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By Robert Rapier on Oct 9, 2006 with no responses

Fan Mail – Part II

Now, for the second installment – Jim Paris’ over the top rant in which he ignores everything I have been telling him – followed by a response to the points he raised. I did send him a direct e-mail response prior to writing this one, but I basically just blasted him for the willful ignorance he displayed in his response. I offered to address his points provided he gave me permission to post the exchange, but told him I was finished doing this solely for his benefit. Ultimately, after he said “no” to posting the exchange, I decided to post it anyway.

An Analogy

However, I still hope that Jim can learn something. If he doesn’t learn anything else, I want to offer him up an analogy that might help the key issue click in his brain. This is an analogy that a 5th grader should be able to understand. Let’s say that we are discussing breakfast foods. You assert that eggs are much better for you than bacon, because eggs have no cholesterol. I point out that this is actually not correct, that eggs do in fact have cholesterol, and that claiming they don’t exaggerates the benefits of eggs. I also make it clear that I think fruit is a better choice. I point to references, or do the calculations to back up my claims.

At this stage you start to become agitated, and you accuse me of being a “big pork” defender. You suggest that it is ridiculous to think that eggs have cholesterol, and then you start to tell me just how bad bacon is. I attempt to get you back on topic by explaining that the issue here is not whether eggs are good and bacon is bad. The issue is simply the question of whether eggs have cholesterol, and that I prefer fruit anyway. However, you can’t get your mind wrapped around this, because you have blinders on and so aren’t actually listening to what I am saying. You continue to make accusations toward me. You accuse me of supporting the killing of poor animals, despite the hypocritical fact that you eat bacon each morning. That is the situation we have here. The issue is not angelic ethanol versus satanic oil. It is about whether the claims on energy return of ethanol versus gasoline are correct, therefore exaggerating the benefits of ethanol. That is the issue to which Jim responded, but he really didn’t have much interest in discussing that particular issue. The broader issue is ethanol versus more sustainable alternatives.

Jim’s Rant

So, here is Jim’s final rant; a stunning display of naivety, hypocrisy, and willful misrepresentations.

Robert,

After your last exchange, I thought I would go back and look a little more closely at your website. It isn’t clear what fossil fuel company your work for, you just call it an energy company. My first impressions of you were correct, you are a “big-oil” advocate. So after this, I’m not going to spend any more time on your big-oil defending butt, I’ve got more productive things to do with my own biomass project.

You have an article called “Challenge to Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture’s Ethanol Claims”
http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/2006/04/challenge-to-minnesota-dept-of.html where you attempt to exonerate the virtues of big oil over ethanol to some undisclosed “official” at the MDA. Apparently you were taking some delight in that the official wasn’t as informed as yourself, he was lost for words, and you mused with a few of your minions on your website. I also found other articles on your website where you attempt to “dress down” the opponents of big oil and advocates of ethanol. “R-Squared, Telling it like it is” is your mantra. I don’t know about the “R-Squared” part, but the “Telling it like it is” part is obviously a misnomer. None-the-less, you seem to view yourself self as some sort of champion fighter for big oil that obscures himself with limited and charitable endorsements of alternative energy. Nice touch Robert.

In the above article, you build a convenient little box around some cherry picked data to force a point, that big oil has an 80% efficiency, with someone at MDA. Maybe he’s willing to take that crap from you, but I’m not, because I actually know the truth, and there’s a difference between the truth and being right in some narrow self-serving context.

You say that for “convenience sake” that you’re leaving out many of the external costs of producing crude oil because it would be an “even trade” to do the same thing for ethanol. Unfortunately, that is not even remotely true. Let’s put in all the external costs for both ethanol and crude oil and let the chips fall where they may. Let’s also keep in mind that the single greatest component of any cost, is by far and away energy that’s incurred somewhere by someone for something they need or produce. In other words, if all energy were somehow Scott free, what would we need money for? Ponder that for a minute.

Here are just some of the things we have to include in the cost of bringing crude oil energy for consumption:

1.) Mining resources and fabricating all the materials used to produce equipment and supplies exclusive and expansive for the oil industry.

2.) The actual manufacturing and assembly of all the interdependent goods and equipment for the oil industry that civilization wouldn’t otherwise need. We don’t need to go all the way back, but let’s go back 100 years. This will include all exploration equipment and facilities, aircraft, ships, drilling rigs, platforms, pipelines, refineries, office complexes, roads, trucks, cars, etc. (For corn ethanol, you can’t add all farm infrastructure costs because 90% of it is currently already there for food production.)

3.) Let’s also include all the costs of securing leases, not just the actual leasing costs, but lets include all the lobbying costs, salesman costs, consultant costs, permit costs, court costs, lawyer costs, etc., that otherwise wouldn’t be needed if it weren’t for the oil industry. All those things take energy too; look closely, it’s there.

4.) Let’s also include the costs of hiring and paying all the millions of people that are employed to serve the oil industry that otherwise could be doing something more energy efficient, like growing food, engineering more efficient living systems, teaching their children, etc. (Don’t worry we’ll do the same for ethanol.)

5.) Also, let’s not forget the energy and costs to “clean up” after the oil industry. Let’s look at all the ground water contamination around the globe caused by the oil industry and not only count what we’ve already spent, but let’s include what it will cost to finally clean it up when “big oil” is mostly been replaced. Let’s put in the cost of VOC suppression in combustion processes, for instance; catalytic converters, absorbents, etc. Of course, any dedicated infrastructure specific for that purpose needs to be included with the rest. (And again, let’s do as required for ethanol.)

6.) We certainly can’t forget all the toxic and hazardous compounds that the oil industry has produced and the immense toll it has taken on health care costs around the world. We are only now discovering how hundreds of these toxic chemicals, derived from petroleum, have invaded the bodies of virtually every human on the planet. Let’s include the expansion costs of the health care industry and all the energy they involve in some way to deal with these health problems. (Don’t panic, we’ll do the same for ethanol).

7.) Oh, let’s not forget the cost of war to secure oil rich lands so we can have plenty of oil. Let’s count the cost of producing any war machinery dedicated for this purpose and all the inherent cost of waging the war in the land in question. As an example, Iraq. We’ve spent 350 billion there (that’s dollars Robert) and it appears that we’re not only losing the oil, but paying much more for the oil we get every place else. (We’ll include the cost of war for ethanol too.)

8.) Last but not least, let’s take a look at the deleterious impact of “global warming.” Without question, it is already changing the climate to the extent that crops are affected, diseases are being accelerated, wildlife is being threatened, and more. It’s difficult for me to imagine the costs of removing the billions of tons of CO2 we’ve belched into the atmosphere in the last 100 years. It’s probably not even possible, — but wait, we could switch to self sustaining ethanol that doesn’t add new CO2 to the atmosphere, so maybe we need to factor that into the cost of burning fossil fuel as well!

Do the above considerations seem like “straw men” to you? Which of those costs aren’t painfully real? You’re welcome to use the same 8 cost outlines above to generate the actual reciprocal costs for ethanol. But, I’ve got a feeling that ignoring the external costs of both crude oil and ethanol, wasn’t really that charitable for ethanol. Maybe that’s why your mentor, Pimentel, likes to ignore those costs too.

Also, 2 letters back, I mentioned burning the trees on my property for heat and you said: [Your EROEI is simply the BTUs that went into the gasoline, chainsaw manufacture, and transportation. The EROEI of burning biomass is very good. Probably even better than from extracting and burning crude oil.] “Probably better,” Robert? For the example I cited, 100 times better would be more accurate.

I am a professional inventor, I know what’s safe to patent and what isn’t. Most of the technology I develop is “behind door” technology which is quite foolish to patent since you would never know if it is being encroached. The only people that patent that type of technology are “academics” that were paid to make the patent in the first place, and really just do it for recognition. Most of their patents are feckless as well. I use the Trade Secret system to protect nearly all my technology.

My technology is about making ultra-fine bio-powders in the 25 micron range with less than 1/3 the energy of any other methods. Since you’re already an expert on cellulose to ethanol, I shouldn’t need to explain the profound benefits of this.

Your question: [Would you mind if I published this exchange? If I have to spend time on misunderstandings, I prefer to have the exchange accessible to others so they too might learn. I would publish all exchanges in full, unedited.] I’m one person that knows your “end game” which is to ingratiate your authority, on your hobby project website, with your minions. I’ll say no to the posting, but I’ll make you an offer that will actually be better for you. Go ahead and write an article on how much better big oil is than ethanol, write as many pages as you want, cherry pick all the data you want, build all the little boxes you want, peck away at your calculator all you want, and let those equations fly. In response, I’ll write just one page. And let’s not just post it on your website where all your loyal big oil buddies can “hiss” and “titter” about it. Let’s post it on numerous ethanol websites so that people in the ethanol industry can learn how to refute the casuistic claims being tossed around by big oil advocates, such as yourself. Since you already “know my hand,” you should be safe with this offer.

Your attitude on the E3 plant comports nicely with my perceptions of what your’re up to. The E3 plant has a fossil energy ratio of 46 to 1. Of course, you felt compelled to contact them to make sure they weren’t getting too reckless with their claims and compelled them to “downgrade” their projections somewhat. Then you tell me [Original projections on energy balance have been downgraded, and no, it won't be as good as crude.] What the hell are you talking about Robert? They’re getting 90% of their energy from the Sun, which arrives free, within a 50 miles radius of the plant, and converting it to ethanol. Robert, big oil must spend big money to get their energy out of ever increasingly difficult formations, at depths measured in miles, sometimes half way around the world. E3′s energy is free, local, and easily managed. They use the byproducts for the heat they need, generate cattle feed, and generate fertilizer with only 10% of their energy coming from CO2 adding fossil fuels. Only a consummate big oil advocate could ever say “that’s not as good as crude.” What kind of “itty bitty box” are you defining crude in when you say that Robert? This I got to hear!

As I’ve said previously, the Sun sends awesome and endless amounts of “free” energy, right onto our heads. Big oil can never beat that because it is a snake that must always swallow ever more of itself to survive. The challenge of alternative energy is holistic in nature, to work with nature; where as petroleum is narrowly capitalistic with little regard to it’s side effects, and those side effects and peripheral costs must be included in the equation. Which has been my point from the beginning, Robert, and those considerations should have been made before you started belittling some faceless person working for the ethanol cause in the Minnesota Dept of Agriculture. (Incidently, I’d like to know who that person is.)

Later,

Jim

My Response

Jim’s words are italicized:

After your last exchange, I thought I would go back and look a little more closely at your website. It isn’t clear what fossil fuel company your work for, you just call it an energy company. My first impressions of you were correct, you are a “big-oil” advocate.

So, Jim decided he would search for data to confirm his preconceptions, while ignoring my essays on conservation, biodiesel, butanol, cellulosic ethanol, E3 Biofuels, raising the gasoline tax, lowering the speed limit, etc. Because those are things that a “big-oil” advocate would spend a lot of time writing about. Eh, Jim? Of course the fact that Jim is an ethanol advocate with little regard for facts must mean that he thinks I am the same, just on the other side of the issue. That is known as projection, Jim. That is not to say I have not defended the oil industry in some of my essays. If a politician is whining about price gouging while their Expedition idles in the background, I will be all over something like that. But I have also allowed a number of people to write guest posts who have an entirely different viewpoint from my own. Somehow, I doubt that Jim would do the same.

So after this, I’m not going to spend any more time on your big-oil defending butt, I’ve got more productive things to do with my own biomass project.

I bet you do, Jim. Misinformation must keep you pretty busy.

You have an article called “Challenge to Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture’s Ethanol Claims”
http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/2006/04/challenge-to-minnesota-dept-of.html where you attempt to exonerate the virtues of big oil over ethanol to some undisclosed “official” at the MDA.

I invite the readers to check out that essay, and see if Jim isn’t guilty of telling some lies in order to make his point. The purpose of that essay is not that difficult to understand for most people: It was to highlight and address a false claim about the efficiency of ethanol versus gasoline. In no way was it an endorsement of gasoline, and I explicitly stated as much. I even showed the calculations as to why this was wrong (something lacking in every single one of Jim’s e-mails to me). But this doesn’t fit the image Jim has fixed in his mind of what I am up to, so his response comes across as half-baked.

Apparently you were taking some delight in that the official wasn’t as informed as yourself, he was lost for words, and you mused with a few of your minions on your website.

Jim is projecting again. Perhaps this is because these would have been his emotions in this situation. But I don’t find it amusing when people are misinformed; especially when they are passing the misinformation on to others.

I also found other articles on your website where you attempt to “dress down” the opponents of big oil and advocates of ethanol.

Welcome to that club, Jim. There is nothing wrong with advocating ethanol. But you are a naïve, hypocritical advocate who has to distort his opponent’s views in order to attack them. Your spot place in that club of dressed-down opponents was earned.

None-the-less, you seem to view yourself self as some sort of champion fighter for big oil that obscures himself with limited and charitable endorsements of alternative energy. Nice touch Robert.

Nice touch yourself, Jim. That’s a lot of insulting insinuations packed into that short statement. However, I have actually worked for years on alternative energy. I hardly characterize that as limited and charitable endorsements. But if that characterization will allow you to actually ignore what I have written, said, and done in this area, hey go for it. Right? Don’t let the truth get in the way of your crusade.

Note that you are also once again projecting. Clearly from your language, you view yourself as some sort of champion fighter for ethanol. In fact, you thought so highly of your fighting skills that you actually copied the director of the Biofuels Lab at NREL on all of your responses! Talk about your delusional behavior.

In the above article, you build a convenient little box around some cherry picked data to force a point, that big oil has an 80% efficiency, with someone at MDA. Maybe he’s willing to take that crap from you, but I’m not, because I actually know the truth, and there’s a difference between the truth and being right in some narrow self-serving context.

In what way are the data “cherry picked”? As far as you actually “knowing the truth”, let’s reserve judgment for now. There are fanatics worldwide who make the same claim every day.

You say that for “convenience sake” that you’re leaving out many of the external costs of producing crude oil because it would be an “even trade” to do the same thing for ethanol.

That’s not what I said Jim. Not even close. I am not sure why you are confused about this (actually, I am sure), so let’s try again. The entire ethanol industry is heavily dependent upon fossil fuels. The whole “green ethanol” shtick is such a joke, when 90% of the BTUs that go into your typical gallon of ethanol came from fossil fuels. So all of those externalized costs for oil are also borne by the ethanol industry. You complain about soldiers fighting overseas. Do your tractors run on diesel? Do the trucks that ship the ethanol around the country run on diesel? Do the trucks that bring the corn to the ethanol plant run on diesel? Are the tires of your tractors and trucks made from fossil fuels? Are the plastic components throughout the vehicles and ethanol plants made from fossil fuels? What I would like to see, Jim, is for people like you to stop the blatant hypocrisy. You have the right to not use petroleum (and I would strongly encourage you to start walking the talk). If you do so, then you can hurl all the criticisms you want without being a hypocrite. But given that the U.S. ethanol industry is currently completely dependent on fossil fuels, and was built on cheap fossil fuels, forgive me if I point out your blatant hypocrisy.

Here are just some of the things we have to include in the cost of bringing crude oil energy for consumption:

This still hasn’t soaked in for you, has it? First, I am not defending oil. I want to see us move to sustainable energy ASAP. I don’t expect you to get that, because once again it doesn’t fit your preconception. But you just don’t seem to understand the flagrant hypocrisy in your position. Ethanol is primarily recycled fossil fuel. Maybe that won’t always be the case, but that is the status quo at the moment. All of your gripes about the external costs of fossil fuel are embedded in the cost of producing ethanol. The ethanol industry has been built on the back of cheap fossil fuels. Furthermore, ethanol has its own externalized costs on top of those (soil depletion, herbicide and pesticide runoff into waterways, aquifer depletion). While you have a lot of misinformation and hypocrisy in your list, one item deserves special attention:

Last but not least, let’s take a look at the deleterious impact of “global warming.” Without question, it is already changing the climate to the extent that crops are affected, diseases are being accelerated, wildlife is being threatened, and more. It’s difficult for me to imagine the costs of removing the billions of tons of CO2 we’ve belched into the atmosphere in the last 100 years. It’s probably not even possible, — but wait, we could switch to self sustaining ethanol that doesn’t add new CO2 to the atmosphere, so maybe we need to factor that into the cost of burning fossil fuel as well!

You have got a lot of nerve to lecture me on Global Warming, Captain Crusader. Why don’t you do a little bit more research on my Global Warming position, which I have made blatantly clear?

Furthermore, your comment about “self sustaining ethanol that doesn’t add new CO2 to the atmosphere” shows just how deep your delusions run. Where can I find one of these self-sustaining ethanol plants that doesn’t add new CO2 to the atmosphere? There aren’t any in the U.S., because every ethanol plant in the U.S. relies on fossil fuel inputs. Brazilian ethanol is a different story, but we don’t run their model in the U.S.

You’re welcome to use the same 8 cost outlines above to generate the actual reciprocal costs for ethanol.

Given the level of embedded fossil fuel in ethanol, they are actually about the same, aren’t they? Is it starting to soak in finally?

Also, 2 letters back, I mentioned burning the trees on my property for heat and you said: [Your EROEI is simply the BTUs that went into the gasoline, chainsaw manufacture, and transportation. The EROEI of burning biomass is very good. Probably even better than from extracting and burning crude oil.] “Probably better,” Robert? For the example I cited, 100 times better would be more accurate.

Jim, ask yourself why power plants use fossil fuels instead of biomass to fuel their processes. Your “100 times better” is just another example of you having no facts at your disposal, so you shoot from the hip.

I am a professional inventor, I know what’s safe to patent and what isn’t. Most of the technology I develop is “behind door” technology which is quite foolish to patent since you would never know if it is being encroached. The only people that patent that type of technology are “academics” that were paid to make the patent in the first place, and really just do it for recognition. Most of their patents are feckless as well. I use the Trade Secret system to protect nearly all my technology.

Whatever you say, Jim. The level of honesty and integrity you have displayed in our exchanges convinces me that I should take you at your word.

I’m one person that knows your “end game” which is to ingratiate your authority, on your hobby project website, with your minions.

I have minions? So it isn’t enough to insult just me, you have to spread it around, eh?

I’ll say no to the posting, but I’ll make you an offer that will actually be better for you.

As you can see, I decided to post it anyway. I want this to serve as a deterrent to others who have so little respect for other people’s time.

Go ahead and write an article on how much better big oil is than ethanol, write as many pages as you want, cherry pick all the data you want, build all the little boxes you want, peck away at your calculator all you want, and let those equations fly.

So you would prefer to address the box you have drawn around me, instead of addressing my actual position? That much was clear from your writing already. However, you are going to have to settle for my actual position, not some straw man that you think you can dress down.

Your attitude on the E3 plant comports nicely with my perceptions of what your’re up to.

That can happen with preconceptions. You have an idea of how the world should be, so you filter that through and massage the data until that’s what it becomes. That’s probably why your patent portfolio is a bit light. The data is what it is, not what you wish it to be.

The E3 plant has a fossil energy ratio of 46 to 1.

Really? How so, since it hasn’t even started up yet? Is this really your best work, Jim?

Of course, you felt compelled to contact them to make sure they weren’t getting too reckless with their claims and compelled them to “downgrade” their projections somewhat.

And you know this because….? Right, because otherwise it doesn’t fit your preconceptions. Well, sorry Jim, that’s not how it went down. Contact E3 Biofuels, and let them burst another one of your misconceptions. I already told you who to contact.

They’re getting 90% of their energy from the Sun, which arrives free, within a 50 miles radius of the plant, and converting it to ethanol.

In a plant that hasn’t started up yet. Seriously Jim, did you think at all when you sat down to write this? Do you understand the first thing about photosynthetic efficiency? Have you taken a look at their energy balance? Do you understand that they still require (fossil fuel-based) nitrogen fertilizer, because the manure is not enough to meet the fertilizer needs? You are so misinformed, it’s pathetic that you think you are qualified to even argue about this.

Only a consummate big oil advocate could ever say “that’s not as good as crude.”

Ah, an inverse “no true Scotsman fallacy.” Bravo. Jim, when you actually learn how to draw an energy balance around the two processes, such that you can compare the two on an apples to apples basis and put some actual numbers in the equation, contact me.

As I’ve said previously, the Sun sends awesome and endless amounts of “free” energy, right onto our heads. Big oil can never beat that because it is a snake that must always swallow ever more of itself to survive.

Jim, just what do you think oil actually is? Don’t you understand that it is captured solar energy, with some geothermal thrown in for good measure. Furthermore, unlike ethanol, it is not completely soluble in water, and hence very energy intensive to process.

Well, this was quite a waste of time, Jim. But it is a perfect example of just how delusional certain ethanol advocates can be. I am not against ethanol, you see. That was only one of your major misconceptions. I am against bogus arguments and misinformation, which is why I posted this exchange. I think what E3 Biofuels is doing is great. I think every ethanol plant in the country should strive for such efficiency. I think cellulosic ethanol holds great potential, but certainly is not a sure thing. And I think biomass gasification will trump them all in the long run.

Learn to pick your battles, Jim. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. And don’t resort to willful misrepresentations of your opponent. If you can’t attack their actual position with verifiable facts and calculations of your own, you have no business attacking them at all. Feel free to comment below and address anything I have written. I don’t censor anyone.