Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Feb 23, 2010 with 142 responses

Broken Promises from Range Fuels

Update 8-18-10: For those linking in from the earth2tech article on Range Fuels, that inaccurately reflects my comments on Range. My criticism was not that they added methanol to the mix. To the contrary, I think biomass to methanol is a promising, long-term route to biofuels. My criticisms of Range are on the basis of what they promised versus what they are delivering, as documented below.

When I first began my career, a wise old-timer gave me a piece of advice that I took to heart. He said “When you are planning and executing a project, it is important for you to do what you say you are going to do. People are going to make investment decisions on the basis of the numbers you project. So don’t over-promise and under-deliver.”

As I began to become involved in projects, the wisdom of the advice I was given became clear. I learned to be conservative with my claims, because failing to deliver can have far-reaching impacts. Plus, a pattern of over-promising and under-delivering will ultimately destroy your credibility, and thus your ability to get anything done. (On the other hand, excessive “sand-bagging” is also poor practice, as too much money gets budgeted where it needn’t be).

Now imagine the following scenario. I go to the government and ask for $5 million to build a 10 million gallon per year ethanol plant. I announce that it is cutting edge technology, and I make various far-reaching claims. I issue press releases, and Congress invites me to give testimony in D.C. The government grants me the money I ask for, because I have had success in other ventures and I seem like a credible fellow.

Later, I go back to the government, and tell them I need another $5 million, and that unfortunately the project schedule is slipping. “By the way”, I tell them, “I will now only be producing 5 million gallons.”

As construction continues, I start to realize that the energy business is a bit more difficult than I had imagined, and things that I thought were new weren’t new. It becomes clear that I can’t even deliver on my downgraded promises because I hadn’t appreciated the challenges of scale-up. The government calls me up and asks me how it is going. “Well”, I explain to them, “I am out raising $10 million more in investor money. I am also going to only produce 1 million gallons, and it is going to be methanol instead of ethanol as I have been claiming. I am not really sure when I will produce ethanol. By the way, could you give me some more money?”

So I went from claiming $5 million for a 10 million gallon ethanol plant to $20 million for a 1 million gallon methanol plant. I still have not delivered. I am asking for more money. You still trust me, don’t you?

Range Fuels: Years of Broken Promises

I have for the most part held my tongue over Range Fuels for the past 3 years, but the scenario above essentially describes what has happened. The reason I have held my tongue is that I have heard various bits about their progress that was not public, and so I have held back on commenting. But I firmly believed they were making reckless claims from Day 1.

Now the EPA has just issued a report that gives some remarkable updates on Range Fuels, and I feel I have held my tongue long enough. Let’s walk through the timeline to show the remarkable evolution of their progress that has gone largely unreported.

October 2006 – In an interview with Wired Magazine called My Big Bet on Biofuels, Vinod Khosla gushed about E3 Biofuels (now bankrupt) and wrote about them as if they were a running, proven plant. He wrote about what they were achieving, despite the fact that they hadn’t started up (and would be out of business shortly after they started up). In the article, Khosla described his investment in Kergy (which later became Range Fuels).

IN THE CORNER of an unmarked warehouse tucked away in an industrial neighborhood north of Denver, a new company called Kergy has what is, to my knowledge, the first anaerobic thermal conversion machine (which explains why Khosla Ventures is a seed investor). It’s a 6- by 4-foot contraption that stands about 8 feet high. It looks vaguely like a souped-up potbellied stove. But it runs cleanly enough to operate indoors.

With those comments, everyone in the energy business knew Khosla was operating outside of his element. People have been gasifying biomass for decades, and there are numerous “anaerobic thermal conversion machines” out there. What happened was that Khosla wasn’t aware of this, so he thought this was all new and novel, and he invested – and then began to promote. He also went to the government telling them how wonderful it was, and that he would change the world if they would only fund him.

In that article, the inventor of the gasifier, Bud Klepper, is ominously quoted “We could double the ethanol output of the Mead facility.” I hope not. The output of the Mead facility (E3 Biofuels) is zero, so double that is…

February 2007Kergy changed its name to Range Fuels. They announced that they would build their first “cellulosic ethanol” plant in Georgia. The capacity was announced at “more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year” (Source.)

I had a problem with this announcement on two counts. First, this is not “cellulosic ethanol”, as I explained in Cellulosic Ethanol vs. Biomass Gasification. Further, if you are going to make an alcohol from syngas (the product of the gasifier), ethanol is a strange choice to make. Methanol is more efficient to produce, and ethanol is generally just a co-product when producing mixed alcohols (which also work well as fuel; see Standard Alcohol). It is only separated out at a great expense of energy – and then you have a lot of lower-value methanol to deal with. So this was looking like a very confused project from the start.

March 2007 – Range Fuels announced a $76 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Also during 2007, articles on Range Fuels began to appear everywhere. There were high profile pieces in The New York Times and in Forbes. In the Times’ article, the company refused to disclose how much had been invested to date.

An article in USA Today reported that the initial capacity would be 20 million gallons. The site was permitted for 100 million gallons of eventual capacity, and the cost of building a 100 million gallon per year plant was quoted at $150 million. Range said they thought they would be the first to win the “cellulosic ethanol” race (again, ignoring that the race was won a hundred years ago):

By next year [2008], the company intends to have a facility capable of creating 20 million gallons of ethanol per year. The site in Treutlen County, Ga., has received a permit to produce 100 million gallons per year, and Range Fuels expects to eventually reach that production amount, according to company CEO Mitch Mandich.

“A lot of people are talking about 2009, or 10 or 11—even Secretary of Energy (Samuel) Bodman will say cellulosic ethanol is five years away,” Mandich said. “We think by the time we enter production, we’ll be the first, so the race is on between us and some competitors.”

Well, it is 2010, and we still aren’t seeing any ethanol from the facility. Welcome to the real world.

November 2007 – To much fanfare, Range Fuels announced the groundbreaking of their Georgia facility. They continued to maintain that the first 20 million gallon phase would be completely finished in 2008. Those of us who have been involved in plant construction wondered when they would actually face the music and admit they couldn’t deliver.

March 2008 – Range announced that they had raised another $100 million to build the plant. By April this number was announced as $130 million in venture capital funding. They were still treated as media darlings – and nobody in the press was asking them critical questions. But their story was about to begin to unravel.

April 2008 – Range announced that they have received a $6 million grant from the state of Georgia.

October 2008 – In an incredibly ironic story, Discover Magazine published Anything Into Ethanol. It was incredibly ironic because in 2003 they had written Anything Into Oil, a gushing story about a company called Changing World Technologies (CWT) and their claim that they could make oil from biomass for $8-$12 a barrel. After a lot of wasted investor and taxpayer dollars, CWT declared bankruptcy when they couldn’t deliver on their claims. I did a post-mortem on CWT here. There were many more parallels here than just two nearly identical, uncritical stories from Discover Magazine.

November 2008 – Range Fuels CEO Mitch Manditch was replaced.

January 2009 – Although the plant in Georgia was still not complete, there was no explanation regarding the delay. But Range announced another $80 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One story announced that the company had received a total of $158 million in VC funding in 2008. This story also announced that the first phase was still under construction, and production was now not expected until 2010! (This new production time frame was probably the result of getting in a new CEO who was actually experienced in the energy business, ex-Shell executive David Aldous).

May 2009 - While Range Fuels stopped issuing so many press releases, former CEO Mitch Mandich was quoted in the New York Times admitting that “The soup’s not quite cooked yet.” This was extraordinary given previous claims from him that they would produce cellulosic ethanol at less than the price of corn ethanol.

October 2009 - In a New York Times’ story that warned that cellulosic ethanol was falling far short of expectations, it was announced that Range Fuels had applied for even more funding from the DOE! This time, the DOE said no.

For the most of 2009, Range went into silent mode. Again, I attribute this to a new CEO who came from the energy business, where you better do what you say you are going to do. One pattern that started to emerge was that they referred less to cellulosic ethanol and more to cellulosic biofuels. This was significant, because I had always maintained that it wouldn’t be cost-competitive for them to produce ethanol via gasification. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop…

February 2010 – A rather extraordinary update was issued that the mainstream media has still not absorbed. The EPA released an update to the Renewable Fuel Standards Program (RFS2). In that update, they had the following report on Range Fuels (see this document). From Pages 175 and 178:

At the time of our assessment, we were also anticipating cellulosic biofuel production from Range Fuels’ first commercial-scale plant in Soperton, GA. The company received a $76 million grant from DOE to help build a 40 MGY wood-based ethanol plant and they broke ground in November 2007. In January 2009, Range was awarded an $80 million loan guarantee from USDA. With the addition of this latest capital, the company seemed well on its way to completing construction of its first 10 MGY phase by the end of 2009 and beginning production in 2010.

As for the Range Fuels plant, construction of phase one in Soperton, GA, is about 85% complete, with start-up planned for mid-2010. However, there have been some changes to the scope of the project that will limit the amount of cellulosic biofuel that can be produced in 2010. The initial capacity has been reduced from 10 to 4 million gallons per year. In addition, since they plan to start up the plant using a methanol catalyst they are not expected to produce qualifying renewable fuel in 2010. During phase two of their project, currently slated for mid- 2012, Range plans to expand production at the Soperton plant and transition from a methanol to a mixed alcohol catalyst. This will allow for a greater alcohol production potential as well as a greater cellulosic biofuel production potential.

Did you catch that? Initial capacity is now slated at 4 million gallons per year and will be methanol. There will still be no qualifying “cellulosic ethanol” produced in 2010. The amount of money that we know has been poured into this – beyond Khosla and company’s initial investment – is $158 million in VC money, $76 million of DOE money, $80 million from the USDA, and $6 million from the state of Georgia. Further, they asked for more DOE money and were turned down.

So we have Khosla’s initial investment of unknown amount plus $320 million for 4 million gallons of methanol. Wow. At this point, I don’t know why anyone would care about what they say they are going to do during Phase 2, I am more interested in seeing some accountability for what has happened to date.

Let’s recap the highlights:

February 2007 – Range Fuels announced that they would build their first “cellulosic ethanol” plant in Georgia. In a story at Green Car Congress, the capacity was announced at “more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol per year.”

March 2007 – Range Fuels announced a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy.

July 2007 – In a story in USA Today, the Phase 1 capacity was announced at 20 million gallons. The full scale would be 100 million gallons at a cost of $150 million.

November 2007 – Range broke ground on the plant; announced they would be finished with Phase 1 (still 20 million gallons) by the end of 2008.

April 2008 – Range announced a $6 million grant from the state of Georgia.

January 2009 – Range received another $80 million, this time from the USDA, and announced receipt of $158 million in venture capital funding for 2008.

October 2009 – Range asked for more money. This time they were told no.

February 2010 – After investments that have been publicly announced at $320 million, the EPA announced that Range would initially produce 4 million gallons, and it would be methanol. Further, there would be no ethanol produced in 2010.

February 2010 – I write an article wondering why the mainstream media has completely missed this story.

In summary, we were given numbers of $150 million to build 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol capacity. What we are being told now is > $320 million to build 4 million gallons of methanol capacity. Of course they intend to do so much more, but I have a very big problem giving more taxpayer money to an organization with this history.

I don’t blame current CEO David Aldous for this. I think Range’s tendency to talk to the press every chance they got ceased once  reality started to take hold and they got an experienced energy veteran in. I think Aldous inherited a ship in which people had been in the habit of promising the moon to secure ever more funding. But I do blame a number of the original promoters of the company.

I have criticized Vinod Khosla in the past for what I said were unrealistic claims. I felt like he came into the energy industry without a very good comprehension of if, but felt that he would apply his golden touch from Silicon Valley to show the dinosaurs how Silicon Valley innovates. I also felt like he was attracted to people who made grandiose claims, but didn’t have the proper historical perspective to determine when something was truly novel (and really worked).

The thing is, the energy industry is full of very smart people who went to the same schools the people in Silicon Valley attended. There isn’t much that hasn’t been tried, and most of what is being announced to great fanfare by newcomers is being worked on in silence in numerous places around the globe.

When you step out there and make the sorts of claims that were made, you have some responsibility for your words. Failure tars an entire renewable industry as being hopelessly unrealistic. This is the reason I go after claims that I believe are unrealistic. If you promise and fail repeatedly, funding will dry up for everyone as the government and the public all become cynical. So your actions impact lots of people – and can impact the energy policy of the entire country – thus you need to be accountable for the things you say.

This has played out exactly like I thought it would. Claims that most industry insiders laughed at in private have now come to naught at great cost to taxpayers. Methanol from syngas? Oh, that technology has only been with us since 1923. Congratulations on reinventing the wheel and burning through taxpayer money in the process.

In summary, I will point out that the two primary sources of cellulosic production being counted on by the EPA for 2010 were Range Fuels and Cello Energy. Both are Vinod Khosla ventures, and neither has come remotely close to delivering despite lots of funding and taxpayer assistance. I don’t think these are isolated cases. I think they are a symptom of things to come. We have gotten a lot of overpromises, because face it, that has worked to secure funding. But what this leads to are completely unrealistic expectations regarding our energy policy, and numerous bad decisions regarding where tax dollars should be spent.

Finally, I want to make one thing crystal clear. I am not criticizing failure here. That is normal and expected. Failure is a part of what it takes to learn and move forward. What I am criticizing is the nature of the failure; that it was primarily because inexperienced people were making claims they shouldn’t have made, and taxpayers are going to get stuck with the bills. Personally, I have a problem with my tax dollars being squandered away by smooth-talking salesmen.

  1. By rufus on February 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I think one of the problems was the critics of Range Fuels were harming their own credibility by attacking Corn Ethanol, and other processes, in a manner that many people knew to be false.

    It was kind of a "Boy Crying Wolf" situation.

    Interesting. I fear "Coskata" might be the same type situation.

    [link]      
  2. By Optimist on February 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    It was incredibly ironic because in 2003 they had written Anything Into Oil, a gushing story about a company called Changing World Technologies (CWT) and their claim that they could make oil from biomass for $8-$12 a gallon.
    Having trouble to keep up with the promises? I believe it was $8-$12 a barrel!

    In that article, the inventor of the gasifier, Bud Klepper, is ominously quoted “We could double the ethanol output of the Mead facility.”
    So, RR, to me much of this boils down to: Who is Bud Klepper? At some point it seemed his twin claims to fame were:
    1. A highly efficient biomass gasifier.
    2. An alcoholizer that presumably would produce mixed alcohols (as opposed to methanol) at the customary high efficiency.

    Seems like Range is slowly backing away from claim No. 2 (to return in future). Not sure about claim No. 1, though…

    Personally, I have a problem with my tax dollars being squandered away by smooth-talking salesmen.
    Yeah, I have a problem with Congress too…

    [link]      
  3. By Optimist on February 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    You're right, Rufus. We should simply accept that ALL fuel ethanol is a BAD idea.

    Ethanol is strictly for drinking! Somehow Uncle Sam has all sorts of trouble understanding/accepting that…

    [link]      
  4. By rufus on February 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Bluefire might be another one.

    Meanwhile, more corn ethanol facilities are adding Oil Extraction Capability.

    You can take delivery of all the corn ethanol you want at the plant gate for $1.65/gal ($1.70 in Chicago,) Optimist.

    That's before any blender's credits, etc. are applied. That looks like it's working pretty good to me.

    [link]      
  5. By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Having trouble to keep up with the promises? I believe it was $8-$12 a barrel!

    Fixed. I knew at least one typo would slip by me. Thanks for catching it.

    RR

    [link]      
  6. By Anonymous on February 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    It seems that the DOE shares a lot of the blame here. They should be able to sift through these claims. They should also have the historical perspective. What's wrong with the way the DOE approaches these issues?

    [link]      
  7. By Bob Rohatensky on February 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Another little correction:
    As I began to do become involved in projects

    [link]      
  8. By Wendell Mercantile on February 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    What's wrong with the way the DOE approaches these issues?

    Anon~

    Let me take a guess: Politics?

    [link]      
  9. By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Another little correction:

    Thanks. Every time I read through one of these long essays, I end up changing some things. Inevitably, I end up with some redundancies like that where I changed a word but didn't delete the one I changed.

    RR

    [link]      
  10. By Anonymous on February 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I hope this post is bound, ultimately, for the Forbes column.

    RBM

    [link]      
  11. By Benny BND Cole on February 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I am not an anti-government guy, but I do wonder whether government has a role financing what look to be start-ups—something that should be financed with venture capital money.
    Another (taxpayer freindly) approach would be to award X prizes—$1 billion to the first ethanol plant that agrees to sell ethanol for $1 a gallon, on a 10-year contract, or something to that effect. $1 billion for the first production car that gets more than 100 mpg.

    Financing R&D seems okay, but financing start-ups?

    [link]      
  12. By Anonymous on February 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Another typo

    it would be ethanol it would be methanol.

    [link]      
  13. By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks, fixed.

    I had originally intended to publish this tomorrow, but I rushed it as I was heading into a meeting this morning. I shouldn't have done that.

    RR

    [link]      
  14. By Kit P on February 23, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Stopped reading and skipped to the end to see if there was a point.

    “Personally, I have a problem with my tax dollars being squandered away by smooth-talking salesmen.”

    There is a way to overcome that problem. Focus on the positive. I often enjoy the links Rufus provides because they are informative.

    I do understand the frustration. When you see money going to environmental justice studies rather than fixing the problem. How to make rural communities smell better, make electricity with the manure. A hundred positive stories there.

    [link]      
  15. By Anonymous on February 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Robert, I'm not sure why you ascribe Khosla's behavior to being unfamiliar with the energy sector. Range Fuels' story looks very much like the normal story of a company in Silicon Valley. I think that is just the way things are done there. It takes many startups in the Silicon Valley to produce one viable company.

    [link]      
  16. By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Robert, I'm not sure why you ascribe Khosla's behavior to being unfamiliar with the energy sector. Range Fuels' story looks very much like the normal story of a company in Silicon Valley.

    That is exactly the point. The energy industry is not Silicon Valley. The energy industry has a much longer history of things that have been tried and didn't work for various reasons. Someone entirely unfamiliar with the industry is more likely to come in and reinvent the wheel because they didn't know that it had been invented.

    RR

    [link]      
  17. By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Stopped reading and skipped to the end to see if there was a point.

    Kit, if you don't have anything to say, there is no rule here that says you have to say something. And if you don't understand the point, it probably is best that you don't say anything. But my guess is that you are the only person who has read this that didn't understand what it is all about.

    There is a way to overcome that problem. Focus on the positive.

    That is too rich coming from you. Focus on the positive. A quote from Kit, who only focuses on the positive when it is something he supports. Kit, who only ever has negative things to say about my essays. Just beautiful, man. You are almost too much.

    I do understand the frustration. When you see money going to environmental justice studies rather than fixing the problem.

    Kit, I know you didn't understand the point, so you are going off-tangent here. Let me explain again. The frustration is smooth-talking salesmen who tell a good – but entirely improbable – story and then proceed to get taxpayer dollars to build a plant based on decades old technology. That is the exact opposite of fixing the problem (because you diverted money that could have been used for fixing the problem), but then again you are the King of Contradictions.

    RR

    [link]      
  18. By Kit P on February 23, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    My post – 89 word that included a positive message that RR did not get.

    RR's reply – a 220 word lecture.

    [link]      
  19. By Robert Rapier on February 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Focus on the positive Kit.

    [link]      
  20. By Russ Finley on February 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    This is one fine article. I'll be referring back to it many times, I'm sure.

    [link]      
  21. By Kinuachdrach on February 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Anonymous wrote: "It seems that the DOE shares a lot of the blame here. They should be able to sift through these claims."

    Agreed, Anonymous. There will always be smooth-talking confidence men, and simply smooth-talking people who believe their own bullshit without any intended malice.

    The guard against that is the skilled serious person who is handing out Other People's Money, taxpayer money in this case.

    The Venture Capitalists who lost their own money — tough luck. It would not be surprising to find that the main pitch to the VC's was that the DOE has already pumped in over $100 Million. The government wouldn't do that without checking it out, right?

    Some DOE personnel need to experience Obama's Recession up close & personal. After all, the DOE's credibility is on the line too.

    [link]      
  22. By rufus on February 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Ahh, you gotta have optimistic, slick-talking salesmen. Otherwise nothing gets done.

    Hopefully, we'll learn something from the post-mortem (unless, of course, they're able to turn it around.)

    It'll be interesting to keep an eye on Enerkem. They reached the syngas stage several months, ago, and should be producing some methanol/ethanol pretty soon.

    Whatever happened to E3? I thought they would come back for sure. Lurgi built that one, right? Did they Ever build an ethanol facility that worked?

    [link]      
  23. By Chris on February 23, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks for the nice article. Stepping back from all of the broken promises, I'm curious about the pros/cons of Methanol as a fuel and/or blending agent. I know China just introduced a M10 or M15 blending standard, and are seeing a lot of success. For more info on this, just listen to an investor call from Methanex (www.methanex.com)

    [link]      
  24. By rufus on February 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm
    [link]      
  25. By Anonymous on February 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Mr. Rapier writes a darn good blog.He pretty much sticks to his expertise. I.E. Liquid fuels. Once in awhile he tries to remind us that conservation would go a long way whether we like it or not. He has the freedom to do that. Politicians do not enjoy that freedom. They have to keep their constituents happy as in "Drill Baby, Drill." They will even throw money at foolish schemes just to let the people know that they are doing their very best to keep their fat arses in their cars. Hopefully Mr. Rapier's message will finally convince people there is no liquid fuel that will replace oil. Maybe then we will move on to a better form of fuel or even transport to replace our increasing costly oil fuel. jcsr

    [link]      
  26. By Anonymous on February 23, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    "I think one of the problems was the critics of Range Fuels were harming their own credibility by attacking Corn Ethanol…"

    So, rufus, the corollary seems to be that Robert's critiques on corn ethanol must now have a lot more credibility since he was spot on about Range Fuels! :)

    [link]      
  27. By PeteS on February 24, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I've started focusing on the positive … by scrolling past all of Kit P's comments.

    [link]      
  28. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Corn ethanol is a done deal, Onon.

    It's, now, a known quantity.

    Some of us have been right about it all along;

    some got it wrong. Some still have it wrong (although, for the life of me, I can't figure out, how.)

    There were 3. Corn, gassification, and cellulose. Right now the anti's seem to be batting 1 for 2. As do many of the "pro ethanol crowd."

    "Cellulosic" will, seemingly, be the rubber match. I've been a little "squishy" about cellulosic, myself. The last couple of months, though, are about to convince me there's hope.

    I think Vonore, Tn may be the ultimate "model," but the most important thing to happen in the next couple of years will be Poet's Project Liberty (the corn cob deal.)

    If the Poet deal works well, it's a whole nother ball game.

    I'll give RR his credit due on Range, though. It looks like he had that one nailed.

    [link]      
  29. By Russ on February 24, 2010 at 12:49 am

    'PeteS said…
    I've started focusing on the positive … by scrolling past all of Kit P's comments.'

    Ditto for me Pete S!

    [link]      
  30. By Moiety on February 24, 2010 at 4:51 am

    "Broken promises from…" could be applied to many areas especially in research and start-ups. The two main problems I see are naivety and lack of knowledge.
    Very often when someone 'invents' or develops something (whether new or not) they are very close to the product perceiving things differently to what a devil's advocate/field expert would perceive. Very often this is achieved using funding from the same source that will give them more funding when they present their brilliant results.
    One thus has to question the robustness of the process involved.

    [link]      
  31. By Robert Rapier on February 24, 2010 at 11:33 am

    "Broken promises from…" could be applied to many areas especially in research and start-ups.

    What is different in this particular case is scale. These guys made sure they had a very high media profile, they sought the publicity, they got lots of government support – now it is time for accountability. Most start-ups aren't out there squandering my money by making exaggerated promises.

    RR

    [link]      
  32. By RBM on February 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    [i]Whatever happened to E3?[/i]

    When a boiler installed by a small contractor blew up, it took the whole operation down with it.

    My source is a Ruminant Technician at UNL who had a research/business relationship with the Mead operation.

    I started to search for online confirmation for that info, not for myself but for this quality blog.

    Others will have to do the heavy lifting, if they so choose, regarding the info. I'm just not that interested in 'ancient history'.

    [link]      
  33. By takchess on February 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    In keeping with the Energy to Data Technology theme, check out this Bloom Energy description.

    An energy server 8).

    This could be an EMC website.

    [link]      
  34. By JIMj on February 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm
    [link]      
  35. By Wendell Mercantile on February 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    It's, now, a known quantity.

    Rufus~

    We certainly agree on that — it's a known quantity alright. Something that is "known" is that corn ethanol wouldn't exist without an elaborate foundation of subsidies*, tax credits, mandates (especially mandates**), and tariffs courtesy of high-powered lobbyists and Corn Belt politicians.

    The other known quantity about corn ethanol is that it is basically reformed natural gas.

    ________
    * A basic truth about subsidies too many forget: One person's subsidy is another person's tax.

    ** Which you seem to claim is being "held back" only by a lack of more mandates.

    [link]      
  36. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I wonder if the oil market would exist in the U.S. if it wasn't for the U.S. Navy, and Marine Corps?

    And, guess who's paying for those.

    [link]      
  37. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Corn ethanol = Solar + Rain + Soil Microbial Action + 5% diesel + 40% nat gas – Approx.

    Gasoline = Oil + Nat Gas

    Gee, nat gas is used in both

    Now, what do we do?

    [link]      
  38. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    And, no Wendell, Exxon will not use the first drop of ethanol if it's not mandated.

    But, you know that.

    [link]      
  39. By Moiety on February 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    "What is different in this particular case is scale. "

    Agree in that this scale is possibly unique for a single company. However this case is one that due to the media exposure has much clarity and I feel that there may be more. A similar analysis could be pointed at the Bloom Box (in my opinion; to take a high profile example). From my limited knowledge in SOFC it seems strange that a company is pushing an expensive high temperature technology especially considering the losses made by that company last year, the seemingly lack of unique attributes to the tech compared with the field and the drive towards lower temperature materials. While much has been raised via venture capital, tax dollars also went down that path as well.

    In any case, my gripe is two fold. I agree that the DoE have a responsibility. I also have a gripe in that far to many 'good ideas' get promoted and pushed. Good ideas do not generate money (for e.g.), good engineering does (if we want to sum up in a word or two).

    [link]      
  40. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I know something else; A retailer can buy ethanol for about $1.63/gal from the refinery in Iowa.

    That's $0.47 less than the front month on 84 octane RBOB (the RBOB has to have some sort of octane enhancer blended into it; which, effectively, means that you'll have to add a few cents before you can put it in your car.)

    Even w/o the blender's credit one could sell the E85 for around $2.10 gal (depending on which state tax you're paying.)

    $2.70 – $2.10 = pretty good deal.

    .80 X $2.70 = $2.16

    [link]      
  41. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    To be clear, I'm saying that you could "Retail" E85 in Iowa for $2.10/gal And Never take the Blenders' Credit, or any special State Tax Credit.

    [link]      
  42. By Wendell Mercantile on February 24, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I wonder if the oil market would exist in the U.S. if it wasn't for the U.S. Navy, and Marine Corps?

    You left out the Air Force and Army. But yes, it would exist w/o any of the four protecting the sea lanes and propping up the countries that control some of that oil.

    Reasons:

    1. The oil is no good to those countries if it sits in the ground. They have to sell it to someone.

    2. Less oil would actually make us learn to use fossil fuels much more efficiently. (Less fossil fuels would also make it much harder for corn farmers and ethanol stills to do their thing. In fact, without fossil fuels, there could be no corn ethanol.)

    [link]      
  43. By Wendell Mercantile on February 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Gee, nat gas is used in both Now, what do we do?

    At the risk of repeating this for about the 47th time, gasoline is not reformed natural gas — corn ethanol is.

    Natural gas is consumed in refineries as part of the process cost (as happens at ethanol stills), but that's not the same as reforming NG into a fuel which is what happens when reforming corn into ethanol.

    [link]      
  44. By Robert Rapier on February 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    And, no Wendell, Exxon will not use the first drop of ethanol if it's not mandated.

    But, you know that.

    The fact that they were using it before the mandate was in place is a direct refutation of your claim.

    It is one of the sillier claims you make. Exxon doesn't own all of their own oil. They have to go out and buy some oil to refine. If they can make a penny more a gallon to buy ethanol and blend it, they will do so. Why on earth do you think they would leave money on the table if that is what the economics dictated?

    RR

    [link]      
  45. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Wendell, I don't understand what you mean by this:

    Natural gas is consumed in refineries as part of the process cost (as happens at ethanol stills), but that's not the same as reforming NG into a fuel which is what happens when reforming corn into ethanol.

    RR, you have a point in that Exxon did use some Ethanol as a performance enhancer (although, I'm not clear on whether they made their own, or used the organic stuff,) but they have fought mightily against it since it has begun to be used as a stand-alone fuel.

    Technically, though, you do have a point. Many gallons of that "Premium" gasoline your readers have bought over the years contained ethanol.

    And, there are, undoubtably, many places, right now, where Exxon is using a 10% ethanol blend where they are only required by the RFS to be using a bit less than 8% in order to be price competitive in that particular market.

    [link]      
  46. By rufus on February 24, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Wendell, corn is made into ethanol through fermentation, and distillation. There is No "reforming" of natural gas.

    Natural gas is simply used for process energy. Are you saying that the small amount of fertilizer used, becomes corn, and that the fertilizer is reformulated nat gas?

    [link]      
  47. By Wendell Mercantile on February 24, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Are you saying that the small amount of fertilizer used, becomes corn, and that the fertilizer is reformulated nat gas?

    That's exactly what I'm saying. If you don't think so, try this next April: Throw some seed corn in a nicely cultivated field near you, but don't use any nitrogen, Round-Up, pesticides, or fungicides. (All made from natural gas or petroleum.)

    Water it all you want, and hope it gets the right amount of Sunshine every day. Then about the end of October let me know your yield.

    In much of the Corn Belt most of the nutrients that collected in that deep, dark, rich soil over tens of thousands of years has long ago been sucked out. The soil is now mostly a sterile matirx whose only job is to hold the seed corn in contact with water and fertilizer and provide something into which the root system can grow.

    If not for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers made from NG feedstock using the Haber-Bosch process, corn yields would be only a fraction of what they are.

    Where I live, corn farmers have to line up at the local co-op and jockey to get a position on nitrogen deliveries and application, and constantly complain about the cost of ammonia. It's one of those "Can't live with it ~ can't live without it" deals, especially since so many are now planting corn-on-corn, year after year.

    [link]      
  48. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 12:34 am

    This is interesting. Waste Management is hooking up with Enerkem for $50 Million

    At least Enerkem built their pilot plant first. I think Range got in too big of a hurry, and is now paying the price.

    [link]      
  49. By Robert Rapier on February 25, 2010 at 12:38 am

    At least Enerkem built their pilot plant first.

    A reporter asked me today about the difference between Enerkem and Range Fuels. I pointed to specific text in Enerkem's press releases that was pretty straightforward over the nature of what they would be producing. Methanol was clearly identified as a primary product of their process.

    RR

    [link]      
  50. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 12:48 am

    By the time they're running full-bore, what should they get? About half methanol, half ethanol?

    What will the methanol be used for?

    [link]      
  51. By Paul on February 25, 2010 at 1:35 am

    The Enerkem website seems to be primarily about ethanol, it takes quite a few pages down before you get to the first mention of methanol, when it becomes clear that MeOH is the primary product, and ethanol or other stuff will need a secondary process.

    They claim to get "360litres (95gal) of cellulosic ethanol from one ton of (dry, sorted) feedstock. Assuming the feedstock is wood, then for 20GJ of feedstock energy, they get 8.5GJ of EtOH, a 42% yield. They do mention that you can produce electricity, but make no mention of doing so as a byproduct (i.e. from waste heat).

    Their gasifier uses an air/oxygen mix, so there is some energy to separate oxygen (or enrich air), and their plant will use some electricity to run itself, so the overall energy yield is not that great, but then neither are any other XX to liquids processes.

    As Rufus always reminds us, ethanol sells wholesale for $1.60/gal, so one ton of wood will yield $152 worth of ethanol.

    Now, that same ton of wood, gasified and used to fuel an engine and generator, could produce 1650kWh of electricity (30% eff, and $165) and 10GJ (9.5MMbtu) of heat. And all with far simpler and cheaper equipment, so this would seem to be a better business proposition, at current prices anyway.

    Better business still would be to torrefy and pelletise the wood, an even simpler process, where it is worth nearly $200/ton

    Of course, electricity is not a transport fuel, and we want transport fuels, but I think this illustrates why it only seems to work with large subsidies and/or very high fuel prices. Without them, there are much better business options for solid biomass than converting it to liquid fuels.

    [link]      
  52. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 7:27 am

    I couldn't agree more, Paul. If we're really not getting ready to get short in oil/gasoline/diesel then gassification makes no sense, whatsoever.

    It may not, anyway, if the pure cellulosic plays work. That would be the subject for some work that's way over my pay grade, I think.

    [link]      
  53. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 7:29 am

    I Would argue that it's good to find these things out, Now, inasmuch as it does seem very likely that we're going to be getting short of liquid fuels pretty soon.

    [link]      
  54. By Wendell Mercantile on February 25, 2010 at 8:54 am

    …we're going to be getting short of liquid fuels pretty soon.

    But there is always the emergency back-up, pay-no-heed-to-those-noisy-environmentalists, oil shale and coal-to-liquid.

    I still maintain that if the sierra really hits the fan, we will have government-backed, crash programs to use oil shale and CTL, and the environment be damned. Americans simply love the mobility their cars give them too much, and no politician is about to say, "No."

    When it comes down to a choice of mobility and jobs, or the environment, mobility will win.

    [link]      
  55. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

    CTL is very expensive, dirty, and you're just depleting another fossil fuel resource.

    Oil Shale seems to have very little future. After 30 years, Shell has produced, what? 400 barrels, or something?

    Seems unlikely on both counts.

    No, Wendell, as much as you hate it, we're going "renewable." And that means we're going to be using a lot of biofuels. Wind, and solar just won't take you all the way to grandmother's house, and back.

    [link]      
  56. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

    This outfit Appomattox bio-energy in Hopewell, Va originally decided to go with barley because it was deemed better for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

    But, it's looking like they may be getting ready to hit a home run. Barley sells for $1.43/bu, and they'll probably get somewhere around fifty, or sixty percent of their money back just selling the "barley meal."

    I'm guessing they might be looking at a feedstock cost as low as $0.25 – $0.50/gal (after subtracting out the sale of the BMP.)

    "Localization" has Many Benefits.

    [link]      
  57. By Wendell Mercantile on February 25, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Seems unlikely on both counts.

    Of course CTL is expensive and dirty. Of course it would use up our finite (but humongous) supply of coal.

    Of course oil shale has had trouble getting traction.

    But I'm talking about a last gasp, desperation, November Sierra, backs-to-the-wall, option.

    Oil shale and CTL will always sitting there, just waiting to be used. And when desperate enough, we will use them, regardless of the environmental effects.

    Rather than settle back into the Dark Ages and a barter economy, our politicians would have no qualms about Manhattan Project-type crash programs to use both oil shale and CTL.

    Oil shale and CTL will always be our strategic, emergency backup reserves.

    [link]      
  58. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 10:17 am

    And, I'm saying our backup is 10,000 little biorefineries scattered all over the U.S. turning waste, and scrap, and local crops into ethanol. :)

    Right now, I think I've got a "head start" on you.

    [link]      
  59. By Ira on February 25, 2010 at 11:33 am

    hi

    off topic, but could you please comment on the 'bloom box fuel cell'

    thanks
    ira

    [link]      
  60. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Oops, I'm on the wrong blog.

    [link]      
  61. By Wayde Northrop on February 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    …off topic, but could you please comment on the 'bloom box fuel cell'

    Ira-

    Bloom box = Very expensive fuel cell, for very rich people and very rich companies.

    Will price comes down with economies of scale as production increases? Maybe, let's hope so.

    [link]      
  62. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Well, here's another Company heard from: Pilot plant for ethanol form pulp

    [link]      
  63. By Robert Rapier on February 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Bloom box = Very expensive fuel cell, for very rich people and very rich companies.

    That is pretty much how I would characterize it. It is expensive technology, and fuel cells have been around for a while. I can remember all of the Plug Power hype from 10 years ago. It all sounds much the same.

    I just can't figure out why 60 Minutes latches onto these miracle stories. The media in general doesn't seem to do a very good job of asking critical questions about these new wonder technologies.

    RR

    [link]      
  64. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Mitsui plans to use the technology to convert waste products from the palm oil production into ethanol and animal feed.

    Mitsui and Inbicon

    [link]      
  65. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Then, there's the "back to nature," approach:

    "Dr. Henry Daniell's team success in producing a combination of several cell wall degrading enzymes in plants using chloroplast transgenesis is a great achievement," said Mariam Sticklen, a professor of crop and soil sciences at Michigan State University. She has researched an enzyme in a cows stomach that could help turn corn plants into fuel.

    Daniell’s research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Depending on the waste product used, a specific combination or "cocktail" of more than 10 enzymes is needed to change the biomass into sugar and eventually ethanol. For example, orange peels need more of the pectinase enzyme, while wood waste requires more of the xylanase enzyme. All of the enzymes Daniell's team uses are found in nature, created by a range of microbial species, including bacteria and fungi.

    Daniell's team cloned genes from wood-rotting fungi or bacteria and produced enzymes in tobacco plants. Producing these enzymes in tobacco instead of manufacturing synthetic versions could reduce the cost of production by a thousand times, which means the cost of making ethanol should be significantly reduced, Daniell said.

    Orange peels to Wood chips – the natural way

    [link]      
  66. By Anonymous on February 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Still waitin fer that orange peel ethanol pilot plant promised back in '06.

    [link]      
  67. By Anonymous on February 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm
    [link]      
  68. By Anonymous on February 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm
    [link]      
  69. By Optimist on February 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    And, I'm saying our backup is 10,000 little biorefineries scattered all over the U.S. turning waste, and scrap, and local crops into ethanol. :)
    All waiting to be squashed under the boot of a large scale CTL facility.

    Oh, but more importantly, are there even ONE of these waste to ethanol facilities in existence, yet? Or is it more (tax-payer funded) dreaming from the ethanol supporters?

    [link]      
  70. By Optimist on February 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Orange peels to Wood chips – the natural way
    Oh, come on, Rufus!

    There is nothing natural (harp music in the background, please) about using GM enzyme technology.

    Any "cheap substrate ->(via enzymes) -> sugars -> ethanol" scheme suffers from the following basic shortcomings:
    1. Much of the "cheap substrate" will be left unconverted. Hint: if it was easy to do, somebody would be producing sugar that way.
    2. As hinted above, it makes no sense to go via high value food (sugar) to (supposedly) cheap fuel.
    3. Enzymes are great for pharmaceuticals. OK for food. In the high-volume low-value world of fuel we have yet to see any applications.
    4. Energy balance: combine low yield with the need to distillate dilute ethanol solutions and the picture does not look good.

    Daniell’s research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    Funny how the hare-brained schemes have that in common…

    [link]      
  71. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Well, you can chant, "xethanol, xethanol, xethanol, cello, xethanol, cello" over, and over;

    and I could go back and start naming all of the car companies that went bust back in the early days (over 100,) and some of the oil distributors that went bust in the last couple of years (Crescent?) but what does it accomplish?

    Optimist, the guy from SASO was on tv a year, or so, ago. IIRC, The cost to build a 30 Million gal/yr CTL plant was around $600 Million (vs about $45 Million for a corn ethanol plant,) and it required about 20 times as many employees.

    Oh, and my hypothetical 10,000 small biorefineries would produce about 100 Billion gallons/yr. That would have to be one ginormous CTL plant.

    [link]      
  72. By PeteS on February 25, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Rufus, for the analogy to work those old car companies would have had to have failed to produce any cars.

    [link]      
  73. By PeteS on February 25, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    RR said: "I just can't figure out why 60 Minutes latches onto these miracle stories".

    I'm sure it's just schlocky padder-outers for the end the program. I see it on the news here all the time. End of the news program, somebody chirps in their most infotaining voice: "Well, we all know the desert is a harsh environment, but now scientists think they've figured out how to make it bloom, and solve world hunger". Followed by some improbable story based on some superficial research. Followed by … never hearing another word about it again.

    A non-internet-savvy smalltime newspaper editor I know made up some cheap column inches by reprinting that famous hoax e-mail about how criminal gangs are drugging tourists and harvesting their kidneys.

    We're talking about THAT kind of level of discernment.

    [link]      
  74. By Optimist on February 25, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Oh, and my hypothetical 10,000 small biorefineries would produce about 100 Billion gallons/yr. That would have to be one ginormous CTL plant.
    And your point would be? Unless you are just making random noise.

    You do sound like you might be on an ethanol payroll, one way or another.

    [link]      
  75. By Optimist on February 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Oh, and while you're at it, Rufus, please explain how providing arguments is like chanting.

    [link]      
  76. By Optimist on February 25, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Stopped reading and skipped to the end to see if there was a point….A hundred positive stories there.
    OK, Kit, help me understand this. Do you actually believe the BS that you type, Mr. Positive? (Or should that be Mr. Negative-when-sober-positive-only-when-there-is-ethanol-involved) Or is this an example of Redneck (we get 'er done) humor that does not translate? Or is it just the contradict-myself-50-times-a-day thing?

    [link]      
  77. By Kit P on February 25, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    China Trade Explodes
    “The growth in distillers grains exports to China is nothing short of breathtaking—nearly 6,000 percent higher for the first three quarters of 2009 compared with the same period the year before. After conferences, trade missions and tests with container lots, this past summer the Chinese began importing bulk distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) in vessels.”

    http://ethanolproducer.com/article.jsp?article_id=6339

    [link]      
  78. By Anonymous on February 25, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Shell bets on ethanol in $21 billion deal with Brazil's Cosan

    Shell scientists/exec's do not know what they are doing either I bet? Why the hangup on Mr. Khosla? I would like to see your research on Shell's ethanol?

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6101TW20100201

    [link]      
  79. By Anonymous on February 25, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Mr. Rapier – I hope you will come around to ethanol at some point.

    Ethanol: An Examination of Fuel Pumps and Sending Units During a 4000 Hour Endurance Test in E20

    http://www.mda.state.mn.us/news/publications/renewable/ethanol/e20endurance.pdf

    More here: http://www.growthenergy.org/2009/index.asp

    [link]      
  80. By Wendell Mercantile on February 25, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Shell scientists/exec's do not know what they are doing either I bet?

    Anon~

    The Shell play you cite is for SUGAR CANE ethanol. I can't remember the exact essay, but RR long ago agreed sugar cane ethanol makes sense.

    There are a number of reasons why ethanol from sugar makes economic and thermodynamic sense — none of which yet apply to ethanol from corn or cellulose feedstock.

    [link]      
  81. By Robert Rapier on February 25, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Shell scientists/exec's do not know what they are doing either I bet?

    Are you seriously suggesting that the Shell announcement was remotely like the things I have documeting Mr. Khosla promising?

    Why the hangup on Mr. Khosla?

    That's a softball. First, he came into the energy business as a complete novice, and was very belittling to those in the industry. He was going to show us all how it was done. He declared war, and said he would change the world. But he also took taxpayer money to do something that will never be delivered. So I would ask you why on earth I wouldn't hold him accountable? He wanted the attention and the publicity. But that has a negative side if you can't back up your boasts.

    It would be like me going into Silicon Valley, announcing that I was going to shake the industry up, getting government grants, and proceeding to crank out Windows 2.0. Should I expect to be given a pass?

    RR

    [link]      
  82. By Robert Rapier on February 25, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Mr. Rapier – I hope you will come around to ethanol at some point.

    I don't know what "come around to ethanol" means. I have no problem with ethanol. I have trouble with misinformation. Ethanol proponents are often guilty of the latter, so when I debunk it looks like I am anti-ethanol. In fact, I am anti-misinformation.

    But as Wendell points out, I have spoken favorably on sugarcane ethanol because it typically operates with few fossil fuel inputs.

    RR

    [link]      
  83. By PeteS on February 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    "It would be like me going into Silicon Valley, announcing that I was going to shake the industry up, getting government grants, and proceeding to crank out Windows 2.0. Should I expect to be given a pass?"

    If you were replacing Vista, YES, darn tootin'!

    [link]      
  84. By rufus on February 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    It's always seemed to me that Sugar Cane gets a bit of a free ride. It's true that they, sometimes (Not always, and maybe not even "most" times, I believe,) burn bagasse for plant energy (and, a few of them even sell some to the grid,) but, the reason they do that is that it's just waste biomass.

    Now, any corn ethanol plant operating today could burn their co-product DDGS (you get about 50,000 btus of DDGS for every gallon of ethanol) and Not use nat. gas, either.

    However, the DDGS are much more valuable as animal feed (or, using the Plymouth Ethanol model, human food.) For every bushel of corn that you process you get back, depending on who you talk to, between 40% to 65% of your feed energy.

    Also, Cane is normally harvested by hand. Men with machetes go out and cut the cane, and throw it up onto a trailer pulled by a tractor. It probably takes 50 or more men with machetes to do the work of one man on a combine. Now, it's true, that combine, along, with the tractor that did the planting, and cultivating will use more fossil fuels directly than the men with machetes.

    But, those laborers all have families, and their entire family's fossil fuel usage has to be charged off against that ethanol. Their cooking, and transportation, and food, and clothing, ALL have to go toward that product. However, I've never seen any of these "studies" do this.

    Look, I'm happy for the Brazilians. They have enormous amounts of unused, fertile land lying fallow. This is a great thing for them. But, some "analysts" have built it up to a level that, quite frankly, it doesn't deserve.

    One might be suspicious that the reason some people have been so kind to cane ethanol is they want to "bash" corn ethanol by comparison. I know I am.

    [link]      
  85. By Kit P on February 25, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    “going into Silicon Valley”

    Bill gates invests $10m in a new (?) type of nuke reactor and it is innovative. Google says it will make a solar cheaper than coal and provides leadership by putting some panels on the roof. They talk of disruptive technology like cell phones and personal computers.

    A Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Cycle for Next Generation Nuclear Reactors
    http://web.mit.edu/jessiek/MacData/afs.course.lockers/22/22.33/www/dostal.pdf

    When geeks talk about disruptive technology, they forget that it might already have been invented. The cooling towers at a 1000 MWe power plant are about the same size no matter if the heat comes from uranium, coal, solar, geothermal, or fusion. Gas turbine steam turbine it is all the same.

    [link]      
  86. By Kit P on February 25, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    “Also, Cane is normally harvested by hand.”

    The best cure for slavery is affordable electricity driving an electric motor.

    [link]      
  87. By Wendell Mercantile on February 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    But, those laborers all have families, and their entire family's fossil fuel usage has to be charged off against that ethanol. Their cooking, and transportation, and food, and clothing, ALL have to go toward that product. However, I've never seen any of these "studies" do this.

    Rufus~

    OK, that makes sense, but then we should also do the same for corn ethanol.

    * Include the embodied energy in the ag equipment the farmers use.

    * Include the food the corn farmers and their families eat; the energy they burn in their houses; the energy their computers use, etc.

    * Same as above for the workers at the ethanol stills, plus add the embodied energy in the equipment at the ethanol plant.

    * Include the energy used to produce seed corn. (And it is significant.)

    * Include the energy used to truck corn ethanol around the country; the embodied energy of the trucks; and the food, electricty, etc. those truck drivers consume.

    But, corn ethanol advocates have never included those energy costs, and when Dr. Pimental does, Big Ethanol and Big Corn can't get out their talking points fast enough calling him a charlatan.

    By the way, do I detect a bit of sugar ethanol basher in you?

    [link]      
  88. By rufus on February 26, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Naw, Wendell, I stated in my comment that I'm happy for the Brazilians. They did a good thing for themselves, and showed the rest of us how it could work.

    I just think some people have somewhat misrepresented the Brazilian Cane Ethanol Industry. All those things you listed have been thrown up to the American Corn Ethanol Industry – some are important, some, not so much, but they've been addressed.

    I just think it's somewhat disingenuous to make a big deal of the five gallons, or less, of diesel that an American farmer spends to produce his 165 bu corn (500 gal of ethanol) without taking a look at all those hudreds of workers out there swinging machetes in a typical sugar cane plantation.

    And, you reminded me of something else. We ship most of our ethanol by Rail. Brazil, if I'm not mistaken, ships most of its ethanol (sometimes a thousand miles or more) by Truck (a method at least ten times less efficient than by train.) No mention is ever made of this.

    [link]      
  89. By takchess on February 26, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Perhaps you have a friend who would do a nice guest post on the Bloom Box?

    [link]      
  90. By Wendell Mercantile on February 26, 2010 at 9:44 am

    We ship most of our ethanol by Rail.

    That must explain why there is always a line of tanker trucks waiting to fill up at the corn ethanol distillery south-southwest of me. At least every time I drive by there is a line of trucks waiting. I'm sure it's just a random event that I never see any trains there, even though a rail line runs through that small village.

    [link]      
  91. By Anonymous on February 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Battle of the Falling Timbers: Rapier gives Range Fuels the sword regarding cellulosic ethanol pioneer’s cost, timelines, results

    First Feedback:

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2010/02/26/battle-of-the-falling-timbers-rapier-gives-range-fuels-the-sword-regarding-cellulosic-ethanol-pioneers-cost-timelines-results/

    [link]      
  92. By Wendell Mercantile on February 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Interesting take on a biodiesel mandate in Iowa from an Iowa trucking company in the Des Moines Register. If I read this right, I don't think they oppose biodiesel, they just don't want anyone telling them when they have to use it ~ particularly in cold weather.

    Trucker takes issue with biodiesel

    Decker Trucking says that its two million mile study “proves that biodiesel is not a cost effective solution at this time.”

    [link]      
  93. By Anonymous on February 26, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Mr. Rapier please see: Mr. David Gold at http://www.greengoldblog.com.

    I think you would benefit from his long range thinking vs your short term thinking.

    Cleantech Economics 101: Higher Fossil Fuel Prices; More Cleantech.

    [link]      
  94. By JIMj on February 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm
    [link]      
  95. By Anonymous on February 26, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Mr. Rapier please see: Mr. David Gold at http://www.greengoldblog.com.

    I think you would benefit from his long range thinking vs your short term thinking.
    That's funny, Anon!

    Your long term thinker seems to promote the exact same policies (tax on fossil fuels, no mandates on specific technologies, even criticism of Range Fuels) that Mr. Rapier has been promoting all along.

    But I guess you anonymous cowards don't stick around long enough to figure out the basics…

    [link]      
  96. By Robert Rapier on February 26, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    But I guess you anonymous cowards don't stick around long enough to figure out the basics…

    Thanks for the defense. I had missed that comment above. Regardless, I no longer have enough time in the day to deal with all of the trolls.

    But it never ceases to amaze me that people will show up, not bother in the least to understand my position, and then begin to criticize it based on their false impressions. I think you hit the key points above, but what is baffling to me is just how someone can characterize my criticism of Range as "short-term thinking." Amazing.

    RR

    [link]      
  97. By rufus on February 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I imagine, Wendell, that what you are seeing might be the biorefinery selling to "local" filling stations/distributors.

    Anyway, as I said, "Most" of our ethanol is shipped by rail. Some is, also, shipped by barge (cheaper than rail,) and some is shipped by pipeline (much cheaper than rail, or barge.)

    [link]      
  98. By Wendell Mercantile on February 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I imagine, Wendell, that what you are seeing might be the biorefinery selling to "local" filling stations/distributors.

    I'm sure that explains it. Those 18-wheeled tankers lined up every day at my local ethanol still are there to service the needs of our local filling stations.

    Anyway, as I said, "Most" of our ethanol is shipped by rail. Some is, also, shipped by barge (cheaper than rail,)

    I agree, barges are very efficient, but it's always helpful to have a big river or canal nearby to take full advantage of that efficiency. Perhaps we can get our legislature to subsidize digging a canal the 65 miles (and the locks a 300+ ft elevation change would need) from the Mississippi River to the nearby ethanol still.

    …and some is shipped by pipeline (much cheaper than rail, or barge.)

    Yes, those pipelines can also be very efficient. Although you do have to take into account the costs of acquiring the land, right-of-ways, easements, and condemnation proceedings if the landowners won't cooperate; plus the embodied energy a lengthy pipeline represents. There is also the little matter of ethanol pipelines needing to be extremely tight, squeaky clean, corrosion resistant, and pretty much limited to only that fuel.

    [link]      
  99. By rufus on February 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    and pretty much limited to only that fuel.

    That's been pretty much the consensus, Wendell; but Kinder Morgan has found that they can ship ethanol, And petroleum products through their Orlando/Tampa pipeline with, basicallly, no problems.

    Let's face it, we're still learning.

    [link]      
  100. By Kit P on February 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    “Let's face it, we're still learning.”

    Well some of Rufus, others have made up their minds.

    On the negative side, over at the Chemical Safety Board events at power plants in the last week.

    At a geothermal plant,

    “Four engines, 24 firefighters and 10 civilian water tankers responded to the call, though fire crews could not immediately extinguish the blaze because of the presence of pentane, a volatile liquid that could have caused an explosion.”

    At a coal plant:

    “The fire is the second at a TVA coal plant in less than three months. A fire damaged one of the units at the John Sevier Fossil Plant near Rogersville, Tenn., on Dec. 30.”

    At a biomass plant:
    “a blaze inside Roseburg Forest Product's powerhouse caused an explosion which erupted into a 75-foot tall fireball. … The large amount of sawdust in the air ignited with explosive force, Dickson said, causing the fire ball at 6:55 p.m.”

    [link]      
  101. By rufus on February 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    When it comes to wood, it seems like Co-Location is the order of the day.

    The renewable energy facility will be co-located with Hughes Hardwood’s wood component products manufacturing facility in Collinwood, Tennessee. Under the MOU, Hughes Hardwood will supply 1,000 dry ton per day of wood product for conversion into approximately 16 million gallons of synthetic jet or diesel fuel and 4 million gallons of naphtha per year, as well as approximately 8 MW of excess renewable power. The project is currently expected to be operational by early 2014.

    It looks to me like the "grown-ups" are entering the field. Range is looking, somewhat, like the impetuous child that ran on ahead.

    [link]      
  102. By Kit P on February 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Fool Cell Hype
    http://uvdiv.blogspot.com/

    For those who like visual presentation.

    [link]      
  103. By Kit P on February 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Rufus you provided an example of a press release for a project that most likely never see the light of day.

    [link]      
  104. By rufus on February 27, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Could be, Kit. I'm more interested in the trend toward co-location.

    Everything that I've seen recently (as regards wood) that's very interesting has had this element.

    There's a lot of mud being thrown at the wall; I'm figuring some of it will stick.

    [link]      
  105. By rufus on February 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    We waste a lot of heat, CO2, and biomass material in our society. I'm betting in 20 years we'll be wasting less.

    [link]      
  106. By Kit P on February 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Rufus, CHP is a great idea. The problem is that failure of one of the partners bring the whole mess down.

    [link]      
  107. By Paul on February 27, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Kit/Rufus.

    Agreed that this is an example of a press release, of that sort that is trying to lever more funds from someone by announcing a grand plan + govt grant.

    That said, Rufus is on the money in that almost every wood to energy project is a co location. And unless you are specifically farming short rotation trees, (which have no other use) that is as it should be, since there are several joint benefits to be had.

    The value of milled lumber is (usually) higher than its fuel value, and the value of the residuals, especially bark, is very low. The lumber operation already has feedstock supply, transport, storage etc. The waste heat from the F-T process can be used or drying kilns or other uses (process steam).

    For this mill, their 1000 tons a day of wood is about 6,600,000GJ/year. PRoducing 20m gal of oil products is about 2,700,000 GJ of energy, or a 41% energy yield, assuming no other energy inputs (dubious).

    Assuming a current value for the jet fuel of $2/gal, thats $40m/yr, or a return on the wood of $109/t, not counting the co-product of waste heat, nor the cost of any post processing of the fuel.

    Burning the same wood waste for electricity, at that scale, would power a 75MW(!) power plant, while providing the same amount of waste heat. Selling that at the prevailing industrial electricity price in Tennessee of $0.066/kWh, would create an annual cash flow of – $42m. And the equipment is proven, much cheaper, and could probably be online in two years, not 4.

    Once again, this seems to be an inefficient use of resources (capital). Better to build the power plant, which would be a profitable, subsidy free business, and the govt can find another way to waste $22m.

    This demonstration project will only demonstrate what is already known, and has been known for decades – FT fuel, at lest as proposed in this project, is technically feasible, but uneconomic except at oil prices much higher than what Uncle Sam is willing to let them go.

    [link]      
  108. By rufus on February 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Good analysis, Paul. I would just say what I've said all along. It depends on "tomorrows" price for petroleum (and, of course, the future price for electricity.)

    One more time now. "You pays your money, and you takes your chances."

    [link]      
  109. By Paul on February 28, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Quite so, Rufus, it just seems that too often, the companies get the govt to pay for their chances.

    Which, as RR pointed out, leads to hype to get the funding. It seems to me a better way would have simply been for the govt to stick with the ethanol blender credit structure, and add an extra x per gal of cellulosic produced up a limit of Y gal per year for z years (say 5).

    That will keep companies focussed on producing, instead of applying for funding. For every company that gets a grant, probably five didn't but they all had to spend time and money on applications, presentations etc, and this is diverting resources from actual development and production.

    Of course, the problem is that then removing said subsidy causes screams from the industry, as we are seeing with biodiesel and ethanol, but at least it is not corruptible, and only pays when something is actually produced. So far the hundreds of millions for various cellulosic ethanol have produced virtually nothing

    [link]      
  110. By rufus on February 28, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Paul Here is a Video of Jeff Broin being interviewed, and then the President of Bluefire.

    The Bluefire guy kind of goes through the vagaries of what the "investors" want.

    My takeaway is that it's probably pretty hard right now getting someone to invest in the First plant just on the basis of a mandate that congress could kill next year. Once you've got the grant, or loan guarantee they can't take That away from you.

    Jeff Broin says he's going to have the cost Below $2.00/gal by the time his first cellulosic facility comes online in 2011. He's been awfully good. I'd hate to bet against him.

    [link]      
  111. By Russ on February 28, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Right Robert – Part of what İ read on Green Gold just now sounds like you writing it. He is beating on Range Fuels as well.

    Apparently Anon didn't read either article before typing.

    [link]      
  112. By Mats R. Larsson on February 28, 2010 at 8:24 am

    The story illustrates the need for a strategy and a plan on a high level of society. Market driven change is not going to be sufficient to change energy related systems on a large scale and with precision, and at a reasonable cost.

    We need to analyze the need, identify the level of investments that are going to become necessary to build the capacity we need, and manage the program in such a way that the organizations that get funding deliver to their promises.

    Global Energy Transformation Institute (www.getinstitute.com) was founded in order to analyze the need for managed change in large scale energy transformation.

    In 2009 I published the books "Global Energy Transformation – Four Necessary Steps to Make Clean Energy the Next Success Story" and "Overcoming Overuse – Energy Transformation for a World Gone Fad". These books analyze the need for managed change programs, providing examples such as The Apollo Program and the transformation of US industry to war production during The Second World War". "Overcoming Overuse" focuses on the need of leadership and the "softer" tools related to this.

    [link]      
  113. By rufus on February 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Here's an interesting situation. The EPA has declared "corn" ethanol to be 21% less carbon intensive to the atmosphere than gasoline. Ca has taken the stand that that's not good enough – that once Midwestern corn ethanol is Transported by rail to Ca it doesn't meet their criteria.

    However, EPA has declared that ethanol made from Ag "residue" reduces Carbon by 130% Over Gasoline. Yep, it shows corn cobs, and stover to be Carbon Net Negative.

    Poet's Emmetsburg facility will produce 100M gallons/yr of "corn" ethanol, and 25M gallons of "Cob" ethanol. Add these together, and they would qualify for sale in Ca.

    Will Ca allow the ethanol from these two separate streams, at One plant to be aggregated into ONE product thus becoming eligible for sale in California?

    I'm betting they won't.

    [link]      
  114. By Anonymous on February 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Rufus,

    You are likely guessing right. CARB and the CA Energy Office both located in Sacramento are difficult to deal with. Next comes AQMD which is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the smoggiest region of the U.S.

    In the late 90's and through 2005, I visited with these California agencies on multiple occassions. I even provided them with samples of a new EPA approved alternative fuel.

    The unified California answer was that such Federal EPA approval was good for 49 states, not for all 50 states.

    Today, Gov. Arnie is still gaga over compressed hydrogen which even if free, is too dangerous for the transportation sector. CA pursues its own answers to embrace.

    Maybe CA could break loose from the mainland and become its own Country? I'd support this especially IF CA would also encapsulate its own smog which now blows many states further inland with the prevailing winds coming across the Pacific ocean.

    -Cliff

    [link]      
  115. By Kit P on February 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Cliff

    The reason some places in California is that the pollution from cars does not blow away. It is trapped in basins.

    It is interesting that when it comes to making electricity California promotes natural gas (the second highest in ghg), while banning new nukes (the lowest in ghg).

    [link]      
  116. By Anonymous on February 28, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    You live in Hawaii? Where even the electricity is from oil? Well, the R-Squared blog was nice while it lasted…

    It is too late at this point for even the fission breeder to save us. Do a google search on the Integral Fast Reactor, ask Clinton what in the world he was thinking on his Facebook page, then watch Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and begin preparing for a very different world.

    [link]      
  117. By Kinuachdrach on February 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Mats Larrson wrote: "… manage the program in such a way that the organizations that get funding deliver to their promises."

    Well, Mr. Larsson, a lot of people voted for "Hope & Change". How is the organization that promised it doing? A lot of the people who voted for it would like to know, because the only Change they got was going from employed to unemployed, which wasn't what most of them were Hoping for.

    If 'we the people' can't make a President & his Congress deliver on their promises, then we are wasting our time trying to make grant recipients deliver on theirs.

    Have you studied history to learn what happened when Hitler & Stalin & Mao thought they were the best & brightest and started to
    manage everything for everybody? They managed to make Genghis Khan look like an amateur when it came to murdering people. Apart from that, all they proved is that the real world is too complicated for the best & brightest to manage successfully.

    The best Change government — and the NGOs who feed off government — could make would be to stop picking 'winners' (i.e. paying back campaign contributors with taxpayer giveaways), and to start rolling back the excessive regulations & overly-complex tax rules that have left 1 person in 5 unemployed or under-employed in Obama's America.

    [link]      
  118. By rufus on March 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Ethanol Rack Prices: Texas $1.91 – Louisiana $2.41

    Same story in Alabama – Georgia.

    It's good to be the oi . . . . distributor.

    [link]      
  119. By Russ on March 1, 2010 at 9:55 am

    @Cliff – 'compressed hydrogen which even if free, is too dangerous for the transportation sector'

    How?

    [link]      
  120. By Wendell Mercantile on March 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Maybe CA could break loose from the mainland and become its own Country?

    Cliff~

    If the San Andreas Fault ever lets go completely, who knows? There does appear to be a natural rift shooting up from the north end of Baja California. If that rift keeps expanding north, a large slice of California could be separated from the mainland as is now the Baja Peninsula.

    Anything is possible. ;-)

    [link]      
  121. By Robert Rapier on March 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Kit, I got a specific complaint via e-mail regarding the post in which you refer to "Euro trash." As you should be well aware, that is not allowed here and your post has been deleted. Please abide by the forum rules.

    RR

    [link]      
  122. By Optimist on March 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    …but uneconomic except at oil prices much higher than what Uncle Sam is willing to let them go.
    Uncle Sam is keeping oil prices low? That's news! Please explain:
    1. Why Uncle Sam lost control over oil prices (briefly) in 2008?
    2. How did Uncle Sam regain control? Porposefully popped the housing bubble, brought on the Big Recession, so that we could have cheap oil? Small potatoes for a conspiracy nut, I know…
    3. What is Uncle Sam going to do next, now that oil prices are drifting up, jumping $2-3/bbl each time anybody dares whisper the word "recovery"? You know, other than begging King Abdullah to pump more, as W specialized in doing.

    [link]      
  123. By Anonymous on March 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Rufus: Getting into hydrogen hallucinations is a bit off topic to this particular essay don't you think?

    The quote below is from one of the elderly scientists whom I am involved with in energy business. He predates DOE when it previously operated as ERDA and the same gentleman brought in Fischer-Tropsch GTL to the USA from bombed out Germany at the close of the last world war.

    I think you and others reading here can understand that hydrogen is pumped up to 10,000 or even 15,000 psi to transfer enough of it to a storage container which then feeds further into hydrogen fuel cell. This is not the Bloom Box operating on methane as has been in the news recently…

    –Cliff

    "Hydrogen is too dangerous for the open road. It also is very difficult to contain. Being the smallest molecule (#1 on the periodic chart of elements) it can find the infinitesimal hole to get through. When I worked with hydrogen, I was always on the lookout for leaks and fixing them. We lost the lives of three Federal workers when a hydrogen cylinder was contaminated with some air and upon opening the cylinder valve to an unpurged pressure regulator, the cylinder exploded, set off by the heat of compression that was generated in the regulator. I can't see the public continuously exercising the cautions necessary to prevent disasters, let alone living with the ever present danger from auto crashes.”

    [link]      
  124. By PeteS on March 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Wendell Merc wrote "There does appear to be a natural rift shooting up from the north end of Baja California. If that rift keeps expanding north, a large slice of California could be separated from the mainland"

    I was always under the impression that the two plates were sliding sideways past each other. So all it means is that the nice bits of the San Francisco peninsula will end up in Canada, and California will get to hang on to Oakland.

    :-)

    [link]      
  125. By Russ on March 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    @Cliff – İ managed plants reforming CH4 to produce H2 – right at 1 million NCMH of H2 being reformed and recirculated.

    İn many ways H2 is one of the safer gases – leaks go up and away if they are trapped. Easy to ignite -yes.

    The mixing you referred to would be similar to any gaseous hydrocarbon? Any time you start mixing gaseous hydrocarbons and O2 (air) you need to be a bit careful.

    The naphtha we fed was very much more hazardous – especially in a leak situation.

    [link]      
  126. By Wendell Mercantile on March 1, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    So all it means is that the nice bits of the San Francisco peninsula will end up in Canada, and California will get to hang on to Oakland.

    Pete,

    Could well be. My expertise on plate tectonics is shallow and without a rock solid foundation. I don't really know if California is slamming into Nevada, or sliding by. Although if you look at the Baja California peninsula it does appear to be pulling away from Mexico. :-)

    I do remember an old joke about someone buying beachfront property in Nevada. When a friend told him it wasn't on a beach, he said, "Just wait."

    [link]      
  127. By Kit P on March 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    “Please abide by the forum rules.”

    Sorry RR, I find baseless attacks on Americans offensive. Some think it is civil if you say it with big words but a sharp stick in the eye is a sharp stick in the eye.

    Here is my post without the offending word.

    If anyone is looking for an example of self promoting Euro trash go to Mats R. Larsson web site..

    As is my custom, I first go to look to see what projects demonstrate proven experience. Mats project is selling his book.

    [link]      
  128. By Robert Rapier on March 1, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Kit, the offending word is still in there.

    Personal attacks aren't going to be allowed on anyone; Americans, Europeans, Antarcticans – nobody. It may be that I miss something, so if I do bring it to my attention (as someone did with your post) and I will take care of it.

    RR

    [link]      
  129. By Kit P on March 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    “İ managed plants reforming CH4 to produce H2”

    For what purpose?

    H2 has lots of uses and is a common byproduct. Lots of experience handling it under very controlled conditions when there there is no alternative. I would never use H2 when a safer alternative available just to achieve better efficiency.

    It never ceases to amaze me the irrational fear associated radiation but no fear of sudden death in an explosion.

    [link]      
  130. By Kit P on March 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    “İ managed plants reforming CH4 to produce H2”

    For what purpose?

    H2 has lots of uses and is a common byproduct. Lots of experience handling it under very controlled conditions when there there is no alternative. I would never use H2 when a safer alternative available just to achieve better efficiency.

    It never ceases to amaze me the irrational fear associated radiation but no fear of sudden death in an explosion.

    [link]      
  131. By Paul on March 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Optimist,
    A subtle difference between what I said, and what you read. I did not say that Uncle Sam was keeping prices low, or even controlling, I said higher than he is willing to let them go.

    By that I mean the US govt will likely cave to the screams of people to protect them from high fuel prices, to "keep the economy growing".

    We have seen proposals like the "gas tax holiday", releasing oil from the SPR, drilling the ANWR and anywhere else, begging the Saudis, removing environmental constraints, etc, etc.

    We are already seeing the subsidising of gasoline by the taxpayer via the ethanol tax credit. I would not be surprised to see some other methods of taking money from somewhere else to keep gasoline prices low.

    I am not at all saying that there is control of prices, I am saying the US government will come under immense political pressure to keep gasoline (in particular) prices down.

    Personally, I think that higher oil prices, especially via an import tariff, are what's needed, but I don't think we'll ever see that.

    Whomever presides over $5/gal gas, will likely not preside for much longer. And faced with being turfed out at the polls, I would expect the govt (whomever it is at the time) to do all sorts of things to "save" the people from high gas prices.

    And if the government doesn't, you can expect the opposition party to campaign, and win, on doing just that. Whether they can achieve it, (a cap on prices) is another question altogether.

    [link]      
  132. By Kit P on March 1, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    “Personal attacks”

    Sorry I, I made a mistake of not cutting the word out. Not my first (or second) mistake today either. Little stuff like dating QA documents 4/1/10.

    When I take the time to go to a web site just to find it is promoting his book with tired old idea, I think self promoting is fair. Sure it is popular to blame energy problems on wasteful Americans, I think they are already not being very civil.

    [link]      
  133. By rufus on March 1, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Anonymous, I didn't say Anything about Hydrogen. Must have been someone else. (I've got my hands full with ethanol) :)

    [link]      
  134. By PeteS on March 1, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I wouldn't have bothered looking at Mr. Larsson's site if it wasn't for all the fuss. I don't see any American bashing there. In fact I see a highly pro-western agenda. Sure, he quotes a few people who are considered diabolical in certain quarters. However, last time I checked, Al Gore was an American, and flinging gratuitous insults for the crime of quoting him probably says more about American political divisions than European incivility.

    [link]      
  135. By Anonymous on March 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    My bad. Russ & Rufus next door to one another just above. Good day!

    -Cliff

    [link]      
  136. By Alternate Energy on March 2, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Very True making tall claims and then unable to deliver them can be quite frustrating and a reason for loss of credibility.

    But do we make tall claims just because we want to do that. No, sometimes situations that we had imagined change unfavorably and the calculations which would have fluctuated little; go haywire.

    Thats 1 reason for tall claims and under delivering out of the numerous ones.

    [link]      
  137. By Kit P on March 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    PeteS, if Al Gore post a link to selling his book I will be happy to call him self promoting.

    [link]      
  138. By PeteS on March 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Would you also call him American trash?

    [link]      
  139. By Dave Swenson on March 7, 2010 at 11:52 am

    The promises of promoters become more and more bizarre each year, but the promise of scientists are also bizarre. I have heard very well-intending economists and chemical engineers assure audiences that existing-technology cellulosic ethanol production is now on par with corn ethanol production per gallon in areas with dense hardwood biomass or a critically sufficient supply of corn stover.

    In my own work on the job claims of ethanol promoters, I found the industry consistently got (and gets) away with job growth announcements that are from 10 to 12 times the actual number of jobs directly or indirectly generated in ethanol producing regions.

    So there seems to be two conclusions that are consistently true: production and job growth realities appear to be a tenth or less of the original pitch. And the costs to society of each increment of advanced biofuels gain is growing not declining, which is what technology promises.

    Something is seriously broken.

    [link]      
  140. By Paul on March 8, 2010 at 2:28 am

    Dave said "something is seriously broken.."

    You are correct, Sir. Where I think it went wrong is that in the past, if a company made outrageous, false claims, ultimately the day of reckoning would come when they went broke/ and/or were exposed for being a fraud (like Bernie Madoff).

    But what we have here is that if your claims promise more than someone else's (i.e. they are the most outrageous), you get given government and VC money. And when the day of reckoning comes, you can get more government money, because the government does not want to be involved in a failure, or get blamed for "pulling the plug" on the verge of success. So on it goes.

    As much as I detest the ethanol blenders credit, (which, as RR points out, is now redundant because of the mandate), it is the right structure for gov support – pay only on the basis of results, when they are delivered. Let the VC's try to pick the winners, that's what they do, but keep the political 'selection" out of it.

    I don't even have a problem with paying 2x the credit for (certified) cellulosic, for say five years, but you only get it when you actually sell product. Pay for results, not promises instead we have the other way around, with predictable results.

    [link]      
  141. By Anonymous on March 17, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Very nice synopsis. One thing you forgot to mention is that the Klepper gasifier operates on the assumption that gasification produces no tars or volatile metals.

    Folks have known tar is the achilles heel of gasification for oh, 120 years. Guaranteed, when they start up that 'methanol' plant in Soperton, it will foul and clog and grind to a halt in weeks flat. Then they'll be asking for another 10 million to fix their new broken toy.

    I will say though, it looks like Vinod put together a star team of snake oil salesmen…they were able to squeeze alot of money from investors and the government for an obvious bad idea

    [link]      
  142. By Anonymous on July 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I do think that the creative processes will eventually work down the road, with alot of patience, determination and creativity. The problem with Range Fuels ignited when an “oil” man was hired to run the company and along with him came bigger and better marketing. The new CEO hired in 2008 previous employer “Shell” and he probably has stock in the company since he came out of corportate. . Range Fuels concepts are in competition with Shell. Conflict of interest? DEFINATELY! Do you really wonder why there’s a delay in anything happening in Soperton????? I’d create delays too if my stock investments might suffer from it. Hmmmm.. doesn’t take a scientist to figure this one out. Mr “Shell” and his company have promised the community and the state new jobs. Have you looked at those “careers” offered by Range Fuels. Strictly contract work, no benefits, no guarantee no nothing. Now that’s really a job we’re all looking to capture.

    [link]      
Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!