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Pure Energy

The Energy Scene in India

As I traveled through India on a recent business trip, the topic of energy was constantly on my mind (as it is every time I travel). I found out some interesting things about jatropha, toured a sugarcane ethanol plant, found a wind farm in the middle of nowhere, and encountered a native ethanol skeptic. Here are my impressions.

Ethanol in India: Another Brazil

The highlight of my trip was definitely the tour of the Sanjivani sugar cane plant near Shirdi. This could be a model to the rest of the world (with some exceptions) regarding how ethanol should be produced, as they have the entire life cycle covered.

They take in the sugarcane from local farmers, and they produce sugar. Molasses is a by-product of sugar production, and they ferment that to make ethanol. Bagasse is also a by-product, and this is used to fire the boilers to provide power for the plant. The sludge waste that they produce is composted and mixed with the bagasse ash and given back to the farmers to put on their fields. As far as I can determine, this is an entirely sustainable process. But the bagasse is the key to the entire operation.

I quizzed them quite a lot about the bagasse boilers, and what I was told is that because the process produces very finely ground bagasse (I walked out of the plant covered with bagasse dust), and because the ash content in bagasse is very low – it is an ideal feed for the boilers. Very few sources of biomass fall into the category that 1). It is removed from the field as a part of the cultivation; 2). The resulting process pulverizes the biomass (not only does this make it easy to burn, but it dries easily as it passes through flue gas on the way into the boiler); and 3). The ash content is very low, minimizing maintenance of the boilers. This makes sugarcane ethanol a truly unique production method, and not something that is easily transferred to corn or cellulosic ethanol.

Not only were they making ethanol (95%; not fuel grade) but they had an entire class of ethanol derivatives that originated from the sugarcane ethanol. These derivatives included important industrial chemicals such as acetic acid, acetic anhydride (very important in my current job), acetaldehyde, and ethyl acetate.

As mentioned above, the grade of ethanol that they primarily produce is industrial grade. This differs from fuel grade for blending in that the ethanol-water azeotrope isn’t broken; the final product is 95% ethanol and 5% water. This greatly reduces the energy usage, as it takes a lot of effort to get out that last 5% water. This is in fact the concentration that Brazil primarily uses for fuel, and makes the energy balance much more favorable than using anhydrous ethanol. For blending with gasoline, it is not a good option as the water will phase out. But for dedicated ethanol vehicles, the 95% grade seems to be a reasonable option for the energy demands of many tropical countries.

In Search of the Elusive Jatropha Plant

If you are like me, when someone mentions jatropha, India immediately comes to mind. Most jatropha stories that I have seen mention India as leading the way on jatropha development. For a while, I had no reason to question these reports, but recently I started developing some doubts.

The doubts started when I was contacted by a biodiesel company in Turkey. They had shut down operations because feedstock costs had gotten too high, and they asked if I could help them find an alternative source. I asked them if they have looked into jatropha. They said they had, but weren’t able to locate anyone in India who could supply them. I thought this was odd given what I had heard about jatropha in India, so I agreed to look into it for them. I initially contacted a number of people with various Indian and biofuels connections, but nobody could point me to a concrete lead.

So one of the things I intended to do on my trip was track down that elusive jackalope, er jatropha. During my trip I asked practically everyone I met, which included a number of people involved in biofuels, and while almost everyone knew what it was, nobody could point to anyone who was actually producing it. I thought this increasingly odd, given the hype I had heard regarding jatropha and India.

Those who did know a little about jatropha in general, said that the problem is that the fertile land is being utilized to grow food (a billion people need a lot of land for food) and the marginal land typically has no roads or other infrastructure that could support a jatropha industry. While I did see a lot of seemingly marginal land as I drove around, it was pretty remote. Furthermore, I was told that jatropha requires about 3 years to produce, and not many farmers are likely to be willing to tie up their land for an extended period on an unproven crop.

So, while this doesn’t mean that there is no potential for jatropha, I left the country feeling that the jatropha situation in India has been highly overstated.

Transport: Mostly by Foot

Based on my observations, the vast majority of transport in India is by foot. I traveled pretty deeply into rural India, and almost everywhere I went there were always vast numbers of people walking along the roads. Motorcycles are abundant, and almost always have multiple passengers. At one point, I saw seven people (five of them young children) all piled onto a single motorcycle.

In cities like Bombay, auto-rickshaws are everywhere. I rode in one, and would describe it as essentially like a motorcycle with a light-weight body built around it. Interestingly, the one I rode in (maybe all of them are like this) ran off of compressed natural gas. Speaking of which, there were a lot of alternative fuel vehicles in Bombay. I saw many CNG vehicles, and a taxi I rode in once was fueled by a propane tank in the trunk.

A Wind Farm and an Ethanol Skeptic

At one point we were driving through a very remote area, and suddenly a wind farm appeared. I took some photos. The farm appeared to be very distant from any cities, so I am not sure about how cost effective it was in that location.

One thing I didn’t expect to encounter was an ethanol skeptic, but at one of the meetings we had, (following my questions about jatropha), our host told me that “ethanol for biofuel is India’s greatest threat.” I asked why, and he said he feared that 1). The demand in the West for biofuel will result in a food versus fuel competition; and 2). That increased ethanol demand would put more pressure on India’s already serious water problem.

Food

During the week in India, I had meat twice. The total I had was about 3 ounces. I would have guessed that I would be constantly starving, but the food is very filling, and very good. I haven’t had vegetarian like that in the West. At a typical meal, I would have a carbohydrate (usually a flat bread), a vegetable, and a protein. Rice is always part of the meal. But the meals were very nutritious and healthy, so I plan to incorporate some of these meals into my normal diet.

My host (and Bombay native) Kapil Girotra informed me that India is self-sufficient in food. He also told me that 70% or so of the population is vegetarian, which means it requires less land to feed them. However, on the other hand, I saw a very large portion of the population that certainly is not getting enough to eat. So you might say that they are barely self-sufficient. They do produce enough food to feed their population, but some of that population is undernourished.

The Poverty

The poverty in India is just stunning. We don’t have anything to compare it to in the West. The people that would be considered very poor in the West have it far better than the poor in India. They are literally starving to death. I once asked what happens if someone has a medical emergency in the slums. “If they have money, they live. If not, they die.” I just imagined a child getting hit with something incredibly painful like renal colic (and believe me, it is excruciating) and not being able to get help. I can’t imagine the strain on a parent going through that. I think I would rather have a finger chopped off. Seriously.

I think in the West we just tune it out when we see it on TV. But you can’t tune it out when you drive by mile after mile after mile of people living essentially in garbage dumps. I think we treat our unwanted pets in the West with more concern than we have for a starving 2-year-old half way around the world. I was frequently asked what I was thinking about, and once I replied “What it would be like to have everyone in India experience a little of America, and everyone in America come see this.”


A Familiar Site in Bombay

The Traffic

It really isn’t accurate to call it traffic. It is more appropriate to say that chaos reigns on the roads. It’s just a free-for-all out there. I would never recommend that a Westerner rent a car and attempt to drive. You will spend all of your time in a state of confusion, and you will hold up traffic while you try to figure out what to do. The constant honking (in lieu of signaling) was unnerving. For me, Hell would be having to be a cab driver in Bombay for all eternity.


Sitting in an Auto Rickshaw

The roads are shared by people, bikes, motorbikes, auto-rickshaws, and cars. I frequently observed traffic going the wrong direction, and it was quite normal to have someone turn directly across your path. We had drivers who took us from place to place, and they would pass people on blind curves and hills, and sometimes they even passed someone in the act of passing someone else. I don’t think we have a proper frame of reference in the West for the “traffic” in India; especially in the big cities. (And of course this means a constant haze hung over Bombay while I was there, which presumably gets scrubbed during the monsoon season).

The People

The population density is something else. I once wondered aloud just how many people I had seen on this trip. Kapil, the guy I was traveling with, said “Probably a good fraction of all the people you have ever seen in your life.” That is not an exaggeration. We traveled around the country, and with very few exceptions there were people lining the streets everywhere. Several times I would observe a crowd and wonder what was going on, but there was nothing going on. It was just a crowd. But it looked like a constant stream coming out of a major sporting event.

Despite the crowded conditions, I only saw violence once – when a man tried to drag another out of a car after a wreck. The people seem to cope quite well. Crime doesn’t seem to be nearly the problem you might expect in a city that size.

But with that many people comes a great deal of garbage. There was trash everywhere, and most of the time you could smell rotting garbage. One night we stayed well north of the city, but every once in a while my room would fill up with a garbage smell. I presumed the wind had shifted from Bombay.

Travel

It takes forever to get anywhere. You look at a place, and think “It’s only 100 miles.” 3 hours later, you still aren’t there. We spent 20 hours on the road over the course of 4 days. They don’t have rest stops and such with facilities that I could see. But the people I was traveling with never needed them. We would spend 7 hours in the car and never stop for a bathroom break. Needless to say, I limited my water intake on the trip, as I found that bathrooms were treated as a precious commodity. On a couple of occasions when I was in a meeting, I asked for the restroom and found someone standing outside of it, and a sign that said “VIPs and guests only.”

I traveled by train as well. It isn’t for everyone. If you like hot, sweaty bodies packed in like sardines (and that’s in 1st Class), then go for it. It took us an hour to get to our destination, and during that ride there were constantly people hanging out of the open doors, and it was standing room only. I wondered whether the people in 2nd Class were stacked like cord wood.

Conclusions

India was an eye-opening experience for me. I managed not to get sick while I was there, and I credit my host Kapil for his constant advice on what I should and shouldn’t eat and drink. (I don’t recommend the buffalo milk, by the way). The contrasts were amazing. Outside a cluster of $400/night hotels was the worst poverty I have ever seen. I once saw a guy pulling a hand cart and talking on a cell phone. Houses in the slums had satellite dishes on top of them. A number of times we walked down hallways of buildings that looked to be 100 years old and decrepit, and then stepped into one of the most modern offices you have ever seen.

One of the things this trip has done for me is to highlight the importance of efforts to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle and avoid the kind of collapse that is often discussed in relation to Peak Oil. I think if more people understood just how far society could fall – and I saw that in the slums of India – we could get serious about our energy situation in a big hurry.

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April 8, 2008 - Posted by | Brazilian ethanol, ethanol, India, Peak Oil, sugarcane ethanol, sustainability

27 Comments

  1. RR — A Fascinating report, and so much reminds me of my visits to Thailand, my wife’s country. Especially in regards to biofuels. Many, many Thai farmers must plant crops that will yield seasonal returns. Often, they borrow to plant, and pay off loan at end of season. Thus, planting jatropha or diesel trees becomes very difficult. They would literally starve before the crop came in. Some migrating farm workers set up plastic sheet tents, and eat only rice at night. I made my wife promise to take eggs to migratory workers on our land. (I am writing this from Los Angeles).Yeah, the waa-waa stories of Americans seem pretty self-indulgent after a trip to the Third World. I pretty much gave up eating in restaurants after seeing Thailand. It just seemed execessive.

    Comment by Benny "peak Demand" Cole | April 8, 2008

  2. Thank you for the first-hand information about sugarcane ethanol and also the real state of jatropha cultivation. That’s extremely interesting.Regarding poverty: I have never visited India or a place like it, or seen that sort of squalor first hand. But I have a good imagination, and for whatever reason, I am not able to simply tune that sort of thing out when I see it in the media: I reflexively place myself in those circumstances and try to imagine what such a life must be like.*shudder*It’s completely clear to me that, except for the very poor, our country’s entire population lives a life of great privilege. We are the aristocrats of the world. As such, we have a choice: we can approach the rest of the world with a sense of the responsibility that our power and wealth places on us, or we can be the Marie Antoinette of nations.This enormous gulf of prosperity between us and so much of the rest of the world, and our apparent inability to see it, is one of the reasons that I have so little patience when people whine that taking responsibility for our greenhouse gas production and other externalities will “hurt the economy”. Americans have NO IDEA what real economic pain is.

    Comment by GreenEngineer | April 8, 2008

  3. Interesting Report RR!You’re obviously worried about what will happen to energy demand when this vast Indian population goes mobile (or just increase their mobility) as seems inevitable with the $2,500 car and all that.I see things a little differently. I think India may well end up leading the way, when it comes to renewable energy. I think if anybody has an incentive to make renewable energy work, it is those one billion Indians. Unlike Uncle Sam, the Indian government cannot afford to pour money into boondoggles like corn ethanol. Unlike the average American, the average Indian cannot simply accept higher petrol (gasoline) prices.Politically India also seems to have arrived at a point where the Indian government seems to be appreciating the tremendous potential talent of its vast population. India’s economic boom of recent years seems to be tapping into that potential. Of course, it comes off a very low base, and many Indians remain trapped in poverty. But India does seem to be on the way of opening up and providing better opportunities for most, if not all, of its people. In this, India forms a sharp contrast with China, where the leadership seem to be taking a direction of exploiting its own population, and limiting freedoms as much as possible.The difference between our views is reflected by < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution#Textile_manufacture" REL="nofollow">Wikipedia’s description of the development of the Textile Industries during the early part of the Industrial Revolution<>: <>Other inventors increased the efficiency of the individual steps of spinning (carding, twisting and spinning, and rolling) so that the supply of yarn increased greatly, which fed a weaving industry that was advancing with improvements to shuttles and the loom or ‘frame’. The output of an individual labourer increased dramatically, with the effect that <>the new machines were seen as a threat to employment<>, and early innovators were attacked and their inventions destroyed. <>To capitalise upon these advances, it took a class of entrepreneurs<>…<>You see a threat to employment, I see an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Specifically, I see the $2,500 car as revolutionizing the car industry, most profoundly in the third world, but also over here in the first.If there is a viable renewable fuel or source of energy out there, I bet the Indians would find it. Provided, of course, that the Indian government stays out of the way, and don’t try to distort the gathering market forces, as they still seem bent on doing < HREF="http://www.indiadaily.com/editorial/19001.asp" REL="nofollow">by controlling the prices of refined products<>. Stay tuned…

    Comment by Optimist | April 8, 2008

  4. <>You see a threat to employment, I see an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Specifically, I see the $2,500 car as revolutionizing the car industry, most profoundly in the third world, but also over here in the first.<>That’s all well and good when your circumstances allow an increase in material wealth via an increase in material and energy throughput. That was the case during the west’s Industrial Revolution, but is no longer.<>If there is a viable renewable fuel or source of energy out there<>There are lots of viable sources of renewable energy out there (less so for liquid fuels). But what you really mean is: If there is a viable source of renewable energy that is <>as concentrated, as vast, and as readily available as fossil fuels<>. That’s quite a different statement. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in magic pony land.The bottom line is this: if we want prosperity for the present and the future, then we <>must decouple economic growth from increases in material and energy throughput<>. Any solutions that do otherwise are not really solutions; at best, they just put the problem off a little longer (and likely make it that much worse down the road). That’s what makes the current situation so different from the first industrial revolution.This feat is achievable. There are plenty of reasons to believe that it can, in fact, be done. But trying to project the old model of economic growth into the future is NOT the way to do it. You’re barking up the wrong tree.

    Comment by GreenEngineer | April 8, 2008

  5. <>That was the case during the west’s Industrial Revolution, but is no longer.<>That is your <>opinion<>. It may be true, or it may not be true. You simply don’t know. So don’t present it as a <>fact<>.The reality is probably somewhere in between: we can allow for <>some<> growth in material and energy throughput, but the financial benefit of increased efficiency keeps increasing…<>The bottom line is this: if we want prosperity for the present and the future, then we must decouple economic growth from increases in material and energy throughput.<>I think what you meant is: <>… increases in<> <>raw<> <>material and<> <>fossil<> <>energy throughput.<>Some of this is already happening: notice the drop in truck and SUV sales in the US.<>But trying to project the old model of economic growth into the future is NOT the way to do it. You’re barking up the wrong tree.<>Again, that’s your <>opinion<>, and you’re entitled to it.I would argue that the old economic model can get us there with some refinement/adjustment. For example, RR mentions the garbage that is everywhere. Well, an Indian entrepreneur with a technology for converting garbage into a useful form of energy would make a killing, and solve a lot of environmental problems while doing so, even if he does increase <>material and energy throughput<>.

    Comment by Optimist | April 8, 2008

  6. <>Rice is always part of the meal. <> There are warning signs on the horizon that food prices could get very ugly for much of the world’s poor. < HREF="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=ahRifIz3hjh0&refer=home" REL="nofollow"> Rice jumps to new record price <> <> April 8 (Bloomberg) — Rice climbed to a record for a fourth day as the Philippines, the biggest importer, announced plans to buy 1 million tons and some of the world’s largest exporters cut sales to ensure they can feed their own people. Rice, the staple food for half the world, rose as much as 2.9 percent to $21.60 per 100 pounds in Chicago, before paring gains. The price has doubled in the past year. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo announced two rice tenders today and pledged to crack down on hoarding. Anyone found guilty of “stealing rice from the people” will be jailed, she said. <> Rice buying nations are issuing large tenders and producing nations are responding by limiting exports. This could lead to widespread social unrest. OPEC has not made the connection between high oil prices and high food prices and a weak dollar. This policy may lead to destabilization in their own countries.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 8, 2008

  7. Interesting commentary from < HREF="http://www.newsweek.com/id/130628" REL="nofollow">Newsweek<> with the welcome heading <>Start by ditching corn ethanol<>.It notes that food-miles is not a good metric: <>Each calculation depends on the food and where you live, but studies find that dairy products imported by Europe from New Zealand leave <>half the carbon footprint as local ones<>, while imported New Zealand lamb (which is pasture-raised) leaves <>one quarter the carbon footprint as local kinds that rely on energy-intensive feed<>.<>Unfortunately, the author does not seem to understand that the current fleet of hybrids does not include any plug-ins. That’s a pretty basic error for an environmetalist.

    Comment by Optimist | April 8, 2008

  8. <>OPEC has not made the connection between high oil prices and high food prices and a weak dollar. This policy may lead to destabilization in their own countries.<>Uncle Sam has been equally slow to connect foolish corn ethanol mandates with record high food prices.As you say, this can get ugly fast. And, unfortunately, the clown is still in office…

    Comment by Optimist | April 8, 2008

  9. <>That was the case during the west’s Industrial Revolution, but is no longer.That is your opinion. It may be true, or it may not be true. You simply don’t know. So don’t present it as a fact.<>The population and diversity of indicator species throughout the world are in decline. Fisheries are overharvested. Manmade chemicals, who’s health effects are largely unknown, are ubiquitous. The Pacific gyre is a whirlpool of trash. The Great Plains have lost more than half of millenia’s accumulation of topsoil. The Oglala aquifer, provides nearly half of our irrigation water, is being drained far faster than it is being replenished.All of the above are facts, readily verifiable.Add it up, and the picture is a species who is living on ecological credit, liquidating its natural capital.If you believe that increasing our use of energy and our resource withdrawls is path to prosperity, then it seems like you must believe one of following:1) The entire field of ecology and most of non-molecular biology is just making stuff up.2) You think that, yes, we are pushing the limits. But we can push them some more and get away with it.So, which is it? Or is there a third option that I didn’t think of?

    Comment by GreenEngineer | April 8, 2008

  10. By the way, according to British Petroleum stats, oil consumption in India has been flat for about three years, even before the big price run-up. The “Chindia” spectre, at least as it pertains to oil, seems to be a one-legged dybbuk. Look for world oil demand to start falling every year, as long as oil stays above $60 to $70 a barrel. we have seen Peak Demand, but not yet Peak Oil. What does that mean?

    Comment by Benny "peak demand" Cole | April 9, 2008

  11. “the clown is still in office” which reminds me of an objection voiced before he was elected:G W Bush had -never- been out of the country!Shouldn’t the “leader of the free world” have some experience traveling the world and witnessing something like RR has taken in??It -still- astonishes me that the Republican Party could have pushed this guy to the front, with the ONLY qualification being, “He can beat the Democratic nominee.”Pitiful. And history will declare it as such.

    Comment by Anonymous | April 9, 2008

  12. Reading the story had me thinking of the Star Trek episode of a planet that had cured every disease,including old age. It was a planet with standing room only. Scariest episode they made.The sugar cane to ethanol process sounds exciting. Import tariffs keep sugar prices high,but this process should work in the U.S. too. Makes me wonder why sugar refiners don’t use it already. We hear a lot about the water it takes to refine this or that. North America has 70% of the worlds fresh water. I live in New Orleans,where trillions of gallons of the stuff flows by,on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve been wondering for years when we’ll get around to building a water pipeline to Phoenix & LA. Maybe when fresh water is $100 a barrel? At any rate,if refining corn ethanol ever puts a water squeeze on the Midwest,they could always do the refining down this way. Most of the exported corn and wheat comes through here anyway. Three food staples feed most of the world. Corn,wheat,and rice. Billions of people will eat a chunk of bread or a bowl of rice today,and not much else. Peak Oil means a lot more than flickering lights and sputtering cars. It means billions of hungrier people. A dozen countries have had food and/or fuel riots so far this year. Westerners are so blessed. We get left behind,and apply for food stamps. Get left behind in most countries,and you starve.

    Comment by Maury | April 9, 2008

  13. Again slightly OT, sorry, but it’s just too interesting:At Cnet the Coskata CEO explains how he will get to USD1/gallon (or rather USD1.50). He also praises gasification technology and says that Coskata doesn’t want to operate any refineries but license its tech to “big companies” – something I hadn’t heard like that before amidst all the hype. Robert, what do you think about their process that uses microbes to liquefy the syngas and then increase the concentration via membranes? Can it really be that good? I always though getting the syngas in the first place is the really challenging step but Coskata seems not to have their own tech there.< HREF="http://www.news.com/8301-11128_3-9913192-54.html" REL="nofollow">Link<>-Thomas-

    Comment by Anonymous | April 9, 2008

  14. A basic (dumb?) chemistry question (but hey, I come here to learn… )<> the final product is 95% ethanol and 5% water. This greatly reduces the energy usage, as it takes a lot of effort to get out that last 5% water. … For blending with gasoline, it is not a good option as the water will phase out.<>If ethanol is 100% miscible in gasoline, and water and gasoline are immiscible, does that mean that you could add a small proportion of gasoline to 95% ethanol/5% H20 and have the water phase out? Would that make the water easily separable from the resulting gasohol/E85/Ewhatever mixture without the massive energy input otherwise required to separate out the water? It seems like if this actually worked, someone would be doing it already… just wondering how it would work, or why it wouldn’t. Appreciate any enlightenment one of you chemistry mavens can shed… King? RR?

    Comment by Mike C | April 9, 2008

  15. <>At Cnet the Coskata CEO explains how he will get to USD1/gallon (or rather USD1.50).<>It seems dumb to feed syngas to microbes and then have to seperate the ethanol from a dilute water-based solution. Once you have syngas, it makes more sense to go straight to liquid fuels, via Fischer-Tropsch as CHOREN proposes, or via alkoholization as Range Fuels proposes.BTW, Range Fuels are claiming <$1.00/gal. At this point those are just unverified claims. As we've seen before, the proof is in the execution.

    Comment by Optimist | April 9, 2008

  16. <>All of the above are facts, readily verifiable.<>They are. Your conclusions are not.<>Add it up, and the picture is a species who is living on ecological credit, liquidating its natural capital.<>Oh, yeah, I agree, we’re screwing up, and have been for some time. We’ll set it right, though, now that the proper incentives (incl. $110/bbl) are in place…<>If you believe that increasing our use of energy and our resource withdrawls is path to prosperity, then it seems like you must believe one of following:<>You don’t get it, do you? We can increase our use of energy, without increasing our use of <>fossil<> energy.The future of our species lies in recycling all our wastes back to feedstocks (call it biomimickery if you must). That way material throughput becomes irrelevant. You also get to recover a lot of energy, giving us time to develop renewable energy sources.Right now, we’re lagging in our renewable energy development (and wasting time & money on boondoggles), so $110/bbl came along to increase the pressure/incentives. If nothing else, it will encourage us to conserve.<>The entire field of ecology and most of non-molecular biology is just making stuff up.<>Say what?

    Comment by Optimist | April 9, 2008

  17. Mike C said… <>A basic (dumb?) chemistry question (but hey, I come here to learn… )If ethanol is 100% miscible in gasoline, and water and gasoline are immiscible, does that mean that you could add a small proportion of gasoline to 95% ethanol/5% H20 and have the water phase out? <> No, the water-ethanol solution is partially miscible in gasoline. Remember that gasoline is not a pure component liquid, it is a mixture of a number of hydrocarbons which boil in a certain range. Each of these components has its own miscibility with ethanol-water. Not all gasoline is E10, if I drive over to the next county I get E0. There is no way for me as a blender to know where you might get your next tank of gasoline, or if my ethanol-water-gasoline mixture might interfere with your next tank full. The reason for removing ethanol before blending it into gasoline is to avoid water dropping out in your gas tank. Your fuel pump sits in the bottom of the tank, imagine sending a big slug of water to your engine. You can run an engine on 95% ethanol just fine, as long as you don’t switch back and forth with conventional gasoline. Besides, Oilwatchdog has a cow over what they call “hot fuel”, can you imagine what they would say if you charged $3.30 per gallon for water?

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 9, 2008

  18. <>The reason for removing ethanol before blending it into gasoline is to avoid water dropping out in your gas tank.<>Thanks King,I thought I understood the above, and was wondering if there was some way to exploit this to have the water drop out of an ethanol/water mixture w/o needing to heat/distill the whole mixture. Ah well. Thanks for the reply!

    Comment by Mike C | April 9, 2008

  19. mike c – I wish it were that easy. You can reduce the concentration of water somewhat but there will always be at least some water in a gasoline-ethanol/water mixture. On another subject. Has anyone seen the minor hubub going on over a BBC story? A UK based climate change activist pressured a BBC reporter to change a news story on La Nina on global temperature.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 9, 2008

  20. <>Look for world oil demand to start falling every year, as long as oil stays above $60 to $70 a barrel. we have seen Peak Demand, but not yet Peak Oil.<>I think you are losing that argument, Benny.EIA, who as recent as January was optimistically predicting 2008 oil prices to average out @ $87/bbl, < HREF="http://blogs.wsj.com/environmentalcapital/2008/04/09/running-with-the-bulls-eia-says-100-oil-new-norm/?mod=WSJBlog" REL="nofollow">has this to say<> about 2008 demand: <>The EIA predicts that even with falling consumption in the U.S., oil demand world-wide will <>jump by 1.2 million barrels a day<> this year.<>The reason? <>Oil demand continues to grow briskly in China, India and Russia, where fuel prices are heavily subsidized.<>

    Comment by Optimist | April 9, 2008

  21. The climate change activist mentioned above is a woman named Jo Abbess. She boasts of her achievement in this < HREF="http://portal.campaigncc.org/node/2089" REL="nofollow"> blog, <> where she states: <><>Climate Changers,Remember to challenge any piece of media that seems like it’s been subject to spin or scepticism.Here’s my go for today. The BBC actually changed an article I requested a correction for, but I’m not really sure if the result is that much better. Judge for yourselves…<><> I would say that the two stories are very different. Perhaps more interesting is that in the e-mail exchange Abbess refers to climate modeling as an “infant science”, which is the point I’ve made frequently here. Yet the same activists who can’t explain why the last 10 years have been different than the previous trends, expect the developed world to limit burning carbon based on this “infant science”. I thought the AGW theory debate was all about science and consensus. If so, why do people like Abbess feel compelled to bury any piece of news that even hits that the theory might not be valid?

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 9, 2008

  22. Robert,I am from Hyderabad, India. I read your posts many a time in the oildrum website. It would have been great if you could have addressed group/s about peak oil while you were here in India.Do you come often to India. We held a conference on Climate Change, Sustainability and Equity here in Hyderabad in the first week of March. Peak oil was one topic covered.Please can you let me know in advance about your next trip to India and we would be more than glad to make arrangements for you to address a gathering. Very likely we will be able to arrange it in the city you are anyhow going to and you will not have to make any changes to your travel plans.I especially enjoyed your posts on Vinod Khosla’s ethanol plans.Thanks.Suyodh.suyodh@yahoo.comPSMy website is incomplete

    Comment by Suyodh | April 10, 2008

  23. Mike C, thanks for asking about the water/gasoline/ethanol issue – I had similar thoughts.As I want to make up for my OT post, here’s something relevant about Jatropha plantations in Florida:< HREF="http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2008/apr/05/new-biodiesel-crop-jatropha-taking-sw-florida/" REL="nofollow">Link<>To me as a city slicker the concept of selling farmers the seeds and then harvesting the jatropha themselves sounds sensible.I still wonder how good these trees are…-Thomas-

    Comment by Thomas | April 10, 2008

  24. Now to neatly tie the previous post back to India. Burning carbon fuels cures poverty, not the other way around. Those political activists (Jo Abbess is not a climate scientist – or any other kind of scientist for that matter, she is a political activist.) pushing the AGW political agenda seem perfectly happy to keep India poor and starving. There is a great op ed in the WS Journal today on government hearings using bad science to blame malaria on AGW. < HREF="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120778860618203531.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries" REL="nofollow"> More Global Warming Nonsense <> The important quote: <>Poverty has been and remains the world’s greatest killer.<> I declare the debate is over – more fuel for India.

    Comment by KingofKaty | April 10, 2008

  25. <>The future of our species lies in recycling all our wastes back to feedstocks (call it biomimickery if you must). That way material throughput becomes irrelevant. You also get to recover a lot of energy, giving us time to develop renewable energy sources.<>Yeah, yeah, yeah. Biological and technological metabolisms, etc, etc. You’re preaching to the clergy on that one.That’s the direction we need to go, for sure. Doing so will require a major change in design philosophy (to facilitate recycling). It will probably require political pressure, or politically-induced economic pressure, to make that transition happen. It will require energy to drive the process.<>You don’t get it, do you? We can increase our use of energy, without increasing our use of fossil energy.<>What I get is that we need to <>decrease<> our use of fossil energy, dramatically and quickly. So if we want to grow our total use of energy, we have to deploy enough renewable energy to replace our current fossil-fuel base AND allow for growth. If we assume that historic economic development patterns continue to apply, then we need to do all of that AND allow for exponential growth.I cannot prove that this is impossible, that is true. But given that you are proposing that we do this while transitioning from from using concentrated, distilled fossil solar energy to using contemporary solar energy, which is much more diffuse, I’d say the burden of proof is on you.Personally, I think that we can make the transition from fossil energy to renewable energy, and a closed-loop manufacturing system, while improving the worldwide standard of living. But I think we’re going to have to do it by dramatically reducing the intensity of our energy use (i.e. a factor of 5-10 in the developed world), and using the energy we do have much more efficiently and intelligently, and then propagating those techniques and technologies to the developing world just as fast as we can. But trying to create economic growth by continuing to throw increasing amounts of energy at the problem seems… improbable.

    Comment by GreenEngineer | April 10, 2008

  26. <>That’s the direction we need to go, for sure. Doing so will require a major change in design philosophy (to facilitate recycling). It will probably require political pressure, or politically-induced economic pressure, to make that transition happen. It will require energy to drive the process.<>I would say, let’s leave the politicians out of it. At $100/bbl and beyond the economic pressure is tremendous. And growing.<>What I get is that we need to decrease our use of fossil energy, dramatically and quickly.<>Quickly and dramatically are relative terms. You see the situation as dire, I see it as ripe with opportunity. You see policticians as key to reaching a solution. Based on past performance, I see politicians as a key threat to reaching a solution.But I suspect the key difference is this: You see the economy collapsing, I see the invisible hand pulling us through, just fine (which is not to say painless), once the new price reality for energy is accepted. Many oil campanies have been reluctant to do so, again based on past experience.Progress seems frustratingly slow, especially to the technical types. But progress is already under way.

    Comment by Optimist | April 11, 2008

  27. About CNG Taxis in Mumbai:Judicial decisions have over the past few years have been driving/forcing Commercial vehicle operators in Delhi and Bombay to adopt CNG. This is true for Taxis, autos and Buses. http://www.downtoearth.org.in/full6.asp?foldername=20020531&filename=news&sec_id=4&sid=12http://www.cseindia.org/campaign/apc/cng/cng_cngorder_ordertext.htm

    Comment by bheema v | April 14, 2008


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