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Book Review: Green Algae Strategy

Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports And Engineer Sustainable Food And Fuel by Mark Edwards

Introduction

I love to read. I particularly enjoy books about energy, sustainability, and the environment. One of the benefits of reviewing books is that I end up getting a lot of free books on these topics. One thing about getting free books, though, is that I have to be careful that it doesn’t impact my objectivity. After all, the publisher or author was nice enough to send me this free book. How do I then approach the matter if I sharply disagree with some aspects of the book?

I am on record as being very skeptical about the ability of algal biodiesel to scale up and contribute significantly toward liquid energy supplies. Mark Edwards, a Professor of Strategic Marketing and Sustainability at Arizona State University recently saw one of my essays, and said that while he agreed with my points that many algal producers have been overly optimistic, he also felt like I had glossed over algae’s potential. He offered to send me a copy of his book Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports And Engineer Sustainable Food And Fuel.

The first thing I thought when I saw that title is “Either Mark Edwards is dead wrong, or I am dead wrong.” But I believe it is important to read and understand a wide range of viewpoints, because I just might change my mind. Maybe I am dead wrong. This book won the 2009 IPPY award for the best science book, so there are definitely those who think Mark makes a good case.

Mark Edwards writes that he has three goals:

1. Create Green Independence for America and the world

2. Halt and reverse climate change

3. End American and world hunger

While I can certainly get behind those goals, the devil is always in the details. And I think in the details we are going to run into some very challenging problems. Of course this is something I wouldn’t mind being dead wrong about. In fact, a few years ago I was very optimistic about the possibility of algae to produce large amounts of fuel without utilizing large amounts of good crop land. The prospects for algal fuel certainly sounded too good to be true. But a series of articles and discussions since then has swung me increasingly to the belief that the stories were too good to be true.

My Slide Toward Skepticism

First I read an essay at The Oil Drum called Has the Algae Cavalry Arrived? The essay was mostly based on work done by Krassen Dimitrov, who had gone back to first principles of incoming solar insolation to argue that GreenFuel Technologies was exaggerating their claims. While Dimitrov’s work has been criticized, he does raise a number of important issues. Primarily for me was the issue of just how much renewable diesel could be made from a square meter of area, contrasted with what the overall costs might be. Dimitrov concluded that you could make at best about a gallon of algal oil per square meter per year. However, costs were estimated to be over $100 per square meter. That sounded like a pretty serious, but potentially surmountable problem. (Important to note that in Green Algae Strategy, Mark Edwards also argues that GreenFuel made “some serious mistakes in executing strategy”, and led the industry in “hope and hype”).

Then came a post from John Benemann: Algal Biodiesel: Fact or Fiction? John has been heavily involved in algae studies for many years. In fact, he was the Principal Investigator and main author of the U.S. DOE Aquatic Species Program Close-Out Report. He certainly has some credentials on the topic of algae, and he weighed in to say that the essay described in the previous paragraph was generally correct. John’s position is that the present status of algal biodiesel is nowhere near commercialization, but in 10-15 years commercialization may not be out of the question. But it is far from a sure thing, and it certainly won’t happen soon. (See also John’s recent position paper on the subject: Opportunites and Challenges in Algae Biofuels Production).

Meanwhile, more question marks emerged. De Beers Fuel, having made some pretty far-fetched claims about their ability to deliver algal biodiesel, as well as having sold 27 franchises for algal biodiesel production, turned out to be a scam and collapsed. GreenFuel Technologies finally decided their future was bleak, and they closed down.

Information about the true costs started to become publicly available. While it has long been known that algal biodiesel is currently very expensive to produce, the actual price was only vaguely quantified. Krassen Dimitrov had suggested costs of around $20/gal. The government in British Columbia commissioned a study to look at the prospects, as well as the estimated costs of production. They estimated that the net cost of production per liter for photobioreactors (PBRs) was $24.60 ($93.23 US dollars/gallon), for open raceways it was $14.44 per liter, and for fermentors was $2.58 per liter. (There are some other issues with using fermentation that I won’t get into here). The report also stated that the much-touted carbon sequestration benefits of algae were illusory:

What about the value of sequestered carbon in algae-based biofuels? In short, there isn’t any. Atmospheric carbon is only sequestered for a short time until it’s burned in an engine. Under existing biofuels mandates in most industrialized countries, there will be no opportunity to sell carbon offsets unless fuel production is additional, or beyond such mandates.

Finally, Bryan Wilson, a co-founder of Solix Biofuels, went on record and stated that they could indeed make biofuel from algae, but the cost to do this was $33/gallon.

That preamble is meant to establish that there was quite a lot behind my slide from algae optimist to algae skeptic. But I was looking forward to seeing whether Mark Edwards could push me back toward the optimist camp with his book.

The Book’s Strengths

Let me talk first about what I feel are the book’s strengths. Edwards clearly lays out the challenges we face over our dependence on fossil fuels. He takes on current U.S. biofuel policy in a credible way. He is sufficiently skeptical about the near term prospects for cellulosic ethanol, and is harsh in his assessment of corn ethanol (even more so than I have been). He cites familiar names such as Lester Brown, delves deeply into the challenges of water and soil depletion, and discusses the issue of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) availability in the future.

On the overall topic of algae, the book is incredibly informative. I had no idea that algae played such an important role in food, medicines, and consumer products (e.g., Aquafresh toothpaste). Edwards discusses many different varieties of algae, and characterizes them according to lipid, protein, or carbohydrate production.

Edwards makes a good case for why it would be a great idea to have algae-based fuels. He emphasizes that the co-products in many cases can improve the overall economics of the process. He lays out all the possible benefits of procuring our fuel from specific waterways as opposed to trading topsoil and fossil aquifers for fuel.

I can say with certainty that this book will come in handy for me in the future as a reference book. (More details at a later date, but I am likely to do some work on algae myself in the not-too-distant future). But what I won’t use this book for is as a “How To” guide. And that’s a good segue into the problems I had with the book.

The Book’s Weaknesses

At times it felt as if this book was written by two people. There was Mark Edwards, the cellulosic ethanol skeptic, accurately reporting on some of the potential problems with commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. Then there was Mark Edwards, the algal biofuel optimist, uncritically presenting seemingly far-fetched claims from any number of would be algae producers.

There was even Mark Edwards the algal fuel skeptic, but I just couldn’t reconcile that person’s views with those of Mark Edwards the optimist. On one hand, Professor Edwards notes that the current estimated costs for algal biodiesel are over $20/gallon. He said that over 75% of the companies who had algal aspirations in the 80’s and 90’s no longer exist. He wrote that the algal fuel industry as a whole has produced less than 100 barrels of product. Then he turns around and writes that within three years the industry will be producing hundreds of millions of gallons. (Based on the 2008 publication date, I guess we can expect a gusher of production next year).

I had a number of specific criticisms as I read the book. First, it was presented throughout the book that algae can be used to produce food and fuel, all while sequestering carbon. I don’t agree with that. Certainly algae take up carbon dioxide and convert it into biomass as they grow. However, unless that biomass is stored away without being consumed, there is no real carbon sequestration. Imagine two different scenarios. In the first scenario, the carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant is bubbled through tubes filled with algae. The algae will consume that CO2, preventing the immediate escape into the atmosphere. But what happens if fuel is produced from the algae? The carbon dioxide ends up getting released into the atmosphere. What you can say is that the release was delayed, and (depending on the energy inputs into producing the fuel) potentially more fuel was produced for a given emission of CO2. However, that isn’t carbon sequestration.

Second case, algae are grown utilizing atmospheric CO2. During the growth phase carbon dioxide is indeed removed from the atmosphere. Take that algae and bury it deep in the earth, and carbon is sequestered. Turn it into fuel, and the CO2 taken up during the growth-phase is released back into the atmosphere. This is potentially a greenhouse gas (GHG) neutral process, but there is little potential for sequestration if the goal is to use the algae for fuel. However, this carbon sequestration meme is mentioned many times in the book (and many themes in the book were unnecessarily repetitive).

He blames the lack of progress for algae on lack of funding, which is blamed on corn ethanol. This, he argues, was the politically favorable biofuel that sucked up all the R&D funding (and subsidies). He later writes “If corn ethanol makes sense, the market will reward it without taxpayer monies or protectionist tariffs.” Can’t we say the same about algal fuel? If the potential is so great, money should flood in from investors looking to get in early on a huge growth opportunity.

I don’t recall that the issue of energy return was ever covered in the book. If the energy inputs into the process are too high – as Bryan Wilson of Solix Biofuels recently suggested – then you have a potentially serious issue. How can algae be harvested and processed with minimal energy inputs? One of John Benemann’s comments from his position paper was “At present there are no low-cost harvesting technologies available.” Why? It takes a lot of energy to extract the algae from the water, relative to the BTU content of the algae you are extracting.

I felt that there was some confusion around the usage of specific terminology. For instance, on Page 6 Professor Edwards wrote that oil pressed directly from algae can be used directly in a diesel engine, and this is called green diesel. While plant oils can be used straight in a diesel engine, this product is called straight vegetable oil, or SVO. (Note: Do not attempt to use SVO in a vehicle unless you understand the caveats!) Further, there is a difference between green diesel and biodiesel, but this terminology is used interchangeably in the book. (See my Renewable Diesel Primer for an explanation of the differences between green diesel and biodiesel.) Another misuse of terminology comes on Page 15, where ethanol is called a hydrocarbon.

But those aren’t the biggies for me. The title of the book indicates that it is a strategy book, but I see it more as a series of facts, connected to goals. What is missing is the “how to”, which would be the strategy part. Yet difficult technology challenges were addressed casually. There are numerous instances where there is a presumption that technology will solve a particular problem. The word “might” is used an awful lot in the book. But when you casually dismiss technical challenges, you can effectively argue that the most implausible scenarios are inevitable. Let me give you an example.

Bananas are a very healthy food, and in the U.S. we depend on imports from tropical countries for our banana supplies. Just imagine if we could grow bananas in the Midwest. The soil is fertile. There would be additional options for farmers to make money. New jobs could be created in the domestic banana supply chain. So let’s say I write a book about my Midwest Banana Strategy. I talk at length about the benefits of bananas, and the benefits of growing them in the Midwest. These are facts. I then tie them to my goals: To commercially grow them in the Midwest. The only problem is that unless I am willing to invest in heated greenhouses – at very great expense – my banana goal is going to come to naught. So presently Midwestern bananas are a pipe dream. But if I invoke the wonders of biotech – “there will be a solution that will enable cold-tolerant bananas” – then problem “solved.” And that’s how I felt many problems were dealt with in the book.

There are a series of independent facts, and then we have a black box, and then we have commercial algal biofuel. Solutions are presented as inevitable (“when this happens”) instead of possible (“if this happens”). Sometimes I had flashbacks to The Singularity Is Near, in which author Ray Kurzweil employed this tactic throughout to argue that the near future is so fantastic we can’t even imagine it. It is certainly true that a lot of companies are working on algae. But I would argue that Professor Edwards falls prey to the Vinod Khosla fallacy on cellulosic ethanol: This is simply too important and there are too many companies working on this to fail.

If I hand wave away the challenging problems and presume technology will solve them, then who needs algae for fuel? Hydrogen is waiting to solve all of our problems. Recall all that hydrogen economy business that was all the rage a few years ago? Despite numerous potential benefits, there are multiple very challenging technical issues that keep a hydrogen economy at bay – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But I could still write a book called Hydrogen Economy Strategy if I am willing to brush away those technical issues as temporary.

While there were a number of claims that I thought were presented uncritically, there were also some claims that I found to be very odd. Some examples:

Page 13: As a criticism of using food crops for fuel, he states that massive planting of corn leads to high humidity because the leaves transpire water. This leads to thunderstorms and potentially tornadoes.

That large areas planted in corn can increase the risk of tornadoes is something I have never heard before.

Page 105: Algal biodiesel is carbon neutral because the power needed for producing and processing the algae can come from the methane produced by anaerobic digestion…

That sentence is inaccurate. It is only carbon neutral if the power does come from digestion, not that it can. Based on the above, we could also say that corn ethanol is carbon neutral, because the power for processing can come from methane produced from digestion.

Page 150: When writing that algal fuel mimics fossil fuels without fossilization, he writes “Skipping the fossilization step not only saves 200 million years of pressure and heat, but lowers production costs significantly.”

I can’t really comprehend this one. The reason biofuels have trouble competing with fossil fuels is because nature already did the heavy lifting for the fossil fuels. Nature provided all that heat and pressure for free. Humans have to provide the heat and pressure to process biofuels – at a price. So I would come to the opposite conclusion: Skipping 200 million years of pressure and heat increases production costs significantly.

Page 179: He cites a claim by Aurora Biofuels that their process creates biodiesel with yields 125 times higher and 50% cheaper than current methods.

I am going to presume that this was supposed to read 125% higher and not 125 times higher.

Page 204: “When someone invents a carbon capture filter for vehicle exhaust pipes, there will be a nearly limitless supply of low-cost CO2 for growing algae.”

I don’t even know what to say about that one. It gets back to the issue of energy return. Anything you do here (e.g., compressing the spent CO2 from the vehicle) is going to take energy (and add weight to the vehicle) which is a penalty against the overall energy return of the process.

Conclusion

Let me say that I agree with the goals of Professor Mark Edwards, and that I think his heart is in the right place. I agree that we should spend research dollars on an algal biofuel program. I agree with him that economical algal biofuel could provide substantial benefits. (A good portion of the book was devoted to algae as food, and I didn’t really address that at all in this review). Where I disagree sharply is that solving the technical challenges is inevitable. This is primarily where I found fault with the book.

On the other hand, the book was very informative on the topic of algae. I learned a lot I didn’t know. But at the end of the book, my skepticism had not been swayed because I did not see a real pathway to get from where we are today to vast quantities of commercial algal biofuel. The book failed to make the case that the technical challenges will be solved.

No doubt Professor Edwards will disagree with some of this review. But I am a strong proponent of allowing people to answer criticisms. I therefore extend an open invitation to Professor Edwards. If he wishes to dispute or address any of the points I have raised, I will happily publish his comments.

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June 4, 2009 - Posted by | algal biodiesel, DOE, green diesel, john benemann, Mark Edwards

61 Comments

  1. Thanks for this write up, Robert. Very helpful to those of us who are (or were!) very hopeful about algal fuels but have not had the time to do the research.Just as a side comment — one really has to feel for the poor guys who become professors these days. Within living memory, professors were widely (& rightly)respected. Today, the price of their professorship is abject self-abasement before the gods of left-wing orthodoxy — consequently, they have lost much of that former automatic respect.One would hope that a professor writing about algal fuels would know enough about the carbon cycle and the vital importance of atmospheric carbon dioxide to life on Earth to harbor just a little skepticism about that most sacred of politically-correct cows — alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | June 5, 2009

  2. Actually, a professor of marketing is quite likely to come from the side of the house — the B school — that worships at the altar of the "Free Market" and all its wonders.As for science's well-known liberal bias, that's just the way it worked out since the problems became ones (climate change, for example) where the action needed is considered bad for business. Thus, the right has to be in denial about the science, since they don't like the remedies that would follow from accepting it.Meanwhile, on the original post, your experience with the book is much like the experiences I have had in energy policy: don't believe a word anyone says about their preferred technologies, talk to people who have OTHER favorites for the best analysis of any given process. Humans are real bad at overcoming human nature; when we become advocates, we lose the critical capacity we have when we are critiquing the ideas promoted by others. So just as you found, this guy is good on corn and cellulosic ethanol and pretty weak on algal — exactly as I would have predicted. I interviewed a guy who believes — and I do mean BELIEVES in hydrogen as THE SOLUTION to everything. He was actually pretty good at nailing down the limits of transport fuels strategies . . . until we started talking about hydrogen. And then he just became a mystic. I should contact him again to get his response to DOE's decision to kill hydrogen funding as soon as Bush the Dumber left town . . .

    Comment by Walker | June 5, 2009

  3. "1. Create Green Independence for America and the world2. Halt and reverse climate change3. End American and world hungerWhile I can certainly get behind those goals, …"Robert, I thought you hadn't reached a final personal conclusion on AGW. And now here you are agreeing with the goal "to reverse climate change". So, have you now reached a conclusion? Clarity is your friend.

    Comment by Nick de Cusa | June 5, 2009

  4. Something of an aside, but they do or did grow bananas in Iceland with precisely that midwest method – using geothermal energy to heat the greenhouses. I haven't heard of it doing that much for their economy, however.

    Comment by P.M.Lawrence | June 5, 2009

  5. "Robert, I thought you hadn't reached a final personal conclusion on AGW."I think I have been pretty consistent with my position on AGW. The issue is that several readers strongly feel – and perhaps rightfully so – that I would be much more skeptical if I took more time to research the matter.Regardless, I think it would be a good idea to slow or stop the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. I don't like to do experiments on a grand scale in which the consequences are uncertain. So when he writes "reverse climate change" I really read that as "lower carbon emissions" which I would like to see happen in any case. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 5, 2009

  6. "Something of an aside, but they do or did grow bananas in Iceland with precisely that midwest method – using geothermal energy to heat the greenhouses."Such may be the case for algal fuels. There may be some niche applications, but I seriously doubt algal fuels can scale up massively.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 5, 2009

  7. I am reminded that Amory Lovins talks of having a fruiting banana tree in his low energy headquarters in Colorado. I am surprised to hear a number of his recomendations during the past years appear to be getting adopted : Cash for Clunkers, Bright Automobile. Interested in what you think about some of his ideas at some point. nice article btw. Working on Algae?Professionally?

    Comment by takchess | June 5, 2009

  8. As for science's well-known liberal bias, that's just the way it worked out since the problems became ones (climate change, for example) where the action needed is considered bad for business. Thus, the right has to be in denial about the science, since they don't like the remedies that would follow from accepting it. One could argue also that socialist and statists went looking for a problem for which the solution is less freedom and more government. AGW alarmism, which is difficult to prove or disprove fits the bill perfectly. The left denies that their agenda might be clouding their interpretation of the science.

    Comment by KingofKaty | June 5, 2009

  9. This is one of those cases when waiting for the scientific breakthrough is irrelevant. Just take the best current yield for algae and quadruple it. Now take the cost of coal or biomass ($50 per ton) and work backwards to figure out how much you could spend on bioreactors. I got a number something like $2-3 per square foot. Less than a medium grade of carpet. If the cost doesn't get you, the algae will. How do you keep the algae from growing on the surfaces of the photobio recactors, and reducing the effective sunlight? Anything you do adds cost in either labor or equipment. It's a dead end.

    Comment by KingofKaty | June 5, 2009

  10. "I am on record as being very skeptical about the ability of algal biodiesel to scale up and contribute significantly toward liquid energy supplies." …I share your skepticism Robert. After all, it took millions of years of algae and plankton growth to give us our present supply of petroleum, and now we've managed to burn nearly half of that supply in only 100 years or so.That's not a very good ratio ~ millions of years of algae growth to power a bit more than a century of modern society.I'm sure we can make liquid fuels from algae, it's the massive time compression that is the problem.How do we solve our immediate needs when it took millions of years for Mother Nature to bank enough energy in the form of algae transformed into oil to supply only one century?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | June 5, 2009

  11. "Edwards makes a good case for why it would be a great idea to have algae-based fuels."…It is a great idea, so great that's what we've been doing for the last 100 years. Doesn't Edwards know that we are already using algae-based fuels ~ oil made from algae and phyto-plankton that lived millions of years ago?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | June 5, 2009

  12. I'm highly sceptical about algal fuels too.But at the same time I'm not sure I buy this "millions of years for nature to supply a century's-worth" argument.The vast majority of those ancient algae did not turn into oil. Or if they did, that oil long ago migrated to the surface and denatured or evaporated. The fossil algae that we pipe from underground today depend very sensitively on the combination of suitable initial conditions for growth of algae, sedimentation and compression over time, AND the presence of impermeable cap rocks. One assumes that only an utterly miniscule fraction of algal remains are preserved as oil.As a result it's not impossible in principle that one could grow enough algae under controlled conditions — albeit with much lower energy density — to provide for some of our needs. But is does sound unlikely in practice!

    Comment by PeteS | June 5, 2009

  13. When I was Very young we owned a dairy farm. A small dairy farm. Well, a small farm, and we had thirty, or forty head of holsteins. Man, they were a pain. Anyhoo, we, of course, fed them a dry mix of various grains, and molasses, etc. while we were milking them. After milking they would walk out to the concrete water trough to wash down the feed. The feed on their mouths would wash off in the water.Man, did we GROW SOME ALGAE! Jeez, did we grow some algae. We coulda been RICH! RICH, I tell ya!I don't know where I'm going with this; I just thought I would throw it out there.

    Comment by rufus | June 5, 2009

  14. Would that it were, would that it were. Algae-fuel.An excellent review. I like the part about capturing CO2 from vehicle tailpipes. Sounds very practical. The publisher published it, too. Still, I wonder if RR, playing defense for Peak Lite, too often knocks down straw men, while avoiding the strong fullbacks rushing through the line. RR does an excellent job debunking biofuel schemes, and deserves recognition on that score.Meanwhile, we have a huge — indeed epic and record-breaking– boom in natural gas in the USA, due to shale gas. Half of our NG will be shale by 2020. We just now discovered the stuff, practically.Very high mpg cars are possible, and the PHEV looks very close to commercialization. We know we can easily generate enough electricity for PHEVs, from a variety of sources, nukes, NG, solar, wind etc. Geothermal. Hydro. Palm oil is proven, and Indonesia said they would double production by 2020. Yields are rising, and acreage too.I do wish RR would turn his powerful intellect on some of the strong candidates, rather than beating up on the wimps.I see no reason why, over a 20-year period, the USA cannot convert to a fleet of PHEVs (or other very high mpg cars) and CNG cars-trucks, and do fine with a mere fraction of the oil we use now. Use of the price mechanism can make this lamost a certainty.Far more likely than a Peak Oil Doom scenario is one in which chronic oil gluts delay alternatives. As we move off oil, the price will collapse — luring back in for a while. But any more price spikes….

    Comment by Anonymous | June 5, 2009

  15. Using catalysts and industrial processes, humans do many things in a short time that took nature millions of years. Nanotech discoveries will speed things up even more.You can't imagine how it could be done? Like most people in that regard, you are. That means the people who CAN imagine how will eat your lunch.Sequestration is not forever. Even carbonaceous rocks will break down and release their carbon eventually. Recycling CO2 should be good enough even for the most rabid worshipers at the carbon hysteria alter.

    Comment by atheist jew in hades | June 5, 2009

  16. "You can't imagine how it could be done? Like most people in that regard, you are. That means the people who CAN imagine how will eat your lunch."This is a very common response from the camp of wishful thinkers. I simply lack the vision, and those how have the vision will solve the problem. But let me tell you something. Imagining must eventually deal with the limitations of the real world.I can imagine I can fly people to the moon and back for $1.00. But that won't happen, even if I assemble the brightest 1,000 people in the world and ask them to work on the problem. Imagination runs into the hard reality of physics and chemistry. Those have to be dealt with, and imagination isn't going to do the trick.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 5, 2009

  17. "You can't imagine how it could be done? Like most people in that regard, you are."..Sure, I can imagine how it could be done. What I can't imagine is how it could be done economically or on a useful scale to benefit a planet with a population of 6.8 billion. (I'm sure it can be done on a scale to benefit a few super-wealthy elite.)How many billions of tons of algae and plankton do you think had to live, die, and be transformed over a period of millions of years to provide the oil we've burned over the last 100 years? The process is no mystery ~ the daunting logistics of handling billions of tons of algae and compressing its transformation into oil in a short period of time will be the long pole in the tent.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | June 5, 2009

  18. Walker said:"I interviewed a guy who believes — and I do mean BELIEVES in hydrogen as THE SOLUTION to everything. He was actually pretty good at nailing down the limits of transport fuels strategies . . . until we started talking about hydrogen. And then he just became a mystic."comment:Every day before my Momma sent me off to school she always used to say:"Johnny, always look both ways before crossing the street, and be especially careful for extra, un-necessary energy conversions."If you are looking for a truly "democratic" fuel, then electricity is far better than hydrogen.Every nation on earth had some capacity to produce electricity.I just read a news item where the DOE is sponsoring an initiative to use coal to make hydrogen,"DOE to Award Up to $5M in Grants for R&D on Hydrogen Production from Coal"More "non-sense" (but good business sense) from the fossil fuel people to perpetuate their monopoly on energy.John2 June 2009

    Comment by Anonymous | June 5, 2009

  19. Off topic:"World's first floating wind turbine launched"

    Comment by PeteS | June 5, 2009

  20. I don't pretend to have a clue whether algae will take hold. I am, however, loathe to take the word of those anti-biofuel zealots that wave their arms, and screech about how cellulosic is impossible.After several decades in the business, Iogen (a company that Does, presently, produce 500,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol, annually) has signed a letter of intent to purchase a pulp mill in Saskatchwan to begin Commercial Production of Cellulosic Ethanol.Iogen/Shell

    Comment by rufus | June 5, 2009

  21. Rufus,Keep your shirt on. Here's what the article said:1. The demonstartion plant has a capacity of 500,000 gpa.2. It has been producing [doesn't way to say how much] ethanol everyday.The facts, from Iogen's own website: Iogen announced Sept. 25 [2008] that it had shipped the first 100,000 liters (26,417 gallons) of an initial 180,000 liter (47,550 gallons) cellulosic ethanol order from Shell.Hmmmm… Shell's first order is for only 10% of the facility's annual production capacity? Can you say symbolic gesture?

    Comment by Optimist | June 5, 2009

  22. The Biofuel challenge, and how to get there, IMHO:GoalThe challenge is to find ways to convert biomass into liquid fuel. The challenge can be specified somewhat better by noting that carbohydrate is the most common form of biomass available to us, and by further noting that cellulose is the most common form of carbohydrate available to us. Obviously those technologies that can convert cellulose as well as other forms of biomass have a significant advantage.Diversion #1: Right of the bat you can see how algal biodiesel schemes miss the goal by (understandably) targeting the high-energy content lipids, instead of the more widely available carbohydrate. You can have fast-growing, low-lipid alga, or you can have slow-growing, high-lipid alga. So far, you can't have both. Bottom line: algal lipid production is far lower than the proponents like to acknowledge.StrategyThe sensible strategy would be to start with the excess biomass freely available to us, such as landfill waste. By lucky coincidence the biggest part of landfill waste (even after all that diligent recycling) is paper (aka refined cellulose).This is what DOE should be sponsoring, rather than the boneheaded Food->Fuel schemes. Perhaps sponsor an X-prize for Waste->Fuel. The race would be open to all technologies.Diversion #2: Cellulosic ethanol would be free to compete, on the firm condition that corn ethanol is NOT allowed to switch hit for it. Let's just say my money won't be on cellulosic ethanol.DOE should take some time and do what the great state of California did: develop a set of ground rules for the competition that include things like lifecycle carbon footprint, effect of fuel security, effect on other products (like food), environmental benefits, etc.Then DOE should do what Uncle Sam does best: get the &^%*&% out of the playing field, and act as referee from the sideline.Diversion #3: Seems to me that gasification technology, with its ability to handle almost any biomass (plus a few other things) and produce a number of different products, would have the leg up. But that's just IMHO.Once we have converted most of the large landfills in the country to renewable fuel plants, it would be time to consider fuel crops. By then we might actually know what makes a good fuel crop, and the best fuels to produce from it.Diversion #4: I can't help thinking that algae grown on the open ocean ($0/m^2, King) is the only practical solution. As RR would be quick to point out: That assumes the development of a low energy way of harvesting relatively dilute algal biomass. As a side benefit any unharvested alga would eventually either be incorporated in the food chain or collected as sequestered carbon at the floor of the ocean.But that's just IMHO…

    Comment by Optimist | June 5, 2009

  23. I see no reason why, over a 20-year period, the USA cannot convert to a fleet of PHEVs (or other very high mpg cars) and CNG cars-trucks, and do fine with a mere fraction of the oil we use now. – "Anonymous"Please, Benny, we've heard the argument ad nauseam. Do you think it gets any more convincing if your alterego ("Anonymous") makes the argument?

    Comment by Optimist | June 5, 2009

  24. The point I would try to make, Optimist, is that several "Real" companies are going from Demonstration Plants to "Commercial" Scale Plants next year. I've got to think that they know, by now, what it's going to cost to produce the product; and, they, also, know that with the volatility of gasoline prices over the last few years it can't be TOO high (although, admittedly, with the RFS mandates starting in 2010 it can be pretty hgh for a while, probably.)Anyway, I'm figuring all these companies wouldn't be going from Demo to Commercial if it wasn't going to work.

    Comment by rufus | June 5, 2009

  25. Optimist-I just hit the wrong button, I am happy to be Benny "Reargas" Cole at all times.Lighten up. I assume you can avert your eyes when you see my commentary. You might try avoiding ad hominem commentary.

    Comment by benny "reargas" cole | June 6, 2009

  26. "Thus, the right has to be in denial about the science, since they don't like the remedies that would follow from accepting it."The people who deny science are the IPCC, with their fallacious "hockey stick" temperature profile which denied the natural variability of climate over the last thousand years. But you knew that.Suppose a hypothetical honest leftist did really take the junk science of "climate change" seriously. What remedies would follow from accepting it?Our honest leftist would of course conclude that we all need to stop using fossil fuels ASAP. He would also acknowledge that there is only one existing large-scale expandable technology which could replace fossil fuels in providing the eye-popping amounts of power that the human race needs 24/7 — and that would be nuclear fission.Our hypothetical honest leftist would also note that the problems of nuclear waste have been vastly overstated. And he would note that concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation are meaningless now that Pakistan & North Korea have the bomb and Iran is hot on their heels. The horse long ago leapt over that barn door.So our hypothetical honest leftist would become a major proponent of greatly expanded nuclear power (albeit maybe reluctantly). Such people do exist (e.g. Patrick Moore, who founded Greenpeace) — but they are lonely voices in a sea of empty-headed followers of fashion, people who seem to reject the remedies that follow from their beliefs.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | June 6, 2009

  27. "over 75% of the companies who had algal aspirations in the 80's and 90's no longer exist." Definitely a good thing to be aware of, if one is planning to invest. But I don't think that speaks poorly of the algae companies compared to non-algae companies. About 70% of new businesses fail within 10 years. http://smallbiztrends.com/2008/04/startup-failure-rates.html" Just imagine if we could grow bananas in the Midwest." As takchess mentioned, you can grow them in the Rockies with a passive solar greenhouse. Though I wouldn't call it (or a hydrogen economy) profitable. http://harvardmagazine.com/2004/01/the-hydrogen-powered-fut.htmlNice book review. Thanks.

    Comment by Clee | June 6, 2009

  28. An yet another promise of a new breakthrough algae technology *)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325222006.htm

    Comment by takchess | June 6, 2009

  29. Clee."The fuel cell propels the car two to three times as efficiently as a gasoline engine," Lovins declares.What Lovins doesn't tell you is that Present hydrogen PEM fuel cells are about 45 per cent efficientm no brtter than TDI diesels at 40-45%The real efficiency in Lovin's scenario comes from the marvelous efficiency of the electric motor (appx 80%) NOT Hydrogen !!!John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 6, 2009

  30. “The real efficiency in Lovin's scenario comes from the marvelous efficiency of the electric motor (appx 80%) “So John, how many motor curves have you looked at? I suspect the same as Lovin's. None!John does not know what the efficiency of the electric motor. He does not know where his electricity comes from. He does not know the efficiency of the electric battery. He is just repeating assumptions he has heard. WAG would be a better term. So John do you know what a shell game is? You can beat it if you know the con. To understand the Lovins con, you must know thermodynamics. What Clee, John, and Lovins like to do is compare what does not work to rock hard reliable. I do not care about the efficiency of toys. Until something is reliable who cares. I do not care about the reliability of my old POS PU. However, my wife is coming back from visiting her mother. The mean time to failure of her Corolla is much longer than her trip. Hauling heavy batteries around reduces overall efficiency. I work in the electricity generating industry. While it would be in our vested interest to drive EVs. However, I know of no one who advocates them or drives one. We know too much batteries, motors, and making electricity.

    Comment by Kit P | June 6, 2009

  31. Clee,It's not just a question of "over-all efficiency. Electric motors deliver almost instant torque, That's why Toyota built the Prius (a parellel hybrid)……..The Prius takes up the slack in the torque or (power curve) at the low ICE efficiency end of the spectrum where electric motors are far more efficient, since they provide almost instant torque, without having to "wind up" or develop rpm to achieve max. efficiency.This eliiminated the need for gear-boxes in electric vehicles, which are necessary to get the ICE to max rpm/torque efficiency.If you look at the torque curve for an electric motor it is relatively flat through-out it's rpm range versus the constant "gear shifting" necessary for internal combustion engines which operate in a much narrower (max torque/rpm) range.Toyota added the electric motor because the electric motor is the most efficient, commonly available motor we have.Toyota added the electric motor, not only because of its over-all efficiency, but because it eliminated a number of low-end and well known low rpm efficiency problems in the internal combustion engine. John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 6, 2009

  32. Clee'In stop and go driving the electric motor is more efficient, not only because of the torque curve, but because the electric motor is "off" when the controller does not send power to the motor versus the ICE where the motor is left running at "stop signs, in stop-and-go traffic, etc.The newer, traditional ICE configurations have adopted the new "emgine off" technology while at stop signs, etc. John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 6, 2009

  33. Clee.Edison said: Direct Current power transmission is best. Tesla said: Edison is nuts !!Tesla won.Was Edison completely wrong ?No.The San Francisco light rail system BART runs on 900 volt DC.Relax, the internal combustion engine will be around for a long time……..John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 6, 2009

  34. I wonder what will happen to the cost of batteries when we ramp up to four, or five million EV/PHEV/HEVs/Yr?Can we produce any Lithium in the U.S.?

    Comment by rufus | June 6, 2009

  35. Cost of batteries will go way down due to mass production. There's lithium in the USA but it's cheaper to import it.

    Comment by robert | June 6, 2009

  36. Bilboa claims to be First Subway to Run Entirely on "Renewable" Power. Some commentors say, "not so fast."

    Comment by rufus | June 6, 2009

  37. June 06, 2009 1:44 PMBlogger rufus said… I wonder what will happen to the cost of batteries when we ramp up to four, or five million EV/PHEV/HEVs/Yr? Can we produce any Lithium in the U.S.? June 06, 2009 3:11 PMBlogger robert said… Cost of batteries will go way down due to mass production. There's lithium in the USA but it's cheaper to import it. June 06, 2009 3:25 PMresponse:The Norwegian electric car THINK and Smith electric trucks don't use lithium ion battery chemistry, They use the Zebra battery which is a molten salt battery that operates at temps above 200 C.There are also "flow" batteries which use a liquid dielectric such as the Vanadium redox battery which has been commercialized and has seen limited use to store grid power in remote locations (Utah), wind-farms (Ireland) and to supply emergency power to industrial processes (mostly in Japan.) Also other flow battery chemistries and other molten salt batteries besides Zebra, I am WELL aware of all the many negatives to "electric cars" I have been over them in my own mind ten thousand times.John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 6, 2009

  38. Anonymous John says at 12:42 PM"Clee,It's not just a question of over-all efficiency."and at 12:59 PM"Clee' In stop and go driving the electric motor is more efficient,"and at 1:44 PM"Clee. Edison said: Direct Current power transmission is best." Uh, John, why are you talking at me? I hadn't said a word about efficiency or electric motors in this thread. Do you mean to be talking at Kit P?As for hydrogen, don't worry, I have no intention of buying a hydrogen fuel cell car, not even if they were available for sale for normal consumers, which they aren't, not even for $100,000.

    Comment by Clee | June 6, 2009

  39. "The Norwegian electric car THINK and Smith electric trucks don't use lithium ion battery chemistry, They use the Zebra battery which is a molten salt battery that operates at temps above 200 C."It is hard to imagine anything more thrilling than taking a vat of molten salt to an accident scene. :)Good thing those Norwegians have taxpayer-funded health insurance!

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | June 6, 2009

  40. Clee, I am with you. I am not buying any $100k car. Mostly because our $16k luxury car will most likely last longer than my wife and I. For a short period of a man's life he needs a cool car. After that he needs one that is easy to put the kids in the car seats. Then one that hold the tennis team. If you get my age and have not figured out the luxury of not having an expensive car to impress, it is too late. “Was Edison completely wrong ?No. “Actually, Edison was wrong. At least 99% of the time. See John you are making sweeping a generation without understand the theory. There are some reasons to use DC power. John has done some back peddling here. The theory of hybrids is that the addition of some batteries and a motor will make the ICE run where it more in a more efficient range for longer periods of time. The trade off is both the motor and battery add weight and are not 100% efficient. This theory is a grat marketing gimmick. At best a hybrid can only provide a marginal improvement on paper. It mostly depend on your driving habits. I bought a Corolla for my wife because it matched her driving habits. I would have considered paying $6k more for a hybrid if the Toyota could have provided data. Toyota was selling image.

    Comment by Kit P | June 6, 2009

  41. That was, actually, an honest question about the cost of batteries.I have nothing against the general theory of having various types of battery cars available. Obviously, the higher the cost of liquid fuels the more desired electrics/hybrids will be.If, in the long run, the availablity of ethanol held the cost of gasoline down to the sub-$4.00 range I think batteries might have a "limited" fan club.On the other hand, I think that if gasoline was selling for $6.00 you wouldn't be able to build them fast enough. Where the magic spot is on the continuum between $4.00 and $6.00? Got me. I'm figuring closer to $4.00, but that's a "Pure" WAG.Then again, maybe they'll discover a gigantic oil field under Detroit. We'll see.

    Comment by rufus | June 7, 2009

  42. "batteries … I think that if gasoline was selling for $6.00 you wouldn't be able to build them fast enough."Gaoline is $6/gal & more in much of Europe — and has been for years. No electric cars. Draw your own conclusion.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | June 7, 2009

  43. Kinauchdrach,I don't have the foggiest what motivates the European market. I was referring, entirely, to the market of which, I feel, I sometimes achieve a minute amount of understanding.And, sometimes, Not.

    Comment by rufus | June 7, 2009

  44. Well anonymous, I was just answerring rufus' questions. I'm aware there are many different chemistries of batteries.An electric vehicle needs high specific power and high specific energy which are not provided by a flow battery. Flow batteries are used for utility scale storage which is a different kettle of fish.

    Comment by robert | June 7, 2009

  45. Atheist jew in hades wrote "Sequestration is not forever. Even carbonaceous rocks will break down and release their carbon eventually."It's actually straightforward to lock it up even longer than that. Just make lots of charcoal from renewable wood sources, then put it in landfills or watercourses or even the sea, where weathering by sunlight in the presence of moisture can't sun bleach it. It will only re-enter the atmosphere by going through the geological cycle and coming out of volcanoes etc., whereas carbonates can release their carbon as carbon dioxide on the way in to that cycle.

    Comment by P.M.Lawrence | June 7, 2009

  46. "Gasoline is $6/gal & more in much of Europe — and has been for years. No electric cars. Draw your own conclusion."That's what I always point out to people who think biofuels are going to be competitive at $5 gasoline. It even got up to $9 in the Netherlands last summer, and everyone was still driving gasoline or diesel cars. Unsubsidized biofuels will struggle to compete with gasoline as long as their energy inputs are high. Gas prices go up, their costs of production go up. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 7, 2009

  47. One question about Europe: Are bio fuels exempt from the taxes that gas faces? If they are, Europe is a fair example. If they are not, then Europe is not a fair example because the competitive point in question is the untaxed price of gas.

    Comment by Ape Man | June 7, 2009

  48. “struggle to compete”And who does not?RR is just flat wrong when he says biomass can not compete. It is competitive now. The gripe I have with RR is that he studies failure and all he see is failure. And often his failure criteria is stuff he makes up, like EROI. “Unsubsidized” Everything is subsidized one way or the other. I have a little problem with all you folks with a Texas with a background oil and gas who think it is their way or the highway. There crystal ball is broken and they refuse to learn. By there definition of the world, sucking every last dollar out of their customs who have no alternative is not a subsidy. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.The anti this and that folks talk about failure. If one nuke or biomass plant fails they all fail. However, the many that succeed end up making a profit and paying taxes. Incentives should be judged on how much they pay back over the long term.

    Comment by Kit P | June 7, 2009

  49. "RR is just flat wrong when he says biomass can not compete."You just can't keep that inner troll at bay very long, can you? I did not say "biomass can not compete", did I? I had a qualifier that you conveniently left off. So let's set the record straight.I have pointed out that sugarcane ethanol and palm oil can compete. Then again, their energy inputs aren't very high. Something like corn ethanol? Look at the energy inputs, Grasshopper. This shall open up a new level of understanding for you."The gripe I have with RR is that he studies failure and all he see is failure. And often his failure criteria is stuff he makes up, like EROI."There is a great deal wrong with that bit. First thing, it depends upon why failure happened. Was it due to fundamental reasons, or execution mistakes? Second, I didn't make up EROI, you just don't understand it. That's why you cheerlead for corn ethanol. You think it's competitive, but by not understanding EROI you don't appreciate the dual subsidy of direct cash payments and the fossil fuel underpinning. "By there definition of the world, sucking every last dollar out of their customs who have no alternative is not a subsidy."Again, Kit, spell and grammar check are your friend. I can't parse much of what you wrote, so I can't address it.We do know one thing a subsidy is, though. When governments make direct payments based on usage of a specific fuel, that is a subsidy. Of course I am not against subsidies. But after 30 years of subsidies, corn ethanol still can't survive without them. Why? Too much embedded fossil fuel energy."If one nuke or biomass plant fails they all fail."Of course that's not true, nor did anyone imply it. But you can't argue against what people actually write, can you? So you make things up, and whack away at the straw man. Finally, if you can't keep that troll at bay, you are going to have to find another forum to infest.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 7, 2009

  50. Ape Man,Again, I don't pretend to know much about European taxation schemes, but I'm pretty sure that ethanol, and vegetable oil are hit with Very High "Import" Taxes as Agricultural Products. This is why Sweden is having so much trouble getting their E85 program to the point they want it. As for taxes "at the pump," I believe that Diesel comes out the best as far as fossil fuels go. I don't know what kind of scheme they have for biofuels (at the pump.) Ethanol Refineries are, at present, producing, and profitably selling moonshine for $1.75/gal. We no longer are paying farmers to grow corn, and the blenders' credit is payed "up the line;" so the $1.75 is SANS SUBSIDIES. Add Taxes, Shipping, and Profit, and Ethanol can sell profitably, MINUS SUBSIDIES, for between $2.25, and $2.50 (depending on length, and difficulty of transport.)Now, admittedly, today's engines don't utilize ethanol to it's greatest efficiency (the ones that do are coming,) so to be totally equivalent to gasoline Ethanol would have to sell, at present, for about a 25% discount to gasoline. This means, with present corn prices – which I think is going to be about the average from here on out, – Ethanol will need Gasoline to sell for about $3.00/gal for ethanol to be a TRUE replacement.

    Comment by rufus | June 7, 2009

  51. Robert said,"An electric vehicle needs high specific power and high specific energy which are not provided by a flow battery. Flow batteries are used for utility scale storage which is a different kettle of fish."——————————What you say is true. Flow batteries have seen limited commercialization for grid storage.From a purely technical standpoint they are interesting in regard to electric vehicles because they contain a liquid electrolyte. They could be drained at a "gas station" and simply filled with new "recharged electrolyte" similar to filling up with gas. Or the electrolyte can also be left in the battery and be re-charged that way.The charged electrolyte however contains much less energy (about the equivalent of a lead acid battery) than a gallon of gas.I was simply trying to point out that there are more battery chemistries than just lithium ion.The second generation Vanadium battery can store about the equivalent of an Nimh battery. This means that for a given unit- volume the battery can store twice as much energy as before, but still not enough for pure EVs. There are also other fuel cells than just hydrogen PEM which might work in electric vehicles.John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 7, 2009

  52. "Again, I don't pretend to know much about European taxation schemes, but I'm pretty sure that ethanol, and vegetable oil are hit with Very High "Import" Taxes as Agricultural Products."Actually, it's just the opposite. Most European countries have favorable tax treatment for biofuels. So it is a fair comparison. See:European biofuel policies in retrospect"Ethanol Refineries are, at present, producing, and profitably selling moonshine for $1.75/gal.We no longer are paying farmers to grow corn, and the blenders' credit is payed "up the line;" so the $1.75 is SANS SUBSIDIES."That is an inaccurate view of how the subsidies work. Because the blender is paid the subsidy – recently reduced to 45 cents a gallon – this subsidizes the price they pay. In other words, they are willing to pay $1.75 because they get a rebate of 45 cents from the government. Take away the mandates and subsidies, and the price they would be willing to pay would fall. On an open market, ethanol is only worth $1.75 – $0.45 = $1.30 today. That is the true price the blender is paying for it. But even with the subsidies, we had a huge number of ethanol bankruptcies in the past year.But as I have said, with mandates there really isn't even a good reason to keep the subsidies. What they do right now is mask how much ethanol really costs, which is why they are still there. But a subsidy on top of a mandate is redundant.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 7, 2009

  53. "Ethanol Refineries are, at present, producing, and profitably selling moonshine for $1.75/gal."Just one more bit of info on this. I just checked to see what gasoline is trading at on the NYMEX. On Friday, gasoline for July delivery closed at $1.95. (This is minus state and federal taxes). But of course the energy content of ethanol is only 67% that of gasoline. Multiply that times $1.95 and you get $1.31. That is what ethanol is actually worth with gasoline trading at $1.95. As I pointed out above, blender's are effectively paying $1.30 with ethanol trading on the CBOT at $1.75. The only reason a blender would pay more than $1.31 for ethanol with gasoline at $1.95 is 1). They are being subsidized to do it; 2). They are forced to do it. In the first case, we are all paying taxpayer money to have it done. In case 2, the blender will simply charge more for the gasoline, so we will all pay higher prices.

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 7, 2009

  54. http://www.sartelco.it/energia/Public/222942530_VRB-ESS_-__5kW_System_-_V.53_(ENG).pdfThe VRB-ESS is 50% heavier than a lead acid battery. I don't think we are going to see them on wheels.We have a 250 year supply of lithium at today's rate of production. Today's rate of production doesn't include building an electric car for everyone on the planet. The mining companies aren't going to do an expensive exploration program until a market for lithium has been established.

    Comment by robert | June 7, 2009

  55. Robert, your link is to a paper written in 2006. There has been a lot of . . . er, alcohol flow under the bridge since then. Here is a recently written article that covers, somewhat, the "agricultural" products tariffs that ethanol is contending with in Europe. As for the latest, at the pump, taxation schemes you'll have to look elsewhere. As for the $1.75: I was just trying to point out the parameters of prices needed for a successful industry minus subsidies.For instance, E85 is selling for about $2.12/gal, nationally, which is about a 20% spread from gasoline. Obviously, it couldn't be selling this cheap (not even enough to cover cost of fuel + taxes in most states) if it wasn't for the tax credit. I was, simply, trying to ascertain what the price of gasoline would have to be for ethanol to be a "viable" sans-subsidies substitute. It looks to me like it might be around $3.00/gal for gasoline.

    Comment by rufus | June 7, 2009

  56. “But even with the subsidies, we had a huge number of ethanol bankruptcies in the past year.”It seems like lot of folks has a bad year last year. What is a large number and how many were profitable. What is the root cause of the failures? I actually expect failure. Let say you need a 1000 of something each year. If different companies invest and build the ability to produce 2000. The least economical producers will go out of business. The goal was to encourage the production of ethanol in the US to get an idea of how doable it was. The answer is simple it works.

    Comment by Kit P | June 7, 2009

  57. "The goal was to encourage the production of ethanol in the US to get an idea of how doable it was. The answer is simple it works."And it will work just as long as the government continues to prop the industry up. But it will never work in a free market. That's why we have had ethanol subsidies for 30 years. Meanwhile, the oil industry has paid more than $2 trillion in taxes in the past 30 years. You should take note that the oil industry is not one of those industries that has required any sort of bailouts or emergency government assistance.RRP.S. Much more civil post from you.

    Comment by Robert Rapier | June 7, 2009

  58. Anyway, I'm figuring all these companies wouldn't be going from Demo to Commercial if it wasn't going to work.Maybe. Maybe not. By this logic Thermal Depolymerization should have been a roaring success. Only it was not.At best a hybrid can only provide a marginal improvement on paper. It mostly depend on your driving habits.I guess all those people achieving REAL WORLD results of 40+mpg are just hypermiling.Or maybe YOU are the guy basing his conclusions on theory and improvements on paper…

    Comment by Optimist | June 8, 2009

  59. Soylent Green all over again. Many professors are lacking in real world experience. Common sense comes from experience. I have never designed a prototype of anything that worked exactly as planned.I read two or three non-fiction books a week. Actually, I listen to them on an MP3 player that is half the size of a credit card while doing other things. I will sometimes buy a hard cover version when I decide I want one for reference.Two good recent finds, "Outliers" and "Our Inner Ape." Human nature fascinates and horrifies me.

    Comment by Russ Finley | June 9, 2009

  60. Soylent Green all over again.Relax. Not going to happen. Doesn't need to. The repressive society needed to for a Soylent Green scenario, will run into MANY other troubles, long before it runs out of resources.

    Comment by Optimist | June 9, 2009

  61. Great review. Algae's true potential is still debatable, although DOE is interested enough to throw serious money at it. The devil is in the limitations, which are not well-discussed or explained (rationally). I found a site that presents a hypothetical algae project set in Dallas which is pretty enlightening:http://www.bebout-and-associates.com/8301.html

    Comment by Anonymous | August 20, 2009


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