Hybrids are a step in the right direction, but they still rely in part on an engine that's totally powered by gasoline. Perhaps, as this article notes, the answer comes from engines that use a mixture consisting of a little bit of gasoline and the rest either methanol or ethanol.
Flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) offer consumers little advantage right now, because the high-alcohol fuels which they could employ are not generally available for purchase. This is because there are so few such vehicles that it doesn't pay gas station owners to dedicate a pump to cater to them. Were FFVs made the standard, however, the fuel they need would quickly be made available everywhere.The article also notes that a switch to an alcohol standard would reduce air pollution and provide jobs both for farmers (both here and abroad) who grew the crops from which ethanol would be distilled and for those involved in the distilling of methanol from a variety of materials such as coal and natural gas.
If all cars sold in the U.S. had to be flexible-fueled, foreign manufacturers would also mass-produce such units, creating a large market in Europe and Asia as well as the U.S. for methanol and ethanol, much of which would be produced in America. Instead of being the world's largest fuel importer, the United States could become the world's largest fuel exporter. A large portion of the money now going to Arabs and Iranians would instead go to the U.S.A. and Canada, with much of the rest going to Brazil and other tropical agricultural nations. This would reverse our trade deficit, improve conditions in the Third World, and cause a global shift in world economic power in favor of the West.
Read the whole thing. It would certainly involve a big leap of faith on the part of Congress to mandate the manufacture of these new engines, and the oil-rich Arab countries wouldn't like it too much (note the Saudi ambassador's shocked response to Bush's "addiction" quote) but it sure seems like a win-win for the West. And if the oil companies are smart, they'll start devoting a portion of their profits to research and development in this area, so that they won't be left out in the cold if and when this conversion takes place.