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Answering Reader Questions 2009: Part 4

This marks the final installment of answers to questions recently submitted by readers. This final installment covers the impact of E10 on fuel efficiency, my general optimism (or lack thereof), algal fuel, thermodynamics and energy limitations, Accoya, and litigation. Once again, thanks to the readers who submitted questions, and thanks to those who helped answer them. Without the help I received, this might have been a 10-part series.

Here are the links to the previous installments:

Part 1 – Covered plasma gasification, natural gas projections, free energy, promising alternative energy technologies, and GTL

Part 2 – Covered coal-to-liquids, technology hype, green gasoline, refining improvements, allocation of money toward renewables, electricity consumption, the Automotive X Prize, Big Oil, cellulosic ethanol, and Exxon’s recent algae announcement

Part 3 – Covered advice to engineering students and some books I recommend

The Questions

Wendell Mercantile wrote: The average fuel economy in Minnesota, which mandates E10, was 11% worse than in Wisconsin where drivers are allowed to choose. Minnesota drivers actually went fewer miles, while burning more fuel to do it. Answer

Melanie wrote: Reading over your last Q&A session, you seemed pretty optimistic. Have the events over the course of the last 2 years left you with the same amount of optimism or more/less? Answer

Mike wrote: I know your stance towards algae biofuel companies, but I want to bring a company to your attention called PetroAlgae. (I couldn’t find a reference to them on your blog.) I think they’re pursing a very nice model of licensing instead of building and also combining food with fuel production. They are claiming that the proceeds from the proteins should almost cover the costs of the whole process. With your expertise (and maybe knowledge about their processes), could you say something about the feasibility of those claims? Answer

Evan asked: 1 How can a nation/person “create” more energy/matter, if they do not take it from another nation/person?

2 Will renewable energy be able to account for the fundamental law of conservation of energy/mass? Economically?

3 If the US is the least efficient user of highly demanded fossil energy, why is its currency(time) worth so much? Do Americans just work too much?

4 Will we see currency exchange rate changes, which are weighted more upon per capita (person) energy efficiency? Answer

James Clary asked: What do you think about the economist article about hardening soft wood?

How to toughen up softwood: A hard act to follow Answer

takchess asked: Q: Do you envision that there will be a lot of IP lawsuit once cleantech is mainstream? Do you think this will be or is a disincentive for investment in this area? Answer

The Answers

Answer

This one was debated at length in the comments following the question thread, but I just wanted to add that I have posted a guest essay on this topic before: Wisconsin Tops Minnesota. It was written by Gary Dikkers.

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Answer

That’s a good question. I suppose in general I am more optimistic over the short term, primarily because I saw a relatively fast response to high oil prices. People did cut back on consumption, which was encouraging. The downside is that we are still dealing with fallout from those high oil prices. Not that I have ever been someone who could entertain the thought of a multi-billion person die-off due to peak oil, but I feel better about the overall prospects for humanity. I don’t feel as optimistic about the prospects for the economy, though. I think we are approaching The Long Recession (and may have entered it). I have never seen such a poor job market before. This is going to be extremely tough for a lot of people who have gotten used to a certain standard of living.

I am seeing this first hand in the engineering ranks right now. Since I started my career, demand for engineers has always exceeded supply. Presently, that is not the case (as I am finding because I am still trying to place some engineers that we recently laid off). The Wall Street Journal just reported that 50% of this year’s college graduates do not have jobs. If the job market is to improve, we have to have a recovery. If recovery causes demand for oil to increase, prices are going to climb and the recovery may stall. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I think the way we live is going to change. That’s not necessarily pessimism, because the way we live has to change. I don’t think many people would suggest that our current consumption (and not just of oil) is sustainable. The pessimistic side of me says that the way we live will change because that change will be forced upon us in unpleasant ways (e.g., people simply no longer able to maintain their standard of living), instead of governments making wise policy moves to prepare us for a future in which cheap energy is no longer plentiful.

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Answer

I have heard of PetroAlgae, and just spent a bit of time on their website. Let me first say that I think upwards of 90% of the bioalgae companies out there are being highly irresponsible with their investors. The technology isn’t close to being capable of producing cost-competitive fuel, and we have companies grossly over-promising (or even committing outright fraud).

On the other hand, I do believe that algae can be a niche solution. The problem is that it is being pedaled as a scalable solution, and therefore companies are popping up all over the place to take investors money. Most will inevitably declare bankruptcy after a few years.

But let’s talk about the niches. In my opinion there are a couple of ways algae could work. If it is to be truly scalable so that it can be a big contributor to our fuel supplies, I only see one obvious path. Algae must be developed that can excrete oil. In this way, the algae can grow, you skim off the oil, and you avoid the materials handling nightmare of harvesting and processing the algae. But that is going to require new technology, and unfortunately the invention of new technology isn’t a given.

The second way that I think algae can work is if there is a valuable co-product that offsets the production costs. This is PetroAlgae’s claim. The problem I see with this approach is that it isn’t scalable. You are going to be limited by the ability to put co-product in the marketplace. If the co-product is sufficiently valuable (let’s say you engineer algae that can produce insulin), then you could indeed offset the expense of algae production. But as it scales, you start to flood the market with this valuable co-product, and it is no longer so valuable. Or, if the co-product is already a commodity, it isn’t going to command a high enough price to offset production costs. Thus, I think this approach will be limited to niches. The approach described in the previous paragraph is the only one I think can be scalable.

Specifically on PetroAlgae, let’s look at one of the claims made in the video hosted on their site. Executive VP Bill Haskell makes the claim that a commercial licensee of a PetroAlgae system can produce 1.5 million barrels of transportation fuel a year. Krassen Dimitrov has made a case (PDF warning) that I have yet to see seriously challenged that based on the solar insolation falling on the earth at best one might produce 1 gallon of algae-based fuel per square meter of area.

If we look at the 1.5 million barrel claim above, that ultimately translates into a land requirement of 15,560 acres for just growing the algae. That is a 24.3 square mile plot of land. To put that in perspective, this is a plot of land 4.5 times the size of the largest refinery in the U.S. (which also has a capacity of 140 times greater than that claimed for the algae production facility that occupies 4.5 times the amount of land). And we haven’t even begun to consider processing all that algae.

Bottom line? I think their claims are exaggerated. I suspect that if you asked them to produce data justifying that 1.5 million barrel claim, one would find that they are making projections from small experiments and don’t actually have data to back that up.

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Answer

Let me try to answer these questions all together, because they are driving at the same theme. This isn’t really about creation of energy. Both fossil fuels and biofuels are about harnessing solar energy. In the case of fossil fuels, that is solar energy that was gathered over millions of years and cooked at high pressures and temperatures by the earth. Discovery of this ancient solar energy provided a windfall of energy that most of us take for granted.

We know this windfall is going to run out some day, and we already don’t like the fact that we have to rely on other countries to sell us part of their windfall. So we try to come up with schemes for capturing that solar energy and processing it immediately. This can of course be done in many ways, from direct solar capture, through the growing and conversion of biomass into energy. Generally the attempts to use solar power in real time suffer from various shortcomings (as do fossil fuels). However, some of those shortcomings are masked by the fact that the solar power that is being capture in real time is supplemented to a large extent by that same fossil energy we are seeking to replace.

The core of the problem is that many people – and I would say that most of our political leaders – don’t really appreciate the huge differences in the net energy from fossil fuels and the net energy from most renewable fuels. I have seen schemes floated in which our fossil fuels are displaced by cellulosic ethanol. You know what’s missing from those scenarios? The energy to produce the cellulosic ethanol. When that is taken into account, the primary energy production required to run a world on renewable energy is far greater than the primary energy production required to run a world on fossil fuel. So we have to do one of two things. We have to get used to the idea of eventually using a lot less energy, or we have to find better schemes for converting sunlight. (Or we will have to devote huge amounts of manpower to energy production – diverting productivity from the rest of the economy). In the short term, we will continue to draw heavily upon our fossil fuel reserves, but that can’t last forever.

In closing, let me offer up an example of how primary energy would need to increase if we switched from the high energy returns offered by fossil fuels to the much lower energy returns of most fossil fuels. Here are some numbers I have put together in the past. In a fossil fuel-based society, the energy return is currently somewhere around 10/1. Of 85 million barrels per day, 8.5 million of those barrel equivalents were used to produce the oil. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that oil was used to make oil. That leaves us with a net of 76.5 million barrels with which to power the world.

[Note: Thanks to Engineer-Poet for pointing out a math error here.] Now, drop the energy return of that same society to a biofuel range of 1.3 to 1. We have to solve two equations here: Net Energy = Energy out – Energy in, and Energy return = Energy out/Energy in. Solving these two equations for a net of 76.5 million barrels of oil means we have to produce a total of 255 million barrels of oil equivalent. In the fossil fuel society, it takes 85 million barrels of total production to sustain it. In the low energy return society that approximates today’s biofuels, it takes 255 million barrels per day to sustain it. That means that if we tried to run the world on low energy return biofuels, we would need to triple the overall energy output over what we produce today.

People who say energy return doesn’t matter fail to grasp this point. Unless biofuels are able to substantially improve their energy return – or we have a huge reduction in consumption – a lot more resources are going to have to be devoted to the energy sector.

Of course caveats abound when using an energy return to evaluate a biofuel. As I pointed out in one of my essays on Coskata, it is also possible to have a very good energy return and not net out much energy. Consider an example in which you start with 100 BTUs of biomass, consume 99 BTUs of the biomass to convert it to 1 BTU of liquid fuel, and input 0.1 BTUs of fossil fuel in the process. You could argue that your fossil fuel energy return was 10/1, but your conversion efficiency was terrible. You started with 100 BTUs of biomass and ended up with 1 BTU of liquid fuel.

These are some of the considerations we have to undertake as we try to ramp up biofuels to displace fossil fuels.

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Answer

You probably knew this – which is why I imagine you asked the question – but I was interviewed for that article. The interview took place way back in January, and I had forgotten about it until someone sent me the link.

I thought the article captured the gist of the interview in a concise manner. The key points I make to people about Accoya are generally around the modification of the hydroxyl groups in the wood, and how that impacts the properties of the wood.

I do want to reiterate that despite the career change I am in the process of making, I still feel like Accoya is a fantastic product with a bright future. I will maintain an advisory relationship to Accsys/Titan Wood after I leave, so you will probably see me writing about it on occasion in the future.

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Answer

There are several lawyers who read this blog, and almost every time I make a negative comment about their profession, one or more of them sends me a note. And I will probably get one after this.

In my opinion, litigation is attracted to big piles of money. Even if 99% of lawyers only go after cases with strong merit, there are always going to be some lawyers ready to file a suit at the slightest whiff of cash. My feeling is that we have too many lawyers, and the marginal lawyer has to find a way to make a living. So we get more lawsuits than we should have.

There is a lot of money flowing into the clean tech sector, and there are many people jumping in who may not have a clear picture of who owns various IP. That is a prescription for lawsuits. So, yes, I do expect more lawsuits as clean tech goes mainstream. That is the society we live in. Will it be a disincentive to invest? I don’t know. I do know that the money that flows out of the sector and into lawyers pockets won’t necessarily be invested back into the sector. So there will be a drain in my opinion. It could be that it is a tiny fraction in relation to the overall investments. Let’s hope so.

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OK, as far as I know I got the ones that hadn’t been addressed already (either in previous essays or by someone else in the comments). If someone feels like they didn’t get a question answered, ask in the comments following this essay and I will try to address it.

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August 9, 2009 - Posted by | algal biodiesel, E10, eroei, eroi, ethanol, fuel efficiency, litigation, Peak Oil, PetroAlgae, thermodynamics

141 Comments

  1. "Unless biofuels are able to substantially improve their energy return – or we have a huge reduction in consumption – a lot more resources are going to have to be devoted to the energy sector."We'll gravitate to electric vehicles and PHEV's. If Texas oil hadn't been so abundant and cheap 100 years ago,we'd have had electric transportation all along. PHEV's may not make economic sense with $2 gas,but they will at $5 or $10 a gallon. Even if the world stays in a perpetual recession,oil demand will eventually exceed supply. We all know any price is possible when that times comes.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  2. Thanks for all four parts, Robert.I have already seen many instances in which this series would have been extremely useful as a reference in energy dialogs.RBM

    Comment by RBM | August 10, 2009

  3. "PHEV's may not make economic sense with $2 gas,but they will at $5 or $10 a gallon."Please explain the absence of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles in Europe, despite fuel prices having been in that range for many years.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 10, 2009

  4. "Please explain the absence of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles in Europe,"Maybe because they haven't rolled off the assembly line yet?

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  5. RR, Let's break that down into bite-sized (County) numbers. First, let's say we will need to replace half of our diesel. That would be approx 800,000 Barrels/yr.That would be about 12 thousand sq miles. Divide by 3,000 Counties, and you get 4 sq mi per county.An average county is approx 1,000 sq miles. So, an area 2 mi by 2 mi would be about 0.4% of the area of the county. Seems imminently doable to me.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  6. Let's break that down into bite-sized (County) numbers.What are you breaking down? If it is what I think it is, the exercise omits energy inputs, which was my point. Moving from fossil fuels to biofuels is going to necessarily increase the amount of primary energy production – and probably by a lot.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  7. "Maybe because they [Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles] haven't rolled off the assembly line yet?"And why would that be — given that fuel prices in EUtopia have been high for years? How about this for a hypothesis — because PHEV are not economically competitive, even at high fuel prices.If you look at the real Europe, there are rich people driving around in massive German battle-wagons, and ordinary people driving around in little motorized shopping carts. The failure of PHEVs to gain market share suggests that their life-cycle costs exceed those of small internal combustion engined vehicles (which are what Europeans are actually using). Seems reasonable, given the additional complexity of PHEVs.Mayber PHEVs will save the day. But European experience tells us we are more likely to see the Tooth Fairy than to see widespread adoption of PHEVs.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 10, 2009

  8. "Seems reasonable, given the additional complexity of PHEVs"The Volt is simpler than your average internal combustion engine Kinuach. An electric engine with a gas generator. I spent the weekend figuring out why my truck was running rough. It was the MAP sensor. Normally,the computer generates a code when a sensor goes bad. Apparently,this one wasn't totally shot. Today's cars are incredibly complex. Electric cars are very simple in comparison.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  9. “Moving from fossil fuels to biofuels is going to necessarily increase the amount of primary energy production – and probably by a lot.”First, I do not agree. Second so what?If I understand RR correctly, he is worried about some undefined where we run out of fossil fuel. Looking at the county level, we might see an ethanol plant using local corn and PRB coal or maybe natural gas. When the engineers specified the plant they looked at fuels available for the life of the plant. I could take the same fluidized bed boiler and use biomass as the fuel with some modifications.RR is talking about some undefined future but engineers are designing for today.There are numerous electric power plants running on biomass. The next county over has one. They are building a biomass plant the next county the other direction.That is how the world works. One project at at time, one county at a time. I see what works and what does not. Some people explain what is wrong with what is working and they dream of a futuristic world without regard for the reasons why it is not working.Then there is a third aspect that Kinu described. I can make PHEV work but I can not make anyone buy them. If I was given one I would drive it but I would not buy one. If you are going to make a living as an engineer. You have to produce something that people want.

    Comment by Kit P | August 10, 2009

  10. First, I do not agree. Second so what?First, if you do not agree it might help to show your work. The fact that it is going to take a lot more primary energy production in the transition from fossil fuels to biofuels is just that; a fact. This is related to the difference between fossil fuels that nature cooked up over millions of years and biofuels that humans must cook up (adding energy) year after year.Second, "so what" is the fact that the transition is going to necessarily require a huge expanasion of energy production. That production could be largely from biomass, but the biomass equivalent of 59 million barrels is enormous. RR is talking about some undefined future but engineers are designing for today.Yes, and RR is also an engineer designing for both today and tomorrow.There are numerous electric power plants running on biomass. The next county over has one. They are building a biomass plant the next county the other direction.Producing how much electricity relative to how much we use? It seems that issues of scale too often elude people. If I know where someone is producing fuel from algae, that doesn't make it a scalable solution.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  11. "I can make PHEV work but I can not make anyone buy them. If I was given one I would drive it but I would not buy one."Not today,but what about when it costs $200 to fill your tank? Would you consider one if it cost $500 to tank up? Robert is correct. Biofuels can't fully replace gasoline. Even if there was enough land and cheap labor,the cost of that "last gallon" would be exhorbitant. The modern diesel submarine is pretty much the same one that was around 100 years ago. It's basically a PHEV. The engine is there to charge the batteries,which propel the electric engine. It won't go as far as a nuclear sub,but it's cheaper and quieter. And very reliable. Internal combustion only has the advantage while gasoline is cheap. That won't last forever.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  12. Kinu-I hve to disagree with you. So far the Europeans have responded to higher oil prices, but not innovated. They responded with mass transit, smaller cars and diesel. Their BTU consumption per capita is half of ours.I suggest they do not innovate due to their primarily socialist economies. Innovation is coming out of the US, Japan and China. For all of our warts, the US invents everything. PCs, the Internet, mass-produced cars, you name it. Yes, I am generalizing, but it sure seems true.For example, in the brief window of higher oil prices (2004-2008), US automakers responded, and we now have hybrids, and even a PHEV coming to market. The advances in lithium batteries have been real, and are continuing. I happen to think GM made a mistake introducing the PHEV as a Chevy and not a Cadillac–the PHEV should be first introduced as a luxury car, where the $10,00 additional cost gets buried along with the $5,000 leather seats, the $3,000 sound system-GPS-television screens and monthly leases. I expect in two to three years, lithium batteries will have improved to the point that the PHEV becomes a bona-fide commercial product.Never before in history have so many different groups been working on lithium battery development. This is an exciting time to be alive.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 10, 2009

  13. Okay, so we raise another couple of sq miles of poplar, or switchgrass, or pine trees to provide the energy for the algae operation. Now, we're up to 0.6%, or even 0.8% of the area of the county.I still don't see a problem.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  14. "The Volt is simpler than your average internal combustion engine Kinuach. An electric engine with a gas generator."A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle has almost everything that a regular vehicle has, plus a whole lot more — including large batteries, electric drive trains, and recharging circuits & controllers. More complexity, more expense.All that complex equipment is made using energy. Someone has to mine the lithium for the batteries, and ship it from South America. When the cost of fuel goes up, so does the cost of all that equipment. Even today, about half the life-cycle energy used by a vehicle is used during manufacture. High gasoline prices will not automatically improve the relative economics of PHEVs.I suspect that is why PHEVs have not taken off in Europe. Benny may be right about their political systems crushing innovation, but Europeans have been leading the way on subsidized wind turbines. Why are Europeans not subsidizing PHEVs?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 10, 2009

  15. I still don't see a problem.That's because you haven't put any real numbers to any of this. You are pulling numbers out of thin air.For instance, what is the energy return for algal fuel? We don't know, but based on cost I expect it to be greater than the energy value you will get back from the fuel. So then why would you raise any biomass to do this? Use that biomass directly to produce electricity or gasify it.Let me put this in perspective. The U.S. consumes 20 million barrels of oil per day. The energy content in that oil is equivalent to just over 3 billion tons of biomass. But because you have moved to a lower energy return, it takes another 2 billion tons or so of biomass energy to process the 3 billion tons. And that presumes that the energy return on next generation biofuels is at least as good as for corn ethanol.What did the ORNL study conclude that we had available? 1.3 billion tons/yr? So if we assume the net energy from these advanced biofuels is positive, we could use all of this available biomass and displace maybe 20% of the oil we use.There's the problem. It is a matter of the amount of resources we are going to throw at the problem (that 1.3 billion tons has to be gathered and processed) for the return we are going to get. That is the reality as we move away from fossil fuels.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  16. Kit P wrote in response to RR's “Moving from fossil fuels to biofuels is going to necessarily increase the amount of primary energy production – and probably by a lot.”First, I do not agree.RR is right on this one. We make things more difficult to understand by using terms like Energy Returned on Energy Invested, instead of a simple term like 'energy amplification'.We first have to put energy in to a process to get (more) energy out — even if we are only talking about the energy we have to invest in making a sail.Fossil fuels have high energy amplification — put in one unit of energy, get back somewhere betwen 10 & 100 units. Biofuels are low amplification — put in 1 unit of energy, get back 1.1 or 1.2.Say we need 9 units of (net)energy for useful work. With a fossil fuel at 10:1 energy amplification, we invest 1 unit of energy and get back 10 — that leaves us with the required 9 units of net energy.Now do it with some future 2:1 energy amplification fuel. Invest 9 units, get 18 gross, which leaves us with the needed 9.Simply lowering the energy amplification increases the required gross energy production from 10 to 18 — just to keep the same amount of net energy coming.It is a reasonable guess that the proportion of the global economy devoted to energy production is going to expand dramatically in the coming decades.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 10, 2009

  17. The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief1. Denial and Isolation2. Anger3. Bargaining4. Depression5. AcceptanceThe death of a loved one is never easy.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  18. I'm just using Your numbers.Everything I've read leads to the conclusion that you can drive a truck about as far on a tank of biodiesel as you can petroleum diesel.I guess we could burn all that corn, or gasify it. But, come 2012, what are we going to be short of? Nat Gas? Electricity? Liquid fuels?What will we need to move goods across the U.S. in 2012? Nat gas, electricity, or Diesel fuel?Your figure was that you could get 4,000 gallons of algae oil from an acre. I pointed out that that really isn't much land area. That's all.If your argument is that to get that 4,000 gallons we'll have to raise another .66 acres of algae, ok. It seems a little high to me, but, if that's what it is, that's what it is. I still think it's doable.By the way, there will be a LOT of lignin left after the oil is extracted. That can be burned for process energy. Will it be enough? Heck if I know; but, it's gotta be figured in. Right?

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  19. Rufus ~ "I guess we could burn all that corn, or gasify it. But, come 2012, what are we going to be short of? Nat Gas? Electricity? Liquid fuels?"Rufus ~If we are going to be short of NG and liquid fossil fuels, we will also be short of corn. The corn industry is locked at the hip with, and dependent on fossil fuels.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  20. K, I agree. More people will be involved in energy production. However, we've got plenty of people. Only about 2/3 of our adult population actually works.The point I'm making is that when you look at it from a "practical" standpoint it's no big thing.We have 100,000 people in my county, and plenty of "scrub" land. We can, easily, spare the labor of a couple of hundred of our unemployed (trust me, they'll be happy for the work,) and a few thousand acres of pretty much unused, or under-used land.This can all seem like a really big thing until you break it down into usable bits of information.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  21. All biofuel schemes–no matter how attractive in the lab–ultimately come down to two overlooked–but ultimately critical–issues:1. Scale2. Logistics

    Comment by Doug Niedermeyer | August 10, 2009

  22. Wendell, I should have been more clear. All indications are that we Won't be short of nat gas, or electricity any time really soon.However, if the Megaprojects guys are right (and I really think they are) we could be getting Really short of Liquid Fuels along about 2012.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  23. "We have 100,000 people in my county, and plenty of "scrub" land."Rufus,Where do you live? If it's "scrub" land and no one is now using it for anything productive, it's probably because it lacks the needed tilth, soil nutrition, and water to be productive.What resources and energy will it take to grow anything useful on that "scrub" land? If someone will need to dump nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers on that land, plus irrigate it, the EROEI is not likely to be favorable.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  24. K, they are incredibly close-mouthed, but I'll guarantee you that we will find out in the future that Poet is, today, exceeding 2:1 output on all fossi fuel inputs.And, before someone jumps in and says: but, but, but the btus. the btus. Remember the Octane. In a year, or two, we'll have engines getting the same mpg on a gallon of ethanol as on a gallon of gasoline. And, Algae oil should be just about there, now.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  25. Doug, the deciding factor has always been Cost.Biofuels Scale just fine. After all, we're, currently getting 11.5 Billion Gallons/Yr from Corn ethanol, and we'll be getting 14.4 Billion Gallons/Yr by the end of 2010. And, logistics-wise, it's a lot easier growing some biomass, locally, than shipping oil from Saudi Arabia, refining it in Houston, and shipping it by pipeline, and, eventually by truck to your County.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  26. Wendell, I live in Northern Mississippi. It's mostly gently, rolling hills. We just don't farm that kind of terrain, anymore. It's too inefficient. It's reasonably good soil. It's not deep, black dirt like the corn belt, but it will raise 120 -130 bu/acre of corn, or any kind of trees, or brush. It can't compete with an Iowa farmer that can work a couple of hundred acres/day with 24 row equipment. There are various farm programs that will pay money to leave it, more, or less, fallow. It would be just fine for raising poplar, or switchgrass, or putting in algae ponds, etc.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  27. "we could be getting Really short of Liquid Fuels along about 2012."Which is why our cars and light trucks will go electric. Or,at least more electric. Big rigs can use NG,or like diesel subs,they can have an engine to charge the batteries between sleepovers at the truck stop. We'll need all the biofuels we can manage for industrial use. Transportation only uses 60% of the oil. Besides,it's not just a matter of replacing fossil fuels. Even if we could produce 84M bpd of biofuel,it would have to keep scaling indefinitely. At some point,we run out of the people or land necessary to keep the corner gas station in business.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  28. I'm just using Your numbers.That yield number isn’t mine. It is what PetroAlgae claimed.Everything I've read leads to the conclusion that you can drive a truck about as far on a tank of biodiesel as you can petroleum diesel. If you are talking about actual biodiesel (the oxygenated compound), then that isn’t true. It has about 93-95% of the BTU value of petro diesel.If your argument is that to get that 4,000 gallons we'll have to raise another .66 acres of algae, ok. It seems a little high to me, but, if that's what it is, that's what it is. I still think it's doable.No, it could be a lot worse than that. Since nobody has done algae at scale, they may have to raise 10 acres to process the acre. This is the point you miss now, and have always missed. You seem to believe your optimistic pronouncements (“Algae oil should be just about there”) are evidence. Based on what? You take what the people trying to secure funding claim and you run with that.By the way, there will be a LOT of lignin left after the oil is extracted. That can be burned for process energy. Will it be enough? Heck if I know; but, it's gotta be figured in. Right?Algae don’t contain lignin.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  29. Okay, cellulose then. There's a lot of Sumpin (technical, bioenergy term) left over. I'm sure you can dry it and burn it.You're kind of right, in a way. I've somehow got myself into promoting an idea (algae biodiesel) that I really don't know squat (another technical term) about. I have, absolutely, NO idea if algae will work. I, almost, reminds me of betting on Hard 12.I was just looking at it from a "Land" perspective. If the expert says you could conceivably get one gallon per sq. meter it doesn't look to me as if we have any problem from an "available" land" perspective.I wish'em well. I'm NOT an investor.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  30. "…it's a lot easier growing some biomass, locally, than shipping oil from Saudi Arabia, refining it in Houston, and shipping it by pipeline, and, eventually by truck to your County."Not necessarily. With oil and coal we're talking about an energy-dense fuel that is relatively easy to transport. With bio-mass, we would be talking about a low-energy dense material that presents significant collection and transportation problems.Recently a coal-fired powerplant near me proposed burning corn stover in place of coal to satisfy environmental concerns. This plant is now burning 850,000 tons of coal/year, all of it moved to the plant by barge. (A river barge carrying coal is usually rated at 10,000 tons.)It would take 1.2 million tons of stover to replace that coal, which would be ~ 10,000 semi-truck loads. Divide that by 365 and that's 27 semi-trucks per day (every day of the year) that would have to haul corn stover to that plant, from within an area of 762 square miles (if that entire area were planted in corn).It would take 10,000 semitrailer loads to provide what 850 coal barges now supply to that plant. Plus, you would have all the problems of stockpiling stover that has to stay dry so as not to rot or spontaneously combust, and also not to become a breeding ground for pests and vermin.The logistics of most bio-fuel schemes are indeed daunting. More daunting than coming up with a process to turn bio-mass into fuel.

    Comment by Doug Niedermeyer | August 10, 2009

  31. Maury, I'm a BIG supporter of Electric. I think the auto companies will sell a lot of cars that can use batteries in one form or another.I'm strictly looking at what we need "short-term" for Interstate Trucking, and Farming. Those Big-Rigs cost a lot of money. You can't pay $100,000.00 for a Navistar and throw it away like a used tissue. We're going to have to use the trucks we've got for a pretty long time.I'm, also, not for sure what size the battery-bank would have to be to push 25 Tons 500 miles across the interstate; but my hunch is it would be a whopper. I think everyone needs to keep the time element in perspective. We're NOT going to run out of oil, Tomorrow. But, we could start "Getting Short," fairly soon.We're talking "Evolution," here; Not "Revolution."

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  32. Doug, I, absolutely, agree that replacing coal with corn stover doesn't (at least, from first glance) make any sense. My thinking is, Every energy project has to be looked at on its own. We have a lot of coal. It's cheap. Clean up the particulates a bit, and let's burn it. Tar Sands? Maybe, something like locally-grown biomass is more logical.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  33. "We're talking "Evolution," here; Not "Revolution."We're on the same page then Rufus.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  34. "I think everyone needs to keep the time element in perspective. We're NOT going to run out of oil, Tomorrow. But, we could start "Getting Short," fairly soon."Rufus,Isn't that "Peak Oil" in a nutshell?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  35. Yeah, it is, Wendell. It's just that some people are a little "excitable," and lose perspective of the time line.

    Comment by rufus | August 10, 2009

  36. Kinu“RR is right on this one.”Then I must have communicated poorly.If I want to make x biofuel for transpiration, then I would need y bushels of corn and z tons of PRB coal. The amount of transportation fuel to mine and transport the coal is small compared to x, then I have a process with low ‘transportation fuel’ amplification.What RR does is compare BTU to all the inputs and ignore some of the outputs.Farmers grow corn to make animal feed. They use fertilizer and transportation fuel to do this. If they can extract energy out of the corn that the animals do not need, better yet.The primary product is protein. I do not agree with comparing the protein to energy using BTU as a unit. Clearly the process of growing food is improved by adding ethanol.Again, the amount of coal needed is not significant, and if it was so what? Coal is not currently transportation fuel.

    Comment by Kit P | August 10, 2009

  37. What RR does is compare BTU to all the inputs and ignore some of the outputs.Wrong again. The energy return I used for the example actually calculates the by-products as BTUs (thus nullifying the rest of your post). If you didn't add in the by-products, then the energy return is approximately a wash. You use a BTU of natural gas and get about a BTU of ethanol – while doing a lot of work in the process.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  38. …lose perspective of the time line."You said "fairly soon." What's your definition of "fairly?" Just so I can keep the proper perspective. ;-)

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  39. Again, the amount of coal needed is not significant, and if it was so what? Coal is not currently transportation fuel.On the question of coal, the question is this: Does it make the most sense to turn coal inefficiently into ethanol, or are we pushed in that direction because that's where the subsidies are? What do you think? Do you think there are more efficient uses for coal and that subsidies may be driving us toward inefficiencies?RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  40. "Does it make the most sense to turn coal inefficiently into ethanol, or are we pushed in that direction because that's where the subsidies are? What do you think?"Robert,The answer is obvious ~ that's where the subsidies are. If Big Coal and lightly populated states such as WY, MT, and UT had as much political clout as Big Corn and Big Ethanol, CTL plants would have already sprouted up in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah, just as ethanol stills have sprouted up in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska.Making liquid fuels from coal is much more efficient than using natural gas and other fossil fuels to inefficiently grow corn to turn it into a liquid fuel.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  41. ‘that's 27 semi-trucks per day”Well Doug, does 5 truck loads a day sound better? There are several ways to reduce coal or natural gas use. Biomass could be added to supply 10-20% of the fuel mix or a new smaller plant could be built. Transporting biomass more than 25 miles kills the economics of biomass electricity generation, When using engineering methods to improve a process, comparing it to the total amount of energy needed is a false criterion. For example, processing manure in an anaerobic digester is a huge environmental improvement compared to current manure handling methods. Since the entire dairy cow heard in the US might only replace one large coal, anaerobic digesters certainly is not a scaleable solution for providing electricity; but it is a dandy solution for handling manure.I have frequently observed the daily PRB coal train going to a power plant a 1000 miles from where the coal was mined. I can calculate the number of truck loads of biomass needed to fuel a 50 MWe biomass plant. A few more trucks in a rural area is not going to be a big impact.“Producing how much electricity relative to how much we use?” Like I said this is a false criterion. Many places distant from a large central generating facility could benefit a smaller facility. There is also at least 50 MWe worth of biomass within 25 miles of coal plants in the east.

    Comment by Kit p | August 10, 2009

  42. "Making liquid fuels from coal is much more efficient than using natural gas and other fossil fuels to inefficiently grow corn to turn it into a liquid fuel."We'll be growing corn long after oil and coal are used up. We can even make the natural gas needed to turn the corn into ethanol. Landfills are doing it as we speak. If it were just a matter of replacing liquid fuels at any cost,we could employ millions of men with hammers and chisels in oil shale fields. Toss it in a retort…and voila. We could hug our Hummers indefinitely.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  43. "…does 5 truck loads a day sound better?"Kit,Five trucks loads a day would be better, but the proposal the utility company put on the table in this case was to replace ALL the coal they burned with corn stover. And that would have taken 27 truck loads a day from within a radius of 15 miles, and then only if all land within that 15 mile radius were covered with corn. (An impossibility virtually all of the time, but in this case even more so since the power plant is on the banks of the Mississippi River.)Obviously this utility company had not thought through the logistics of going to "all corn stover."

    Comment by Doug Niedermeyer | August 10, 2009

  44. Interesting discussion. Now, how to get anything done in the real world?There are different opinions about the right way to evaluate bio-fuels. The old way was for people to put their money where their mouths are. Let a thousand flowers bloom, and the most efficient would emerge from a Darwinian process.Now, instead we have a competition for direct & indirect subsidies, in which taxes paid by ordinary people are recycled to the wealthy & well-connected. Efficiency & sustainability plays no part in the process.If the Political Class would dismantle subsidies, roll back unnecessary regulations, and get obstructive lawyers under control, then we might see progress. But the Political Class is never going to agree to that.Interesting world. We have lots of diverse technical options, along with complete political paralysis. This can't end well.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 10, 2009

  45. "We'll be growing corn long after oil and coal are used up."Of course we will, Big Corn and the Corn Belt politicians will put into effect whatever subsidies, tax credits, mandates, and protective tariffs are needed to ensure that.After all, the mohair subsidy is still in effect, even though the military no longer wears uniforms made of wool, isn't it? Mohair subsidy

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  46. A note for Kinu:Here is a post from Environmental Capital, WSJ. Maybe the fture is bright!"There’s another “clean energy summit” going on, this time out in Las Vegas, with all the usual suspects from Sen. Harry Reid to former vice president Al Gore hashing out ways to usher in the clean-energy revolution.They’re still working out ways to boost renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the like, but one thing stands out from the beginning: The green patina that natural gas has suddenly assumed.John Podesta, the head of the think tank Center for American Progress, twice cited the potential of natural gas—not just any gas, but “shale gas” extracted from underground rocks—to replace “dirty coal.”Sen. Reid opened his remarks by saying, “I’ve been converted. I now belong to the Pickens church,” in reference to the plan pitched by Oklahoma oilman T. Boone Pickens to ramp up the role of natural gas (and wind power) in U.S. electricity generation. Natural gas has roughly half the carbon emissions of coal when used to generate electricity.That echoes remarks House speaker Nancy Pelosi last year, when she referred to natural gas—which is, after all, a fossil fuel—as clean energy and an “alternative” to fossil fuels. At the time, that raised a mild firestorm. Now, the idea is apparently mainstream.Energy Secretary Steven Chu continued the natural-gas lovefest, calling the Pickens plan a possible “transition” to a future filled with electric cars and biofuel-powered vehicles. Secretary Chu said that the double-whammy of electric cars and better biofuels could eventually “offload our total dependence on foreign oil.”Kinu, maybe there is hope. Stranger things have happened. Nixon embraced wage-and-price controls (a monumentally bad idea), so maybe the Dems can embrace natural gas (a monumentally good idea).

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 10, 2009

  47. "Secretary Chu said that the double-whammy of electric cars and better biofuels could eventually “offload our total dependence on foreign oil.”I'm with Secretary Chu. Does it bother me that electric vehicles are more expensive? Sure. But,at some point they'll be cheap compared to internal combustion. Between electric cars and biofuels,we can get the job done. That still leaves the need to produce clean electricity. I think deep geothermal will be the answer. But,any number of other options are available.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  48. Quoth RR:"Now, drop the energy return of that same society to a biofuel range of 1.3 to 1. Now, in order to net 76.5 million barrels of oil, we have to produce an additional 76.5/1.3, or 59 million barrels per day."It's not often that I catch R² in an arithmetic error.  The available energy to society isn't the 1/1.3 of that total, it is 1/(1-1.3).  To net 76.5 mmb/d of fuel using a process with a 1.3:1 EROI would take 255 mmb/d of gross production, roughly 3 times as much gross energy as we get from oil.Benny:  I've been arguing that luxury cars should be first to go PHEV for years.  The list of conveniences (like pre-cooling the car in response to a key-fob click or text message) is too long to list, and the economy impact hitting at the top of the scale would help make gas-sipping fashionable.Doug Niedermeyer:"It would take 10,000 semitrailer loads to provide what 850 coal barges now supply to that plant. Plus, you would have all the problems of stockpiling stover"It sounds like bio-oil would be a more attractive option.  It could be piped in from production sites some miles away or even be barged in from out of state, just like the coal.  850,000 tons of coal at 25 mmBTU/ton is about 2.2e16 J; bio-oil at 18 MJ/kg would require about 1.25 million metric tons to equal the coal, or about 275 million gallons.  750,000 gallons per day is only about 520 gallons per minute, not a very large amount for a pipeline.  That's for 100% of energy from bio-oil; 10% supplementation would be much easier.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 10, 2009

  49. Rufus:  Electric propulsion doesn't require batteries if you have wires.  The Bladerunner concept makes this relatively easy, because you'd have the rail as an electric return path (as well as a guidance system and a low-friction support system).

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 10, 2009

  50. It's not often that I catch R² in an arithmetic error. The available energy to society isn't the 1/1.3 of that total, it is 1/(1-1.3). To net 76.5 mmb/d of fuel using a process with a 1.3:1 EROI would take 255 mmb/d of gross production, roughly 3 times as much gross energy as we get from oil.You are of course correct. I was trying to simplify it, but I simplified it too much. There are two equations that are important here; Eout/Ein, but also Eout – Ein = net. I omitted that last one. I will correct.Funny, when I did that, I was thinking "Seems like it should be more than that."Thanks, RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | August 10, 2009

  51. …so maybe the Dems can embrace natural gas (a monumentally good idea)."Concur. As long as we don't end up using natural gas to grow more corn, to make more ethanol. ——————————-Kit P.Here's an interesting story on a house in Boston with very thick walls that requires no furnace in the winter time — sort of like the last house I lived in Germany.Green Makeover For Historic Boston Home

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 10, 2009

  52. "It sounds like bio-oil would be a more attractive option. 750,000 gallons per day is only about 520 gallons per minute, not a very large amount for a pipeline."Engineer-Poet:That would only transfer the logistics problem to wherever the bio-oil refinery was located.Someone will always be faced with the daunting logistical problem of collecting and transporting the bio-mass from which to make fuel or generate electricity.I repeat, the two compelling issues of making fuels from bio-mass are:~ Scale~ Logistics

    Comment by Doug Niedermeyer | August 10, 2009

  53. That Bladerunner concept looks cool Poet. Imagine where transportation would be today if oil had never been discovered. Something like that Bladerunner probably would've been in widespread use long ago.

    Comment by Maury | August 10, 2009

  54. Engineer Poet-It does seem obvious that the Volt should have been a Cadillac, with sexy styling (giving up a few miles on the charge range if necessary). That is how GM operated for decades, introducing new technology at the high-end, and never forsaking style.You pay for the luxury of not stopping at smelly gasoline stations and wasting your time. Now, instead, we will get a blah-looking expensive car (the Volt), too expensive to be economical, but offering thrift as a virtue. Kind of like a heavy-set girl who is flat-chested anyway. My fear is that people will seize on the pending Volt failure and say, "See, PHEVs don't work."

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 11, 2009

  55. Doug, there doesn't have to be any such thing as a "bio-oil refinery".  Bio-oil can be made in the field, loaded into tankers and taken to local tank farms to be sent onward.  You can have them at intervals which minimize the cost of trucking vs. putting down pipeline infrastructure.This still doesn't make it an economical solution to the fuel needs of the local powerplant (absent something like a stiff carbon tax), but it does eliminate all the truck traffic through town which would be the result of burning stover directly.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 11, 2009

  56. I should note that bio-oil can be used as gas turbine fuel, so the powerplant might be able to switch to a combined cycle with a substantial power uprate and higher efficiency.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 11, 2009

  57. "It does seem obvious that the Volt should have been a Cadillac, with sexy styling…"Benny ~For a better reason than that: Latest cost for the Volt is ~ $43k. At that price point, the Volt will be well above the Chevy demographic.But human nature being human nature, many people in GM's Buick and Cadillac demo, will not want to be seen driving a car with a Chevy bowtie on the front. Driving a Chevy would be below them. My goodness, what would the neighbors and the people at the country club think?GM should have started the Volt at least as a Buick to match the price better to the likely demographic.

    Comment by Doug Niedermeyer | August 11, 2009

  58. "It does seem obvious that the Volt should have been a Cadillac"They've announced a Buick crossover PHEV for 2011 Benny. Not a Cadillac,but close. Btw,the Volt waiting list is well over 40,000. It will sell just fine.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  59. 270HP. Can tow 3500 lbs.,and goes 0-60 in 7 seconds. 60MPG. Anyone want to claim it won't sell?http://tinyurl.com/l8gjwt

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  60. Will it sell? What's the predicted price compared to other cars that can go 0 to 60 in 7 seconds?

    Comment by Clee | August 11, 2009

  61. Very few vehicles can go 0-60 in 7 seconds AND tow 3500 lbs. Clee. My '97 SRT-10 can do it,but it only gets 9 mpg. A boatload of PHEV's will hit the market in the next 3 years. GM,Ford,Toyota,Volvo,and Volkswagon,to name a few,have announced launch dates. Someone sure thinks they'll sell.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  62. Did you all notice that both the Volt, and the Buick PHEV will have "flexfuel" engines?Betcha Exxon loves that.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  63. Rufus,Flex fuel engines don't matter if there are no E85 stations. My 06Caravan may be flexfuel depending on the engine it has but I have not taken the time to figure it out. It does not matter.

    Comment by takchess | August 11, 2009

  64. Takchess, E85 infrastructure gets built out when Ethanol is "competitive" with gasoline. We had a pretty good build-out going last Spring, and Summer, and then it fell off in the Winter, and this Spring when gasoline prices plunged.Gasoline is back to $2.65, and ethanol is very competitive, again; so, look for another round of E85 build-out. The National price "spread" between E85, and gasoline is 18%, now, which should be, perhaps, a little bit better than break-even for your 06' Caravan.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  65. GM says the Volt gets 230mpg in city driving. They didn't say what the hwy. figure will be. Those 40 electric miles will cost about 40 cents. The Prius PHEV will have a $48,000 sticker price,and a 12 mile electric range. Is Toyota losing that early edge?

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  66. 230 mpg on E85 would be a bit better than 1500 miles on a gallon of gasoline.Yeah, I think we can lick this thing.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  67. Although peak oil theory does not predict that we are running out of oil anytime soon, combined with the short-term inelasticity of oil demand it does predict sudden and sharp increases in oil prices (or extreme volatility in the face of successive recessions and mini-recoveries).Add to this the fact that the total global investment in infrastructure for extracting, transporting and distributing oil is estimated at six trillion dollars. Switching to alternative fuels and infrastructure is super-expensive even by the standards of the world's biggest economies, and won't be achieved quickly.It certainly doesn't sound like the cakewalk that the optimists here predict (even if it's not the global die-off that the doomers are fantasising about). A lot of short-term pain sounds likely.

    Comment by PeteS | August 11, 2009

  68. We're "Americans," Pete; we Love Pain. It sharpens our mind.:)

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  69. How have you been Pete? You should drop by Mojo's to say hi every now and then. We're more prepared for peak oil today than we were when oil hit $147 a barrel. Then,we traded in Hummers for Fusions. Now,we can trade the Fusions in for Volts. Would an oil shortage even be noticed if we all drove PHEV's? I see a future where deep geothermal becomes viable,and then scales up to provide cheap,clean and abundant energy for the next 50,000 years or so. Even enough energy to turn all that CO2 into liquid fuel if we like. But yeah,the next decade or so will be rough.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  70. That 230 mpg number for the Volt is a bit disingenuous. Especially, when trying to define fuel economy (or energy use) for a car that uses energy derived from two distinctly different sources — electricity from the grid and liquid fuels.The real number to be concerned with is not how far it might go on a gallon of gasoline*, but how far it can go on a specific amount of energy — whether that energy comes from electricity, gasoline, ethanol, wind, gravity, or a team of horses.GM should just drop the mpg rating completely and give us the specific energy consumption per distance traveled, whether that energy is measured in kWh, joules, or Btu’s, regardless of whether it comes from the grid or from the liquid fuels the car’s engine burns. Let's just have a rating of miles/kWh, or miles/joules, or miles/Btu. (Miles per unit of energy consumed would also even out the discrepancy between gasoline and ethanol that comes from using miles per a unit of volume.)The Volt's mpg rating, for those miles when it is actually burning liquid fuels, will likely be very good, but it won't be 230 mpg.______________________________________________* The only valid mpg rating is how far the Volt will travel when being powered only by electricity produced directly from the fuel its ICE burns. The distance powered by energy from the electrical grid stored in the battery should not be part of the mpg calculus, since a unit of volume is not the same as a unit of energy.

    Comment by Cole Tugwell | August 11, 2009

  71. Maury-First-year novelty sales should be okay for the Volt. I commend the engineers at GM for pulling this thing off, and GN for being first to intro a real PHEV. This earns a full page in the annals of car history.Still, why not Cadillac? Why not a sex-bomb Cadillac that gets 35 miles on the charge? I think the problem is that Detroit cannot think of fuel economy without thinking of some dufus counting his pocket change after buying day-old bread at a dollar store (like me). So, they intoduced an incredible technology under the dufus-brand of Chevy. Might as well say, "Here dufuses, we have an econobox car you will really like!" At $43k. I do have a technical question; GM is using an off-the-shelf motor to charge the battery. Okay, it's a commercial world, and timetables had to be met.But in the future, will special motors be better? A very high compression, all-ethanol motor? A turbine? Remember, the motor is not connected to the drive train anymore. Any engineering smarties out there? In 20 years, whAt will a PHEV look like?

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 11, 2009

  72. You can bet those numbers will be available once the car hits the road Cole. And they probably won't be anywhere close to the EPA estimates. GM claims the highway figures should still be triple digits. Still,the car is a game changer any way you look at it. Our Oddysey cost $40,000,and it cost $50 to fill up. If 5 of us can fit the Volt,we might just trade the albatross in. Ironically,one of the reasons I bought the Odyssey was the cylinder management system. It was supposed to get better mileage than other vans on the market. Didn't work out that way,LOL.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  73. Lutz thought he could sell a compact PHEV for $25,000 Benny. He figured on a $15,000 car,with off the shelf parts and an $8000 battery. As Kinuach pointed out,the specialized parts cost a lot more. They expect those prices to drop,and the second generation Volt should sell for under 30k.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  74. For those wanting a Cadillac Volt, your wish will likely be granted.This car is likely to go into production, it is based on the same Delta II platform as the Volt.http://www.cadillac.com/cadillacjsp/experience/news_electric_vehicles.jsp

    Comment by PAUL | August 11, 2009

  75. Couldn'tget the link to work Paul. Is this the same Cadillac?http://tinyurl.com/o6a3g2

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  76. 10 people are going to have 11 different opinions about this car. But, my son is a salesman. He probably put on close to 100 miles/day, 90% City driving, 5 days/wk. I wouldn't be surprised if he bought one of these.L.A., Houston, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix, Birmingham, Minneapolis, Chicago – the list is huge. I think it's a game-changer.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  77. Maury, yes that is the same car.Sorry the original link did not work.Here is another with a lot of various pictures.http://jalopnik.com/5128642/cadillac-converj-concept-a-volt-for-cadillac

    Comment by PAUL | August 11, 2009

  78. OT but it looks like Europe is facing….a natural gas glut by 2015! How does that square with scare talk in this space about Great Britain running out of gas?I think the scare-mongers are getting desperate."Gas demand Birol (IEA) said there may not be enough natural gas demand in Europe to support both competing major pipeline projects, Nabucco and South Stream, when they are expected to go on line. The EU-backed Nabucco pipeline project aims to deliver 31 billion cubic metres of Caspian or Central Asian gas to Europe by 2014, while the rival Russian-sponsored South Stream project plans to pump Russian and other gas from 2015. Both pipelines would cross Turkish territory but are still in their early planning stages. Nabucco is seen lagging slightly because of failure so far to secure suppliers for the pipeline. Birol said that new gas supplies from elsewhere, especially those from Gulf-based liquid natural gas projects seen coming on line, would be redirected to Europe as the United States increases its consumption of non-conventional gas products. Around 2015 we should have a gas glut in Europe and elsewhere, and it would be difficult to convince consumers of two projects coming from the same countries and trying to finance them,” he said.''Sheesh. Now Europe faces a natural gas glut to match ours. And they are buying CNG cars already. It getting tough out there on the doomers. Epic natural gas gluts up the ying-yang, and a global oil glut that gets worse each passing day.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 11, 2009

  79. Why would they import a glut of natural gas Benny? Is it even a glut if it's imported? You can have a glut of anything if that's the case.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  80. "In 20 years, whAt will a PHEV look like?"It will look like a museum piece. That will probably be the only place you will be able to see one.There are a number of viable transportation fuel options — liquid fuels "mined" with nuclear power from tar sands, coal or shale oil. Gas fuels. Electric, if better batteries can be built on a large scale without running into problems with the supply of exotic materials. An expensive hybrid technology (which probably will have a higher total life-cycle energy use than any alternative) is not likely to last against future competition.Of course, in 20 years time there may also be the Obama option — horses for our intellectual superiors, foot power for the rest of us.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 11, 2009

  81. "liquid fuels "mined" with nuclear power from tar sands, coal or shale oil. Gas fuels."All finite. All dirty. And the first three are largely limited to North America. At least in any quantity that would last more than a generation. "which probably will have a higher total life-cycle energy use than any alternative"It's not just the energy Kinuach. It's the type of energy. Yes,nuclear is an option. But,would you really feel safe in a world littered with nuclear plants? A Chernobyl or Three Mile Island would be just a matter of time. Maybe not in Peoria,but what about Haiti? A nuclear accident there could kill the Gulf of Mexico and much of the Atlantic. Thanks,but no thanks.We need fossil fuel alternatives. Using nuclear power to reach dirtier fossil fuels isn't the answer. Using nuclear at all isn't much of an answer.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  82. Maury-Birol said Europe will be glutted, as the US demand for imported NG will fizzle. Like oil today, there will be no place to sell the stuff.Sheesh, we are seeing gluts in fossil fuels, not shortages.Kinu-I think the PHEV is a brilliant idea–we are seeing clumsy first-gen now. A small, powerful motor, and better batteries, and you have a car that has long range, but mostly uses cheap electricity.What is not to like? Does an all ethanol-turbine motor and good lithium battery make sense?

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 11, 2009

  83. "But,would you really feel safe in a world littered with nuclear plants?"Actually, I'd rather live next to a nuclear reactor than next to a coal-fired power plant; or next to an oil refinery; or next to a petro-chemical plant making pesticides; or next to a copper or nickel refinery; or next to…

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 11, 2009

  84. I, actually, agree with ALL the optimistic scenarios (save that oil sands idea;) but I can still see a Very Rough transition period. 5 to 10 years. Maybe, more like 10.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  85. Rufus:What rough transition? We have gluts, gluts to the moon, and we have not even begun to fight (to quote somebody in the US revolution).Energy conservation is in its infancy in the US. So are biofuels and PHEVs. Look what happened in the brief, artificially induced price spike of 2004-2008. We glutted out in less than four years.My guess is that OPEC has two choices: Keep oil cheap and reliable, or continuously lose market share. Those are the choices.If OPEc is mart (instead of being thug states run by baboons) they would keep oil cheap. If PHEVs get established, it is curtains for OPEC. We are close, so close….

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 11, 2009

  86. “A nuclear accident there could kill the Gulf of Mexico and much of the Atlantic.”Only in Hollywood Maury! The production of energy in the US must be done safely while minimizing environmental impact. There is no requirement to make anyone ‘really feel safe’. Here is the ‘Catch 22’ of energy. Bottling up energy is inherently dangerous if it gets loose. With this energy, we can do very dangerous things like drive cars and ride in airplanes. Since we have bottled up energy, we have forgotten about things like starvation, falling off horses, and exposure to the elements. Since we have bottled up energy for our uses, nuclear power is the safest way we have found. Rejecting nuclear because of safety does not make any sense. I am against littering so maybe we can ask builders of $4 billion nuke plant to not just leave them laying around.

    Comment by Kit P | August 11, 2009

  87. I'm not against nuclear in the US Kit. The more the merrier. But,Chernobyl is proof that things can go wrong,and poison thousands of square miles for generations. I wouldn't sleep well at night if Haiti had nuclear plants. Or Cuba,or a hundred other third world countries. Nuclear is an option,but not for everyone.

    Comment by Maury | August 11, 2009

  88. Well, Benny, you're right. Kinda.Let me explain. We have, it seems, at least for awhile, a Lot of nat gas. BUT, if we really do have a serious shortage of oil in 2011, or 2012, we can't possibly "ramp up" nat gas powered cars quickly enough to Not have several pretty tough years. Now, we can ramp "ethanol" more quickly, but even a full-out blitz, something that is very hard for our particular Democracy to do, would take 5 to 10 years. You've got to sit down in a quiet place, and ask yourself, how long would it really take to get 26 Million cars (10% of our fleet) switched over to nat gas (along with the infrastructure to provide the fuel.)Then, considering oil is a "global" market you would have to consider whether you could do this build-out quickly enough to make a dent in falling "Global" oil supplies (considering of course that China, India, and the Middle East is liable to actually keep on growing demand.)If you can't appreciably affect oil prices due to the "pace" of your changeover, what are the other non-nat gas transitioned consumers going to do?Now, I know that I'm not anywhere within a universe, or two, squared smart enough to know the "answers" to these questions; but, my "gut" is that it won't be fast enough to damper shortage-induced oil price rises.My "gut" says, "Ten tough years."

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  89. Here's an interesting little article on a program to take portable bio-refineries to the crops. Kinda like how the Combines start down in Texas, and move North as the Harvest season progresses.Portable Refineries

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  90. Benny – Volt engine only runs 20% of the time, so you want the cheapest possible option. Focus your budget on the electronics.Maury – Sorry, but Volt is a 4 seater. The high center tunnel which houses the battery stole the middle rear seat.Rufus – the Volt is not designed for your 100 mile/day salesman son. It's for people who drive less than 40 miles each day and will thus rarely need gasoline. Your son will get almost the same benefit from a much cheaper conventional hybrid.

    Comment by doggydogworld | August 11, 2009

  91. I don't know, DDW, it might get considerably better mileage under "100 miles/day city driving" than a conventional hybrid.You not only have that first 40 miles under battery (which the conv. hybrid doesn't have,) but the flexfuel engine runs at "optimum" rpm when it's in operation.It doesn't waste gas "idling," or "over-revving," due to the fact that it, simply, acts as a "generator" to charge the Battery which, actually, powers the car.It might get, considerably, better mileage than a standard hybrid. we'll see. I Know my son won't be too crazy about that $40,000.00 + price tag, though. He'll probably wait for the "2nd" iteration.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  92. Maury,In regard to geothermal……….Indonesia plans to build 200 geothermal plants.Germany has 150 geothermal projects on the books.The U.S. has 120 plants in various stages of development.The Japanese have stated they intend to re-kindle their geo-thermal efforts.Iceland is building 5 new plants totaling 225 MW at Reyhjavik for Alcoa Aluminum plant. Phillipines President announced recently that the country plans to expand geo-thermal capacity. (21% of Phillipines electricity already comes from geo-thermal)Aussies successfully drill "hot rock" formation in central Australia.And finally from that "hotbed" of geothermal activity, Armenia, The Armenians are building a 150 MW facility at Jermahbyur.Geothermal potential has hardly been tapped and it might be the real "sleeper" amongst alternative energy sources.John

    Comment by Anonymous | August 11, 2009

  93. Now, let me put on my extreme "Cornucopian" Hat for a moment.Let me throw this one out there.230 mpg is over 10 times the mpg of the average vehicle on the road, today.The Average person does drive a little less than 40 miles/day (I think.)We might have enough ethanol, Today, counting the plants that are currently under construction, and will be open by the end of 2010, to operate our Entire fleet of passenger cars, and light duty trucks.Today.Think that one over.

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  94. Whether we can get hold of that much lithium? I haven't a clue.BUT . . . . .

    Comment by rufus | August 11, 2009

  95. Rufus-The price signal, my friend, the price signal. The price signal dampens demand while encouraging alternatives. It does so continuously. Spikes leave permanent dents in oil demand.Demand for crude has been falling in Europe and Japan since 1979. With slight effort, it will continue its recent fall in the US also.After the 1979 price spike, global oil demand did not recover for 10 years. I expect this go-round will be about the same, maybe longer. Do not look for oil demand to recover until 2017 or later. In short, by the time we might–might–have a crunch, who knows what technology will be out there?One thing is for certain–the Western world will use less crude oil every year. China may grow, and the Mideast uses a lot. But those demands may be more than offset by declines in demand from the West.We may have already seen Peak Demand, and it may just sag from here.I contend the Oil Era is ending, and with a whimper, not a bang.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 12, 2009

  96. Rufus-Ethanl+turbines+PHEVs+nukes.OPEC can take their oil, and shove it.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | August 12, 2009

  97. Benny, I don't care how we do it. Ethanol, nat gas, electricity, batteries, turbines, ICEs, geothermal, wind, solar: It's All fine with me.I just want us off of Middle East Oil.However, today isn't, really, analogous to 79'. Prior to then we'd been burning a lot (six, or seven million bpd, I think) of oil in the production of electricity. We switched those power plants over to nat gas, and oil. That's why we went so long before we got back to prior demand.We don't have that type of cuts we can make this time around. Other than "Transportation," of course.I think this 230 mpg number has everyone in a state of shock. I know I'm a little "addled" right now.

    Comment by rufus | August 12, 2009

  98. The USSR was not a third world country. Maury, do you need a list of safety and environmental screwups when government is no longer accountable. There is nothing difficult about nuclear power that precludes any country from using it peacefully. It may not be economical for many third world countries where corruption is funneling resources away from the public good.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  99. "The USSR was not a third world country."I rest my case.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  100. A niche industry popped up to turn Prius's into PHEV's by adding a battery. I wonder if they'll be adding a generator to the Nissan Leaf. Does anyone know when Chevron's patent expires on the EV-95? That was a helluva battery. It had 20% more range than the Leaf will,and the RAV4 was a tad heavier.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  101. "I wouldn't sleep well at night if Haiti had nuclear plants. Or Cuba,or a hundred other third world countries."Last time I checked, something like 46 countries had nuclear reactors already. Let's be honest with ourselves — the poor child who has been educated in a modern western state-run school cannot even name 46 countries. In a world where a poverty-stricken communist dictatorship like North Korea has nuclear weapons, the nuclear proliferation horse is well and truly out the barn.The usual suspects have been peddling nonsense about nuclear power for decades, as part of their plan to keep you poor, ignorant, and dependent. "… poison thousands of square miles for generations …" Look at Hioshima — deliberately bombed with a nuclear device, and the population today is 4 times what it was pre-WWII. Even at Chernobyl, which had a very untypical military-inspired design — wildlife is thriving today on the land that is supposedly now too dangerous for humans.The overwhelming issue with human power needs is SCALE — the 15 TeraWatt world we live in, the 100 TW world we need to start building. Subsidized ethanol, cranky windmills, and the odd geothermal plant are not going to get us there.It is within the wit of man to design a nuclear power plant that would be fail-safe & suitable for use in Haiti. Or we can just leave the Haitians in miserable poverty. What is your choice?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | August 12, 2009

  102. "Does anyone know when Chevron's patent expires on the EV-95? That was a helluva battery. It had 20% more range than the Leaf will,and the RAV4 was a tad heavier."==================I assume you are referring to the Panasonic traction battery used in the RAV 4 and briefly in the EV1 I think.Last I heard Chevron was still refusing to sell the Nimh battery as a traction battery and had allowed Ovonics to end up in bankruptcy being sued by Daimler.I guess it was worth it for Chevron. They probably postponed the advent of electric vehicles and PHEVs for about 10 years.Lots of oil and gasoline sales and billions in profit in the meantime of course.John

    Comment by Anonymous | August 12, 2009

  103. "Geothermal potential has hardly been tapped and it might be the real "sleeper" amongst alternative energy sources."I think so too John. Geothermal is the only baseload renewable. The Bureau of Land Management estimates we'll get another 12,000 MW of capacity from the geothermal leases they just completed. That's about twice the electricity generated in Iraq.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  104. In his book, Disasters: Wasted Lives, Valuable Lessons, Economist and Crisis Consultant Randall Bell writes after his research at Chernobyl, "There is a 17-mile Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl where officially nobody is allowed to live, but people do. These "resettlers" are elderly people who lived in the region prior to the disaster. Today there are approximately 10,000 people between the ages of 60 and 90 living within the Zone around Chernobyl. Younger families are allowed to visit, but only for brief periods of time."Eventually the land could be utilized for some sort of industrial purpose that would involve concrete sites," Randall Bell continues. "But estimates range from 60 – 200 years before this would be allowed. Farming or any other type of agricultural industry would be dangerous and completely inappropriate for at least 200 years. It will be at least two centuries before there is any chance the situation can change within the 1.5-mile Exclusion Zone. As for the #4 reactor where the meltdown occurred, we estimate it will be 20,000 years before the real estate will be fully safe.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  105. The Exclusion Zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station is reportedly a haven for wildlife.However a paper published in the Journal of Animal Ecology shows that reproductive and annual survival rates are much lower in wildlife inhabiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The scientists are also concerned that the mutated birds will pass on their abnormal genes to the global population. "In the worst case scenario these genetic mutations will spread out, and the species as a whole may experience enhanced levels of mutation."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  106. We'll descend to exciting vehicles and PHEV's. If Texas lubricate hadn't been so abundant and shoddy 100 years before,we'd take part in had exciting haulage all along. PHEV's may perhaps not put together money-making gist with $2 chat,but they choice by the side of $5 or else $10 a gallon. Even if the humankind stays in the sphere of a perpetual decline,lubricate demand choice eventually exceed supply. We all know slightly assess is on the cards as soon as with the aim of time comes.

    Comment by Jonathan | August 12, 2009

  107. Quoth Benny Cole:"Any engineering smarties out there? In 20 years, whAt will a PHEV look like?"In 20 years, I doubt they'll be in production; batteries will be good enough that new electric vehicles will haul power trailers if they need them, with the trailers being more batteries in 75% of the cases.In the near term, I expect the PHEV sustainer to evolve.  Something like an Otto-Atkinson or Diesel-Atkinson cycle engine, with either turbocharging cum alternator on the shaft or a free-piston exhaust supercharging and energy recovery system not unlike a Comprex supercharger with solid components in the gas path.  You do realize that mufflers take the pulse energy of engine exhaust and essentially waste it?  Expect that waste to be put to use.The steady-state charge-sustaining economy claim for the Volt some time ago was 50 MPG.  230 MPG represents about 22% of total mileage driven beyond the 40-mile AER.  This does not appear unreasonable.Quoth Maury:"But,would you really feel safe in a world littered with nuclear plants?"Yes, I would.  People take safety seriously for nuclear, while coal is allowed to drop mercury and other toxics everywhere without anyone getting upset.  When the Hatians have enough money to buy nuclear plants and the brainpower to produce the trained people to run them, THEN your concerns may have merit.  I don't see this happening in this century.I suggest we leave the Hatians in whatever condition they can create for themselves.  Not My Problem.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 12, 2009

  108. I know, from time, to time, I will want to get in my car and drive a distance. Two, or three hundred miles, maybe; or, once every couple of years maybe five hundred, or a thousand.For That reason, you couldn't sell me an EV. But, someday, someone will sell me a volt-type vehicle. I can see it "plain as day."The more I think about, the more I'm convinced; it really is a "whole new ball-game."

    Comment by rufus | August 12, 2009

  109. Geothermal is the only baseload renewable.Only? How about biomass? How about small hydropower?

    Comment by Clee | August 12, 2009

  110. I should have said the only renewable that's baseload AND capable of providing all our power needs Clee. At least in theory.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  111. "People take safety seriously for nuclear, while coal is allowed to drop mercury and other toxics everywhere""In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are "millions of gallons of radioactive waste" as well as "thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material" and also huge quantities of contaminated soil and water. Despite copious quantities of waste, the DOE has stated a goal of cleaning all presently contaminated sites successfully by 2025. The Fernald, Ohio site for example had "31 million pounds of uranium product", "2.5 billion pounds of waste", "2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris", and a "223 acre portion of the underlying Great Miami Aquifer had uranium levels above drinking standards. The United States has at least 108 sites designated as areas that are contaminated and unusable, sometimes many thousands of acres. DOE wishes to clean or mitigate many or all by 2025, however the task can be difficult and it acknowledges that some may never be completely remediated."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_wasteHaiti wouldn't have these problems. They can just dump the waste in the ocean.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  112. Wendell said: "Actually, I'd rather live next to a nuclear reactor than next to a coal-fired power plant; or next to an oil refinery; or next to a petro-chemical plant making pesticides; or next to a copper or nickel refinery; or next to…"And if I may: I'd rather live next to a nuclear reactor than next to a mega-hog farm; or next to a confined animal feeding operation; or next to an ethanol plant.

    Comment by Buck Slocombe | August 12, 2009

  113. Did you guys see the study that concluded a terrorist attack on spent fuel rods could unleash 70 times the radiation Chernobyl did? One plane in the right place could kill Vermont. And maybe a few neighboring states. Forever.After all these years,we've finally got a plan to deal with the spent fuel rods that will still be deadly 10,000 years from now. I'm sorry,but I don't trust Guatemala to implement a Yucca mountain repository. The earth is one big ecosystem. Radioactive damage done on one side will reach all of us eventually.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  114. ~ I'm sorry,but I don't trust Guatemala to implement a Yucca mountain repository. ~ Maury,The U.S. can't even handle a Yucca Mountain repository.

    Comment by Cole Tugwell | August 12, 2009

  115. I think geothermal is great, biomass too; however neither is capable of meeting electricity demand in the US. Maury may want to research the heavy metal and radioactivity associated with geothermal before he gets all excited about it being better.Uranium, mercury, and arsenic are all examples of things that are ubiquitous in the environment. No one has been harmed in the US by radiation or heavy metals the operation of commercial nuclear power.Also no one has been harmed by mercury from coal plants. It is kind of a moot point since mercury is now being regulated at coal plants.The people who produce electricity for Maury and E-P take safety very seriously. We like coming home at night and we want a safe environment for our children. I can not however protect Maury and E-P from there own irrational fears. Go down to you doctor and get tested for levels of mercury and uranium if you do not believe me. Your doctor might look at you like you are crazy and ask why you are being tested for a problem that does not exist.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  116. Buck, I have interviewed lots of folks who live next to CAFOs. You get used to that agricultural smell.I have also been on a 2000 head dairy CAFO with barely noticeable odor. The worse fear of this dairy farmer was that an irresponsible operator would move next door. His cows produced more milk per cow than any in the state. Good management of manure is key to reducing disease.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  117. "I have interviewed lots of folks who live next to CAFOs. You get used to that agricultural smell."Kit P.It depends on whether your income comes from the CAFO. My Dad grew up on a farm and always said manure smelled like money.If you live next to a CAFO, but derive no income from it, you would say it smells bad.One thing for sure though, a CAFO smells a lot worse than if the cattle were allowed to graze in a pasture or on the open range the way God intended.

    Comment by Buck Slocombe | August 12, 2009

  118. Maury, Vermont is a place. You can not kill a place. If a plane did fly into the right place (extremely unlikely) you would want to walk away slowly.Maury has no understanding of nuclear issues and it would appear that he refuse to make an effort to have an understanding. TDS! Time, distance, and shielding are the basic of radiation protection. Spent fuel is not deadly for 10,000 years. Immediately after removing spent fuel from the reactor, 7 feet of water is all that is needed to shield workers. The fission products decay exponentially. About 5 years later, spent fuel can be removed from spent fuel pool and put in dry cask storage. After 300 years, the radioactivity is about the same as dirt many places. The earth is a big radioactive ecosystem. The requirement of Yucca Mountain is to keep exposure two orders of magnitude below background. A dose of 0.015 Rem/year is not deadly. To kill someone, you need about 5000 Rem.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  119. Sorry Buck your information is out of date. A few years ago I got an email from God instructing me to use the brain he gave me to ensure that his children had good nutrition while being a steward of his environment. While Buck might want to romanticize open range, I am more interested in making sure even the poorest children have milk, cheese, and meat. Manure is money. Properly composted manure is even more valuable. Use an anaerobic digester to make the compost and energy, the manure can make more money. That odor represents N, P, & K blowing away. File this under reducing the environment impact of food production.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  120. Has This been covered here, before?I have no idea if this is a Con Job, the Real Deal, or something in between. But, it's an interesting headline.Joule Solarethanol – 20,000 gallons/acre

    Comment by rufus | August 12, 2009

  121. Speaking of anaerobic digestion: The manure from the 100,000 cattle in the U.S. would provide electricity for about 16 Million Houses.That ain't no small number.

    Comment by rufus | August 12, 2009

  122. “The U.S. can't even handle a Yucca Mountain repository.”Why do you say this Cole? The NRC is currently reviewing the application which is available at the NRC site. To be more correct, only a few elected democrats have a problem with YM. I worked on YM back when Clinton was president. The decision to move forward with YM was Clinton’s to make. Bush made the decision to move forward with licensing. Both Obama and Reid have made public statements that they intend to violate the law. Obama and Reid could change the law if they could get a majority of other states to vote for the narrow interest of Nevada. Our government would then have to pay damages to all of us use nuclear generated electricity and have been paying for DOE to come up with a solution. Utilities have already sued DOE for damages and won. All Obama and Reid can do is slow YM down by reducing funding.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  123. Rufus, you number is way off. Try 1,000,000 dairy cows. You were only off by one zero. Feedlot cattle are smaller. Dairy farms also use lots of energy, so producing electricity has an onsite benefit.I am not sure how we got to manure and nuclear power but there is an interesting connection.Phosphorus is a significant source of pollution. Anaerobic digesters capture the phosphorus as part of the bacteria cell growth process. Think of beneficial bacteria as nature’s time release capsule for nutrients. The N, P, K, and micro nutrients are balanced to increase crop yield. This is not a coincidence. Creating an industrial system that mimics what nature has evolved over billions of years makes sense (this is called industrial ecology). Phosphorus mining also has significant environmental impact. Not wasting P is twice as important. I was surprised when I visited a site about phosphorus mining to see a section explaining radiation safety. Uranium is a trace element in both coal and rocks high in P. Depending on the economics, coal ash and phosphorus mining can produce uranium as a byproduct. Then there is a "Peak Phosphorus" compounded by the fact that about 50 percent of the global phosphorus reserves are in the Arab nations.

    Comment by Kit p | August 12, 2009

  124. "Why do you say this Cole? The NRC is currently reviewing the application which is available at the NRC site."Let me clarify: I think Yucca Mountain is safe, good, and necessary, and that we should have started using it years ago.What I meant is that we keep letting politics trump good engineering and geology.

    Comment by Cole Tugwell | August 12, 2009

  125. "To kill someone, you need about 5000 Rem."1000 Rem will fry your brain Kit. 500 Rem is enough to kill. 300 will make you wish you were dead. Exposure to 10 Rem a day for a month will have the same effect. So will exposure to 1 Rem for a year. Radiation poisoning isn't a figment of my imagination Kit. The dangers may be slim,but they are real.

    Comment by Maury | August 12, 2009

  126. Think about this Cole. Does the risk change if the spent fuel sits in dry cask storage at the power plant for 50 years instead of 5 days? The risk decreases with time. YM is designed for storage canisters to be retrievable for 100 years. It may make more sense to recover the 95% of fissionable material before putting the fission products in YM.

    Comment by Kit P | August 12, 2009

  127. Kit, I was off by Three Zeros.We have approx 100 Million Cattle in the U.S. It's true, though, that you get much more manure from a dairy cow than a feeder.

    Comment by rufus | August 12, 2009

  128. Does anyone know when Chevron's patent expires on the EV-95?Chevron is out of the picture. They and Energy Conversion Devices recently sold their failing NIMH battery company, Cobasys, to Bosch/Samsung. Chevron lost a few hundred million on this deal.Cobasys did not even own the patents, which expire in 2014. ECD does. Under the revised 2005 terms of their patent settlement, ECD allowed Panasonic (maker of the EV-95 battery) tosell EV-sized NIMH batteries worldwide with a 3% royalty in North America. So why didn't Panasonic gear up production? Because NIMH is too expensive for EVs and not powerful enough for PHEVs. Like the rest of the world, Toyota and Panasonic are focused on lithium.ECD also did other NIMH licenses over the years and companies like Nilar have non-infringing NIMH designs. Bottom line, there have always been plenty of ways to bring NIMH EVs to market without going through Chevron. It's a myth that Chevron kept the technology on the shelf.

    Comment by doggydogworld | August 12, 2009

  129. Maury:  fuel rods in casks of steel and concrete are stronger than any aircraft materials.  By the time they are cool enough for dry-cask storage, they're far beyond any ability to melt down or vaporize themselves.  Hitting a cask farm with an airplane means breaking a few casks and throwing some dry material around in relatively large pieces.  These pieces could be found easily with gamma cameras and literally swept up and put into new casks; the biggest problem would be dealing with human remains and other crime-scene details among the radwaste, not the radwaste itself.Most of that problem disappears if you use the thorium-uranium cycle in a molten-salt reactor.  The lifespan of the waste is about 500 years before it becomes less radioactive than the ore, and because it's not bound up with unused fuel in oxide ceramic the volume is trivial.  It can be stored in the hot cell with the reactor itself until the reactor is decommissioned, then trucked to permanent disposal.Twit P needs to realize that lots of Michigan gamefish are not recommended for regular human consumption because of their mercury content.  The only source which hits random lakes not fed by plant effluent is airborne emissions from burning coal.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 12, 2009

  130. "It's true, though, that you get much more manure from a dairy cow than a feeder."Rufus ~Gee, that's great. Now if you fed those dairy cows dried distillers grains and could figure out how to credit the energy in all that the manure as part of the ethanol production process, you'd be all set.Just include the energy in the manure when calculating ethanol's EROEI and you'll get a wonderful sounding number.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | August 12, 2009

  131. Doggy said:"ECD also did other NIMH licenses over the years…"———————————–With whom ? Name one company that they licensed the EV95 traction battery technology to since they bought up the patent.From a featured article in EV World:Sunday | April 19, 2009"Battery technology took a turn for the better back in the late 80’s and early 90’s with the development of the Nickel Metal Hydride battery as confirmed by this press release dated May 30th 1995. Ovonic Battery Company, Inc., announced today that the Solectria Sunrise, an all new purpose-built four passenger electric sedan, powered by Ovonic nickel metal hydride ("NiMH") batteries, set a new record of 238 miles on a single charge in the 1995 American Tour De Sol, a race of 48 electric vehicles conducted over public roads under real driving conditions. Then again, in 1996 Solectria Corporation’s Solectria Sunrise electric sedan powered by Ovonic Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries set a new electric vehicle range record by completing 375 miles on a single charge in the third day of racing in the 1996 NESEA American Tour de Sol, the national solar and electric vehicle (EV) championship.However, unfortunately it took a turn for the worse when the petroleum company Chevron bought the Ovonics patent on NiMH traction batteries. Once they had acquired the Ovonics patent in 2003, Chevron filed suit against Toyota to prevent further manufacture of the Panasonic EV-95 NiMH battery that powers the RAV4 EV. Chevron continues to deny licenses to any automobile manufacturers to manufacture NiMH traction batteries. The only battery companies manufacturing NiMH traction batteries are those who were “grandfathered in” at the time of the Chevron-Toyota legal settlement, and none of these have the capacity or performance of the Panasonic EV-95. Of course, there are huge numbers of licenses to manufacture NiMH http://www.ovonic.com/al_alliances_licensees_battery.cfm, however, these are companies that deal in smaller batteries such as AA, AAA, C, and D cells.In 2003, Texaco Ovonics Battery Systems was restructured into Cobasys, a 50/50 joint venture between Chevron and Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) Ovonics. Chevron's influence over Cobasys extends beyond a strict 50/50 joint venture. Chevron holds a 19.99% interest in ECD Ovonics. Chevron also maintains veto power over any sale or licensing of NiMH technology. In addition, Chevron maintains the right to seize all of Cobasys' intellectual property rights in the event that ECD Ovonics does not fulfill its contractual obligations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteriesNever fear though, because there is a new NiMH battery technology. As reported in EV World Nilar http://www.nilar.com has produced a new way of packaging the old technology so that it will not encroach on the ECD/Cobasys patent. Nilar’s NiMH battery utilizes a unique architecture that provides high performance and a simplified manufacturing process. So maybe, just maybe, we can have a battery system that can do 375 miles on a single charge."John

    Comment by Anonymous | August 12, 2009

  132. “Twit P needs to realize that ..”Not really, I already know you can not provide a reference to the study linking coal plants. For those who missed it, last time linked a study the source of the mercury was a chemical plant. I did show E-P the courtesy of readying the report he either did not understand or read.“dry-cask storage,”Now E-P is a nuclear engineer too. Maury was referring to a BWR in Vermont. The spent fuel pool is on the refueling floor which is above the reactor vessel and containment building. The secondary containment building is not a trivial building. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes no problem. Jet planes full of fuel, there may be issue. Not the magnitude Maury described. If I was a personal injury trial layer in a NYC high rise I would be rooting that the terrorist was heading for the nearest nuke plant. Like I said before, if a plane hits a nuke plant walk away.Keep in mind that the walk away principle applied to Chernobyl too. In the US, we do not sacrifice are worker to protect property. The accounts I have read of Chernobyl, fire fighters were forced at gun point to fight the fire. No efforts were made for evacuation or warn people living nearby.

    Comment by Kit P | August 13, 2009

  133. Here's one for the twit:"Mercury tainted lakes are found across Wisconsin. Some are found near industrial facilities, like Lake Monona surrounded by the city of Madison; but the highest concentrations are nestled in the relatively secluded forests of our northern most counties such as Vilas and Oneida counties. The discovery of mercury contaminated fish in lakes of the relatively pristine northern-most reaches of Canadian provinces was one of the first clues that the most important source of mercury entering these lakes was the atmosphere – and mercury rain."Nationwide, waste incinerators and coal-fired power powerplants are the largest sources of mercury and together may account for nearly half of all human sources of mercury emissions."

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 13, 2009

  134. No E-P, this is not even close to an environmental study. It is an example of environmental fear mongering. No one in the US has a level of mercury in them attributed to environmental mercury which is above the threshold of harm.For those concerned about their children this is rally good news. Furthermore, there are very few cases of mercury poisoning from spills. My house has no mercury in it. Mercury is natural and ubiquitous in the environment. Every living thing contains mercury. In the US, there is no need to worry from eating fish. Shame on all the fear mongers that target mothers. “Just 10 to 15 years ago, paints and batteries were among the largest sources of mercury entering the environment.” Proving me wrong is simple. Look for a the study that was the basis for the state warnings. What was the source of mercury. In Washington State, the warnings were based on mercury from legacy metal smelting and a closed paper mill. Washington State's only coal plant was no where near the two lakes in question. At this point I have to question E-P willingness to engage in a civil discussion. He did find one study where ice fishermen (men past brain development issues) has higher levels of mercury. The source wan know and was not coal plants.

    Comment by Kit P | August 14, 2009

  135. Name one company that they licensed the EV95 traction battery technology to since they bought up the patent.Anon, Chevron did not "buy the patent". Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron, bought GM's position in a corporation named "GM Ovonic Battery Joint Venture", later renamed to Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems and then to Cobasys. You can see this in press releases from late 2000.Cobasys never owned the NIMH patents. It has a license to use those patents. Other companies also have licenses. Cobasys has some exclusive rights with respect to "certain NIMH batteries for certain automotive applications in North America". This basically covers EV-95 type batteries.In 2004 ECD, Cobasys, Matsushita, Toyota and Panasonic settled their patent lawsuit. See pages 12-13 of ECD's 2005 10-K" filing with the SEC. Initially Panasonic could sell EV-95s worldwide except for North America, where they had to wait until 2007 to start selling and 2010 to sell commercial quantities. The settlement was revised in 2005 to strike these clauses, allowing Panasonic to sell even within North America with a 3% royalty. Let me repeat, Panasonic has been able to sell EV-95 batteries in North America since July 2005.Read on to find some info on other NIMH licensees. Gold Peak is one of the more active, but there are about ten in all. Their rights vary but most can sell EV batteries outside North America and a couple can make them for sale within North America. Finally, the USABC is also a licensee. If someone wants to build NIMH EVs here all they have to do is join the USABC and pay the 3% royalty.NIMH is losing to Lithium in cars and power tools just like it lost in cell phones and laptops. Chevron and ECD have zero control over those markets. But let's way you're right and Chevron was single-handedly blocking this technology. Now that Bosch and Samsung owns Cobasys we'll see a flood of NIMH EV and PHEV announcements, right? I hope you're not holding your breath.

    Comment by doggydogworld | August 14, 2009

  136. If you were interested in civil discussion, Twit, you wouldn't be lying your a** off all the time.  Robert has given you far too much forebearance.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 15, 2009

  137. This isn't quite "algae excreting oil to be skimmed off", yet, but it looks like it might be a step in that direction:http://www.ameslab.gov/final/News/2009rel/Nanofarming.htmlSummary: Novel process extracts oil from algae without killing the algae.

    Comment by John F. | August 16, 2009

  138. Maury wrote: They've announced a Buick crossover PHEV for 2011 270HP. Can tow 3500 lbs.,and goes 0-60 in 7 seconds. 60MPG. Anyone want to claim it won't sell?Looks like GM decided it won't sell and they cancelled it a week after announcing it.http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a7YkUJP_iGwM

    Comment by Clee | August 20, 2009

  139. In other words, Buick doesn't want my business.  They won't let me buy the sort of cars I want even if they build them for Europe.Bloody idiots.  Bloody cowardly idiots.  (Or maybe they are controlled by the oil companies, and didn't have a choice?)

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 24, 2009

  140. I am not following you. What car is Buick building for Europe that you want to buy?

    Comment by Clee | August 24, 2009

  141. Not necessarily Buick, but the Cadillac BTS diesel would have been just what I was looking for… 5 years ago.When I go car-shopping next (assuming there is an economy to make it feasible; I don't put anything past the fuck-ups in Washington and New York) I'll be looking for a PHEV or pure EV.  The cancelled Buick fit perfectly in one of the situations I might be in by then.  But it won't be there, so if I happen to need a vehicle like that I will either be buying it from someone else or making compromises.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | August 25, 2009


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