September 17, 2009 – Talk about a visionary! Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company over 100 years ago, but even back then; his main object was to build cars that were sensibly priced, yet dependable and 09_018efficient. Yet over the years, it seems as if cars have become less reliable and less affordable. Not to mention the price of gas jumping in the past decade.

To bring his dream to fruition, Ford envisioned cars that ran on hemp ethanol. In fact, Ford was all for using materials like hemp and vegetable matter to run vehicles. He once said, “There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for one hundred years.” Can you imagine?

In 1925, he told the New York Times that he thought the fuel of the future would be made of such things as apples, sawdust, weeds, etc. At the time, most others in the car industry agreed. In fact, I read online that government officials had even contacted Ford engineers about coming up with alternatives to leaded gas. Ford felt that growing crops like hemp to make fuel could also help turn around the existing economic crisis that would later become the Great Depression.

By 1941, Ford had created a car whose body was made from hemp, sisal, and wheat straw. Guess what that car ran on? Yes, it ran on hemp ethanol. It seems obvious that gas wasn’t the best fuel for cars. It is toxic, can be dangerous, and has a lower octane rating then ethanol.

If ethanol is better than gas, why aren’t we using it? I’ve read that some people think the auto industry was built around gas powered automobiles and it would be too costly to change. Others think that politics played a hand in the auto industry staying dependent on gasoline.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that the automobile forefathers were thinking of automobiles that ran on something other than gasoline. This idea has been around for almost 100 years and yet we are still oil dependent.

Do you think we will see a viable alternative to gasoline any time soon? by Libby Pelham.