read that actually lays out a credible plan to turn around the world energy situation.
Let's talk about the killer instinct first. Zubrin wants to destroy the oil cartel. In fact, I think a better title for this book would have been "The Plan to Destroy OPEC", and "Why We Must". He has Saudi Arabia and Iran dead center in his sights (he even provides an aerial photograph and targeting information of the Iranian oil export terminal on Kharg Island.) The second and third chapters of the book are entitled Terrorism: Your Gas Dollars at Work (Part 1), and Corrupting Washington: Your Gas Dollars at Work (Part 2), respectively.
Backed up by no less than 84 footnotes, the dossiers presented in these two chapters, particularly of Saudi involvement in the promotion of international terrorism and influence peddling in Washington, are forceful and convincing. He also alludes to Iranian bribery of Moscow officialdom, but unfortunately is rather more sketchy in that department. Suffice to say, however, that there are plenty of people in Riyadh and in both parties of the American political establishment who are not going to be happy when they read this book.
Having thus established that there is considerably more at stake in the energy battle than the pump price of gasoline, Zubrin gets down to the matter of how to win it. This is where the incisive thinking comes in, and is, in my view, the best and most valuable part of the book. You see, Zubrin really does have an answer, and as surprisingly simple as it is, I think it just might work.
In a nutshell, his proposal is this: that the American congress should pass a law mandating that all new cars sold in the United States be flex-fueled, which is to say able to run on any combination of gasoline or alcohol fuels. Flex fuel is proven technology which only adds a few hundred dollars to the cost of a car.
In 2007, roughly 90 percent of all cars sold in Brazil were flex-fueled, but outside of that country, their market share was quite low - comprising about 3 percent of US auto sales, for example. However, as Zubrin argues convincingly, if it were mandated that every new car sold in the USA had to be flex fueled as a standard feature, then practically every auto manufacturer in the world would be forced to switch their lines over to flex fuel....MORE