R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

Thoughts on New Fuel Efficiency Standards

After I wrote The Problem with CAFE a couple of years ago, a lot of people concluded that I am against higher CAFE standards. That’s not exactly the case. In a nutshell, my problem with CAFE is that I feel like it addresses the problem from the wrong side of the equation. In light of the new announcements on stricter CAFE standards, this might be a good time to review the issue. First, the new policy:

Stricter mpg rules may be boon for automakers

By issuing rules aimed at sharply boosting vehicle gasoline mileage and slashing greenhouse gas emissions, experts say the Obama plan is just what carmakers need given the prospect of higher gas prices and worries about global warming.

Automakers, in fact, reversed decades of opposition to stricter mileage standards by supporting the administration’s new rules — likely spurred in part by the industry’s heavy reliance on bailout money from U.S. taxpayers. Auto executives, for their part, said they like the plan’s unified approach to rulemaking.

The plan’s 30 percent boost in fuel economy would translate into a 35.5 mile per gallon average for cars and light trucks in 2016, four years earlier than the existing law called for. New passenger cars sold here would need to average 39 mpg, up from the current 27.5 mpg. Light trucks, which include pickups and sport-utility vehicles, would need to average 30 mpg, up from 23.

So what could possibly be wrong with that? The problem I have with it is that it mandates that automakers build vehicles that people are not demanding. There are very fuel efficient cars available right now. In fact, that’s about all you see in Europe, and you can certainly get them in the U.S. Why is the demand high in Europe? High fuel prices. People demand fuel efficient cars when fuel prices are high, as we saw last summer when SUV sales plummeted and hybrids were flying off of the car lots. Europe doesn’t have to mandate that they are built; the demand is there. This was the thrust of my argument in 2007, and CNN has picked up on that theme as well:

Gas prices: The key to fuel economy

The Obama administration estimates these rules will add about $600 to the cost of a car. That’s on top of an estimated $700 added by changes to fuel economy rules that have already been enacted. All this may keep consumers from buying a new car, some say.

Also with fuel prices still low, consumers may want larger vehicles, but these will never be as efficient as small cars. Without soaring gas prices pushing drivers to conserve, it will be difficult for makers of larger vehicles to meet the administration’s efficiency goals.

“You could achieve the standards today with ultralight, really small cars,” said Jeremy Anwl, chief executive of the automotive Web site Edmunds.com, “but how many people are really going to buy those?”

“They’re continuing to focus on the wrong program,” said Todd Turner, an analyst with Car Concepts Automotive Research.

Bingo. The problem with this is that the end result may very well result in better fuel efficiency, but it will be an inefficient process. By making cars that aren’t in demand, you may increase the price of the larger cars (e.g. SUVs) that are in demand. This may shift demand to smaller cars. But this could be accomplished by my proposal to exchange higher fuel taxes for reduced income taxes.

I think that’s reality. But in the alternate reality where technology is magically mandated to fix problems, we get thinkers like this:

Obama’s fuel home run

America finally has a smart leader, not a good old boy from Texas and his sidekick who were in the hip pockets of the Saudis and oil interests at home and abroad. Yesterday’s announcement of dramatically enhanced fuel efficiency standards on vehicles recognizes that environmental, economic, trade and foreign policies converge and can be addressed all at once.

I think these sorts of stories are incredibly naive. I suspect everyone is for higher fuel efficiency. What these sorts of proposals suggest is that it is a painless fix. Detroit will bear the costs, while consumers can continue to drive their Lincoln Navigator, only now it will get 30 miles per gallon instead of 14. Somehow, this magic wave of the wand is going to do this, and Obama is a genius for recognizing it.

Heck, if it is that easy, I don’t understand why he didn’t mandate that all vehicles achieve 100 mpg. For that matter, I still can’t understand why we don’t mandate a cure for cancer.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | CAFE, fuel efficiency | 82 Comments

The Prius Tops the Explorer

Looks like people are beginning to respond to high gas prices:

Toyota Prius sales pass Ford Explorer

Americans bought more Toyota Prius hybrid gas-electric hatchbacks last year than Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles, the top-selling SUV for more than a decade.

The change of fortune, buried in U.S. vehicle-sales data for 2007 and unthinkable a few years ago, will find an echo at this year’s Detroit auto show, which starts Sunday.

While Americans’ love for powerful gas guzzlers remains strong, a slowing economy and high gasoline prices are forcing buyers to lower their sights.

While Prius sales soared 69% last year, demand for the Explorer was less than a third of its 2000 peak.

As I have said before, we have fuel-efficient vehicles available now. Consumers just have to be convinced to buy them. High gas prices are starting to convince them. I think this is a more effective approach than forcing car makers to produce more fuel efficient vehicles via CAFE standards. I am not against higher CAFE standards, I just think addressing the demand side is more effective.

My current plan is to buy a Prius when I go back to the U.S. It doesn’t seem that any other option is even close. Is there anything else that can compete with the Prius on a fuel efficiency basis in the U.S. market?

January 13, 2008 Posted by | auto industry, CAFE, Ford, fuel efficiency, Toyota | 31 Comments

Debunking Thomas Friedman

I am in Norway at the moment, but I ran across a story that I wanted to call attention to. It is the same thing I wrote about in The Problem with CAFE:

Debunking auto industry myths

NEW YORK (Fortune) — I hesitate to pick a fight with a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. On the critical issue of developing a national energy policy to lessen our consumption of imported oil, he’s been early, smart, and right.

But Friedman whiffed in his Times column yesterday, called “Et Tu, Toyota,” by hauling out one of the hoariest of urban myths: That forcing higher fuel economy standards on American car buyers is what’s needed to encourage more energy-efficient vehicles and make Detroit more competitive with its import competitors.

That’s wrong…and wrong. Forcing people to buy more efficient cars by ordering car companies to make them is like forcing people to lose weight by banning food companies from selling Big Macs and pizzas. The reason Americans consume so much gasoline is that they like their big pickup trucks, SUVs, and V-8 engines. The reason the automakers make them is because people want to buy them.

That’s exactly what I have argued. Fuel efficient vehicles are not in short supply. But the demand is not there. This is not a supply-side problem; we have to work on increasing demand for efficient vehicles. Ramp up demand, and the supply of vehicles will come.

Some of the points that Friedman makes to buttress his arguments are misleading. He praises Japan and Europe for auto fleets that have much better mileage standards than the U.S. without mentioning the fact that driving conditions are different – try steering a Lincoln Navigator through a medieval village in Italy – and gasoline taxes in those countries are so high that people are willing to squeeze into small cars. Start charging American drivers $8 a gallon and they’ll switch to small cars in a New York minute.

Exactly. Friedman has entirely missed the point on why autos here in Europe are so much more fuel efficient. If gasoline was 2 bucks a gallon here, I suspect things would be a bit different. And the puzzling thing to me is that a couple of years ago, in an interview with Grist, Friedman seemed to clearly understand the issue:

Q. Besides a gas tax, what other methods for reducing energy dependence would you propose?

A. I’d focus on two other things: I would begin building more nuclear power, and I’d have a carbon tax on coal and all high-emission energies that would raise their cost and make wind and solar much more cost-efficient.

Q. What about regulatory initiatives like CAFE standards?

A. That to me is captured by the [gas] tax because that makes hybrids a necessity and forces Detroit to convert large amounts of its fleet to hybrid technology — you drive the CAFE issue using a different mechanism.

But Friedman appears to have forgotten that logic, judging from his most recent article. Back to the CNN article:

American manufacturers DO build fuel-efficient cars but Americans don’t buy them. Ford (Charts, Fortune 500) is currently offering cut-rate financing on the 2008 Escape Hybrid, while GM (Charts, Fortune 500) is subsidizing the smallest car in its lineup, the Chevy Aveo. And GM can brag all it wants about having more models – 30 of them – than any other manufacturer that get more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway, but it gets precious little credit for it in the marketplace.

It has been argued here before that if the government wants to be serious about improving fuel economy, all it has to do is boost the tax on gasoline. The revenue generated could be rebated to lower-income drivers who are truly disadvantaged or invested in mass transit. The auto companies aren’t going to argue for such a tax because it would give them a black eye with consumers. And the government won’t do it either, because of its anti-tax bias. But Friedman, using his column as a bully pulpit, could argue for such a tax with impunity. And it would be a whole lot more effective than perpetuating the old myth about the ignorant luddites in Detroit who are withholding the small, fuel-sipping cars that Americans really want to buy.

I think Friedman is a guy who is really passionate and concerned about our energy policy. But he has gotten ahead of himself at times. He was on the ethanol can save us bandwagon early on, but it looks like he now he is exclusively on the sugarcane ethanol will save us bandwagon. I agree, sugarcane ethanol is a lot better than corn ethanol, but it helps to understand the scale of our oil consumption, so one can appreciate the scale of the ethanol production that would be required to displace it.

OK, back to meetings. Now, if I can figure out how to publish. For some reason, all the instructions for my blog are in Norwegian. I am having to guess at what Innlegg, Innstillinger, Mal, and Skriv mean. This keyboard is also unfamiliar. Some of the keys are out of place, and it also has letters like æ, å, and ø. Let’s see if “Publiser Innlegg” gets this published.

October 5, 2007 Posted by | auto industry, CAFE, energy policy, fuel efficiency | 25 Comments

Debunking Thomas Friedman

I am in Norway at the moment, but I ran across a story that I wanted to call attention to. It is the same thing I wrote about in The Problem with CAFE:

Debunking auto industry myths

NEW YORK (Fortune) — I hesitate to pick a fight with a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. On the critical issue of developing a national energy policy to lessen our consumption of imported oil, he’s been early, smart, and right.

But Friedman whiffed in his Times column yesterday, called “Et Tu, Toyota,” by hauling out one of the hoariest of urban myths: That forcing higher fuel economy standards on American car buyers is what’s needed to encourage more energy-efficient vehicles and make Detroit more competitive with its import competitors.

That’s wrong…and wrong. Forcing people to buy more efficient cars by ordering car companies to make them is like forcing people to lose weight by banning food companies from selling Big Macs and pizzas. The reason Americans consume so much gasoline is that they like their big pickup trucks, SUVs, and V-8 engines. The reason the automakers make them is because people want to buy them.

That’s exactly what I have argued. Fuel efficient vehicles are not in short supply. But the demand is not there. This is not a supply-side problem; we have to work on increasing demand for efficient vehicles. Ramp up demand, and the supply of vehicles will come.

Some of the points that Friedman makes to buttress his arguments are misleading. He praises Japan and Europe for auto fleets that have much better mileage standards than the U.S. without mentioning the fact that driving conditions are different – try steering a Lincoln Navigator through a medieval village in Italy – and gasoline taxes in those countries are so high that people are willing to squeeze into small cars. Start charging American drivers $8 a gallon and they’ll switch to small cars in a New York minute.

Exactly. Friedman has entirely missed the point on why autos here in Europe are so much more fuel efficient. If gasoline was 2 bucks a gallon here, I suspect things would be a bit different. And the puzzling thing to me is that a couple of years ago, in an interview with Grist, Friedman seemed to clearly understand the issue:

Q. Besides a gas tax, what other methods for reducing energy dependence would you propose?

A. I’d focus on two other things: I would begin building more nuclear power, and I’d have a carbon tax on coal and all high-emission energies that would raise their cost and make wind and solar much more cost-efficient.

Q. What about regulatory initiatives like CAFE standards?

A. That to me is captured by the [gas] tax because that makes hybrids a necessity and forces Detroit to convert large amounts of its fleet to hybrid technology — you drive the CAFE issue using a different mechanism.

But Friedman appears to have forgotten that logic, judging from his most recent article. Back to the CNN article:

American manufacturers DO build fuel-efficient cars but Americans don’t buy them. Ford (Charts, Fortune 500) is currently offering cut-rate financing on the 2008 Escape Hybrid, while GM (Charts, Fortune 500) is subsidizing the smallest car in its lineup, the Chevy Aveo. And GM can brag all it wants about having more models – 30 of them – than any other manufacturer that get more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway, but it gets precious little credit for it in the marketplace.

It has been argued here before that if the government wants to be serious about improving fuel economy, all it has to do is boost the tax on gasoline. The revenue generated could be rebated to lower-income drivers who are truly disadvantaged or invested in mass transit. The auto companies aren’t going to argue for such a tax because it would give them a black eye with consumers. And the government won’t do it either, because of its anti-tax bias. But Friedman, using his column as a bully pulpit, could argue for such a tax with impunity. And it would be a whole lot more effective than perpetuating the old myth about the ignorant luddites in Detroit who are withholding the small, fuel-sipping cars that Americans really want to buy.

I think Friedman is a guy who is really passionate and concerned about our energy policy. But he has gotten ahead of himself at times. He was on the ethanol can save us bandwagon early on, but it looks like he now he is exclusively on the sugarcane ethanol will save us bandwagon. I agree, sugarcane ethanol is a lot better than corn ethanol, but it helps to understand the scale of our oil consumption, so one can appreciate the scale of the ethanol production that would be required to displace it.

OK, back to meetings. Now, if I can figure out how to publish. For some reason, all the instructions for my blog are in Norwegian. I am having to guess at what Innlegg, Innstillinger, Mal, and Skriv mean. This keyboard is also unfamiliar. Some of the keys are out of place, and it also has letters like æ, å, and ø. Let’s see if “Publiser Innlegg” gets this published.

October 5, 2007 Posted by | auto industry, CAFE, energy policy, fuel efficiency | Comments Off on Debunking Thomas Friedman

The Ultra-Light Loremo

Over the weekend, I happened onto a link for a German car that is being designed for an amazing 157 miles per gallon (1.5 l/100 km). The car is called the Loremo, an ultra-light, two-cylinder, 20-horsepower, turbo-diesel with an price tag of about $15,000 U.S.

The Ultra-Light Loremo

After poking around a bit, I found that there is a history of ultra-light vehicles, but they have not sold well:

Driving On The Light Side

In 1999, German carmaker Volkswagen launched the Lupo 3L TDI in Europe, a no-frills subcompact that got 100 km on 3 L of gas. Volkswagen built 29,500 Lupo 3Ls and then last year yanked the car from the market. “It was too frugal,” says Hartmut Hoffmann, a product spokesman for VW. “Customer interest faded.”

In 1997, Ford announced plans for what it called the P2000, which promised to be 40% lighter than conventional family sedans. And in 2002, Opel, the European subsidiary of General Motors, unveiled the Eco-Speedster, a sleek, low-riding sports car that gets 2.5 L of fuel to 100 km. But none of the manufacturers ever intended to offer their ultralight cars for sale.”

But with fuel prices at historic highs, all that may be about to change. CEO Heilmaier says 10,000 people have signaled interest in buying a Loremo since March, when a model was shown at the Geneva auto show. That’s not bad for a car that hasn’t even been driven yet. The first drivable prototype is to be built this year, and Sommer expects to go into production of the first 5,000 to 10,000 cars in 2009 and ramp up to 100,000 by 2012. If consumers are finally ready to embrace radical fuel efficiency, then Sommer and his team will have truly nailed it.

Let’s just hope it all works out per the design. Personally, I think that’s a good looking car. If fuel prices stay high, they will probably fly out of the showrooms.

August 5, 2007 Posted by | auto industry, CAFE, fuel efficiency | Comments Off on The Ultra-Light Loremo

The Ultra-Light Loremo

Over the weekend, I happened onto a link for a German car that is being designed for an amazing 157 miles per gallon (1.5 l/100 km). The car is called the Loremo, an ultra-light, two-cylinder, 20-horsepower, turbo-diesel with an price tag of about $15,000 U.S.

The Ultra-Light Loremo

After poking around a bit, I found that there is a history of ultra-light vehicles, but they have not sold well:

Driving On The Light Side

In 1999, German carmaker Volkswagen launched the Lupo 3L TDI in Europe, a no-frills subcompact that got 100 km on 3 L of gas. Volkswagen built 29,500 Lupo 3Ls and then last year yanked the car from the market. “It was too frugal,” says Hartmut Hoffmann, a product spokesman for VW. “Customer interest faded.”

In 1997, Ford announced plans for what it called the P2000, which promised to be 40% lighter than conventional family sedans. And in 2002, Opel, the European subsidiary of General Motors, unveiled the Eco-Speedster, a sleek, low-riding sports car that gets 2.5 L of fuel to 100 km. But none of the manufacturers ever intended to offer their ultralight cars for sale.”

But with fuel prices at historic highs, all that may be about to change. CEO Heilmaier says 10,000 people have signaled interest in buying a Loremo since March, when a model was shown at the Geneva auto show. That’s not bad for a car that hasn’t even been driven yet. The first drivable prototype is to be built this year, and Sommer expects to go into production of the first 5,000 to 10,000 cars in 2009 and ramp up to 100,000 by 2012. If consumers are finally ready to embrace radical fuel efficiency, then Sommer and his team will have truly nailed it.

Let’s just hope it all works out per the design. Personally, I think that’s a good looking car. If fuel prices stay high, they will probably fly out of the showrooms.

August 5, 2007 Posted by | auto industry, CAFE, fuel efficiency | 13 Comments

The Ultra-Light Loremo

Over the weekend, I happened onto a link for a German car that is being designed for an amazing 157 miles per gallon (1.5 l/100 km). The car is called the Loremo, an ultra-light, two-cylinder, 20-horsepower, turbo-diesel with an price tag of about $15,000 U.S.

The Ultra-Light Loremo

After poking around a bit, I found that there is a history of ultra-light vehicles, but they have not sold well:

Driving On The Light Side

In 1999, German carmaker Volkswagen launched the Lupo 3L TDI in Europe, a no-frills subcompact that got 100 km on 3 L of gas. Volkswagen built 29,500 Lupo 3Ls and then last year yanked the car from the market. “It was too frugal,” says Hartmut Hoffmann, a product spokesman for VW. “Customer interest faded.”

In 1997, Ford announced plans for what it called the P2000, which promised to be 40% lighter than conventional family sedans. And in 2002, Opel, the European subsidiary of General Motors, unveiled the Eco-Speedster, a sleek, low-riding sports car that gets 2.5 L of fuel to 100 km. But none of the manufacturers ever intended to offer their ultralight cars for sale.”

But with fuel prices at historic highs, all that may be about to change. CEO Heilmaier says 10,000 people have signaled interest in buying a Loremo since March, when a model was shown at the Geneva auto show. That’s not bad for a car that hasn’t even been driven yet. The first drivable prototype is to be built this year, and Sommer expects to go into production of the first 5,000 to 10,000 cars in 2009 and ramp up to 100,000 by 2012. If consumers are finally ready to embrace radical fuel efficiency, then Sommer and his team will have truly nailed it.

Let’s just hope it all works out per the design. Personally, I think that’s a good looking car. If fuel prices stay high, they will probably fly out of the showrooms.

August 5, 2007 Posted by | auto industry, CAFE, fuel efficiency | 13 Comments

What’s On Tap

Update

Four essays, plus this one, finished off today:

The Problem With Biobutanol

This Week in Petroleum 6-13-07

Letter to CNN on Inaccuracies in “We Were Warned”

The Problem with CAFE

With that, I am on hiatus. I may come back and update TWIP on Thursday. Cheers, Robert

Taking a Break

I received a welcome surprise yesterday, and found out that I get to fly home this Friday to see my family. I have been away from them for 5 months (so the kids could finish out school) but on Friday I go home to retrieve them for their move to Scotland. Thus ends the most difficult 5-month period of my life. At that time, two things will happen.

First, I plan to take a break from writing. I have 5 months of time that I have lost, and I am going to try to get some of it back by sacrificing on the writing. If I wake up early and find that I have a few minutes, I may post a short essay. But it will be a while before I post another long one, or engage in any sort of extensive debate.

Second, I am going to take my e-mail address offline. Presently, it is a rare day that I don’t have over 100 e-mails in my inbox. Of those, typically 30-50 require responses of some sort. I have been able to manage this while living alone, but this isn’t going to be feasible once I am reunited with my family. If you already have my e-mail address, feel free to contact me. If you do not, but would like some information, feel free to post a query following a post. There is a good chance that someone will address it. And I do get an e-mail every time someone posts in a thread (no, that’s not part of the 100 e-mails) so if something really needs to be addressed I will do so. I may also put together a FAQ to cover some of the common themes in the e-mails I receive. Things like “What do you think about bio-butanol?”

In the Pipeline: Butanol, TWIP, CNN, and CAFE

I have 4 essays that I intend to finish prior to going on hiatus. First, as some of you know, I started to write an update on butanol a while back. I basically have all of the information pulled together, I just need to finish it. Second, I will write one more review of This Week in Petroleum. I think this week’s numbers will really give us an indication of the likelihood of more supply crunches. Third, I will post a letter I am writing to CNN challenging some of the errors contained in their “Out of Gas” series. Finally, I had started an essay on CAFE standards. I think I will publish that as a very short – maybe 2 or 3 paragraph – essay on just what I think is wrong with our approach there.

Additional Projects

I have been asked to contribute a chapter to a book on renewable energy that is being edited by a professor most people would immediately know. My chapter was to be on biodiesel, but I also requested and received approval to expand that to cover all renewable diesel. I will cover biodiesel, “green” diesel produced via hydtrotreating, and “green” diesel produced via biomass gasification and subsequent Fischer-Tropsch. I have sketched out an outline, but I need to fill in about 7,000 words of detail in the next 30 days.

Finally, I have recently been engaged with a group that has a very promising cellulosic ethanol technology. If it is what it appears to be (there are still some things I don’t know) then it would be the biggest leap in cellulosic ethanol technology since well before I was in graduate school. Bigger than Nancy Ho’s dual fermentation yeast. Big enough to demolish the economics of all the cellulosic ethanol plants currently being built. And I am not one given to hyperbole. I have placed an official inquiry with the corporate ethics department inside my company requesting clearance to assist on this project. I think it has incredible potential to make a contribution toward our energy needs. And I know that I have been very, very critical of ethanol here in the past, but that was because of the unsustainable nature of current ethanol practices, as well as loads of misinformation that was being pushed out there. My hope was to always see ethanol succeed, albeit it in a sustainable fashion. And I have always been willing to assist – and have done so many times over the years – in helping push promising projects forward.

June 12, 2007 Posted by | butanol, CAFE, CNN | Comments Off on What’s On Tap

What’s On Tap

Update

Four essays, plus this one, finished off today:

The Problem With Biobutanol

This Week in Petroleum 6-13-07

Letter to CNN on Inaccuracies in “We Were Warned”

The Problem with CAFE

With that, I am on hiatus. I may come back and update TWIP on Thursday. Cheers, Robert

Taking a Break

I received a welcome surprise yesterday, and found out that I get to fly home this Friday to see my family. I have been away from them for 5 months (so the kids could finish out school) but on Friday I go home to retrieve them for their move to Scotland. Thus ends the most difficult 5-month period of my life. At that time, two things will happen.

First, I plan to take a break from writing. I have 5 months of time that I have lost, and I am going to try to get some of it back by sacrificing on the writing. If I wake up early and find that I have a few minutes, I may post a short essay. But it will be a while before I post another long one, or engage in any sort of extensive debate.

Second, I am going to take my e-mail address offline. Presently, it is a rare day that I don’t have over 100 e-mails in my inbox. Of those, typically 30-50 require responses of some sort. I have been able to manage this while living alone, but this isn’t going to be feasible once I am reunited with my family. If you already have my e-mail address, feel free to contact me. If you do not, but would like some information, feel free to post a query following a post. There is a good chance that someone will address it. And I do get an e-mail every time someone posts in a thread (no, that’s not part of the 100 e-mails) so if something really needs to be addressed I will do so. I may also put together a FAQ to cover some of the common themes in the e-mails I receive. Things like “What do you think about bio-butanol?”

In the Pipeline: Butanol, TWIP, CNN, and CAFE

I have 4 essays that I intend to finish prior to going on hiatus. First, as some of you know, I started to write an update on butanol a while back. I basically have all of the information pulled together, I just need to finish it. Second, I will write one more review of This Week in Petroleum. I think this week’s numbers will really give us an indication of the likelihood of more supply crunches. Third, I will post a letter I am writing to CNN challenging some of the errors contained in their “Out of Gas” series. Finally, I had started an essay on CAFE standards. I think I will publish that as a very short – maybe 2 or 3 paragraph – essay on just what I think is wrong with our approach there.

Additional Projects

I have been asked to contribute a chapter to a book on renewable energy that is being edited by a professor most people would immediately know. My chapter was to be on biodiesel, but I also requested and received approval to expand that to cover all renewable diesel. I will cover biodiesel, “green” diesel produced via hydtrotreating, and “green” diesel produced via biomass gasification and subsequent Fischer-Tropsch. I have sketched out an outline, but I need to fill in about 7,000 words of detail in the next 30 days.

Finally, I have recently been engaged with a group that has a very promising cellulosic ethanol technology. If it is what it appears to be (there are still some things I don’t know) then it would be the biggest leap in cellulosic ethanol technology since well before I was in graduate school. Bigger than Nancy Ho’s dual fermentation yeast. Big enough to demolish the economics of all the cellulosic ethanol plants currently being built. And I am not one given to hyperbole. I have placed an official inquiry with the corporate ethics department inside my company requesting clearance to assist on this project. I think it has incredible potential to make a contribution toward our energy needs. And I know that I have been very, very critical of ethanol here in the past, but that was because of the unsustainable nature of current ethanol practices, as well as loads of misinformation that was being pushed out there. My hope was to always see ethanol succeed, albeit it in a sustainable fashion. And I have always been willing to assist – and have done so many times over the years – in helping push promising projects forward.

June 12, 2007 Posted by | butanol, CAFE, CNN | Comments Off on What’s On Tap

What’s On Tap

Update

Four essays, plus this one, finished off today:

The Problem With Biobutanol

This Week in Petroleum 6-13-07

Letter to CNN on Inaccuracies in “We Were Warned”

The Problem with CAFE

With that, I am on hiatus. I may come back and update TWIP on Thursday. Cheers, Robert

Taking a Break

I received a welcome surprise yesterday, and found out that I get to fly home this Friday to see my family. I have been away from them for 5 months (so the kids could finish out school) but on Friday I go home to retrieve them for their move to Scotland. Thus ends the most difficult 5-month period of my life. At that time, two things will happen.

First, I plan to take a break from writing. I have 5 months of time that I have lost, and I am going to try to get some of it back by sacrificing on the writing. If I wake up early and find that I have a few minutes, I may post a short essay. But it will be a while before I post another long one, or engage in any sort of extensive debate.

Second, I am going to take my e-mail address offline. Presently, it is a rare day that I don’t have over 100 e-mails in my inbox. Of those, typically 30-50 require responses of some sort. I have been able to manage this while living alone, but this isn’t going to be feasible once I am reunited with my family. If you already have my e-mail address, feel free to contact me. If you do not, but would like some information, feel free to post a query following a post. There is a good chance that someone will address it. And I do get an e-mail every time someone posts in a thread (no, that’s not part of the 100 e-mails) so if something really needs to be addressed I will do so. I may also put together a FAQ to cover some of the common themes in the e-mails I receive. Things like “What do you think about bio-butanol?”

In the Pipeline: Butanol, TWIP, CNN, and CAFE

I have 4 essays that I intend to finish prior to going on hiatus. First, as some of you know, I started to write an update on butanol a while back. I basically have all of the information pulled together, I just need to finish it. Second, I will write one more review of This Week in Petroleum. I think this week’s numbers will really give us an indication of the likelihood of more supply crunches. Third, I will post a letter I am writing to CNN challenging some of the errors contained in their “Out of Gas” series. Finally, I had started an essay on CAFE standards. I think I will publish that as a very short – maybe 2 or 3 paragraph – essay on just what I think is wrong with our approach there.

Additional Projects

I have been asked to contribute a chapter to a book on renewable energy that is being edited by a professor most people would immediately know. My chapter was to be on biodiesel, but I also requested and received approval to expand that to cover all renewable diesel. I will cover biodiesel, “green” diesel produced via hydtrotreating, and “green” diesel produced via biomass gasification and subsequent Fischer-Tropsch. I have sketched out an outline, but I need to fill in about 7,000 words of detail in the next 30 days.

Finally, I have recently been engaged with a group that has a very promising cellulosic ethanol technology. If it is what it appears to be (there are still some things I don’t know) then it would be the biggest leap in cellulosic ethanol technology since well before I was in graduate school. Bigger than Nancy Ho’s dual fermentation yeast. Big enough to demolish the economics of all the cellulosic ethanol plants currently being built. And I am not one given to hyperbole. I have placed an official inquiry with the corporate ethics department inside my company requesting clearance to assist on this project. I think it has incredible potential to make a contribution toward our energy needs. And I know that I have been very, very critical of ethanol here in the past, but that was because of the unsustainable nature of current ethanol practices, as well as loads of misinformation that was being pushed out there. My hope was to always see ethanol succeed, albeit it in a sustainable fashion. And I have always been willing to assist – and have done so many times over the years – in helping push promising projects forward.

June 12, 2007 Posted by | butanol, CAFE, CNN | 18 Comments