Saturday, August 2, 2008

Flying with the Vampires

Alcohol Can Be a Gas recently hit #19 on the Amazon bestsellers list, so we called the author, David Blume, to get his sense of why that is, and what it all means.

TGC: David Blume, your book jumped into the top 20 of Amazon's bestsellers at a time when four of the top ten are books about vampires. Is there something bloodthirsty in this book that most reviewers have overlooked?

DB: Bloodthirsty? Oil companies? No say it isn't so! No, the thirst people are feeling comes from hearing that we have to powerdown and even then most of us will still die. This creates a powerful thirst to get something done while there are still choices. It’s time to stop whining about how we let the oil lobby drive the government into its paralyzed state of inaction. People are not willing to buy guns and hunker down to protect their food and fuel. They want solutions and they want to separate facts from propaganda about the alcohol fuel alternative. Hundreds of them have gone out and bought Alcohol Can Be A Gas are now implementing its solutions and building permaculture based food fuel systems all over the globe.

TGC: Looking over the other bestsellers, we find books featuring comic book superheroes, guy-meets-God, an inside-Hollywood tell-all, a boy raised by dogs, and a citizen diplomat's attempt to build 50 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why should ACBAG be keeping this kind of company?

DB: People who are willing to think outside of the box and act are the real superheroes. One reader, Roy Eycamp in Australia, bought 100 books to give to his fellow farmers. Another, Mike Shapiro, is running his Chicago E-Cab fleet on ethanol and saving $3600 per year, per car.

TGC: Do you have any idea who is buying your books? It is an American audience or Saudis? Iowa farmers? Truck drivers?

DB: Entrepreneurs are number one. With gas at $4, making alcohol from waste products for $1 a gallon looks like a great business. Truck drivers who have to spend $1500 to fill their tank are learning that you can run diesels on alcohol. Agriculture and energy departments in developing countries around the world are snatching up copies. Librarians cannot keep up with patron requests. Many people are buying the book to start neighborhood driver-owned alcohol stations.

Farmers are looking to get off of the commodities treadmill and into value-added agriculture where they sell fuel and exceptionally profitable crops like tilapia, oyster mushrooms, and high value organic vegetables by using the rich by-products from small-scale distilling plants. The co-products can dwarf the profits from the fuel. When the executive director of the American Corn Growers Association comes to me and says "My members are ready to grow whatever energy crops the country needs and we are telling them all about your book" you can expect a few farmers will pick it up.

Peak oil is already here and there's no currency in the world that's as secure as a physical tank of fuel. If you got a lot of fuel, you got a lot of friends. Of course, there's all the wannabe Vulture Capital guys choking up my phone lines wanting to figure out how they can make their next zillion off decentralized alcohol production. But you know, the average person in the US buying this book is just sick and tired of being jerked around by MegaOilron, disgusted with the lack of backbone by politicians concerning renewable fuel, and they just aren't going to wait for someone to come to their rescue. People really get it that we are not going to fix rising prices, climate change, and peak everything with more coal/oil-shale/tar-sand/nuclear.

The idea that while filling your tank with your own self produced $1-per-gallon alcohol and getting 61 cents per gallon back from the IRS, you are screwing both the oil companies and the government is about as much fun as you can have standing up.

And, let's face it — there is a certain amount of absolute satisfaction knowing that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem. People call me to say that even if alcohol would cost them $5/gallon to make they would do it to not be dependent on the filthy and war-tainted alternative. It is simply more moral to be moonshining.

TGC: Given your success, do you think Detroit or MegaOilron will now look for ways to squash you?

DB: I still think everyone is underestimating this revolution. We have heard repeatedly that small-scale alcohol can't ever amount to anything. If you think that, don't think too hard about the currently operating decentralized biomass-conversion-to-liquid-fuel-from-cellulose/carbohydrates system, collected a squirt at a time from mobile bioconversion units, bulked shipped and packaged for delivery to your local market at a price lower than gasoline. It’s called milk.

Second, when it comes to Detroit there are car-dealers now who have read my book have been buying my conversion kits, slapping them on new pickups and SUV's and covering them with a full warranty at that dealership, because they cannot move these behemoths off the lot any other way. When word of this percolated up to the top brass at Ford, I had a long talk with people from the corporate office at Dearborn about modifying their flotilla of diesel pickup trucks to high-efficiency alcohol vehicles before they become scrap metal. We are talking about designing new engines and conversion kits not because they want to but because they are staring into the abyss.

We are talking about getting back to their roots since the Ford Model A and T were the first flex-fuel vehicles designed to run on both alcohol and gasoline. But what stunned them into silence was when I told them a plant is opening in China to make high-compression, high-mileage, dedicated alcohol engines and that GM was already planning to bring out a dedicated alcohol sports car engine in Sweden. They could just see the rest of the world eating their lunch. The rest of the world is already moving into the post-petroleum era.

As I point out in Alcohol Can Be A Gas, the world uses in rough terms 500 billion gallons of fuel a year. By lucky mathematical chance it turns out that it costs roughly $1 per gallon of annual capacity to build an alcohol plant, more or less regardless of scale. So replacing all the fuel in the world would take about $500 billion. Seems like a big figure? No way to mobilize that capital to make a change away from oil? Well, think again, we already have spent more than this in Iraq just trying to secure a way to get at our oil under their sand. If we had instead gone around the world lending that money to every nation on the planet, to produce their own fuel and varied high value food outputs from the byproducts, we would have already ended petroluem fuel use planet-wide and have started reversing global warming. Instead of hating us for killing and maiming Iraqis and young Americans, every nation in the planet would be rooting for the US. And just maybe the dollar would be the strongest currency in the world instead of going into the tank.

You know when you used to publish a book in North America you always had to put the price of the book in both US and Canadian dollars on the label. When I published Alcohol Can Be A Gas last November I didn't bother, saying that in 6 months there wouldn't be a difference in price. Well I was right. If we don't go to domestically produced alcohol fuel, by the next time I do my printing I might have to start putting both prices on the back but the US price will be higher than the Canadian price since our trade debt to pay for their awful tar sands goo will make our currency sort of worthless to them. Think about that eh?

TGC: What are you going to do with all your money?

First of all I took no industry or special interest money in writing this book. I was totally funded by loans from individuals and two liberal foundations to the tune of $300,000+. So for a while you can expect me to be paying back some courageous people who backed this project. After that, what I want to do with other people's money might be starting a revolving loan fund to finance driver-owned alcohol stations that harvest massive tax credits, open a distillery-manufacturing business, and license my “Patent to Destroy Monsanto” (my combination herbicide and fertilizer made from alcohol fuel byproducts). In other words, there's a lot of work to do. But, above all, I am looking to build a model permaculture alcohol plant training center where farmers, agricultural teachers and entrepreneurs can come from around the world to learn, hands on, the decentralized production model I illustrate in the book, so they can more rapidly propagate independent plants around the world.

TGC: What’s next?

DB: The book is now a bestseller going out to over 60 countries and I am being scheduled worldwide to trail behind the distribution and speak to people. After I went on Coast to Coast with six million listeners, and told them they could right now, with their present car, put 30-50% of E-85 in their vehicles without modification, the price of a barrel of oil dropped $10. Okay, maybe I'm reaching a bit there. If my message eventually penetrates the infosphere and people just start using 30% alcohol, because it is cheaper than gasoline, blended right at the pump by the driver, we no longer would have to import any foreign oil. Just how can we justify invading and occupying countries if we don't need their oil anymore? So that is what I plan to do — to go on building permaculture-based food fuel systems all over the world.

David Blume can be reached at the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture 831-471-9164. He will be providing a Financial Permaculture workshop in Hohenwald, Tennessee, as part of the Local Economic Development and Green Education Initiative there.

1 comment:

DrCord said...

Great interview! In order to cross promote as much as possible I posted a link to it on my blog, Cord's Life. Keep the great content coming TGC!




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