Archive for the 'ethanol' Category
Wesley Clark, Army General (ret.) and former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO; Chairman, Rodman & Renshaw
Set America Free Coalition member Jim Woolsey writes in the Wall Street Journal:
“Oil dominates transportation: About 95% of transportation fuel in the U.S. is derived from petroleum. And over three-quarters of the world’s reserves of conventional oil are in OPEC nations. But OPEC is pumping less than it did in the 1970s, despite a doubling in global demand, because it’s a cartel maximizing its income. OPEC sets oil’s price at a level that exploits our addiction but is generally not high enough for long enough that we go cold turkey.
“Oil profits enhance the ability of dictators and autocrats to dominate their people. This is one reason that eight of the top nine oil exporters (Norway is the exception) are dictatorships or autocratic kingdoms, as are virtually all of the 22 states that depend on oil and gas for at least two-thirds of their exports.
“Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth enables it to control around 90% of the world’s Islamic institutions even though it has less than 2% of the world’s Muslims. [...]
“so far every national policy we’ve tried to end our oil addiction has failed, including picking winners. Neither the Synfuels Corporation (the early 1980s drive for coal-to-liquid fuel) nor the hydrogen highway (the push early in this decade to get Americans to drive hydrogen-powered cars long before the technology was ready) had a chance of succeeding. It was too easy for OPEC to drive prices down and crush such costly competition.
“Supporters of cap-and-trade legislation have argued that putting a price on carbon would help us get off oil. But the effect of this would be negligible. Twenty dollars a ton of CO2 equates to about 20 cents a gallon at the gasoline pump.
“Drill, baby, drill? Some suggest that if we replace foreign with domestic oil our problems will be solved. Domestic drilling does help reduce oil’s shareâ€”a billion dollars a dayâ€”of our huge balance of payments deficit, and it adds some domestic employment.
“But that’s it. OPEC has very large reserves and cheap extraction costs, while domestic drilling costs for new oil will be many times that of the Saudis. We can’t drill our way out of the cartel’s control of the global oil market.
“Shifting the way we produce electricity also has essentially nothing to do with oil dependence; less than 2% of U.S. electricity comes from burning oil. We may decide to shift from coal-fired electricity to wind or nuclear for environmental reasons, or not do so for cost reasons, but these issues are not at all central to the oil debate.
“We urgently need to reduce oil dependence in the short term. This means lowering demand and utilizing substitutes as cheaply and quickly as possible. Here are four strategies we can implement beginning today:
“First, we should take advantage of electronic modifications that are being developed for internal combustion engines in existing vehicles. Innovations in computer chips and valves hold an early promise of substantial improvements in mileage by regulating combustion much better than current engines can.
“Second, we should pay attention to T. Boone Pickens’s recommendations to switch to natural gas for fleet vehicles such as buses, and for interstate trucking. Buses and trucks are easily modified to run on natural gas and would only require new pumps at a few central locations and interstate truck stops.
“Third, we should force petroleum products to compete with other fuels as soon as possible. There are many ways to do this, and we should use them all. For example, we should deploy “drop-in” fuels produced from waste and algae. These fuels can mix freely with gasoline and diesel in existing vehicles.
“We should also require all new gasoline-using vehicles to be “flexible fuel, open standard.” What this means is that these vehicles would use a type of plastic in their fuel lines that tolerates nongasoline fuels such as ethanol and methanol. This is a cheap and simple change: Brazil accomplished it easily several years ago. Methanol made from natural gas can be produced for around $1.20 a gallon (of gasoline equivalent) today.
“Fourth, we should move to electrify automotive transportation. Plug-in hybrids are on the road now (I drive one), and production models such as the Chevy Volt, due out this autumn, can drive electrically for roughly 40 miles before needing to plug in or to use on-board liquid fuel. Three out of four days an average car in the U.S. travels fewer than 40 miles.”
The Gigaton Throwdown Initiative comprised of investors, entrepreneurs, executives and academics investigated what it would take to reach gigaton scale for 9 technologies currently attractive to investors, including alternative liquid fuels. Here’s what they had to say about the need for fuel flexibility to be a standard feature as a market enabler for fuel competition:
“If flex-fuel capability were required of all new vehicles starting in 2012 at a cost of $70 per vehicle, 128 million new flex-fuel vehicles would be produced by 2020, and the total cost would be approximately $10 billion spread over 10 years”
“Because of the low cost of converting new vehicles ($70 per vehicle), new vehicle flex-fuel requirements would be the most economic strategy for ensuring flexible fuel options and driving private investment in infrastructure to support more widespread deployment of biofuels.”
“A large-scale expansion of ethanol production will require coordination with car manufacturers to expand the FFV fleet. Sales of [light duty vehicles] in the U.S. were 16.1 million in 2007. It is unlikely that FFV deployment can be accomplished through pure consumer choice given the chicken-and egg relationship between vehicle deployment and the need for sufficient density of vehicles to support private investment in fueling infrastructure. As noted previously, new vehicle flex-fuel requirements would be the most economic strategy for driving private investment in infrastructure to support more widespread deployment of biofuels.” Gigaton Throwdown report (p.35, 36, 39)
News from Saudi Arabia, whose royal family owns 25% of the world’s oil reserves:
A prominent Saudi scholar warned youths studying abroad of using ethanol or other fuel that contains alcohol in their cars since they could be committing a sin, local press reported Thursday.
Truly a case of life imitating parody. The biodiesel/bacon sin alert can’t be far behind.
â€œAs a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I believe achieving energy independence for our nation is of the utmost importance. Dependence on foreign oil is one of the greatest challenges that our nation has ever faced — our national security, economy and environment are all tied to it.
â€œI encourage President Obama to build upon these measures by supporting the Open Fuel Standards Act, which I introduced last year with my colleagues Reps. Kingston, Israel, and Inglis. The United States transportation sector is 97% reliant on oil, and it accounts for two-thirds of our nationâ€™s overall oil consumption. Every year, 17 million new cars are sold in the U.S. and, almost exclusively, they run only on petroleum.
â€œTo remedy that, The Open Fuel Standards Act would require 50% of new cars sold in the United States by 2012, and 80% by 2015, to be flex fuel vehicles. Flex fuel vehicles are automobiles that can use as fuel any combination of gasoline and alcohol â€“ such as ethanol and methanol. It is important to note that alcohol does not mean just ethanol, and ethanol does not mean just corn.
â€œFlex fuel vehicles already exist. They only cost about $100 more than the same car in a gasoline-only version. An influx of flex fuel vehicles on Americaâ€™s roads would increase competition and consumer choice, strip oil of its strategic status, and protect consumers from price hikes at the pump.”
Jim Woolsey and Anne Korin have an article in the fall 2008 issue of MIT Innovations titled How to Break Both Oilâ€™s Monopoly and OPECâ€™s Cartel. An excerpt:
The reality is that neither efforts to expand petroleum supply nor those to crimp petroleum demand will be enough to materially address Americaâ€™s strategic vulnerability, although they can help on an interim basis with such issues as the effects of our huge balance of trade deficit. But such solutions do not address the roots of our energy vulnerability: oilâ€™s monopoly in the transportation sector as the reason oil is a strategic commodity. This monopoly gives intolerable power to OPEC and the nations that dominate oil ownership and production over the consuming nationsâ€™ economies. Policies that only perpetuate the petroleum standard, doing nothing to address the lack of transportation fuel choice, would therefore guarantee a worse future dependence on the oil cartel as the non-OPEC nationsâ€™
share of the worldâ€™s oil reserves and production further shrinks.
Not long ago, technology broke the power of another strategic commodity. Until around the end of the nineteenth century salt had such a position because it was the only means of preserving meat. Odd as it seems today, salt mines conferred national power and wars were even fought over control of them. Today, no nation sways history because it has salt mines. Salt is still a useful commodity for a range of purposes.We import some salt, so if one defines independence as autarky we are not â€œsalt independentâ€. But to most of us there is no â€œsalt dependenceâ€ problem at all â€” because canning, electricity and refrigeration decisively ended saltâ€™s monopoly of meat preservation, and thus its strategic importance.
We can and must do the same thing to oil. When the British Navy made the shift from coal to oil, then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill famously remarked, â€œsafety and certainty in oil lies in variety and variety alone.â€To diminish the strategic importance of oil to the international system it is critical to expand the Churchillian doctrine beyond geographical variety to a variety of fuels and feedstocks.
Ensuring that new cars sold in the U.S. and, by extension, the rest of the world, are platforms on which fuels can compete will spark a competitive market in fuels made from a wide array of energy sources, thus breaking oilâ€™s transportation fuel monopoly and eventually stripping oil of its strategic status.
Craig Frear starts with an overview of agricultural biomass resources for biofuel production in Washington state. Larry Mason continues to talk about forests as a source of raw material for biofuels production. Kristiina Vogt discusses linking biomass to biofuels as a logical energy solution. Jake Eaton concludes with an assessment of producing biofuels from sustainable tree farms.
Senators Salazar, Cantwell, Brownback, Collins, Dorgan, Landrieu, Johnson, Ben Nelson, and Lieberman sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell, urging that assistance to automakers “be predicated on an agreement to increase the percentage of new cars and trucks configured as Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) – vehicles with the ability to use any percentage of gasoline and ethanol or methanol.”
The Senators noted:
“In 2006, the Big Three automobile manufacturers committed to making at least 50 percent of their new vehicles FFVs by 2012. We respectfully request that, during any negotiations over providing additional federal assistance, you insist that the CEOs of the Big Three reaffirm their earlier commitment and also agree to meet a second milestone of 80 percent FFVs by 2015.
“By integrating such goals into their future plans now, automakers will be able to make the necessary changes to production lines without undue disruption or appreciable additional cost. We note that the marginal cost of manufacturing a FFV is less than one hundred dollars per vehicle, while the resulting fuel cost savings to consumers from increased fuel competition could be hundreds or thousands of dollars over a vehicle’s lifetime.
“[...] we favor the adoption of Senate Bill 3303, the bipartisan Open Fuel Standard (OFS) Act, which would apply these FFV requirements to all manufacturers of new cars sold in teh United States.”
Read the entire letter here.