Gasoline and diesel, considered conventional fuels, have long dominated the transportation fuels market in the United States. Most convenience stores have several pumps available to distribute the fossil fuels, and most vehicles are optimized for gasoline or diesel. With this infrastructure already in place, it is easy to see how a figurative monopoly has been formed on energy for transportation. Fuelling stations sell gasoline and diesel. Vehicles are built to burn gasoline and diesel. There isn’t much of an opening for alternatives.
Still, there have been developments in renewable energy that are cause for celebration among those looking for other ways to get to the office. Ethanol and biodiesel are renewable options that have sprung up as viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Both can be produced from commodities already produced by farmers all around the world. With any new type of fuel, new infrastructure is likely going to be required.
New infrastructure isn’t just the pumps at the convenience store. There are four segments in the production to consumption cycle for transportation fuel that will all require modification with new fuels.
The first segment that must be addressed is the production segment. Traditional oil wells and gas fields will likely be obsolete with new fuels. Refineries that have been built to produce gasoline and diesel will no longer be able to provide the refined fuel needed for transportation. Along with the obsolescence of these facilities, new refineries will need to be built that are capable of producing the new fuels.
The second segment that will see change is the transportation of the fuel to market. Many of the current pipelines, tankers, and fuel trucks are not compatible with the fuels of tomorrow. Thus, these will need to slowly be changed over as new fuels come to fruition. There are currently technologies available to convert existing transportation and storage methods to make them compatible with these new fuels, but it can be costly and not always feasible.
The third important segment is the storage and dispensing of these new fuels. Many times, the current tanks and pumps located at convenience stores and dispensing stations are compatible only with diesel or gasoline and will need to be replaced or retrofitted to be compatible with new fuels.
The fourth and most important segment is the transportation vehicle itself. Cars, trucks, motorcycles and more will have to be compatible with any new fuels, and this might be the biggest challenge to overcome. While corporations and companies may have an incentive to retrofit their infrastructure to accommodate new fuels because they can sell them for profit, families already struggling to make ends meet might struggle to fit new vehicles into their budget.
Switching to new fuels will take time, money, and commitment. Getting all four segments of the market to switch over will be difficult to coordinate. There cannot be vehicles without fuels, and there cannot be a fuel market without vehicles. Which comes first, and how it is brought to market, will require careful planning and consideration from energy providers and government leaders.