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Gulf Coast Oil Spill Reenergizes Interest in Alternative Fuels
The renewable energy industry, which had taken a beating prior to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, rebounds in the news and attention is once again returned to how we can decrease dependence on oil.
But we all were impacted in one way or another. While gas prices remained steady (eia.gov) and actually dropped in some areas due to the poor economy, fears about supply and how the government would react to new drilling opportunities on American soil (or American waters) sparked a national conversation about just how important our energy usage was. Being in the renewable energy industry, I got to see firsthand how a catastrophe of such epic proportions could actually have positive impacts on the direction of our country's energy policy.
For a few years, renewable fuels have been taking a beating in the news media, among politicians, and in areas that haven't seen their positive impact. Coming from a small town with two large ethanol plants within 10 miles, the positive impact on local farmers and the local job market has been outstanding. People are working once again, and many of the negative connotations about ethanol (taking "food for fuel" and increasing the cost of food) are being greatly over-exaggerated.
With the Deepwater Horizon accident, interest in renewable energy was renewed. At our company, which manufactures small ethanol plants, we instantly saw an increase in the level of calls, emails, and inquiries. Why? Because most renewable fuels are friendly to the environment; even if an entire tanker of ethanol overturned into the ocean, the type of catastrophe we saw last year would be averted because ethanol is all-natural (and the same alcohol that you would find in beer or wine).
There are still many challenges for the renewable energy industry. Uncertain corn prices have brought the viability of the industry into question, while lower oil prices during the recession questioned the need for ethanol and bio diesel. However, with growing populations and an exploding requirement for energy, the world will need alternative sources of energy for the foreseeable future.
The Deepwater Horizon accident made Americans stop and think for a moment. Where are we getting our oil from? Where will we get our oil tomorrow? Is this the end of cheap gas?
The very questions raised by this disaster have helped America search for direction in an uncertain time. Even though other factors have played a part in our changing world, the Deepwater Horizon spill cannot be forgotten for its lasting impact on our way of life. Cars will get better gas mileage. Environmental regulations will be strengthened. And renewable energy will cement its role in our energy future by providing clean, environmentally friendly fuel to supplement our limited oil resources.