R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

Off to Canada, but the Floor is Open for Questions

I am flying to Alberta in the morning and will be there through the middle of the week, trying to learn more about the renewable energy opportunities there. I doubt I will put up anything new until I return. So I thought this might be a good time to solicit questions readers may have. I know that I don’t always address all questions in the comments, so if you have one that I have neglected, you can ask following this post and I will answer when I return.

The last time I asked readers for questions, I got 30 or so that I answered in the following two posts:

Answering Questions – Part I

Answering Questions – Part II

That’s been almost two years, though, and there have been lots of interesting developments since then. So ask away, and I will answer to the best of my ability. Other readers are certainly welcome to offer their own answers to questions, and in some cases I may use something from the comments when answering.

One thing I will throw out there is that on Friday, July 17th I am supposed to speak to POET about their cellulosic efforts (which I mentioned in a recent post). I have a list of things I want to ask them about, but if you have something you would like me to ask them, please post the question here and I will ask for you provided it is topical.

Until then, please behave yourselves. 🙂

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July 12, 2009 - Posted by | POET, reader submission

109 Comments

  1. Hi Robert,I read about plasma gasification of garbage. Naturally the people promoting it say how great it is. Your comments please.Thanks,Russ

    Comment by Russ | July 12, 2009

  2. Hi Robert,What will natural gas production in the US be 5, 10 adn 15 years from now? Should I convert my 310 delivery trucks (I operate in an east coast city) from diesel to natural gas?Thanks,Bob S.

    Comment by Anonymous | July 12, 2009

  3. The inline ad for this article claims "Never pay for electricity again", something called Magniwork. I recommend NOT clicking the click, as it does dodgy things with your browser.Does Magniwork really work?Is there such a thing as "free energy"?How do I stop these scammers' ads appearing on my screen?

    Comment by bc | July 12, 2009

  4. Which alternative energy technologies do think will have the greatest impact in the US? Thanks,C

    Comment by Anonymous | July 12, 2009

  5. "Which alternative energy technologies do think will have the greatest impact in the US?"Ethanol, wind & solar are having the greatest impact in the US today — but their impact is very pernicious. Willfully ignorant politicians are providing their wealthy buddies with rich subsidies(paid for by ordinary Joes), and ignoring the real issues.Check out the writings of Prof. Douglas Reynolds at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He has been promoting the idea of the "entropy subsidy" — we have to use high intensity fossil fuels to build the equipment to collect low intensity energy sources like wind & solar. The real test, he thinks, is can we build a wind factory using nothing but energy derived from other wind factories? So-called renewable energies are a death spiral.In the US, politicians will continue to make bad decisions until government breaks down because of the impossible financial mess the politicians have created. After that, what happens is anyones guess.Although the Europeans talk a very superior game, it is worth remembering that the European Union is by far the world's largest fossil fuel importer — and the home of willfully ignorant political correctness. Despite the good example of France & Finland, Europe too will collapse.In parts of the world where leaders pay less attention to political correctness, they still have to deal with the reality that fossil fuels are finite. China & India will use nuclear power as the main alternative energy source — with today's technology, it is the next cheapest large scale energy source after fossils.As Benny and others have pointed out, we still have lots of coal & gas in the world. Once the threat of imminent poverty causes willfully ignorant politicians to realise what a scam alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is, we can extend the fossil age — but only by a period measured in decades. Eventually, we have to move to a post-fossil world.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | July 12, 2009

  6. RR-A friend of a friend of mine is working on a process to convert natural gas to gasoline, through some sort of heat and pressure. My friend did consulting on pressure and flow inside of a tube. That is all I know. Is there any hope for such a scheme? Any hope of commercial viability (obviously, we have abundant NG in North America)?

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

  7. "Which alternative energy technologies do think will have the greatest impact in the US?" Well none will have any impact. It is kind of a word game. Is natural gas an alternative to fossil fuels?It is like flying car stories in PM. If it works, it would not be an alternative. For example, biomass and large hydro are renewable energy that already are proven sources of energy. Same with nukes.Wind and solar does not pass test for working. When will the wind and solar industries start making equipment that works Kinu wrote,“China & India will use nuclear power as the main alternative energy source — with today's technology, it is the next cheapest large scale energy source after fossils.”No, China & India will continue to build coal plants as fast as they can. It also looks like India and China will build nuke plants as fast as they can. The reason is demand. World demand for coal and other fossil fuels now makes nukes the cheapest source of electricity many places in the world.This is the same in the US. New nukes will get built in the US. Expect the French and Japanese to own 49.9% of some these new plants. In the South East, state PUCs are allowing reasonable costs for developing nukes. The South East is wind poor and biomass rich. Expect more biomass fired generation.I predict that NG will continue to be the biggest new alternative energy source. I know that NG is a fossil fuel and the second largest source of electricity in the US. For the those of you living in Calculating and the Northeast, please write your elected officials and let them know that you do not think NG is alternative energy.

    Comment by Kit P | July 12, 2009

  8. RR:Also this item from Dallas:" Arlington researchers' work could lead to $35-a-barrel oil12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, June 28, 2009After a year of trying, University of Texas at Arlington researchers say they have succeeded in producing Texas intermediate-quality crude oil out of lignite.In a few years, the researchers predict, their discovery could lead to oil that costs $35 a barrel instead of the current $65 to $70."Any chance of making oil from lignite? At these prices? Or are they just some guys who want research money?

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

  9. I'm sure you will find some interesting things going on in Alberta. good luck. Do you think there is significant work to be done in updating existing electric generation plants in the US to improve efficentcy ? Do you think this is low hanging fruit that is being ignored? Do you feel that there should be changes in how we compensate utilities companies? Including letting them profit more with increase efficentcy..Thanks Jim Takchess

    Comment by takchess | July 12, 2009

  10. Thought this was interesting. If cost and technically feasible this would be cool.http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/07/rive-technology-working-to-increase-oil.html

    Comment by takchess | July 12, 2009

  11. Copied from Takchess's link, for those who find it annoying to click through:"Mesopores (>4 nanometers) in zeolite enable larger molecules to be cracked. Petroleum refiners would obtain a higher yield of desirable products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and propylene, and less of undesirable products like heavy cycle oil and coke."It is easy to forget that refining technology — like most other technologies that are left alone by the Political Class — advances continuously. If this works, it is simply another small step for man.But it is not a game-changer. Fossil fuels will still not be able to keep up with demand indefinitely. We need to think ahead.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | July 12, 2009

  12. In as much as Ethanol is now providing approx 7.5% of our gasoline by volume, it is, obviously, the first.Also, with E85 selling for as much as a 30% less than gasoline in some areas, it's only about $0.25/gal away from being competitive w/o subsidies. Or, new engines that are slightly more efficient at utilizing ethanol (look for 2011.)Of course, if you allocate the US military costs in the middle east to oil, ethanol is there, big-time.

    Comment by rufus | July 12, 2009

  13. "In as much as Ethanol is now providing approx 7.5% of our gasoline by volume, it is, obviously, the first."Rufus,Please tell me how much diesel fuel and natural gas the ethanol industry must consume to give us that 7.5%. And, if corn ethanol presently gives us only 7.5%, why the rush to convert so many pumps to E85? It will be years (if ever) until ethanol can contribute 85% of our liquid transportation fuels. (At the 7.5% figure you cited, we couldn't even blend all gasoline to a ratio of E10.)

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 13, 2009

  14. Wendell, Poet (the company that RR is going to visit) has a plant in Chancellors, Ia. It has cut its nat gas usage by 75%, and is headed for 90%. All of their plants will, eventually, probably be fueled by corn cobs. Corn Plus, in Winnebago, Mn is gassifying its syrup to replace 50% of its gas usage. It's, also, selling "ash" from the process (farmers are "lined up" to buy this) to replace inorganic fertilizers (less organic fertilizer, less nat gas used to produce it.)In short, we're presently using rainfall, and sunshine to "leverage" nat gas into a superior transportation fuel.In the future, we'll, more or less, cut the nat gas out of the equation. We've already covered Diesel. It's pretty much inconsequential.We're doing 10.79 Billion Gallons of Ethanol/yr. The refineries under construction will bring that up to about 15 Billion Gallons/Yr (the mandate for 2013, I think.)If we continue using 140 – 145 Billion Gallons of gasoline/yr we're going to have some capacity left over. Of course, by that time we'll have some cellulosic flowing.

    Comment by rufus | July 13, 2009

  15. “Do you think there is significant work to be done in updating existing electric generation plants in the US to improve efficentcy ?”The trend is actually going in the opposite direction because of added pollution control equipment. “Do you think this is low hanging fruit that is being ignored?” Maybe in China or Russia but the US got a wake up call with the energy crisis in the 70s. By 1990, US industry had found most of the low hanging fruit. “Do you feel that there should be changes in how we compensate utilities companies? Including letting them profit more with increase efficentcy.”Deregulation has allowed the good generators to buy up power plants and make a profit based on improved efficiency. When the Clinton was president there was a program to report voluntary reductions in ghg. Coal and nuke plants had huge reductions. Now let me ask Jim a question. Why do you think making electricity in the US needs significant improvement?

    Comment by Kit P | July 13, 2009

  16. A company called PowerSat claims a large SBSP(Space-Based Solar Power) station with a 30-year life span can provide the same power as a large coal or nuclear plant. They claim the total return will be about the same as for a coal plant,and better than a nuclear plant,after fuel and waste disposal costs are figured in. My question is,if each SBSP station were the size of the Space Station,how many would it take to block 2% of the sun's rays(which would negate the effects of global warming),and how much income would that produce annually? I'm curious as to whether the proposed carbon tax could pay for such a system over a 30-year period. Not that the world could consume that much electricity….

    Comment by Maury | July 13, 2009

  17. Apparently,a solar satellite 2-3 miles wide produces about 1 gigawatt and costs about 250 million,half of that being launch cost. PG&E agreed to buy 200MW of power from Solaren for 15 years,starting in 2016. Now,if I can only find out how many miles of sunlight reach the earth,I can work backwards and know the rest.

    Comment by Maury | July 13, 2009

  18. The diameter of the earth is roughly 8000 miles. The projected area of the earth normal to the sun is (pi)r^2 or 50 million square miles. 2% of that is 1 million square miles. So you'd need about 1 million square miles of sun shade to block 2% of the sunlight from earth. That's an awful lot of ISS. Almost twice the size of Alaska.

    Comment by Clee | July 13, 2009

  19. Er, about 1.5 times the size of Alaska. (I was incorrectly using land area of Alaska before.)For a visual feel, http://www.akhistorycourse.org/images/geography/large/l1.jpg

    Comment by Clee | July 13, 2009

  20. Thanks Clee. That would take about 300,000 satellites of the size Solaren plans to deploy. 17,000 would produce the electricity the planet currently uses. Even that would cost 4 trillion. Back to the drawing board….

    Comment by Maury | July 13, 2009

  21. Looking at their website does not inspire me with confidence.http://www.solarenspace.com/$250 million for a 1 GW station by 2016? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It'll be interesting to see if they can find financing for this venture. I have my doubts.How much does the receiving antenna on Earth cost, and how many square miles will it take up? Can they acquire the land and permits for that?

    Comment by Clee | July 13, 2009

  22. About 1 sq. mile Clee. It can mess with cell phone service,so the receiving station would probably be as rural as possible. It won't affect people or animals,so permits shouldn't be a problem. A number of start-ups have plans to launch SBSP's. The idea has been around for 40 years. The hold up is the cost to launch the satellite. With today's lighter materials and a carbon tax on the way,all systems are go.

    Comment by Maury | July 13, 2009

  23. Here's a better website. They say a 2500MW receiving station is 4-10 sq. miles. That's HUGE.http://www.powersat.com/index.html

    Comment by Maury | July 13, 2009

  24. The new ionic liquid technique allows easier extraction of cellulose. Do you know if we have enough information yet to do energy and/or economic balances? If so, what are the present results? Improvements are likely, given the novelty of the technique.As for the best alternate energy – I find back yard gardens have a very high return on investment, and look at the energy saved just in packaging and transportation. Also, yum! Composting cuts the garbage problem. Intensive gardening increases production/(labor & area). The best methods also reduce water and fertilizer needs.

    Comment by DDHv | July 13, 2009

  25. RE: Kip's Q. Now let me ask Jim a question. Why do you think making electricity in the US needs significant improvement?A. I rightfully do not know but suspect there could be improvement This is why I asked. Kip, I know you have talked of electric gen projects that were on the table that brought increased efficentcy that were turned down. I suspect that there are a number of older plants that could stand improvement and perhaps retirement. I'm certainly for appropriate pollution control.Question for Kip. Do you think that there are improvements to be found in improving efficentcies on new plants and existing plants? Have we found some improvements during the past ten years?Should we (and perhaps we are) put more efforts into this? Is the marketplace efficentively addressing this?I do not know that is why I ask. http://blog.recycled-energy.com/2009/07/02/how-fast-can-the-us-electric-sector-reform/Thanks, Jim

    Comment by takchess | July 13, 2009

  26. "We've already covered Diesel. It's pretty much inconsequential."Sure. That's why I see a big above ground diesel tank next to the barn or machine shed at every farm I drive past in my part of the country, and why those farmers are always complaining about the price of diesel. Apparently it's not inconsequential to them.Just tell me in numbers how much diesel oil it takes to produce the 7.5% ethanol your talking about. And then tell me how far that diesel could have pushed autos compared to if they burned alcohol. (My Jetta TDI gets ~ 45 mpg.)Also, you didn't answer why the push for E85, if we're only producing ethanol at 7.5% of gasoline volume. It seems we'd have to increase ethanol production more then ten-fold to get most fuel in this country to a blend of E85. (There isn't enough cropland to increase ethanol more than ten-fold.)

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 13, 2009

  27. Hi Robert -I am interested in your perspective of the claims made by Rive Technology about increasing the yield of gasoline by 7-9% in an oil refinery? See article below.http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22978/Are these claims credible? Is this an important technology?Thanks,Doug

    Comment by Anonymous | July 13, 2009

  28. “Do you think that there are improvements to be found in improving efficentcies on new plants and existing plants?”New plants are generally a little to a lot more efficient than old plants A new nuke will be about 5% more efficient than similar older plants. A new CCGT will be 100% more efficient than an old SCGT.“Have we found some improvements during the past ten years?”A little history is needed to understand why there are so many older plants. Projection of load growth were very high and many new plants were built in the 70s and 80s. About 1/3rd of the nuke plants got canceled before TMI because they were not needed. A new pattern of load growth was emerging.In the 90s new demand was being met by converting old SCGT to CCGT. NG was cheap and with Clinton in office coal and nukes were off the table. However, the low hanging fruit of CCGT being used for baseload was soon picked. Installing new designs of steam turbine blading is routine at coal and nuke plants. This will add about 50MWe. The NRC quickly approved these improvements in efficiency but the Clinton EPA sued the coal plants. Anyhow there is a whole host of improvements that are made to existing steam plants. The market effectively addresses this in a stable regulatory environment. I suspect this is why some of the largest coal generators for regulations of ghg. One of the more astounding improvements over the last 10 years have been at nuke plants. I left the nuke industry after the last 5 plants I was at was very frustrating because management would not listen to employees. . I turned down two jobs because I did not see how these plants could stay in business. Why move the family just to watch another plant close down? When the performance of where you are at is not any better than the last 4 plants that got shut down, the hand writing is on the wall. At that time DOE predicted that 1/3rd of aging nuke plants would shut down early. If you are passionate about energy, there is not more rewarding job than working at a well run nuke. The first commercial nuke I worked at was one of those. This plant has always been a world class performer. Watching from the sidelines an amazing thing happened. When faced with losing their jobs rather than passing the cost on to rate payers, suddenly management figured out how to be world class. For example, at my first plant I had 5, $100k test rigs that never failed calibration. When the NRC audited, the inspector said cool and left. My bosses at other plants saw that I had experience with this testing, they would have me go out an see what improvements could be made. They were using $50 test equipment that frequently failed calibration. I could run twice as m,any crews and get each test done in half the time. Time is money at a nuke plant, at least a million a day. What is the value of getting testing not impacting outage schedule and the NRC trusting your results?The result of better performing nukes is equivalent to building 26 new nukes. It is the single largest reduction in ghg in the US. Second place is not even close. It is very good business too. The last four nukes that shutdown early, would still be running today if they had been managed better.

    Comment by Kit P | July 13, 2009

  29. What do you think of pyloric conversion to make "green gasoline"? What are it's peak lite and environmental ramifications? Specifically referring to an article in the Boston Globe RE: Anellotech and UMAss on July 13th. http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/07/13/the_greening_of_gasoline/Thanks,John

    Comment by Anonymous | July 13, 2009

  30. What do you do, Wendell? Just post a "challenging" question, and then move on? How's about reading the Answer, for a change. One more time. It requires about 5 gallons of diesel to grow an acre of corn. After allowing for the fact that 40% of that goes to feed cattle, or pigs, the ethanol produced is approx. 700 gallons/acre. That's 5 gal of diesel in/ 700 gallons ethanol/out. Okay?We're not going to run ALL of our cars on E85. Ever. We're going to run a goodly percentage of them on E85, perhaps. BTW, the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid will have a "Flexfuel" option. This will be the first of many "Flexfuel" Hybrids.We're going to have more Ethanol "Capacity" in a couple of years than can be taken up with a 10% blend. (.10 X 140 Billion = 14 Billion. Ethanol production Capacity in 2013 will equal over 15 Billion.)

    Comment by rufus | July 13, 2009

  31. Apparently,a solar satellite 2-3 miles wide produces about 1 gigawatt and costs about 250 million,half of that being launch cost. PG&E agreed to buy 200MW of power from Solaren for 15 years,starting in 2016.Source please!There's no way you can put up an SBSP of 1GW for 250 million. More like $3-4 billion.

    Comment by bc | July 13, 2009

  32. "the ethanol produced is approx. 700 gallons/acre."Rufus,At 2.7 gal/bushel of corn, that would mean the farm you use as your sample has a yield of ~260 bushels/acre. The national average corn yield in 2008 was only 154 bushels/acre. Somewhere in the middle of Iowa there may be a sample plot that got 260 bushels/acre last year, but that is far above the norm.)"It requires about 5 gallons of diesel to grow an acre of corn."Where does your number of 5 gallons of diesel/acre of corn come from?The most optimistic number I can find is 6.5 gallons/acre from Iowa State University. Most numbers are much higher, with one as high as 147 gallons/acre from Dr. Pimental of Cornell.Does your 5 gallon/acre figure take into account the fuel burned to cultivate, plant, fertilize, and harvest the seed corn? The fuel needed for transportation? (Seed corn to farm? Fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides to farm? Corn to ethanol plant? Ethanol plant to wholesale blender and retail point? DDGS to feedlot?)Educate me please. I still don't get the point of E85 if it will take years and years until we even get beyond the point where we could blend all fuel as E20.What is the point of fuel stations investing in E85 infrastructure when there could never be enough ethanol to supply all with E85?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 13, 2009

  33. How likely is money spent today on renewables to be wasted in retrospect because of "grey swans"? Obviously nobody can predict the future, but I'm thinking more in terms of, say, a plan to completely power a country from wind turbines, versus low-to-medium-probability dramatic improvements in wind-power within a decade or two.

    Comment by PeteS | July 13, 2009

  34. Robert,I hear many theories about electricity consumption and the utility business model (sell more make more). Do you see any mechanism that puts suppliers in the loop for the reduction of consumption (not just demand reduction via passing through higher prices)?

    Comment by SamG | July 13, 2009

  35. "How likely is money spent today on renewables to be wasted in retrospect …"Forget retrospect! The probability that money spent on so-called renewables is wasted is about 100% today.Anything that needs to be subsidized (directly or indirectly)is economically wasteful. We are paying $x for something for which there is a perfectly good alternative available at less than $x.Now, some can argue that the immediate economic waste involved in subsidy may not be wasteful in the long run. That argument can be made with a straight face — but only by people who believe that politicians & bureaucrats are much more intelligent than everyone else.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | July 13, 2009

  36. Rufus:Do you mean 700 gallons of ethanol poer hectare? (not acre)

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | July 13, 2009

  37. Wendell, it's, actually, a little more than 2.8 gal/bu. Okay, here goes:First, understand, that field corn is, first, and foremost, cattle/pig feed. Probably, 95% of corn that's not used for ethanol goes for this.Okay, in ethanol production you use the "starch." The Protein, and Nutrients are retained in the Distillers Grains. A pound of Distillers is equal, feedwise, to approx 1.44 lb/corn. I handle that this way; I divide the corn yield by .6. Thus 154/.6 = 256 X 2.8 = 716 gal/acre.Pimental is a loon of the first magnitude. He's just silly. The Corn farmers I've communicated with said it was around 5 gallons/acre. This number has been dropping for many years. There's less, and less, "deep-plowing" nowadays, and the advanced seeds have contributed greatly to less cultivating, etc.There's maybe an extra .01 gallon involved in transportation. Again, it's non-consequential.Why E85? It just seems sensible. Some people don't want 20% ethanol in their gasoline, and, eventually, ethanol will probably be More than 20% of our fuel supply. I don't think the cost has to be all that high to add E85. Most of the stations, I believe, just clean out their "mid-grade" tank, and fill it with E85. The dispenser, for all practical purposes, is the same. As for "Potential," it's pretty much unlimited. Once you get into ag waste, forestry waste, and Municipal Solid Waste, 80, or 90 Billion Gallons/Yr seems, imminently, doable. However, once you factor in the new DI, turbocharged 4 cyl engines, and hybrids, we might be able to get by on 70, or 80 Billion Gallons/Yr total fuel.We might even use some of Benny's natural gas. 🙂

    Comment by rufus | July 14, 2009

  38. Everything is "Subsidized."Once you factor in 150,000 Troops in Iraq, and the cost of keeping the 5th Fleet in Dubai, you're probably looking at $200,000,000,000.00 (Yep, that's 11 zeros) a year. And, that's just so we can have the pleasure of shipping another Half a Billion/Day over there for the oil. How's That for a "Business Proposition?"Ethanol, on the other hand, was calculated, due to its competive presence in the marketplace, to have Saved Us $40 Billion last year.

    Comment by rufus | July 14, 2009

  39. SamG,There is a list of utility performance incentives for energy efficiency athttp://www.edisonfoundation.net/iee/issueBriefs/IncentiveMechanisms_0509.pdf

    Comment by Clee | July 14, 2009

  40. Robert, Any comments on this Urea fueled entry into the XPrize auto race ?http://www.progressiveautoxprize.org/teams/alternative-fuel-sciences

    Comment by takchess | July 14, 2009

  41. Blogger rufus said… "Everything is "Subsidized."———————————–Amen, brother…."One man's subsidy is another man's tax."And Americans are being "taxed" at a rate of 200 billion bucks a year to fund the U.S. Military to "baby-sit" the Strait of Hormuz and other oil company interests in the mid-east, etc.Factor that in and the bio-fuels look good, as do CNG, electric vehicles or bio-fuel-electric hybrids.Imagine that…. a bio-fuel-electric hybrid. That completely shuts out the oil companies and their little "gasoline forever" game.The fact thatbio-fuels, CNG and electricity are already cheaper than gasoline must be giving the traditional oil companies nightmares already.John

    Comment by Anonymous | July 14, 2009

  42. "…competitive presence in the marketplace."Competitive presence???? There would be no corn starch ethanol in the continental United States w/o subsidies, tax credits, mandates, and protective tariffs. How can you possibly consider mandates (such as Minnesota's E10 mandate*) and the tariff against Brazilian ethanol to be part of a "competitive" atmosphere?———————-* Did you know the statewide average fuel economy in Minnesota with mandatory E10 is about 12% lower than its near demographic twin Wisconsin which has no E10 mandate?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 14, 2009

  43. No it's not. It's about 2.6% – The same it's always been. Minnesota has a higher mix of pickup trucks than Wisconsin. They both have E10, and have had for years.Ethanol competing with Gasoline held gasoline prices down. That's what I meant by "competitive.

    Comment by rufus | July 14, 2009

  44. 1) What is a reasonable pace towards commercialization of '1st generation' alternative fuels, e.g., cellulosic. Many ethanol advocates (DoE, USDA, EPA, US Congress) assume that while only 1 commercial scale facility is currently in construction (Range), somehow 1 billon gallons of annual capacity will get built during the next 3-5 years, and then we'll build that much (30-40 plants) every year for the next decade? 2) How long is needed to operate a 1st gen facility to optimize its processing and demonstrate profitability before investors will agree to pay another ~$300 million build the 2nd facility? 3) Both Choren and Range fuels have gasification of woody biomass as the first step for their transformation process. Choren finished construction a year ago and has been in the commissioning process ever since. Range says they will finish construction 1Q 2010, and begin ethanol production in 2Q 2010. Can Range really begin production that soon?4) Ask POET what they think of cellulosic from corn stover. They seem to say that stover has too many collection and handling problems (dirty, low density, etc), and that is one reason they are concentrating on cobs only. Many others assume corn stover will be the primary source of cellulosic feedstock.

    Comment by LovesoiL | July 14, 2009

  45. While you're in Alberta, ask about Iogen and when they'll finally get their cellulosic plant started in Sask. Also, Enerkem has been making news lately, both with a 10 mgy MSW plant and their just-released plans to construct a $100 million R&d facilty in Edmonton EnerkemR&DEnerkemMSWPlant

    Comment by Anonymous | July 14, 2009

  46. RR,Comments on this partnership between Venter and Exxon?http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/business/energy-environment/14fuel.html?_r=1

    Comment by bts | July 14, 2009

  47. Robert:Your advice to engineering students or students to be?For your broad experience and unique perspective, what is your advice to young students undertaking engineering coursework – what subjects and courses should they pay particular attention to, what electives should they take, what counseling from academic engineers can they forget, what activities outside of coursework will set them up well for a productive, rewarding engineering career? Any particular schools serving their students notably well and any that are notably not?What are the top ten engineering, business or life related books that they absolutely must read on their own?What are the emerging career opportunities to shoot for and what are the deadends to avoid?

    Comment by Anonymous | July 14, 2009

  48. My first attempt at college was a chemistry major and I got some incredible bad advice from my academic counselor. I joined the navy to beat the draft and the navy sent me back to college a few years later.Here is the advice I got from my navy mentor who was a year ahead of me. Ace calculus, physics, and chemistry if you want to be an engineer. If you are not getting 100% on everything, you are not working hard enough. Forget things like German, economics, and political science. After you get a solid engineer foundation, then a student can work on being well rounded.When choosing an university avoid party schools. As it turns out, I started a local campus of the same big ten university that the navy sent me to. The were 2000 in my calculus lecture at the main campus . The professor said look around, half of you will be gone next semester. He said that all his old test were in the library. Knowing how to solve all the calculus was not cheating. At the regional campus, there were less than 10 students in the hardest freshman calculus, physics, and chemistry courses. You will not get that individual attention at MIT. The mistake I made was dropping calculus when I got a 38% on the first test. My academic counselor let me do it and ten let me sign up for the second semester of chemistry without the prerequisites. I did run into my calculus instructor in the hallway. He ask me why I dropped the coarse and then informed my that my grade was the second highest. I made it through chemistry just fine but it was because of the small class size.The point here is the school is less important than working as hard as you need to and getting advice from multiple sources. The main campus of my university had 38,000 students. The line outside professor was the same as the small campus. Very few were asking for help. “What are the emerging career opportunities to shoot for and what are the deadends to avoid?”Another of the reasons to have a solid foundation of basic science, The world keeps changing.The energy industry is hot right now, particularity the nuclear part of it. Nuclear was an exciting field when Kennedy was president. Do the math, the nuke work is either retired or getting close to retirement. There is demand for engineers of all types. The demand for environmental engineers never materialized. It takes a lot fewer engineers to figure out how not to make a mess, than to clean up a mess. It would also seem to be a good idea to avoid areas that can be out sourced to India and China. Competing with those who will work for low wages will not pay off student loans.

    Comment by Kit P | July 14, 2009

  49. The oil giant Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive once mocked alternative energy by referring to ethanol as “moonshine,” is about to venture into biofuels. On Tuesday, Exxon plans to announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae.According to Exxon, algae could yield more than 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre of production each year, compared with 650 gallons for palm trees and 450 gallons for sugar canes. Corn yields just 250 gallons per acre a year.http://tinyurl.com/ltza5u

    Comment by Maury | July 14, 2009

  50. Rufus,Some very interesting comments throughout this section!To shore up mandates, I don't know why we don't import ethanol from Brazil as a start (I know, I know – politics!) Furthermore, we could help so many countries in the tropics by importing cane ethanol from them… instead of crude form the ME.The other thing that we should be focusing on is on "nega-barrels" as advocated by RMI in their Pentagon study: Winning the oil endgame (it is available on line).

    Comment by Anonymous | July 14, 2009

  51. That Exxon executive that mocked ethanol fuel as moonshine probably still is not too interested in ethanol. If Venter's involved, they're probably trying to make something close to gasoline from genetically modified algae.

    Comment by Clee | July 14, 2009

  52. Anonymous, we Will allow 500 Million Gallons of Brazilian ethanol to be imported "duty-free" this year (We allow an amount equal to 7% of last year's consumption, taxfree.) That ethanol receives a $0.46 Tax Credit for the Blender just like Domestic Ethanol.This puts us in a tricky position of favoring a foreign fuel producer (Brazil,) over our Domestic drillers.BTW, I don't think Brazil has ever achieved their annual quota of no-tariff ethanol. I suspect the whole Brazilian, cane story is slightly over-hyped. They have Enormous potential for volume, but it's a bit more expensive than advertised, I think.

    Comment by rufus | July 14, 2009

  53. Rufus said: "No it's not. It's about 2.6% – The same it's always been. Minnesota has a higher mix of pickup trucks than Wisconsin. They both have E10, and have had for years."First, E10 in Minnesota is mandatory. In Wisconsin it's not. Best guess is that about 45-50% of the fuel sold in Wisconsin is blended as E10.Where did your figure of a 2.6% lower average fuel economy in Minnesota come from? That's contrary to the numbers the USDOT, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) collects and publishes.2006 is the latest year for which they have published stats, and per the FHWA numbers:In 2006, Minnesota drivers traveled 56.518 billion miles while burning 2.504236 billion gallons of gasoline. The average fuel economy for the entire state was 22.57 mpg.In 2006, Wisconsin drivers traveled 59.622 billion miles using 2.384773 billion gallons of fuel. Wisconsin's average fuel economy was 25.0 mpg.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. (One interesting side benefit for the Minnesota treasury is that their fuel tax revenues actually benefit from the state's reduced fuel economy. That may be why Governor Pawlenty is such a strong advocate of mandated E10, and why they are considering raising the mandate to E20.)FHWA Highway Statistics ~ Motor Fuel ~ 2006FHWA Highway Statistics ~ Vehicle Travel ~ 2006

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 14, 2009

  54. “To shore up mandates, I don't know why we don't import ethanol from Brazil as a start (I know, I know – politics!) Furthermore, we could help so many countries in the tropics by importing cane ethanol from them… instead of crude form the ME.”The purpose of biofuel mandates is demonstrating the ability of the US to achieve energy independence per the 2005 Energy Bill. Mission accomplished. Maybe ANON can explain why I would be interested in helping countries in the tropics. It may sound harsh but I also have little interest in making the world a better place for future generations. I am interested in making my community a better place and providing the education needed so our children can make their community a better place.It is a matter of location, timing, and resources. I have noticed a certain amount of arrogance on the left to save the world with a global agenda. If a policy benefits American farmers it is bad even where there are other polices like weatherization of low income homes (nanowatts) that benefit a more political correct segment of society. I teach chess to ‘intercity’ kids. I enjoyed teaching chess when my kids were in grade school. After moving, one of the schools that my company sponsors would be called ‘intercity’. Sure I could help ‘intercity’ kids living countries in the tropics learn chess but I think if makes more sense if someone there does it.

    Comment by Kit P | July 14, 2009

  55. "Maybe ANON can explain why I would be interested in helping countries in the tropics. It may sound harsh but I also have little interest in making the world a better place for future generations. I am interested in making my community a better place and providing the education needed so our children can make their community a better place."KitP,It is very simple… here are just a few reasons:First, right now, through our use of imported oil , we are helping countries in the ME finance terrorist activities against us and our children.Second, billions of our tax money is being spent to protect the oil shipping lanes… billions that could go to education for our children.Third, cane ethanol doesn't pollute nearly as much as oil… creating healthier environments for our children.Fourth, substituting as much as we can of imported oil with cane ethanol will mitigate peak oil and help our economy… and our children's security.If you need more reasons, go to…www.secureenergy.orgRufus,Unfortunately, Brazilian ethanol is not "duty-free"… there is a 54 cent/gallon tariff on ALL Brazilian ethanol!After your post I did some research and found out that total Brazilian ethanol exports in 2008 were over 650 million gallons.Aside from not having a quota (just the 54 cent tariff on each and every gallon of Brazilian ethanol) Brazil's total ethanol exports to N. America are only 10% of Brazilian production.It makes no sense to import oil tariff free from the ME, for example, while taxing Brazilian ethanol…“Since the start of the Iraq war, Brazil has paid over US$500 million in tariffs to bring a clean fuel to the U.S., while rogue states profit by selling their oil in the U.S. tax free.”website: vodpod.com/watch/1782436-anadarko-ceo-blasts-corn-ethanol-calls-for-cutting-tariff And, unlike any other ethanol feed source, cane ethanol produces 9.3 units of renewable fuel for every unit of fossil energy utilized in its creation.website: http://www.ethanoltoday.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5&fid=37&Itemid=6

    Comment by Anonymous | July 14, 2009

  56. Yup, Exxon still not interested in "moonshine" http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601110&sid=aU91xnnokReEEmil Jacobs, Exxon Mobil’s vice president for research and development, told reporters today on a conference call. …“Our goal is to produce a new source of oil,” said Jacobs, a Princeton University-trained chemical engineer. “It could be possible to convert it into gasoline and diesel in existing refineries, transport it through existing pipelines and sell it at existing retail stations.”…Jacobs and Venter said the research may prove that algae is a more efficient energy source than ethanol.

    Comment by Clee | July 14, 2009

  57. The head of "Anadarko Petroleum" blasts corn ethanol? Imagine that.You've got some bad info, anon. The Brazilian ethanol comes up through the "Caribbean Basin Initiative." They ship it up there, where it's "denatured" and shipped to the U.S. The first number of gallons equal to 7% of the previous year's U.S. production is NOT taxed with the $0.51 Tariff. I don't believe Brazil has ever exceeded this amount. A lot of their ethanol goes to Europe (where it's taxed even higher.) Brazil is a "pain in the ass" to try to deal with. They have just about the "Highest" Import taxes in the world. Every President has tried to work a deal with them, but they're strictly a "One Way" Street.Don't fall for all the hype on Brazilian Ethanol. Some of it is very efficient, but some of it isn't. Also, Cane is Very Labor Intensive. Those people use just as much "energy" (if not more) than the American Farmer with the 24 row equipment. Also, all cane ethanol has to be shipped "By Truck" from the middle of the country (it's a really big country) to the Coast. Anyways, I'm not knocking them; but, I have no intention of trading a dependence of Riyadh to a reiance on Rio. Anadarko knows that if we were importing all of our ethanol from Brazil we'd have to drop the "Blenders' tax credit.) This would be very good for Anadarko, and Exxon, and Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, etc. BTW, American Ethanol production supports something like 500,000 American Jobs. Also, importing our energy from Brazil is just as detrimental to our "Balance of Trade" as importing oil from Saudi Arabia, or Iraq.We would also lose the supporting infrastructure for our Cellulosic Industry.Let's just keep this money at home. What do you say?

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  58. Wendell, those numbers were on-road, off-road, etc. Minnesota has much more Ag. Many more pickups, farm trucks, etc. If you go back 20 years the numbers are about the same.Oh, and S. Wisconsin has had a federal E10 mandate for many years. EPA, ya know?

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  59. Exxon's been catching hell from the Rockefeller family for not having a "Green" strategy. This feels to me like an attempt to get the "family" off their keisters.Reminds me a little of BP's ill-fated attempts with Biobutanol.

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  60. Robert,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?Thanks, Melanie

    Comment by Anonymous | July 15, 2009

  61. Shell and Chevron have been into algae the last couple of years. I doubt they threw 600M at it though. You've got to love algae. It eats CO2 and produces long-chain hydrocarbons."Algal strains such as Botryococcus braunii can produce long chain hydrocarbons representing 86% of its dry weight. The green alga Botryococcus is unique in the quality and quantity of the liquid hydrocarbons it produces. Some scientists consider the ancestors of Botryococcus to be responsible for many of the world's fossil fuel deposits."http://tinyurl.com/melxb5Algae “can double their mass several times a day and produce at least 15 times more oil per hectare than alternatives such as rape, palm soya or jatropha,'' Shell said. http://tinyurl.com/mzhjxt

    Comment by Maury | July 15, 2009

  62. rufus wrote:"Oh, and S. Wisconsin has had a federal E10 mandate for many years. EPA, ya know?" No I don't know. Where can I find this EPA E10 mandate?What I have found is that in 2006, the EPA revoked the 2% oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline nationwide.http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/7ebdf4d0b217978b852573590040443a/810888050f1ab11085257116005ff0b6!OpenDocumentThe defunct 2% oxygen-by-weight requirement could be met with 5.4% by volume ethanol or 11% by volume MTBE.

    Comment by Clee | July 15, 2009

  63. dommetscRufus, MN has been E10 mandate since 1998 and Wisconsin started their E10 mandate in 2007 or 08. Also you are again completely wrong to indicate that BP's biobutanol initiative is a failure. That is ridiculous. They just started 2 years ago, say they will be commercial in 3-5 years. Ethanol is a good started fuel, but butanol and green gasolines will make it a dinosaur in just a few more years. Ozone benefits of ethanol are far from proven – lots of other things influence ground level ozone.

    Comment by Anonymous | July 15, 2009

  64. "Wisconsin started their E10 mandate in 2007 or 08."Wisconsin has no E10 mandate. The ethanol supporters in their assembly proposed one in 2006, but wiser heads prevailed and it never became law.

    Comment by Cheesehead Six | July 15, 2009

  65. For those of you who get excited about press releases making fantastic claims about how much money they are going to spend on some futuristic renewable energy project, it is just so much greenwashing. To be sure there are many energy that quietly get the job done. If you watch the trade journals and the local press over time, it is possible to follow projects to completion. If you make the effort to pull up an annual report, you may even find out how well it is performing.One of the PNW cities that claims to be very green, still has that 30 year old coal plant down the road burning more coal than ever. The cities no longer runs it, so they pretend it does not exist. More than 10 years ago this city issued an RFP for a landfill gas power plant. LFG is certainly the low hanging fruit of renewable energy and ghg reduction. The company I worked for at the time had developed LFG projects. The utility I used to work operated one of the largest LFG power plants (I know the plant manager). So I call my friends in the business development group and get told that it is all talk. The green city has a public relations budget but no renewable energy project development budget.A while back a saw an RFP by a farmer COOP for a second ethanol plant. I went to their web site and learned how well the first plant was doing. The information was provided for the member of the COOP and was straight forward. There were the usual pictures of 'hick' farmers in bib overalls wearing John Deer hats. Any family farmer still in business has to be a savvy business manager. I can tell that Wendell and Clee are well meaning but do not understand small town USA. Rufus knows what I mean. American farmers are one of the most productive segments of US industry and the greatest stewards of the environment. Having them characterized as greedy polluters is unfair.

    Comment by Kit P | July 15, 2009

  66. Rufus said: "…those numbers were on-road, off-road, etc. Minnesota has much more Ag. Many more pickups, farm trucks, etc."Rufus,I used only the highway miles portion of the USDOT/FHWA stats for 2006.Also, why do you think Wisconsin has an E10 mandate? It doesn't. It is common in that state to see fuel stations with signs saying, "Real gas," "No ethanol in our gas," or "Better mileage – no ethanol."

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 15, 2009

  67. Do you people ever read my responses. I gave a link to information on S. Wisconsin's EPA E10 Mandate.1994.Smog, immediately, went down 16%.

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  68. Hey, if they can make biobutanol work, more power to them. As I said, the only thing I'm against is Imported oil. It's not looking too good, so far, though.BP has pulled out of it's biobutanol ventures, from what I've read.

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  69. Rufus,My apologies, I missed the "S." you put in front of Wisconsin. But anyway, that was a mandate on blended, boutique fuels with added oxygenates, not necessarily ethanol, and that only applies to the metro counties in Southeast Wisconsin around Milwaukee and down the lake shore towards Chicago.Wisconsin does not have a statewide E10 mandate.You still haven't satisfactorily explained why Minnesota (with mandated E10) has worse fuel mileage than Wisconsin. (Minnesota and Wisconsin are about as near being demographic twins as any two states in the U.S. can be.)"As I said, the only thing I'm against is Imported oil."Your words would carry more sincerity if corn farmers and ethanol plants would wean themselves off fossil fuels.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 15, 2009

  70. Yes, I have. Minnesota has a lot more ag than Wisconsin. Thus, a higher percentage of Pickups, and farm trucks.You're just being argumentative. There has been post, after post; comment, after comment, on ethanol plants moving away from nat gas. Farmers are, at the moment, "tied up" by the big tractor companies' (John Deere) refusal to warrantee biodiesel higher than 5%. A lot of farmers drive those FFV Pickemups, though.

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  71. Rufus,You have not made a compelling explanation of why fuel economy in Minnesota is 11% worse than in Wisconsin. You're on shaky ground and you know it. You're just making a WAG with your theory that Minnesota has a higher percentage of ag trucks.Actually, because the Twin Cities are so much larger than the Milwaukee area, Minnesota has a higher ratio of urban/rural population than Wisconsin. (Not much, but Minnesota's population is marginally more urban than Wisconsin's.)You continue to overlook the one glaring–and obvious–difference between the two states. Minnesota mandates E10, while Wisconsin doesn't.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 15, 2009

  72. Hello Robert,I really enjoy reading your blog. Even though I don't always agree with your opinions, it is a valued resource and frequently gives me a welcome reality check.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?Thank you!Michael

    Comment by Mike | July 15, 2009

  73. Gotta wonder why Kit P has to keep bringing my name up."I can tell that Wendell and Clee are well meaning but do not understand small town USA. Rufus knows what I mean. American farmers are one of the most productive segments of US industry and the greatest stewards of the environment. Having them characterized as greedy polluters is unfair.."Is it just to insult me (while pretending not to, to keep RR off his back for wasting our time) to get a response? I have never characterized american farmers as greedy polluters and resent the implication that I have. The only thing I said in this thread that I can see might trigger that response is that I suggested that Exxon's interest in biofuel is not a change in Exxon's position on ethanol. I gave no opinion of my own on what I think about ethanol. I said nothing about polluters or money, or greed or farmers or small towns.

    Comment by Clee | July 15, 2009

  74. I like this blog because it promotes honest-in-your-face-discussion on energy and environment topics. What I don't like about this blog is the tendency to focus on economic growth and technological attributes of energy and environment. Believe me, I understand technology, I interned at NREL, have a BS in Chemical engineering, and got a B in thermodynamics. I am not $ or machinery, I'm human and find human topics to be equally interesting. Though economics is actually a study of humanity, we seem to avoid discussion of individual human behavior when we talk about $. Energy, like mass, cannot be created nor destroyed. So Robert, here are some questions I'd like to see some discussion about: 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?

    Comment by evan | July 15, 2009

  75. Rufus, thank you for the link on the 1994 S. Wisconsin E10 requirement. It answers my question.BTW, I agree with you that trying to compare average mpg between two states with different terrains and different vehicle fleet profiles isn't very meaningful.

    Comment by Clee | July 15, 2009

  76. Wendell, all I can tell you is that if you go back 20 years (I've seen it once, but don't know how to find it now) you will see that the MPG discrepancy between Wi, and Mn has always been there. Look, the fact is, an automobile engine "optimized" for gasoline will usually give up between 1.5, and 2.5% mileage on E10. Some a little better, some a little worse.One word to the wise. If you want to move up to a higher ethanol blend, run your tank down to about 1/4 tank, fill up, and Then, drive at least 10 miles before shutting off the engine. Do Not fill up, and then drive over to the quick shop for a cup of coffee. It still might take a couple of tanks before the ECU adjusts to the higher O2 in the exhaust, and quits trying to "Enrich" the mixture.A lot of people have found that their mileage with E10, or E20/E30 wasn't as bad as they first thought.

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  77. You're welcome, Clee. I think we all, mostly, want the same things.

    Comment by rufus | July 15, 2009

  78. If you have to patience to download 200 page pdfs, you should be able to find the vehicle miles by state, broken down between rural and urban, and motor fuel use by state broken down between gasoline and gasohol, gasohol as percent of highway use of gasoline; highway vs agricultural vs construction vs marine use; and all sorts of things that seems impossible to accurately measure, back to 1945 athttp://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/hss/hsspubsarc.cfmI personally don't think it'll prove much of anything one way or another.

    Comment by Clee | July 16, 2009

  79. Recent college graduate Evan said: "If the US is the least efficient user of highly demanded fossil energy …"Evan, you have to be a recent college graduate to have your head filled with such unscientific nonsense. Don't be a victim of politically correct willful stupidity. Start thinking for yourself.Your premise is wrong. Simply, flat-out wrong. You were sold a bill of anti-American goods at your college. Sue the bastards!First, efficiency is a word which is frequently used by the politically correct coterie, yet few of them understand it. Most outputs in the real world have more than one input. If you lower one input at the expense of increasing another, what have you done to "efficiency"?Classic example is a man with a shovel versus a man with a backhoe. The man with the shovel digs many more feet of trench per gallon of diesel. The man with the backhoe digs many more feet of trench per hour. Which is more efficient? Second, where is the data to support your assumption that the US is the least efficient user of fossil fuels? Using 2005 data, the US generated about $120 of GDP per Million Btu — about the same as places like Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and signficantly better than countries like South Korea, Malaysia, or Russia. Your politically correct college instructors lied to you.Yes, France produced slightly more $GDP/Million Btu than the US — but Bangladesh was much better than France. Are you going to move to Bangladesh tomorrow? Why not, if they are so "efficient"?The great thing about our host RR is his focus on looking at the data (in every area except alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming, but nobody is perfect). That is a model for a guy who has had a political indoctrination instead of an education. It is time to start looking at the data & thinking for yourself.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | July 16, 2009

  80. GDP/capita might make sense. But, then the Frenchman starts bragging about his 5 (6?) weeks of paid vacation.Or, the Italian reminds you of the pleasures of Venician Cuisine; or, the Greek points out the Breathtaking Beauty of his "Islands."Daddy said, "First liar ain't got a chance." 🙂

    Comment by rufus | July 16, 2009

  81. “Gotta wonder why Kit P has to keep bringing my name up.”Because you post interesting links. Also you live in a big city in California that used to have good air quality. No insult was intended or inferred.

    Comment by Kit p | July 16, 2009

  82. Clee said: "I agree with you that trying to compare average mpg between two states with different terrains and different vehicle fleet profiles isn't very meaningful."Clee, You would of course be correct if someone tried to prove something by comparing such disparate states as Alabama and Oregon.But Wisconsin and Minnesota — those two demographic twins of the Upper Midwest — do provide the opportunity for meaningful comparison. (Much as social scientists like to use identical twins for their studies.)Both states have similar topographies*, similar weather, share a boundary in the Mississippi and Saint Croix Rivers, have similar Native American populations, both were settled largely by Europeans of Germanic and Nordic heritage, and both have roughly** the same urban/rural ratio.When comparing the average fuel economy of both states, the only immediately obvious difference is the difference in the fuel sold in each state. Minnesota mandates E10, while Wisconsin does not.—————-* Despite Minnesota's well-known claim of 10,000 lakes, Wisconsin outdoes them with more than 15,000.** The urban/rural ratio of Minnesota is slightly higher due to the population of the Twin Cities.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 16, 2009

  83. RRJune 4 2009Hydrofracturing in oil production draws federal scrutinyBy Rick Plumlee | Wichita Eagle"A congressional oversight hearing will convene today to take a critical look at the oil and gas production process of hydraulic fracturing, a move that has put the industry on alert."Environmental groups and some U.S. representatives have cited safety concerns about the process, also known as hydrofracturing, and have called for the process to come under federal regulation.""But industry leaders and state officials say there's no cause for alarm and that states have proven they are capable of keeping an eye on the technology that has been widely used for 50 years." Oil companies have been doing it for 50 years and have been creating minor quakes. WHEN SOMETHING SIMILAR HAPPENS IN GEO-THERMAL, IT IS OF COURSE A "BIG DEAL"Yipeeeee !!!!John

    Comment by Anonymous | July 16, 2009

  84. Hi Robert,What's your thought on how people in 6k+ heating degree day/year climates are going to be staying warm in the winter in 10 or 15 years?

    Comment by Will | July 16, 2009

  85. Also, Rufus… How are there no transportation costs for E85? If you could call Global, Sprague, and Valero tomorrow and explain to them how to get it to me for what they pay for it, I'd be obliged. It doesn't go by pipeline though, it's truck or barge, and nothing about the diesel cost of that is negligible. And really, your no infrastructure cost idea is just not so. You can't just pump out a mid-grade tank and make it E85. Maybe one could use a post 1992 fiberglass UST, but it would still be a retrofit for a lot of dispenser components and the nozzle. E85 likes to eat yellow metals and certain kinds of plastic, and every entity with a weights & measures division wants to weigh in on the configuration of the point of sale. Banks will not lend to accomplish the retrofit, largely because liquid product is not the profit center in a modern gas station- it's the convenience store and the car wash that make money.

    Comment by Will | July 16, 2009

  86. Wendell Mercantile wrote:"When comparing the average fuel economy of both states, the only immediately obvious difference is the difference in the fuel sold in each state. Minnesota mandates E10, while Wisconsin does not."Mandate or not, the DOT estimates that all the gasoline sold in both Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2004 and 2003 was gasohol, i.e. E10.http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs04/htm/mf33e.htmhttp://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs03/htm/mf33e.htmI can't find the equivalent chart for 2006, so I'll try to do the same calculations on 2004 as you did for 2006. In 2004, Minnesota drivers traveled 56.570 billion mileswhile burning 2.644097 billion gallons of fuel.Minnesota's average fuel economy was 21.39 mpgIn 2004 Wisconsin drivers traveled 60.399 billion mileswhile burning 2.480347 billion gallons of fuel.Wisconsin's average fuel economy was 24.35 mpghttp://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs04/htm/mf21.htmhttp://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs04/htm/vm2.htmThe average fuel economy in Wisconsin was 13.8% better than Minnesota's in 2004 when 100% of the gasoline sold in both states was E10 gasohol. The higher average fuel economy in Wisconsin vs Minnesota in 2004 can not be attributed to the difference between gasoline that has less than 10% ethanol vs E10.I still don't think it's very meaningful, since I don't see how they can really know exactly how many vehicle miles were actually travelled.

    Comment by Clee | July 16, 2009

  87. Here is a guy who is going to use biomass to make oil for between 10 and 30 dollars per barrel out of biomass. He says he has figured out the secret!http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2009/07/16/new-commercial-effort-for-biomass-pyrolysis-to-gasoline/comment-page-1/#comment-30153Hope he doesn't cry too loud in a couple of years when it all goes down the loo.

    Comment by Russ | July 16, 2009

  88. "The average fuel economy in Wisconsin was 13.8% better than Minnesota's in 2004 when 100% of the gasoline sold in both states was E10 gasohol."That is clearly wrong. Only about 45-50% of the fuel sold in Wisconsin is E10. It is common to see fuel stations welcoming customers with signs that say things such as, "No ethanol in our gas." "No ethanol – better MPG." "Real gasoline here."Of the two states, the only one with mandated E10 is Minnesota.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 16, 2009

  89. WendallYou are beating a dead horse for several reasons. First the data quality does support any conclusions. There are too many variables. Second, you are making up reason to be anti-ethanol. Fuels have different volumetric energy content. What does this have to do with anything? As an engineer you take the cards you are dealt and design your system around reality. Once again the reason we are using ethanol is to reduce importing oil. Mission accomplished.

    Comment by Kit P | July 16, 2009

  90. "Second, you are making up reason to be anti-ethanol."Kit P.I'm not trying to be "anti-ethanol." I'm trying to be pro-common sense, and would also like national policy to be driven by science and the Laws of Thermodynamics instead of Corn Belt politics."Fuels have different volumetric energy content."Of course they do. That's why it's important people realize ethanol is no bargain. In fact, that's exactly why we should sell fuel by energy content instead of by volume."Once again the reason we are using ethanol is to reduce importing oil. Mission accomplished."That mission has not been accomplished. At least not until corn farmers and ethanol plants demonstrate they can make ethanol without needing to consume fossil fuels in the process. If ethanol actually has a positive net energetic return, they should be able to produce ethanol by using some of the ethanol they make as their energy source. No one is yet close to doing that.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 16, 2009

  91. Wendell, have you read the NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY, May 2001? Please tell me on what page you think US energy policy violates either the principles of thermodynamics or common sense. I am not aware of any changes to ethanol under the current administration. There is no requirement for ethanol to be a bargain. However, when you look at the cost/benefit of renewable energy and environmental regulations, ethanol is looking very good. I bought gas in South Dakota and E-10 was cheaper that regular. I do not have a problem with fossil fuels such as Powder River Basin coal being used to process corn into ethanol. PRB coal is a domestic product. While anaerobic digesters are a better source of energy, you may want to consider giving the industry a little time to improve performance.The mission has been accomplished. For many years I listened to the presentations about ethanol and biodiesel at renewable energy at renewable energy conferences. The said they could produce transportation fuel with the right incentives. They have succeeded. Now we have actual performance to judge. Just because ethanol does not live up to Wendell’s expectations does not that the goal has not been accomplished. When ethanol preformed better than expected, congress moved the goal line. When something is a good idea, demand more of it.

    Comment by Kit P | July 16, 2009

  92. "I do not have a problem with fossil fuels such as Powder River Basin coal being used to process corn into ethanol."I do. It would be more efficient to process PRB coal directly into methanol. The thermodynamic losses of coal -> methanol are far less than using coal to inefficiently turn corn into ethanol through enzymatic fermentation and distillation.Did you know 20% of the energy consumed in distilling corn beer is needed to get that last 5% of water out of the ethanol?And then when the ethanol gets to a user, it leads to reduced fuel economy such as that demonstrated in the disparity between Minnesota and Wisconsin.Using an inefficient process to make an inferior product is not good practice. (It may be good politics, but it's not good practice.)It would be more efficient using natural gas directly as a fuel, and converting coal directly into methanol ~ but that would leave a lot of corn farmers out of the money flow and would never pass political muster.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 16, 2009

  93. 1) Methanol has a lower btu/volume content than ethanol, and2) Methanol is poisonous as hell (and, virtually, impossible to remove from Ground Water.)3) As newer engines, with less displacement, and the ability to generate greater compression, come on-line we will see our ethanol-powered cars getting as good or better "mileage/volume" as the present fleet. Never overlook Ethanol's 129 Octane Rating (as opposed to straight gasoline's rating of 85. 4) Oil Refineries DO NOT power their refineries with Gasoline. Why should an ethanol refinery power itself with ethanol. Gasoline, and Ethanol are Transportation Fuels. You're just anti-ethanol, Wendell. Don't know why, don't care. But, you are.

    Comment by rufus | July 16, 2009

  94. I'm not anti-natural gas, but it is a Non-renewable resource (whereas, Corn is a Renewable Resource,) and it would be much more expensive to transition to nat gas ($750,000.00 per station?) vs, maybe $15,000.00?I doubt there is any difference between my "flexfuel" Chevy Impala, and the "Standard" Impala, other than the ECU programming.

    Comment by rufus | July 16, 2009

  95. Wendell said:" If ethanol actually has a positive net energetic return, they should be able to produce ethanol by using some of the ethanol they make as their energy source. No one is yet close to doing that."———————————–Wendell,It is mostly Natural gas and electricity that are used to refine crude oil into gasoline at oil refineries.Refineries are not using gasoline to make gasoline. Gasoline is the finished product.Why do you insist that ethanol be used to make ethanol ? Ethanol is the finished product.John EIA: Fuel Consumed at Refinerieshttp://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pnp_capfuel_dcu_nus_a.htm

    Comment by Anonymous | July 16, 2009

  96. The refineries are self-sufficient, though. They can run the refineries off of the fuel gas they produce. If it is cheaper to purchase natural gas, they will do that. An ethanol plant can't do that, because they don't produce enough energy. They only exist because they are subsidized with cheap fossil fuel.

    Comment by Anonymous | July 16, 2009

  97. The ethanol refineries could, easily, burn the DDGS for power, but it would be economically silly. The DDGS are more valuable than the nat gas they use. The NGLS the oil refineries use are, basically, perfectly suited for running a refinery. And, less valuable than DDGS.And, again, you're overlooking (again) the fact that ethanol plants are transitioning to "biomass for energy."Some of you arre like old Pimental, who wants to keep using productivity numbers from the early 80's. It's "All Heat," and "No Light."

    Comment by rufus | July 17, 2009

  98. RefuseYou are doing fine presenting your position. The role of plants in nature is to produce food and fiber. Energy is a byproduct. Processing out the energy just make sense.

    Comment by Kit P | July 17, 2009

  99. As anyone who knows squat about biology will tell you, the role of plants is to produce more plants.

    Comment by Anonymous | July 17, 2009

  100. Jus bluffin most'a the time, Kit. I'll leave it to you all to figure out, When.:)

    Comment by rufus | July 17, 2009

  101. Some disinformation about methanol Rufus. Most alcohols, methanol included, are quickly metabolized by microbes in groundwater. It doesn't last long. You might be thinking of MTBE.

    Comment by Anonymous | July 17, 2009

  102. Wendell, you have crossed a line that I, as a Minnesotan, cannot allow. Your outrageous lie that, "Despite Minnesota's well-known claim of 10,000 lakes, Wisconsin outdoes them with more than 15,000." Is an absolutely ridiculous claim that shreds your credibility.The "Land of 10,000 Lakes" is a simple slogan promoting a prominent feature of Minnesota. It is not a factual piece of data that we have exactally 10,000 lakes. The fact is we have more than 15,000 lakes. These are bodies of water that are have names and are greater than a certian size (I think somewhere over 4 acres).The claim that Wisconsin has more than 15,000 lakes is just stupid. You can only get to that number if you count every unnamed mud puddle and the yellow lake that forms in the low part of the Lambeau Field parking lot before Packer games.You need to apply consistent criteria when comparing things. If you use the same criteria that gets you 15,000 in Wisconsin, you will get well over 20,000 in Minnesota. If you use the criteria that Minnesota (and hydrologists) use, then you get over 15,000 in MN and probably about 4 to 5,000 in WI.So if we're talking about lakes or energy, lets make sure we compare apple to apples, and not sweet U of MN developed Honeycrisp apples to stinky cheese.By the way, there are some differences between MN and WI. For one the WI average BMI (body mass index) is a bit higher (I would have guessed much higher). But I think the main difference is that people in WI tend to drive slower, because it is hard to keep the car on the road when you're driving drunk.Also, the reason that WI rejects the E10 mandate is due to the food vs. fuel debate. They are not worried about corn, they are worried about the alcohol. In WI alcohol is at the base of the food pyramid.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | July 17, 2009

  103. Anon, that's interesting. It's true, I was extrapolating MTBE into Methanol. Sloppy thinking, I guess. Do you happen to have a link to some info on this metabolization. I really would like to read up on it.

    Comment by rufus | July 17, 2009

  104. Wendell, My mistake. In the 1984 Highway Statistics, I had seen a chart for "Gasohol as percent of Highway Use of Gasoline" and I thought the 2004 chart I mentioned was the same thing, reformatted. Now I see that it's comparing uses of different kinds of "gasohol", where they redefined "gasohol" in 1993. So Wisconsin used 1.085 billion gallons of gasohol vs 2.480 billion total gasoline for highway use, or 43.75%. So I'll try to do the same calculations on 1984 as you did for 2006 using tables MF-21A and VM-2. This might be the analysis from 20 year old data that rufus mentioned. In 1984, Minnesota drivers traveled 31.826 billion mileswhile burning 1.880174 billion gallons of fuel. Minnesota's average fuel economy was 16.93 mpgIn 1984 Wisconsin drivers traveled 35.367 billion mileswhile burning 1.873786 billion gallons of fuel. Wisconsin's average fuel economy was 18.87 mpgThe average fuel economy in Wisconsin was 11.4% better than Minnesota's in 1984 when 0.14% of the gasoline sold in Minnesota was E10 gasohol, vs 0.11% in Wisconsin. The higher average fuel economy in Wisconsin vs Minnesota in 1984 can not be attributed to the difference between gasoline that has less than 10% ethanol vs the almost non-existent E10.So I think the two states are more like fraternal twins than identical twins. But I don't trust the vehicle miles traveled data, so it's still pretty meaningless.

    Comment by Clee | July 17, 2009

  105. What do you think about the economist article about hardening soft wood?http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14027269&subjectID=348924&fsrc=nwl

    Comment by James Clary | July 17, 2009

  106. Rufus ~ "The ethanol refineries could, easily, burn the DDGS for power, but it would be economically silly. The DDGS are more valuable than the nat gas they use."They could? Easily? Are you sure of that?Short story: Four years ago a company planned an ethanol plant not far from me. They ended up killing their plans when they discovered there wasn't a big enough diameter natural gas line serving the area to supply their needs. If what you say is true, they could have gone ahead with their plans and just burned some of the DDGS they produced in palce of the NG.You say it's economically silly. On the contrary, it's a well-known and undisputed fact that without subsidies, tax credits, rebates, and protective tariffs, the correlation ratio between what is economically possible and what is thermodynamically possible is very close to +1.0.Dennis Moore ~ "…you have crossed a line that I, as a Minnesotan, cannot allow."Dennis,Love your sense of humor. Actually I have the greatest affection for Minnesotans ~ my daughter even attends UMinn-Twin Cities. But I must insist you take back those comments about …the yellow lake that forms in the low part of the Lambeau Field parking lot before Packer games. That yellow puddle is only there when the Viking fans come across the Saint Croix River to watch their hapless team go up against the mighty Pack. (It's from the fear they feel as they get that first whiff of smoke from the countless bratwurst being grilled at the tailgate parties.)Cheers,Wendell

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | July 17, 2009

  107. Q: Do you envision that there will be alot of IP lawsuit once cleantech is mainstream? Do you think this will be or is a disincentive for investment in this area?

    Comment by takchess | July 18, 2009

  108. OK, locking this now as I am starting to work on answering the questions. I don't want questions to continue to trickle into this thread after I stop monitoring it.Thanks to all for the questions.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | July 26, 2009


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