In a recent NPR interview, FedEx CEO Fred Smith explained why it is essential to move America away from imported energy sources: “We spend about $70 to $80 billion a year as a country doing that, not just for ourselves, but for the rest of the world as a whole. And that’s even before we get to the $1.3 trillion we’ve spent on Afghanistan and Iraq, and as Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said pretty plainly, ‘Iraq was about oil.’ Not totally, but … so these are very big issues.”
Smith, a former Marine who founded Federal Express in 1971, has built it into a world leading shipping company. The company owns 700 planes and tens of thousands of trucks and vans. These vehicles burn 1.5 billion gallons of fuel each year.
Smith is working on a three-part strategy to reduce reliance on foreign fuel sources. For smaller trucks and vans Smith wants to move to an all-electric fleet. “An all-electric pickup and delivery van will operate at a 75 percent less per mile cost than an internal combustion engine variant.”
For larger trucks Smith is looking toward liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). According to Smith, at current prices the savings could equal 40 percent of diesel costs. “As Cummins and Navistar [Ed. Note: truck engine builders] and these folks put these engines out there, anybody that makes their living driving long-haul trucks, or locally fueled trucks or buses is going to have a powerful incentive.”
The third plank of Smith’s plan is a long-term strategy to develop petroleum free jet fuel. Today’s technology allows scientists to use algae to create jet fuel, but the concept is not yet in use at commercial scale. The Navy has been testing the idea, as are major petroleum producers.
No idea is a panacea. Smith maintains, “You gotta do all of them. You can’t sit on the left or the right of this issue. You’ve got to be willing to maximize our resources and you’ve got to be willing to conserve and transition to non-petroleum-based transportation.”
Smith, also a former member of the board of directors at the Cato Institute, is currently co-chair of the Energy Security Leadership Council. Richardcyoung.com agrees with Smith that America must explore alternatives to petroleum. Not doing so will risk more wars in foreign countries where oil is produced. As Smith correctly concludes, “The most tragic thing is to think about these families that lost these 5,000 wonderful young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. The human cost of this reliance on petroleum from unstable and unfriendly parts of the world has cost this country dearly and we need to work as hard as we can to solve this problem.”