R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

Cellulosic Ethanol Falling Short

The reason I spend time debunking wild claims is that I think they damage the entire bioenergy sector in the long run. People who issue press releases claiming they can produce fuel for $1/gallon – and by the way we can do it next year if you give us the money – may attract some funding, but in the long run if they can’t deliver, investors will shy away from the entire sector.

One of the things I have spent time debunking is the notion that we are going to rapidly scale up and produce massive quantities of cellulosic ethanol. I believe – for fundamental reasons of chemistry and physics – that it isn’t going to happen. I have said that I think the people who are getting money to build cellulosic ethanol plants will start coming up with a litany of excuses for the cash they burned through, and their failure to deliver. A year ago, I wrote:

The next few years will see a record amount of back-pedaling from most of the companies trying to establish a foothold in this space – and overpromising on their technology to do so. There will be the normal litany of excuses – such as ‘the oil companies are suppressing the technology’ – but in the end the chemistry, physics, and most importantly the capital costs and logistical challenges will catch up with them. Yes, excuses will be made, but those who know a little about the technology will know what really happened. It’s going to be TDP all over again.

Today a new article in Nature says that cellulosic ethanol schedules are slipping and prospects are dimming – partially because investors have gotten burned by rosy biofuel promises (which is exactly my fear). The article is:

Cellulosic ethanol hits roadblocks

The article is behind a pay wall, but I have access. So I can provide some excerpts:

In February 2007, the US Department of Energy selected BlueFire and five other companies to negotiate for up to US$385 million in funding for commercial-scale plants. And later that year, Congress issued a federal mandate to produce 61 billion litres of cellulosic biofuels annually for transportation by 2022.

As I have said on repeated occasions, I don’t believe the advanced biofuel mandates will be met, and I think you will start to see targets slipping next year (the first year the advanced mandate really phases in). I predicted quite explicitly a year ago that we wouldn’t come close to meeting the targets. The Nature article agrees:

According to ThinkEquity, an investment bank based in San Francisco, California, the United States will have the capacity to produce less than 13 million litres of cellulosic ethanol this year, and it will almost certainly fail to meet the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) projection of 381 million litres of cellulosic biofuels in 2010. Two of the six companies selected by the Department of Energy to negotiate for commercial plant funding have dropped out of the programme, and several plants belonging to other companies have been delayed.

They also casually note more delays in Vinod Khosla’s Range Fuels project:

Range Fuels, based in Broomfield, Colorado, originally planned to complete the final phase of construction on a Georgia commercial plant in 2011 but has delayed that until late 2012, says chief executive David Aldous.

The reason I have criticized Vinod Khosla is that I believe he is out there making promises that he can’t deliver upon. But he is Vinod Khosla, so people (private equity and taxpayers) give him money to invest, potentially diverting it from ventures that make less noise, but have more real potential to deliver. And a lot has been invested into his Range Fuels venture. However, it is no surprise to me at all that the schedule has been slipping since the project was first announced.

I first covered the Range Fuels ground-breaking as one of my Top Energy Stories of 2007 (See #6). A year later, I covered the first announced delay in my Top Energy Stories of 2008 (again #6). The initial announcements from Range were that the first 20 MM gy phase is expected to be fully complete in 2008. Then that was delayed until 2009. Next it was scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2010, with the production of ethanol and methanol at a run rate of less than 10 million gallons per year to follow in the second quarter of 2010.” So now we see delays pushing into 2012. As some readers noted, this is the “final phase” they are talking about, but they need to start producing from the first phase before they have to worry about any final phases.

The article also discusses Iogen, and the fact that they “suspended operations on an Idaho plant to focus its resources on a possible plant in Saskatchewan.” Iogen has been producing for long enough at their pilot plant that they should have a good idea of what the economics really look like. That’s why I don’t expect them to build a plant, but instead to keep announcing that they are studying the issue.

The article also noted that researchers at Sandia National Laboratories had predicted that “cellulosic ethanol could compete with petrol in 2030 only if oil was $90 a barrel or higher.” Left unsaid is that this hinges upon technical improvements.

I find the entire issue very frustrating, because I have felt for years that our energy policy is being pushed by people with influence, but not necessarily people who are knowledgeable about energy. So what happens is that we waste years chasing dead ends and losing precious time as oil depletion marches on – and we spend our tax dollars because someone made a lot of empty promises.

These delays should also serve as a message to those who think the market will fix the problem of oil depletion by driving prices higher and making alternatives more affordable. The problem is that it takes years to bring these projects online, so you have to have a long-range plan for pursuing the right strategies. If oil prices are back to $150 next year, we will either pay up or do without. The energy business isn’t like a widget maker that can easily set up shop and compete for market share. It takes years and lots of money.

Note: I originally put this up in a hurry, and in reading it later I felt it came across as unnecessarily abrasive. In my haste I had also chopped off a quote that made it appear out of context. That was not my intention, but after viewing some of the comments I reread the story and I saw that this was the case. So I have corrected it.

Advertisements

October 2, 2009 - Posted by | cellulosic ethanol, range fuels, Vinod Khosla

77 Comments

  1. Follow the money – where did that federal mandate to produce 61 billion litres of cellulosic biofuels annually for transportation by 2022 come from? (Assuming it didn't creep in in conference).

    Comment by jph | October 2, 2009

  2. Biofuels? Pah! Who needs 'em! The one sure guarantor of future liquid fuel supply is that if The American Way of Life™ requires 10 mpg cars, it's damn well gonna have them!

    Comment by PeteS | October 2, 2009

  3. This should also serve as a message to those who think the market will fix the problem of oil depletion by driving prices higher and making alternatives more affordable. The problem is that it takes years to bring these projects online, so you have to have a long-range plan for pursuing the right strategies. If oil prices are back to $150 next year, we will either pay up or do without. The energy business isn't like a widget maker that can easily set up shop and compete for market share. It takes years and lots of money.[Choke! Cough! Wheez! Sniff! Atchoo!]Got to disagree, RR! Basically you have two options:1. Let the government make (wise) investment with tax-dollars, like those clever investments in GM and Chrysler.2. Let the private sector make (careful) investments with its own money.You rightly point out that there is a lot of wild claims being thrown around, and that neither method is fail safe. Still #2 is far preferable over #1, for the simple reason that a government department (and its political appointee head, Mr. Birdbrain) looks good if they have spent the money. Let the next adminstration figure out it was a good investment. In the mean time the local Congressman/Senator/Energy Secratary/President can claim with a straight face that he (firmly) supports renewable energy/Amarican jobs/innovation/etc.The #2 type investment is in effect rich people, like Vinod Khosla, looking for some quick returns, understanding full well that there are risks. Doesn't justify the dishonesty we see from some of the start-ups, but at least the money usually comes from folks who can afford (or should be able) to lose the money.Back to your point about the market's ability to fix things: Think of price as a signal: At $70/bbl there is no crisis. You may believe you hear a freight train coming, but there is a chance that you are wrong about it. Once… make that if the recovery gets under way, things are likely to change.$200/bbl will do nothing for corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol or large scale biodiesel (DIY will still work great). But it will eventually smoke out a real alternative.There really is no other way: Why should the prostitutians take my tax dollars and invest it in (another) dubious scheme, most like the one with the highest paid lobbyist? Even if the entire Energy Department was filled with only honest people, and all lobbyists were to die by heart attack tonight, Washington still won't get it right: there are some things that can't be solved by central planning. The issues are simply too complex.You need the free market for that. Not the pretty market, the ideal market or the 100% fair market. There's no other way…

    Comment by Optimist | October 2, 2009

  4. This should also serve as a message to those who think the market will fix the problem of oil depletion by driving prices higher and making alternatives more affordable.This proves the opposite, doesn't it: the failure of cellulosic ethanol had nothing to do with free markets, and everything to do with eager politicians, doing their bit, showing they are serious about renewable energy/energy independence/supporting rural America/local jobs/etc.If it was up to the free market, the damage would be limited to the investors of Range Fuels and other similar start-ups.And who knows, there is a chance that Range Fuels might still pull it off, although it's looking more and more like TDP…

    Comment by Optimist | October 2, 2009

  5. I don't have any inside dope, but I think the Nature article might be interpreted somewhat differently regarding Range. Remember that they have a modular approach, 10 million gallon each, and they say full capacity would be 100 million gallons/yr. I think that full 100 million gallon build-out is what is being delayed until 2012, but I think they'll still bring the first 10 million gallon unit on line sometime next year. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd be very surprised if that initial 10 million gallon unit would be delayed until 2012. If they don't bring it on line next year they really are in big trouble. However, I also think they will take a lot longer than 2012 to expand to 100 million gallons. Seems like they'd need to run that first unit for at least a year or two before adding on.

    Comment by OxyMaven | October 2, 2009

  6. Actually, Range said they would have the first phase completed in 08'.From your link: construction of the first 20 MMgy phase is expected to be fully complete in 2008, Mandich said.They still say they'll start producing in the second quarter of 2010.I've said all along that we will probably need $3.00 – $3.50 gasoline to make cellulosic work (without subsidies.) It may be more. We'll see.

    Comment by rufus | October 2, 2009

  7. That was earlier, Rufus. 2008 is passed, and we are more than halfway through 2009 and no ethanol from even the first phase. They have been silent for quite a while, but announcements on the first phase have been that it would be delayed and delayed. Now we hear about more delays.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 2, 2009

  8. You need the free market for that. Not the pretty market, the ideal market or the 100% fair market. There's no other way…But there is no true free market. What you need is tax schemes in place that truly incentivize the behaviors you are trying to change. Giving money to would be cellulosic producers who simply make a lot of noise is not the right way.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 2, 2009

  9. Well, I'm not going to pretend to know if "cellulosic" is going to work out, because I surely don't. I have noticed that everything in the cellulosic universe is moving very slowly, if at all. I know they are, mostly, blaming it on financing going sideways, but I have to admit I'm having my doubts.As a side-note, what's the "latest" on Bluefire Ethanol. I couldn't access the Nature article.

    Comment by rufus | October 2, 2009

  10. RR,Thanks for sharing some quotes from this "subscriber only" nature article from London.I have some ideas specifically about Range's delays, but these thoughts are simply personal speculation, so I won't share anything here on this blog as this would then become no more than rumor, – really just educated guesses herein.What I find most interesting today is these fresh delays being highlighted are from well capitalized Companies who have had multi-millions of cash flow in combined grant and private funding. This article didn't seem to expose the plights of other firm's operating in financial vacuums simply because of a few noticeable big-time outright failures combined with fresh delays saying next year, then another year, etc., – after spouting such earlier stock story (hype) claims. Perhaps we will soon read additional information presented from informed parties?It is really bright autumn these days with temps falling low enough to begin freezing water in the dog's dish. Winter season crisps beginning in the air… Night.Cliff

    Comment by Anonymous | October 2, 2009

  11. As a side-note, what's the "latest" on Bluefire Ethanol. I couldn't access the Nature article.Here is the rest of what the article said about Bluefire:But after a delay due to permit issues, Blue- Fire found itself facing a formidable roadblock: the global economic crunch. “It put us right in the middle of the meltdown,” says chief execu- tive Arnold Klann. With more financing still needed for construction, he says, the company has now pushed the plant’s start-up date to late 2010 or early 2011.A couple of years ago, Klann would have had reason to be optimistic. Cellulosic ethanol — a biofuel that can be produced from agricultural residue, grasses and municipal waste — was touted as superior to maize (corn) ethanol because it produces fewer greenhouse-gas emis- sions and does not compete with food-supply needs. In February 2007, the US Department of Energy selected BlueFire and five other com- panies to negotiate for up to US$385 million in funding for commercial-scale plants.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 3, 2009

  12. Cellulosic ethanol is easy. Cellulosic ethanol at a viable price? Awfully hard, it seems.

    Comment by rufus | October 3, 2009

  13. But there is no true free market.Too true! Here's an idea: why don't we treat OPEC like we treat other monopolies, for example the diamond people, De Beers. Much of the instability in the oil markets are the result of people trying to guess what the data show that OPEC is hiding.But of course, rather than lean on OPEC, or heaven forbid offending them, US presidents suck up until the King of Saudi Arabia (aka the King of Fifteen) has trouble swallowing.What you need is tax schemes in place that truly incentivize the behaviors you are trying to change.Incentives can be good. However I don't see the prostitutians doing this in an honest way. All they seem to care about is taking pork back to the home district, and getting re-elected.Giving money to would be cellulosic producers who simply make a lot of noise is not the right way.And yet that is what keeps happening everytime the prostitutians get involved. See above: that cellulosic ethanol producer must have relocated to the right district or donated to the right campaign.BTW, the prostitutians who get the closest to getting this right is the CA legislature. They at least let the academics calculate the actual GHG savings for a particular fuel, before handing over the cash.GHG savings is not the perfect yard stick, but it is streets ahead of what anyone else is using.BTW, what part did you change?

    Comment by Optimist | October 3, 2009

  14. BTW, what part did you change?The quote was the one about making product in 2008. By cutting it where I did, it wasn't clear that they were only talking about the first phase. I also made it clear that the latest delay refers to the full project. And I toned it down a bit in a couple of locations. When I re-read it I almost sounded angry, when I was really just in a hurry.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 3, 2009

  15. Unless there is some sort of breakthrough in the gene side, I just don't see cellulosic ethanol working out. There just isn't enough calories in big bales of biomass.Even if it works out, it is still ethanol with all the problems of transporting it, and then mixing it with gasoline. I think we have much better alternatives, including PHEVs, and CNG cars. I like the idea of a PHEV with a 60 mile range, and an all-ethanol generator. If we want biofuels, there are better alternatives than ethanol, those being palm oil and pongamia pinatta. Vegetable oil can be made into diesel easily. We may yet see pongamia pinnata plantations across the southern U.S. It is also a great idea for Sunbelt cities to plant pongamia pinatta along streets, and then collect the oil to power city cars etc. But that would be too easy. I also like the idea of a bio-diesel PHEV.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 3, 2009

  16. Unless there is some sort of breakthrough in the gene side, I just don't see cellulosic ethanol working out. There just isn't enough calories in big bales of biomass.Note that no GM breakthrough will address the cal/bale issue.I also like the idea of a bio-diesel PHEV.Make it green diesel PHEV and I almost have to agree with you…

    Comment by Optimist | October 3, 2009

  17. “I think we have much better alternatives, ..”Better how?There is a systematic way of answering this question. It is called LCS adhering to ISO 14000 methods. Armed with the knowledge of better choices for the environment, engineers can make better design choices using methods like industrial ecology. “If we want biofuels, there are better alternatives than ethanol, ..”This is called limited thinking. All of the worthwhile research I have read leads to the conclusion that biofuels are a much better environmental choice than PHEVs, and CNG POV even if consumers would accept the latter.So why are we mandating corn ethanol? Because it is a better environmental choice than gasoline.So why are we mandating cellulose ethanol? Because it is a better environmental choice than corn ethanol. RR likes to point out failure but real engineers that failure is part of doing anything new. Clearly the best environmental choice is for POV transportation is biodiesel.So is there a way to use expansive thinking to make better choices. RR linked a paper from Purdue suggesting that rotating corn and soybeans was a better choice. Although RR has still not addressed““significance of the difference” Wait for it!Farmers in that part of the country could produce both E-10 and B-10. Make a few more improvements and we are looking at E-85/B-85.It is again important to point out to the younger readers that Indiana farmers have been growing animal feed for many years. Significant environmental issues were not the result of farming but large industrial cities not farming.The perennial problems American farmers had was finding a market to support their family without working in a factory. Biofuels are a good environmental choice and economic choice.

    Comment by Kit P | October 3, 2009

  18. There is a systematic way of answering this question. It is called LCS adhering to ISO 14000 methods.When Kit says things like this, I really have to question whether he has ever been directly exposed to LCS at all – or whether he has just read about it. First, I am going to assume that Kit really means the more rigorous LCA rather than the simplified LCS (assessment versus screening). So my comments are going to be on LCA, but the same applies even more so for LCS.LCA can be a useful tool, but there as many bad ones (maybe more) out there than good ones. What makes a good one? Well, if you are doing an LCA on a commercial enterprise, and you are considering the actual inputs and outputs (and not what they might do someday when they put those wood waste boilers in), then you may end up with a good LCA.However, the LCAs for cellulosic ethanol aren’t based on commercial operations. In that case, people make all sorts of assumptions on what they might do in a commercial operation. I have been involved in the development of LCAs, and I can tell you that in this situation you can drastically change the LCA by simply making more favorable assumptions.We could do the same with wind or solar. We can do our LCA and make some pretty optimistic assumptions on storage and availability of electric cars. Voila! Wind and solar are providing all of our energy with a fraction of the environmental footprint of liquid fuels. But Kit would have not part of that; he would insist it was garbage in, garbage out. Yet he is perfectly willing to accept that sort of garbage if it favors his preconceptions.All of the worthwhile research I have read…Translation: Research that confirms my beliefs is worthwhile research. Thus, all of the worthwhile research I read confirms biofuels as the better choice.So why are we mandating cellulose ethanol? Because it is a better environmental choice than corn ethanol.This from Kit’s GIGO LCAs.RR likes to point out failure but real engineers that failure is part of doing anything new. As I have pointed out, Kit, this isn’t new. “Real” engineers know that. Maybe it is new to you, but cellulosic ethanol was actually commercialized 100 years ago. The reason for the failures again has roots embedded in the reasons those first plants didn’t operate for very long. No, the reason for many of the failures now is you have a lot of people who don’t appreciate the history, think this is new technology, and therefore will be subject to all sorts of breakthroughs. When the breakthroughs don’t come, it is wrongly chalked up by people like you as failure from doing something knew. For many of is, it is failure because of fundamentals.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 3, 2009

  19. This company appears to be just weeks away from producing ethanol from railroad ties, and has a contract for a MSW plant with the city of Edmonton.EnerkemThey're also supposed to build a plant in N. Mississippi.

    Comment by rufus | October 3, 2009

  20. Optimist-I think if PHEVs improved enough–say to 60 mile range on batteries, and then 60 mpg on the generator–we could possibly survive only on biofuels and CNG. We would have to do the math, but if the US fleet switched over, our oil demand would be radically diminished, our air cleaner, and our standard of living higher.The PHEV, as you point out, is not there yet. The first-gen car, GM Volt, looks like a huge step there. If lithium batteries improve as anticipated, and if we have another oil scare, I bet we get there in 10 years.Frankly, I am looking forward to it. I think we have a cleaner and more prosperous future ahead.The ICE was a great invention. But it pollutes, and needs a lot of gasoline. I hope we can move on.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 3, 2009

  21. Despite a number of key issues such as land use and competition for feedstocks supplies for traditional food and feed uses, global use of biofuels is excepted to more than double from 2009 to 2015, according to a new global analysis released by Hart Energy Publishing’s Global Biofuels Center (GBC).Hart’s “Global Biofuels Outlook to 2015” (GBO 2015) concludes that the US will see a growth of total biofuels use of more than 35%. Brazil will grow domestic supplies by 30% and more than double export volume. Indonesia and Malaysia will more than double production of palm oil biodiesel, while Germany will remain the largest producer of biofuels in Europe, according to the analysis. Major new contributors to the growth of global biofuels between 2009 and 2015 include Indonesia, France, China, India, Thailand, Colombia, Malaysia, Philippines and Argentina.Global Biofuel Use to Double by 2015 – GreencarcongressAlso, states there are apprx. 170 2nd Gen Ethanol projects around the globe in varying stages of development (admitting that as many as 30% might never get built.)

    Comment by rufus | October 3, 2009

  22. “LCA can be a useful tool”I am glad RR agrees. I am not going to discuss the marketing uses of LCA. RR is also correct when he says that LCA does not predict if the engineering problems can be overcome. However, we can compare performance of commercial operations to assumptions made in LCA. For example, one process I studied as an environmental engineering student, I had the opportunity to lead the integrated safety team a few years later. This process had one product and two waste streams. After improvement three products and no waste streams. A facility that was laying off workers is not expanding but it took some really cool engineering that was not possible 30 years ago because of material limitations. There are a whole bunch of things that did not seem possible 30 years ago.A nuke plant Texas set set a new record. “its fifth consecutive "breaker-to-breaker production run," a new record for an American nuclear power reactor.” and “STP has operated more than two years without an accident among its 1,200-member workforce. It has a Total Safety Industrial Accident rate of 0.0, …”RR explains why he thinks cellulose ethanol will fail and I am explaining why the effort to make it work should be encouraged.

    Comment by Kit P | October 3, 2009

  23. RR wrote: "What you need is tax schemes in place that truly incentivize the behaviors you are trying to change." I feel like Robert Rapier talking to Rufus about ethanol!Robert — the theory of high taxes is great. The practice has not confirmed the theory. Even our Irish friend acknowledges that the impact of high Euro-taxes on gasoline has been to reduce the use of gasoline (i.e., motorized shopping carts), not to stimulate new technology or even new supplies of fossils.Theories are great, but evidence is greater.Perhaps we need new thinking on the policy side as well as on the technical side. The dreary old high-taxing power-grabbing politician isn't cutting it any more. I like the X-prize concept, but surely there must be other policy ideas worth trying?I want to see new power supply technologies which displace fossils by virtue of being Better, Faster, Cheaper. EUnuchs have clearly shown that high taxes on fossil fuels are not delivering new technologies.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 3, 2009

  24. I believe – for fundamental reasons of chemistry and physics – that it isn't going to happen.Robert,And also the difficulties of logistics and scaling up what are essentially lab experiments into something profitable.Of the two logistics may actually prove the most daunting.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | October 4, 2009

  25. We have to correct Tax Policy in place. We're Incentivizing the heck out of all types of Alternative Fuels.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  26. Robert — the theory of high taxes is great.I am not proposing high taxes. I am proposing to change the way we are taxed by shifting some of the income tax we pay to fossil fuel taxes. This would encourage conservation and alternative transportation, and would improve the prospects for renewables. Further – and very importantly – it would do so without picking technology winners. All renewable options would be competing against each other, but also against higher fossil fuel prices.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 4, 2009

  27. Well, for better, or worse, Robert, the chances of getting any kind of a "gasoline" tax passed (especially, in a Down economy) is "Exactly" Zero.We might as well go on to "Plan B."

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  28. “This would encourage conservation and alternative transportation, and would improve the prospects for renewables.”Why do we want to encourage conservation and alternative transportation?Energy is freedom! It is a little odd that a man who is always getting on an airplane does not understand this.

    Comment by Kit P | October 4, 2009

  29. Why do we want to encourage conservation and alternative transportation?For the same reason we have operated farm policy to give advantages to domestic producers. It just isn’t a good idea to allow food production to be controlled by the lowest cost producer. Doing so is a tremendous risk. Likewise, farming out energy production to the low cost producer has resulted in an increasing dependence on foreign producers for our energy. You may think that’s a good idea; I don’t.Energy is freedom!Freedom that is being provided by the likes of Venezuela. I call that pseudo-freedom, and it can be very fleeting. You have proven time and time again that you support higher fuel taxes; after all, you support our ethanol policies which are paid for by taxpayers. It is bizarre to me then that you would be against doing that in a way that doesn’t try to pick technology winners. It is a little odd that a man who is always getting on an airplane does not understand this.When I get on an airplane, it is almost always for the cause of shifting energy security back to the U.S. by promoting domestic renewable energy. I am in Colorado at a gasification conference, and I am meeting with biomass gasification companies while I am here. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 4, 2009

  30. This would encourage conservation and alternative transportation, and would improve the prospects for renewables. Further – and very importantly – it would do so without picking technology winners. We're Incentivizing the heck out of all types of Alternative Fuels.There is some of that. We give the same PTC for geothermal, hydrokinetic and biomass as we do for wind. We give the blender's credit for biodiesel, methanol and other alcohol mixtures as we do for ethanol, though "renewable diesel" is excluded.On the other hand, they did pick technology winners with the biodiesel and ethanol mandates, with this year's ethanol mandate being 20x bigger then the biodiesel mandate. Why is the ethanol mandate 20x bigger than the biodiesel mandate? If there's a technical answer and not just a political answer, I'd like to hear it.

    Comment by Clee | October 4, 2009

  31. I can't "answer" it. I'll make a couple of observations. We don't, at present, have a really good biodiesel crop in the U.S. We can raise quite a few soybeans, but National average yield is just a little over 40 bu/acre, and you only get about 1.5 gal of biodiesel/bu.Plus, unlike ethanol which uses "starch," a very abundant resource, globally, soybean oil really does put you right in the middle of a food/fuel debate. It's true, we can grow a little canola, and camelina, but we're not really ready for "prime-time," there.We, also, export a little diesel, whereas we import gasoline.Probably, 80%, or more, of the soybeans grown are grown in "rotation" with corn, so it's probably not so "Political," (it's the same "interest" group) as it is practicalities.As a side-note: Despite a very late start due to a lot of spring rain, and one of the coolest summers in memory, we're liable to average Over 165 bu/acre nationally. That's up from 150 bu/acre just year before last. Thus, even though we planted 5 million less acres, and the second biggest producer's (China) crop being down from severe drough, we're liable to have corn coming out of our ears.A lot of farmers are likely to produce their biggest crop ever, one "less" fertilizer," and lose money this year.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  32. Kinuachdrach wrote: "Robert — the theory of high taxes is great. The practice has not confirmed the theory. Even our Irish friend acknowledges that the impact of high Euro-taxes on gasoline has been to reduce the use of gasoline (i.e., motorized shopping carts), not to stimulate new technology or even new supplies of fossils."LOL! You really are clutching at straws, aren't you? Common-rail diesel is a European invention which has completely grabbed the market in the face of higher fuel prices. I realise you may not have heard of these efficient diesels, but you can't blame me for your "not invented here" syndrome. Please feel absolutely free to stick to your gas-guzzling behemoths with the acceleration of a bus and the manoeuverability of a boat. (Although I can understand why you'd want the soft suspension — I've noticed in the last few years that the quality of your road surfaces is seriously deteriorating; you might want to consider raising a few taxes to fix that).

    Comment by PeteS | October 4, 2009

  33. Maybe, we'll just bring our troops home from Europe. That'll pay for a lot of new roads.BTW, if Ireland, France, or Germany became the 51st "State" they'd all have one thing in common. They would be 51st in GDP/Capita. Right behind Mississippi.So don't get too snarky.And, btw, you only get about 12 gallons of diesel per barrel of oil. So, I don't care how good your diesel/mile number is when the world is 10 million barrel oil/day Short of what it needs that diesel car will be just as unaffordable to drive as the gasoline-car.My Flexfuel, however, will be going merrily down the road on homemade moonshine. Just in case you'd like to know.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  34. "Common-rail diesel is a European invention which has completely grabbed the market in the face of higher fuel prices."And common-rail diesel runs on what fuel? A fossil fuel, perchance?Pete — I ccan understand that you have been "drug up" in a Euro environment where bashing the US is considered to be simply normal. It can be a little disconcerting to realize that all those decades of snide Euro trash-talk are finally coming home to roost. Don't worry about it. Just chalk it up to experience — and learn Russian.But that is irrelevant to what we are discussing with RR. High taxes on fossil fuels in Euroland have left the EU as by far the world's largest fossil fuel importer. Those high taxes have failed (as in RAILED!) to generate new post-fossil technologies. They have even FAILED! to generate additional Euro-supplies of fossils.Thanks for paying for that very expensive lesson. Now we all need to put on our thinking caps and come up with a better alternative to FAILED! high taxes as a way to help us into the post-fossil world that surely awaits.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 4, 2009

  35. From the tattered folder Studer produces yellowed photos and a school yearbook. They tell the story of a rural town of 300 people whose lives may never be the same again if a $285 million, first-of-its-kind garbage-to-ethanol plant becomes a reality. The vast majority of Schneider's populace hopes it will. Businesses come and go, struggle to stay alive in and around this burg that hugs the Kankakee River and, while most residents work outside of town, many are unemployed, they say.There's a lot of THIS going on, right now. I have to think some of it's for real.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  36. Supposedly, they've been running a pilot plant for 40,000 hrs, or somesuch. I don't know; they smack a little bit of "blue suede," but there are a Lot of these outfits trying to get started.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  37. RR wrote: "I am proposing to change the way we are taxed by shifting some of the income tax we pay to fossil fuel taxes. This would encourage conservation and alternative transportation, and would improve the prospects for renewables."You are setting your sights far too low, Robert. The soft bigotry of low expectations, etc.Suppose through some miraculous set of circumstances I got the opportunity to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods.I could request Tiger to leave his golf clubs behind & use a baseball bat instead. That way, I might have a chance to "win". But we would both know that my "win" would be meaningless. And I would have lost a unique opportunity to improve my own game by learning from a master.You seem already to have given up hope for "alternatives" ever being able to stand on their own feet, Robert. Your basic assumption is that "alternatives" are always going to be losers. I don't buy that pessimism — at least not on the technological front. Human beings have come a long way from naked scavengers shivering in caves. We can develop better energy sources for our inevitable post-fossil future.But forcing Tiger to use a baseball bat instead of a golf club is simply deceiving ourselves. And as the Euro-experience shows, it does not help reach the post-fossil goal.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 4, 2009

  38. You seem already to have given up hope for "alternatives" ever being able to stand on their own feet, Robert. Your basic assumption is that "alternatives" are always going to be losers.No, that's way, way off the mark. What I believe is that there is a good possibility that we see volatile fossil fuel prices that provide strong headwinds against which alternatives must slog. If we see oil run up to $150, back to $50, up to $200, back to $80 – and so forth – it will be hard for alternatives to make a go of it. The uncertainty is paralyzing. But then if oil finally settles in at $200, you then have a multi-year lag before competitive alternatives can come online. During that time, consumers face the crushing pressure of $200 oil that sends money right out of the country (and I don't believe it is very realistic to expect it to return).What I am saying is this. I think oil prices are going to go much higher. I want to see alternatives get a leg up so we have some decent options. I can tell you that at $200 oil, a number of alternatives are competitive. But if we wait until oil is at $200 to start building out some of those plants, we are going to suffer far more than if we had planned for that eventuality.If I really believed that no alternatives could ever compete with oil, I wouldn't be doing what I am doing and I would be forced to become a complete doomer. When I talk about taxes or subsidies, I don't talk about them as something that will be perpetual. I talk about them in a way that leads us to make choices today that will benefit us in the future.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 4, 2009

  39. The thing is, Robert, There Won't Be Any Money to invest in alternative if the Economy is Flat on it's back. And, that will, likely, be the result of High Taxes on Energy.Subsidies, however, will accomplish the same "positive" goals without having the negative effect of stifling the economy. For example, and devilish confluence of high corn prices (caused by a 50 year flood in the corn belt, and rampant speculation,) and a Crash in Gasoline prices wasn't able to "Kill" the ethanol industry, thanks to the mandates, and a $0.51 blenders' credit.)

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  40. And, that will, likely, be the result of High Taxes on Energy.Doesn't have to be that way. If you shift taxes from income to energy, there are ways this can be accomplished and be tax neutral. But we don't have the will to do it. We have too many people that only hear "tax."Your preference is to pick technology winners. Yet what has happened is that we have heaped all this money into corn ethanol, and it still couldn't stand on its own without the credit. If instead of picking winners, we raised fossil fuel prices we wouldn't incentivize any particular alternative, and the ones with the lowest fossil fuel inputs would have a better shot. That has to happen for alternatives to be competitive in the long run: You have to minimize the fossil fuel inputs.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 4, 2009

  41. No, Hybrids, EV's, Solar, Wind, Hydrogen ALL get subsidies, credits, etc. That was just an example of how subsidies can protect a nascent industry when oil prices fluctuate.Raising energy prices reduces "commerce." It's unlikely that "giving it back" in the form of, say, lower security taxes would equal out. Besides, we know it's not going to happen, so why fantasize.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  42. Kinuachdrach wrote: "Pete — I ccan understand that you have been "drug up" in a Euro environment where bashing the US is considered to be simply normal."If I wasn't so fond of the US as a country I wouldn't have driven the tens of thousands of miles on your roads that qualifies me to comment on their quality. (I'm beginning to realise that YOU don't feel the need to know anything about a subject to comment on it, but I hold myself to a higher standard. Also, I don't consider stating facts to be "US bashing")."High taxes on fossil fuels in Euroland have left the EU as by far the world's largest fossil fuel importer."Are you suggesting that the high taxes have made us LESS efficient? :-)Listen, we've got 65% more population than you have, and a lot less domestic oil resources. Your statistic means zippo. The fungibility of oil means that you and us are going to pay the same gross price no matter how much we consume (which is the only reason I care what you do). A more meaningful stat would be that you are using 50% more oil per dollar of GDP than the EU. That at least shows you could do better if you tried.Rufus wrote: "Maybe, we'll just bring our troops home from Europe. That'll pay for a lot of new roads.Well, whatever standard of factual reporting I expected from Mr. K, I have no such expectations from you. And you haven't disapppointed. What troops in Europe are you talking about? The ones that run your hospitals and your German staging posts to Iraq and Afghanistan? Would you prefer if they had to commute from the US each time? I'm not sure if we here in Ireland would be able to cope with EVEN MORE than the 1.5 MILLION US troops that we have allowed to stop over in our country since the start of the Iraq war. So before you do any more complaining you might just want to check who needs who more. Our government has taken one hell of a lot of flak to support you — you're doing a great job of making me wonder why.BTW, if Ireland, France, or Germany became the 51st "State" they'd all have one thing in common. They would be 51st in GDP/Capita. Right behind Mississippi.Has making it up as you go along become a badge of honour for you? :-)Here are no less than THREE sets of national GDP per capita rankings and rankings for U.S. states.I think you'll find that France and Germany would rank 7th and 8th behind a handful of States on your eastern seaboard. Ireland would be way out in front ahead of any individual State in the US, streets ahead of your national average, and 200% of Mississippi. Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

    Comment by PeteS | October 4, 2009

  43. Pete, you're right, I was wrong about Ireland. I didnt realize you were doing that much better than the rest of the EU.I was right about France, and Germany, though. When Taxes, and Cost of living is taken into consideration (PPP.) My Source

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  44. Oh, but stating "Nominal" GDP is totally worthless. That's like describing a business by gross sales instead of Net Profits.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  45. BTW, Here's our list of forces in Europe. European CommandThe last number I saw was 116,000.

    Comment by rufus | October 4, 2009

  46. "But then if oil finally settles in at $200, you then have a multi-year lag before competitive alternatives can come online."RR — Sounds like you are saying that "alternatives" truly are losers, unable to beat fossil fuels. You seem to be disagreeing with Sheik Yamani, who said that the Oil Age would not end because the world runs out of oil, just like the Stone Age did not end because the world ran out of stones. Are you more pessimistic about technology than Yamani?I certainly agree with you about the challenge of the time lags. Some people have argued that the scale-up process alone for a new technology to provide the required giant scale of power output would be about 30 years. So there is no time to waste.But playing with taxes would be wasting time. And we know, from the European experience, it is a failure at stimulating innovation, or at stimulating supplies. Despite their high taxes, EUtopians are much more dependent on fossil fuel imports than the US.There are other problems with the grasping tax approach. Already, almost 50% of US taxpayers pay no federal income tax, because the system has become so "progressive". The burden of your high gasoline tax proposal would fall on the poor. Unless we made the tax code even more complicated, which would have inevitable Unintended Consequences.And then there is the Mother of All Unintended Consequences just waiting to happen — when oil is selling for $65/Bbl and the consumer is paying $200/Bbl, who gets to pocket the economic rent?You, Robert, would say the consumer himself — he is merely shifting loose change from one pocket to another. An oil exporter might see the consumer hogging the economic rent as neo-colonialist exploitation. It is the exporter's irreplacable national endowment which is being used up; if the consumer must pay high prices, then in all justice the producer should benefit. That argument is already circulating within OPEC, but it is muted because not all importers impose high Euro-style taxes. If the US sheepishly follows the failed European experiment, the confrontation with the exporters will not be far behind.What makes your blog so interesting, Robert, is your focus on facts & on understanding. Apply that same approach to looking at the policy question. Cast aside old Eurothink. How can we stimulate new technologies, so that the Oil Age can end because we develop better, cheaper, more plentiful alternatives?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 4, 2009

  47. Sounds like you are saying that "alternatives" truly are losers, unable to beat fossil fuels.No. What I am saying is that they can’t compete with oil at $60/bbl. There are a number that can compete at much higher oil prices, but the time lag is going to be a killer. Because I believe oil prices are going much higher, I think it would be prudent to make plans now for that eventuality. Gradually raising fuel prices will not only have the advantage of tipping the playing field and minimizing the time lag – but people will also have certainty about the direction of fuel prices.And we know, from the European experience, it is a failure at stimulating innovation, or at stimulating supplies.I think you are seriously overlooking what high fuel prices have accomplished in Europe. I have lived in Europe three times (Germany, Scotland, Netherlands). Each time, I bought a very fuel efficient car. Really, I didn’t have much choice unless I wanted a major chunk of my income to go toward my fuel budget. But looking around the roads, they are full of fuel efficient cars. Big pickups and SUVs are absent from the roads. Fuel efficiency overall is higher. Europeans drive fewer miles. They have excellent mass transit. They have embraced more efficient diesel engines. Those are things that have been driven in part by higher fuel prices.Just look at the U.S. When fuel prices shoot up, people start to respond. Mass transit ridership increases. Fuel efficient vehicles start to sell. The problem is that many people don’t respond. They suck it up, pay higher prices, and just hope they come back down. It is as if you increased taxes on these people, except that money does not stay in the U.S. I think if we leave things alone, high prices will take care of a lot. But while the market is trying to respond, it is going to be a slow squeeze on a lot of people. It doesn’t have to be that way.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 4, 2009

  48. Already, almost 50% of US taxpayers pay no federal income tax, because the system has become so "progressive". The burden of your high gasoline tax proposal would fall on the poor. Unless we made the tax code even more complicated, which would have inevitable Unintended Consequences.Oh, forgot this. I have addressed this before. This is easily addressable in a manner similar to – or even as an add on – to the Earned Income Tax Credit. That is a non-issue.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 4, 2009

  49. Correction. Two of three times I lived in Europe I had a fuel efficient car. The last time I didn't have to get a car because it is relatively easy to live without one in many places over there.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 5, 2009

  50. Robert — When you talk about the benefits of high fuel taxes, you sound like Rufus on ethanol. Unfortunately!It is naive to suggest that the Political Class would return all the tax revenue to the people. Even more naive to suggest that the mechanics would be a "non-issue". But you know that.Robert, you see a world coming in which people will be poorer, and wil live with less in more difficult circumstances. A world in which most of the poor on the planet will be condemned to remaining in poverty. And the only thing you can see to do is to accelerate the arrival of that dismal planet.Is there not another possible future? One in which mankind's intellect & inventiveness allow us to tap into much larger sources of power than finite fossils & bring a brighter future for everyone?Why would anyone choose the dismal option?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 5, 2009

  51. Kinu – you make it sound like unless higher prices result in the invention of the personal warp drive, they are completely useless. I see the stretching out of existing resources through increased efficiency a worthwhile endeavour, allowing more time for those more important developments. Gasoline taxes can kill two birds with one stone — encourage efficiency, and fairly reward the development and use of alternatives without singling out any one technology for special treatment.Rufus – you are right about PPP … the USA is ahead of France and Germany, and about the same as Ireland. (My other source). The dirty little secret is that those figures are for 2007. Our economy has imploded since (yeah – even worse than yours if you can believe that) — I expect we'll have the purchasing power parity of Zimbabwe pretty soon. On the other hand, the cost of living is falling and those of us who didn't get sucked into the biggest property bubble in history are doing ok. My own fortunes are much more tied to the US economy in any case. (So don't screw it up too badly if you don't mind).

    Comment by PeteS | October 5, 2009

  52. Kinu-If you research the history of the federal income tax, you might be surprised. The top rate was 90 percent in the 1950s, and early 1960s. I wholeheartedly support a gasoline tax, about $4 a gallon, and phased in at 25 cents a quarter.The public, consumer, manufacturers would know what to expect, and act accordingly, Indeed, Kinu, I wonder if a large, hugely capitalized automaker can survive in free oil markets in which the price can vary between $30 and $147 in a year. Okay, what kind of cars to build?The gas tax woud lessen the variability at the pump.I say a $4 gas tax, and no federal income taxes on anyone making less than $100k a year. Eliminate the ethanol subsidy. Subsidize installation of CNG pumps, 10,000 of them (about a $10 billion program, or about 10 days of our war in Iraqistan).

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 5, 2009

  53. Blogger Robert Rapier said… Sounds like you are saying that "alternatives" truly are losers, unable to beat fossil fuels. No. What I am saying is that they can’t compete with oil at $60/bbl. There are a number that can compete at much higher oil prices, but the time lag is going to be a killer.••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••RR: I agree with you about time lags. It takes 36 months to build a new, shiny, stainless steel GTL chemistry set of commercial proportions – only after it has been funded, sited, permitted, etc. And if a new biodegradable GTL synthesis blueprint were cookie-cuttered, there might soon become a real shortage of steel although I feel that the labor pool would line up at the gate for high-paying construction and operator positions.Yet needing oil at over $60 a barrel for some real profitable alternatives in the wings to compete? Naah… I think we all may be in for some pleasant surprises. I've run estimates for some new biodegradable liquid fuel synthesis systems which may compete favorably with $15-$20 oil and at $20,000 to $25,000 in construction costs per daily bbl of output capacity. Yet these same systems converting 5M BTU's of raw carbonaceous feedstock into 3.8M BTU's of output liquid bio-product have not been demonstrated to commercial scale yet. And I'm thinking of new, long awaited, proven designs which may immediately crash anything being planned for GTL or CTL Fischer-Tropsch synthetic oils production.There are many truths amid the devil details contained within 'economies of scale' where synthesis production (not batch fermentation) should be centralized adjacent to available feedstocks yet the products produced from these same GTL or CTL plants will quickly and seamlessly decentralize into the marketplace within a few hundred miles.Transport the finished new fuels and not be burdened with transportating excessive volumes of feedstocks. And figure out if forestry waste slash will actually provide enough feedstocks for a new GTL plant design without having to cut down virgin Georgia timber.And finally, sought-after private equity ownership may also become decentralized as an excellent model to further cookie-cutter.Tonight, like a few others commenting here, I'm feeling sorta like it is appropriate to "keep a stiff upper lip and a positive internal spin on things" despite the subject matter itself which precipated this particular post from you. Thanks again for the discussion channel… Lotsa thoughts and opinions for sure!-Cliff

    Comment by Anonymous | October 5, 2009

  54. “I am in Colorado at a gasification conference, ..” Again, RR makes my point. He can justify not conserving by being more productive. Again I wish RR well but he does appear to have a double standard.

    Comment by Kit P | October 5, 2009

  55. The End of the Oil Age?OT, but this is Toyota talking, not some university researchers."Toyota Aims to Reduce Fuel Cell Vehicle Cost to 1/10 of Current By Commercialization in 2015; Reduction to Another 1/10 With Scale4 October 2009 Toyota’s targeted cost reductions in fuel cell vehicles. Source: Toyota. In a news conference at the Japan National Press Club on Friday, Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda said that the company plans to begin mass production of electric vehicles in the US in 2012, followed by US production of fuel cell vehicles in 2015. Toyoda positioned EVs for short-distance travel and fuel cell cars for longer ranges. The 2015 date for fuel cell vehicles reinforced remarks made in June by vice president Masatami Takimoto about commercialization prospects. During his presentation at the recent California Air Resources Board (ARB) ZEV Technology Symposium, Tatsuaki Yokoyama, from Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, said that Toyota aimed to reduce the cost of fuel cell vehicles to 1/10 of the current level by design and materials improvement by commercialization in 2015. Following that milestone, the company is targeting reduction to a subsequent 1/10 through scales of economy resulting from increasing mass production.'I wonder if we are watching the end of the Oil Age, right before our eyes. If cars and trucks go electric, fuel cell and CNG, who will by oil?

    Comment by Benny "Boom. No Doom" Cole | October 5, 2009

  56. If cars and trucks go electric, fuel cell and CNG, who will by oil?We still use many petro-chemical products that depend on oil as a feedstock. All those petro-chemical plants that line the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and surround Houston will still need petroleum feedstock.If you have anything made out of plastic in your house (and I'm betting you do) you've got something that started out as petroleum or natural gas. In fact, I've long maintained that petroleum is far too valuable for us to waste burning in our cars.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | October 5, 2009

  57. Benny,I would expect the first generation of fuel cell cars to run on reformed natural gas.I would expect the second generation of filling stations to run on reformed coal (piped to the filling stations) with or without carbon capture.Anyone running a coal to hydrogen outfit (plus pipelines) will be competing directly with coal to gasoline plants selling to regular cars.The way I see it, the coal to gasoline will be as cheap in capital costs and have the same coal seam to wheel efficiency.Not sure if you've checked, but the latest and greatest automotive fuel cells aren't particularly efficient (about 40%) and the focus now isn't on improving the efficiency, its on reducing size, cost and improving life expectancy.Seeing as a fuel cell is simply the "engine" of a PHEV, I'd bet that a gasoline PHEV will not only be cheaper to purchase, but will cost the same to operate anyway.Put simply, I still haven't seen why I should have a fuel cell vehicle over a normal PHEV.Andy

    Comment by Andytk | October 5, 2009

  58. Ben said:"I wonder if we are watching the end of the Oil Age, right before our eyes."——————————Ben,I think so. If you look at the "trends" in R&D, you will see a migration to oil alternatives.When you examine current research efforts the trend is "away from oil"While incremental efforts to further refine the ICE continue, I think if you look at the over-whelming body of new research it basically proposes alternatives to oil and not a re-vitalization of the internal combustion engine.While pure EV cars may still "suck", and "batteries are not yet ready" I think PHEV's are a distinct possibility in the 2-5 year time frame.John

    Comment by Anonymous | October 5, 2009

  59. Wendell,Almost all the petro-chemical based plastics can be manufactured from cellulose based products.John

    Comment by Anonymous | October 5, 2009

  60. Robert,Did you ever try an electric bike when yoo were stationed in Holland ?John

    Comment by Anonymous | October 5, 2009

  61. I would expect the first generation of fuel cell cars to run on reformed natural gas.Andytk ~And do you expect those fuel cells to run on hydrogen or methanol?In my opinion, methanol is actually the better choice. Heavy-duty methanol fuel cells already exist and are running industrial forklifts and factory tugs, and it would be much less daunting to move around and handle methanol* than hydrogen in any of its forms.Methanol is also fairly easy to synthesize from NG, coal, or from a bio-gassifier.____________* Methanol is toxic, but it's not nearly as dangerous or as difficult to handle as hydrogen. I bet there are few homes in America that don't already have a jug of methanol sitting in the garage. (Windshield washer fluid is nearly 100% methanol with a bit of dye thrown into the mix.)

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | October 5, 2009

  62. Wendall-The "methanol is highly toxic" scare seems to another urban myth, along with the "there isn't enough lithium" and "cars running on natural gas blow up."Methanol is dangerous if you drink it. So are a lot of fluids.We have plenty of lithium, and capital requirements for new lithium mining operation are peanuts.10 million CNG cars run globally. They are proven technology.It is worth pondering who plants these myths and to what end. Our own Kinu once hypothesized about ladies blowing themslves up at CNG pumps. From my point of view-We have flat demand for oil, yet a huge oil and n. gas glut, and rapidly emerging technologies that can radically diminish oil demand. Is this a bullish or bearish outlook for oil?For some reason, the energy blogs are deep into the doom-monger camp, or rife with posters proclaiming doom. If our Rufus is a plant fomr the ethanol industry, then who planst these other posters, who relentlessly toll the bell for oil shortages and doom?

    Comment by Benny Boom, No Doom Cole | October 5, 2009

  63. I ain't no plant. I'm a Flowwer, Baby.A Bright, Red Rose is, I. Smells sweet, too. 🙂woo, woo

    Comment by rufus | October 5, 2009

  64. If our Rufus is a plant fomr (sic) the ethanol industry, then who planst these other posters, who relentlessly toll the bell for oil shortages and doom?Sounds like you need a new name: Benny Boom, No Doom, It's All A BIG Conspiracy Cole…

    Comment by Optimist | October 5, 2009

  65. Benny (NDIAABCC): I wonder if we are watching the end of the Oil Age, right before our eyes. If cars and trucks go electric, fuel cell and CNG, who will by oil?John: While pure EV cars may still "suck", and "batteries are not yet ready" I think PHEV's are a distinct possibility in the 2-5 year time frame.It's sometimes irresistable, but predicting the future and then acting on that information is a sure way to see your rear-end, without the use of a mirror.John, if it makes you feel any better, you could certainly build a PHEV in your garage, and do it in the timeframe you refer to. Or, for a nominal investment you could get these guys to build you one in a matter of weeks: Depending on the choice of battery types, PHEV conversions using lead-acid, nickel-metal and lithium chemistries are now available for $2-$13,000.But to assume that the PHEV will make it to market AND be a huge success (AND do it within the next decade), that would be like booking a trip to the next Super Bowl based on information showing that your local team will be playing…

    Comment by Optimist | October 5, 2009

  66. Rufus:I, for one, do not believe you are a plant. Like I said, "If Rufus was a lobbyist for the Ethanol corwd, he would be spening his weekends on the Cayman Islands with our elected reps, and not blogging."Of course, Rufus' posts of late have short…as if done by cell phone…woo-wooooo, maybe Rufus is a plant.Maybe Optimist and Kinu are plants from oil-exporting nations…maybe I am the only dufus here who posts w/o getting paid for it.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 5, 2009

  67. It is naive to suggest that the Political Class would return all the tax revenue to the people.You continue to ignore my comments, and then proceed to redefine my position. It is this redefined position that you argue against. I don’t think it is likely that we will pass any sort of gas tax. But the only way we would be able to pass one would be to offset that somehow. That is the only hope you have of getting broad support. Yet you continue to insist that there would be no offsets, and thus it would simply be a regressive tax. Hogwash! If it was simply a regressive tax, it wouldn’t be passed. So let’s discuss in the context of an offset.Presume the average family uses 1000 gallons of gasoline per year. I would provide a tax credit – much like the form of the EIC – to credit $1,000 back for every $1/gal of gas tax. This would encourage us to start moving in the right direction. It would move us away from such a high level of fossil fuel dependence as people take actions to avoid that $1/gal penalty. This makes the economy more resistant to the impact of higher fossil fuel prices.You prefer the do-nothing approach. That is truly regressive. When gas prices go up by $1/gal as they did last year, how does that impact the poor? That is simply money out of their pockets. There is no offset for them. The money that comes out of their pocket goes to support Hugo Chavez and the Saudi royal family. Which approach is better, a planned, phased-in increase that also offers the ability to make choices so you could actually be better off? By that, I mean if I take my $1,000 and cut back my gasoline consumption to 500 gallons, I have more money in my pocket. In your approach, I simply gamble that gas prices don’t rise. When they do, it is not only truly regressive but some of that money will go to support enemies of the U.S.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 6, 2009

  68. RR makes my point. He can justify not conserving by being more productive. Again I wish RR well but he does appear to have a double standard.No double-standard here. Let me give you an example. I was very critical of Al Gore when it was revealed that his personal electricity usage was about 20 times that of the average American. That, to me, is hypocrisy. But he also flies around the world making speeches. I am not critical of that, because if he flies to Japan, makes a speech, and as a result an auditorium of people change their behaviors by increasing their level of conservation, the net impact may be positive.Gasification offers a way to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. I am very focused on that. So my travel – even though it involves fossil fuel consumption – is an investment in a future in which we consume less. I am trying to make sure that we have some liquid fuel options in a world in which fossil fuels are depleting. So I strongly disagree with your double-standard comment. Look at the overall LCA. It is like when I flew back and forth to the Netherlands. My job involved carbon sequestration. The level of sequestered carbon was far greater than my emissions from traveling. So even though I traveled, the net impact was better than had I not traveled.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 6, 2009

  69. Did you ever try an electric bike when yoo were stationed in Holland ?No. In fact, I don’t ever remember seeing anyone on one – even though bike traffic is everywhere.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 6, 2009

  70. RR makes my point. He can justify not conserving by being more productive. Again I wish RR well but he does appear to have a double standard. No double-standard here. Let me give you an example. I was very critical of Al Gore when it was revealed that his personal electricity usage was about 20 times that of the average American. That, to me, is hypocrisy. But he also flies around the world making speeches. I am not critical of that, because if he flies to Japan, makes a speech, and as a result an auditorium of people change their behaviors by increasing their level of conservation, the net impact may be positive. Gasification offers a way to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. I am very focused on that. So my travel – even though it involves fossil fuel consumption – is an investment in a future in which we consume less. I am trying to make sure that we have some liquid fuel options in a world in which fossil fuels are depleting. So I strongly disagree with your double-standard comment. Look at the overall LCA. It is like when I flew back and forth to the Netherlands. My job involved carbon sequestration. The level of sequestered carbon was far greater than my emissions from traveling. So even though I traveled, the net impact was better than had I not traveled. RR October 05, 2009 2:05 PMBlogger Robert Rapier said… Did you ever try an electric bike when yoo were stationed in Holland ?———————————–RR:" No. In fact, I don’t ever remember seeing anyone on one – even though bike traffic is everywhere.——————————-Wow… I thought e-bikes were a bit more popular in Europe. They are very popular in the Oriental countries.Not so much in U.S.A.John

    Comment by Anonymous | October 6, 2009

  71. Benny – that Toyota story is interesting, but how credible is it? Fuel cells have been around a helluva long time, and the idea that someone is going to reduce costs by a factor of 10 in a five year timeframe sounds a bit too good to be true. Even if they could do it, an infrastructure for distributing hydrogen has its own massive hurdles, and I was led to believe that use of carbon-bearing fuels like methanol comes with its own (so far unsolved) problems of fuel cell catalyst poisoning. I've driven only Toyotas for 22 years, so I'm a big fan and a likely customer, but this one sounds like a bit of a stretch.

    Comment by PeteS | October 6, 2009

  72. On a little bit of digging, I see that Toyota are concentrating on hydrogen fuel cells. They've demonstrated one with the range of a normal car. But it has a tank of hydrogen compressed to seven hundred atmospheres. Yikes! So, whatever about Toyota's 2015 date, when's the infrastructure underpinning the "hydrogen economy" going to arrive?

    Comment by PeteS | October 6, 2009

  73. Pete S.-I don't know how credible the Totota release is. But it is Toyota, they make cars by the millions, they have money to do research, etc. It is not some guys in a lab somewhere, blue-skying….What would they gain by putting out a release based on vapor? I know of no government lobbying for fuel cell cars.The may also think first they will introduce technology in Japan, a country with zero oil resources (although I suspect a PHEV is a much better idea for Japan, which is building nukes. Japan and France can go the all-electric route rather easily, if PHEVs are commercialized. Nukes and PHEVs, and the Oil Age is over. Time will tell. In furniture making, the difference between some prototypes and actual production models is 10-to-1. The longer the production run, the lower the per unit costs go.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 6, 2009

  74. Toyota Aims to Reduce Fuel Cell Vehicle Cost to 1/10 of Current By Commercialization in 2015; Reduction to Another 1/10 With ScaleSo is that going from a $1 million car today to $100,000 (costs similar to the Tesla Roadster) in 2015 to $10,000 (cheapest car in the US) with scale?Or is it going from $300,000 today to $30,000 in 2015 to $3,000 (sell it in India) with scale? Either way, feels like optimistic hype to me.

    Comment by Clee | October 6, 2009

  75. Re: Net-Zero Gas TaxSo if the average American buys 700 gallons of gas a year and you give each a $700 rebate for every $1 increase in gasoline tax, what about corporations? Do taxi companies or trucking companies get a tax rebate or do they suffer without one and pass on their costs? If they do get a rebate, do they get one that is larger than a financial services company, or do the financial services companies get a bonus because they use electricity rather than gasoline?

    Comment by Clee | October 6, 2009

  76. If Rufus Dollison is a plant, the ethanol lobby is not getting their money's worth.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | October 6, 2009

  77. I keep telling them that, but they just keep sending that "mad blog money." Whut kin I do? 🙂

    Comment by rufus | October 6, 2009


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: