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By Robert Rapier on Jul 27, 2010 with 50 responses

The Missing Oil, Death of a Climate Bill, and French Engineering

The Missing Oil

I just wanted to briefly touch on three energy stories that were in the news over the past week. The first is that the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico seems to be slowing:

BP Oil Spill: Clean-Up Crews Can’t Find Crude in the Gulf

Thousands of small oil patches remain below the surface, but experts say an astonishing amount has disappeared, reabsorbed into the environment. “[It's] mother nature doing her job,” said Ed Overton, a professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University.

Experts stress that even though there’s less and less oil as time goes on, there’s still plenty around the spill site. And in the long term, no one knows what the impact of those hundreds of millions of gallons will be, deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

That hasn’t stopped speculation that the oil is really hiding under the water per the Matt Simmons Massive Underwater Oil Lake Theory:

So it’s not a good thing that clean up workers can’t find the oil. It means that the oil will lurk under the surface, poisoning the sea life that lives beneath the surface, and washing back up during storms for years to come.

Or, it could mean that most of the oil is being broken down, which is the point of dispersing it into small globules. No doubt there may still be some existing plumes (possibly from naturally-occurring seeps), but I think it is likely very good news that they aren’t finding oil. Still, conspiracy theorists will probably talk about a hidden underground lake of oil for years to come.

Death of a Climate Bill

I previously told the story of being at the Pacific Rim Summit last year, and someone pulling up a chair at my table and saying “I disagree with everything you just said.” One of the things I had said was “Congress will not pass any meaningful climate change legislation next year” and my detractor’s response was “I think you are completely wrong and that we will get a climate bill next year.” Well, that disagreement is likely settled:

On the death of the climate bill

Not only will the bill not contain any restrictions on greenhouse gases — not even a watered-down utility-only cap — it won’t even contain the two other key policies that would have moved clean energy forward: the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) and the energy efficiency standards.

There are just too many competing interests here who have very different notions about what to do – if anything – about climate change. I don’t believe they will ever agree to anything that has real teeth. The many competing interests are why I wasn’t surprised at the fiasco in Copenhagen, and why I am not surprised to see that despite initiatives like the Kyoto Protocol the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise unabated. I also think that any chance of passing legislation went up in smoke with the Climategate story, because it emboldened opponents who already harbored doubts about climate change (which probably includes most Republican and a few Democratic legislators).

French Engineering

I am not sure that’s a phrase I have ever used before. But a recent story says that the French have started work on a 10 MWe Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) pilot project:

DCNS and RÈUNION will place France at the top of the ETM 2011

The story was in French, and is translated using Google Translator. OTEC advocate Dr. Robert Cohen sent me a link to the story, with the following comments:

The French are reported to be back into ocean thermal — which they invented — in what sounds like a big way. According to this report (in French — with illustrations — preceded by its Google translation], a 10 MWe Réunion Island OTEC pilot plant project, in the 2014-2015 time frame, is underway. The project is being carried out with the participation of DCNS, one of Europe’s leading shipbuilders, located in France. (The acronym “ETM” in the article’s title translates to Ocean Thermal Energy.) The report mentions a cost of €400 million ($500 million) for the pilot plant, which is to be preceded in 2011 by a land-based prototype of one of the four power modules, costing another €230 million ($288 million).

Dr. Cohen has addressed OTEC here several times, most recently in Answering Questions on OTEC. As far as pilot plants go, 10 MWe is fairly large. If they are successful, it would go a long way toward demonstrating that OTEC is a viable option for electricity production.

  1. By PeteS on July 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Jeepers! $50m per megawatt of capacity! What are the odds OTEC cost be brought down by two order of magnitude beyond the prototype stage, to be competitive with gas?

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  2. By Rufus on July 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    The “Dead Zone” ate it.

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  3. By Benny BND Cole on July 28, 2010 at 1:04 am

    Rufus: As usual, you are wrong. It went into the Bermuda Triangle.

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  4. By Rufus on July 28, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Or, the back of my daughter’s refrigerator. Nothing ever gets out of there. :)

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  5. By OD on July 28, 2010 at 1:39 am

    More of Matty Simmons believing he is the only one that really knows what is going on haha. Just like he is the only one aware of rust issues. Oil companies have no idea it exists and don’t spend millions each year combating it…oh wait…

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  6. By John Gear on July 28, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Does it matter at all that “ClimateGate” has every bit as much validity as the assault on the poor woman at USDA did, which is to say none?

    I am coming to fear that you are right — we won’t do anything on climate, because today’s profits are just too sweet to give up for tomorrow’s children. I am glad that I don’t have kids. I feel sorry for people who will inherit the world we’re going to leave.

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  7. By Rufus on July 28, 2010 at 2:21 am

    I wouldn’t get too upset about it. We have several states with programs to reach 20 – 25% of Renewable Electricity by 2020, etc.

    It might even work out better. We’ve long allowed the states to be “laboratories” for new ideas, and processes. By the time the Feds get around to doing something there will be “best practices,” best products established.

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  8. By Sneeves on July 28, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Robert,
    What you got against french engineering?

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  9. By Eric Worrall on July 28, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I’m currently cleaning diesel bug out of my boat’s fuel system. Diesel bug is a generic term for an entire ecosystem of bugs, algae and fungus which eat oil.

    It only grows in the presence of oil, and at least a little water – in the case of boats, when the fuel system is contaminated with condensation, from being unused for a while, and when someone (who could that be? ;-) ) forgets to load poison into the fuel tank to control the growth.

    http://www.dieselbugbusters.co…..;Itemid=45

    Diesel bug is a major problem – all oil is contaminated with diesel bug spores. It is a very difficult problem to control, and causes major problems when it contaminates fuel systems (you basically have to strip down the system and clean out the gunk). The problems caused by Diesel Bug have spawned a serious industry producing toxic chemicals to try to stop it fouling boat fuel systems.

    Diesel Bug eats oil. It eats oil, and turns it into organic sludge, which is easily absorbed by the environment. Diesel bug is very good at eating oil, and has been busy eating oil seeping from fissures in the seabed for millions of years. It is so good at eating oil, that controlling it is a major industrial problem. The problem for the world today is not to find bugs which absorb and neutralize oil – they’re already out there, munching away at any oil they can find. The problem most of the time is to stop them.

    Anyone who thinks the gulf spill will be an ecological issue for more than a year or two has never owned a power boat. If you are really worried, I’ll send you a jar of the sludge in the bottom of my fuel tank, for a fee, so you can pour it into the gulf ;-) .

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  10. By Kit P on July 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

    The reason a climate bill
    was not passed is that it was needed because we already are doing
    what needs to be done. The majority of states now have meaningful
    RPS that focus on the local renewable energy resources. That along
    with a PTC means that we are building wind, solar, geothermal, and
    biomass about as fast as engineers can pump out the designs and get
    permits. It takes a certain amount of time to site and build power
    plants.

     

    The biggest solution to AGW
    is replacing coal plants with new nukes. The powerful chairmen of
    the committees to push through a climate bill are rabid Jimmy Carter
    era anti-nukes. They have spent a career fighting nukes to please
    liberal voters in their states. They have no coal miners or nuclear
    industry workers voting for them.

     

    Cap and Tax is a back door
    way of promoting new nukes. Just let the market decide. Of course
    the market might just decide there is less risk to investors by
    passing taxes on to consumers. Overhauling the medical systems and
    financial systems are convoluted and hard to understand. Raising the
    cost of electricity while China doubles the amount of coal they burn
    is very simple to understand.

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  11. By Rufus on July 28, 2010 at 10:58 am

    The Edison2 – E85 powered – did 120 MPG!

    The Libs have, all of a sudden, stopped talking about the X Prize.

    http://www2.dailyprogress.com/…..ar-348237/

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  12. By paul-n on July 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

    @ Pete S;

    To be strictly accurate, OTEC does not need to come down two orders of magnitude to be competitive, just one.  The major cost for gasturbine electricity is the fuel, and OTEC doesn;t need any “fuel”.  so we should compare to other “fuel free” generation, such as large hydro, or nuclear (where the fuel cost/kWh is miniscule).  

    Then we “only” need to come down from $50m/MW to $5m/MW to be competitive.

    This means it is unlikely to be competitive, except for places like islands in the middle of deep ocean, that use diesel generators, which is precisely where they are doing this. (Hawaii is another candidate)

    Of course, they don;t really need to to do this at a $500m scale.  if you are going to have a failed pilot, you should do it smaller, but how many headlines are there for  $50m, 1MW system?  And headlines is what this would seem to be all about.

     

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  13. By takchess on July 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I take the US Congress inaction as a response to the economy (let’s pick the cheaper solution) and a response to their supporters (energy lobby). I’m curious what others think on this, What percentage premium would it make sense for cleaner renewable energy? 0%,10%,20%, 30%. Certainly renewable energy is being told it must pay its own way.

    I imagine this will kill a lot of wind power, which I believe, is somewhat of a marginal technology based on actual energy produced per $.

    Rufus, I don’t think many people (liberals or not) have been talking about the Progressive Auto X-prize. I don’t think it has been promoted very well. I’ve been following it and am interested in what will come out of it in terms of innovations.

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  14. By takchess on July 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I take the US Congress inaction as a response to the economy (let’s pick the cheaper solution) and a response to their supporters (energy lobby). I’m curious what others think on this, What percentage premium would it make sense for cleaner renewable energy? 0%,10%,20%, 30%. Certainly renewable energy is being told it must pay its own way.

    I imagine this will kill a lot of wind power, which I believe, is somewhat of a marginal technology based on actual energy produced per $.

    Rufus, I don’t think many people (liberals or not) have been talking about the Progressive Auto X-prize. I don’t think it has been promoted very well. I’ve been following it and am interested in what will come out of it in terms of innovations.

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  15. By paul-n on July 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Takchess,

    The problem with the X-prize, as I see it, is that they have put all these “subjective” criteria in there.  For example, the teams have to have a plan to manufacture 10,000 of their cars per year, and are “judged” upon this.  This means a very good car, with no outside support, would not win!

    They should have just set very clear, objective standards for what the cars need to be (e.g number of passengers, air con, safety stds etc) and left it at that.  All their other rules killed innovation and made the whole process such that only very well funded teams could compete, and that it took so long to prepare, that they have missed the boat.

    They should have been having their race back in 2008, when fuel prices were high and people cared.  Now it’s just a sideshow that has gone on too long, and the public lost interest long ago.

    The automakers have, of course, boycotted this event, and then gotten all the media attention with their electric car attempts…

     

    What would have been a more interesting subcategory would be one for modifying existing road going vehicles for 100mpg, or even to just get double or triple EPA mileage ratings.  Then, even if the automakers don;t care, the aftermarket companies could get in on it by making/selling the conversion kits, and motorists could benefit right away without having to buy a new car.

     

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  16. By rrapier on July 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Jeepers! $50m per megawatt of capacity! What are the odds OTEC cost be brought down by two order of magnitude beyond the prototype stage, to be competitive with gas?

    Seemed pretty high to me too. I was looking for a comparison to put the number into perspective, and came across this link:

    Capital Costs of Power Generating Technologies

    They have various gas turbine technologies down in the $400,000/megawatt range and go up to $4.5 MM for solar PV.

    RR

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  17. By rrapier on July 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Sneeves said:

    Robert,

    What you got against french engineering?


     

    Nothing at all. It is just that the cliche that you always hear is “German engineering.” But I am sure the French are quite capable with their engineering skills.

    RR

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  18. By paul-n on July 28, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    RR,

    I think that table of capital costs is very optimistic.

    For example, hydropower at $1500/kW?  

    BC Hydro is starting work on the only major new hydro project in N America , the 900MW Site C on the Peace river, and it is $6bn (2006 estimate) for 900MW, which is $6700/kW.  All the smaller hydro projects being built here (10-50MW) are about $3-5k/kW.

    Hopefully KitP will chime in here, but the number of $1800/kW for nuclear also seems very low.

    It looks like these costs might be for generating equipment only, and not the “balance of system” costs, such as land, access roads, transmission lines etc.  These are more of an issue for hydro and wind than nuclear and GT, but they must be considered.

    And, of course, you should bring in the capacity factor, to get a cost per annual kWh produced.  Wind, and solar, in particular, come off badly on that one.

    In any case, OTEC has a long way to go to become competitive.  They would be better off at Reunion doing wind and solar.

     

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  19. By rrapier on July 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Does it matter at all that “ClimateGate” has every bit as much validity

    as the assault on the poor woman at USDA did, which is to say none?

    No, that wasn’t going to matter. Some were searching for the whiff of a scandal, and they got it. How it played out after that wasn’t going to undo those initial impressions from those searching for that whiff. You see the same thing all the time. This latest Matt Simmons’ deal is an example. Some are searching for the whiff of evidence that he is correct. For them, a report of underwater plumes is enough for them to suggest that his massive underwater oil lake scenario may be correct.

    RR

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  20. By takchess on July 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Paul N ,
    I would of found it interesting if the Discovery Channel did a little miniseries on the contest where you could follow the teams. The actual contest seemed bogged down in minutia . I could not understand exactly what it took to win this thing. Everything seem locked down and behind a Public Relations Firewall.

    I would of found it interesting if the format allowed for more less funded groups to be involved. There were some very interesting teams on paper that never competed. Perhaps the designs couldn’t hack it.

    I don’t think the 10k car business plan was not a factor except for the time involved in drawing it up. I don’t think one is forced to produce the cars just have a plan to think about it. I think the big drawback for smaller less funded teams was the total time sink to be at various places for long periods of time without compensation. I can’t blame the Xprize for being stringent in safety requirements etc due to liability.

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  21. By Rufus on July 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Fuel injected race car running E85 kicks carbureted, race gas ass – Argonne National Labs.

    Faster Laps, More Torque, 90% less Emissions when burning cellulosi ethanol

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  22. By paul-n on July 28, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Takchess, 

    “bogged down in minutia” is a good description.

    I think they let lawyaers or the like get involved with planning this competition.  There were too many hurdles, and a program that was far too long, from the first launch even in Oct last year until August this year, with things happening all across the country.

    They should have come up with a simple, objective formula, and a one week race/event to determine the winner – who is going to maintain interest for 10 months? Certainly not the media.

    The solar car race across Australia is a good example.  It has clear rules, a fixed start date, takes a a few days/week, has a definite climax and winner, and gets lots of attention for a short period.  Also, because it is a one week deal, lot of low budget teams can and do compete.

    The auto X-prize should have followed a similar formula and they would have had a public success on their hands.  Instead they have an overly complex, little followed competition that may make some technical advances, but will do zero to advance/interest the general public.

    Agreed if they’d let Discovery channel design and market this event, they’d have had a much greater success.

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  23. By Kit P on July 28, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    “I’m curious what others
    think on this, What percentage premium would it make sense for
    cleaner renewable energy? 0%,10%,20%, 30%.”

     

    What do you mean cleaner?
    In any case I am willing to pay 100% more for renewable energy
    alternative up to 1% of my mix per alternative. Even solar falls in
    this category. Think of it this way, electricity is a cheap
    commodity even at twice the cost.

     

    Looking at levelized costs
    wind, biomass, geothermal, and nuclear all fall withing the range of
    NG generating cost depending on the what you think the cost of NG
    will be in the future. Let say we built so much high capital cost,
    low fuel cost capacity that NG share decreased to the point where NG
    was $3/MMBTU. A CCGT would be a new nuke in that case but every body
    who uses NG would be paying lower NG bills like they have not seen
    for 15 years.

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  24. By Kit P on July 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    “Hopefully KitP will chime
    in here, but the number of $1800/kW for nuclear also seems very low.”

     

    Maybe for a 4 unit facility
    in China. At least double that for a single unit in the US at a site
    that has an existing. Ask me again in 6 or 7 years and I will tell
    you what it cost to build a new nuke in the US. Keep in mind that a
    new nuke will last 60 to 100 years and have a 95% capacity factor.

     

    What do you call any of the
    old 104 operating nuke plants in the US? Answer: cash machine.

     

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  25. By paul-n on July 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm

     

    Looking at levelized costs
    wind, biomass, geothermal, and nuclear all fall withing the range of
    NG generating cost depending on the what you think the cost of NG
    will be in the future. Let say we built so much high capital cost,
    low fuel cost capacity that NG share decreased to the point where NG
    was $3/MMBTU. A CCGT would be a new nuke in that case but every body
    who uses NG would be paying lower NG bills like they have not seen
    for 15 years.

    I think this is an important point.  NG is very useful for all sorts of other things -making petrochemicals, plastics, fertilisers, than just burning for electricity.  If there were not the demand for electricity generation, it would be very cheap.  Possible cheap enough to make CNG the preferred fuel for rail/truck/fleet vehicle operations.

    Mind you, rather than using NG for home heating, the major domestic use, it would be better to go with the new generation of electric heat pumps, where you end up with twice the heat units, per unit of natural gas.  And of, course, the electricity can come from any source.  

    The less dependent the economy is on any single fossil energy source, the better.

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  26. By Rufus on July 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    It sure won’t enhance the interest of all the little greenies that were having wittle, wet dreams about wind-powered battery cars “winnin’ the prize.”

    Autobloggreen was constantly running articles about the X Prize right up until they realized that an ethanol-powered car was going to win it.

    Nothing but crickets chirping, since.

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  27. By Kit P on July 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    No more ethanol for you tonight Rufus.

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  28. By paul-n on July 29, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Rufus,

    While I am happy for the E85 car to win it, clearly it will not win simply because it runs on E85.  It will win because of the design philosophy of its team – keep everything ultralight.  it could probably run any liwuid fuel in such a small ICE and it would still get great mileage.  

    It clearly illustrates two things;

    1. Any car can be highly fuel efficient if made lightweight and aerodynamic.
    2. An electric car can be made aerodynamic,  but not lightweight

    So, for the ICE makers, all they need to do to keep ahead of the electrics, is to make their cars lighter, and more aerodynamic (and likely, smaller).  Nothing revolutionary there – just keep making Corollas instead of Prius.

     

    And for Chevy, they have just released the pricing of the Volt – $41k!

    http://www.insideline.com/chev…..s-say.html

    After federal $7500 tax credit, is $33500k, still up there.  Nissan Leaf starts at $33k before credit.

    Meanwhile you can buy a Nissan Versa (essentially ICE version of the Leaf) for $12k.  

    Chevy is offering a lease option, $2500 down and $350/mo for 3 yrs – total obligation $15,100.  Assuming a 0% interest rate, the buyout would be $18,400k – I wonder how many takers there will be for that?

    Of all the ways there are to save oil, the Volt must be up there with the most expensive of them – it makes the Prius look cheap and it makes a Corolla (or Versa, or any small car) look like an absolute bargain.  The $20k price difference will buy you about 8,000 gal of gasoline, which would power a Corolla for 240,000 miles – more than the life of the car, and certainly more than the life of the batteries in the Volt.

    These payback on these electrics is starting to look like grid tied solar PV panels – they will barely pay for themselves over their operating life, let alone return any profit on the investment.

    The Volt will likely be bought buy the same people in California who have (subisidised) solar panels on their roof, for the same reason – to show off.

     

     

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  29. By Thomas on July 29, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Paul:

    Agreed the Volt is expensive.  If I sold solar panels in California I’d be worried because the Volt is going to be hard to compete with.  The people buying these cars would have spent 45k on a Mercedes or BMW (hybrid buyers).  Payback is not an issue.

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  30. By Thomas on July 29, 2010 at 9:10 am

    The Volt is also only going to take premium gas…http://green.autoblog.com/2010…..m-gas-yup/

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  31. By ROBERT on July 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    They make natural gas electricity for 50 cents a watt in capital costs and five cents a kwh in fuel. But they sell it to me for 16 cents. So where does two thirds the money go?

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  32. By Kit P on July 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    “But they sell it to me for 16 cents.”

     

    Who is ‘they’ Robert?  Where do you live and who do you buy electricity from?

     

    The electricity rates for Roberts are the result of a public debate and are documented in public record available on the internet.  The cost of generation is not the same as retail cost which includes many factors.

     

    If do not like it Robert you may want to consider not buying it.  I do not like what they charge for a cup of so I bought a coffee pot and make my own.  

     

    I suspect there is not one thing in Robert’s life that provides more value for the money than electricity.

     

    I do hear at work about the high electric bills.  These people live in 5000 square foot houses and commute to work in a SUV.  The people who complain the loudest are the ones who waste the most.  

     

    People like to complain about what they think they have no control over.  However, the amount of energy you use is a personal choice.  

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  33. By ROBERT on July 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t buy electricity. The Lompoc municipal utility buys electricity from me for 7 cents/kwh which they say is their wholesale costs.

    Paul said grid tied solar PV panels will barely pay for themselves over their operating life. Since PV panels have an operating life of over a hundred years that depends on the cost of electricity in the year 2100. Maybe Paul can share that number with us. When I put up my panels in 2006, they cost $10/watt, the government paid a third of it, and electricity was 12 cents. Today they would cost $8/watt, the government pays two/thirds the cost and electricity is 16 cents. Tommorrow who knows. $5/watt is installation costs which means it goes to American workers, electricians, salesman etc. I would guess the 30% federal tax credit is more economic stimulus than energy policy.

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  34. By Rufus on July 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Actually, Paul, gasoline wouldn’t have given nearly as good mileage. This is what they said about “why they chose E85.”

    A gasoline engine may accelerate more efficiently without the added weight of batteries, but when throttled back to cruise power it loses efficiency, because of internal friction and pumping losses.

    Pumping losses led us to E85. Pumping losses come about at low load because the engine is trying to draw in a cylinder’s worth of air past a throttle that’s trying to stop it. Our solution for this inefficiency is to “throttle” the engine with exhaust gas recirculation. For practical purposes exhaust gas is inert, so if we send a cylinder full of exhaust gas and fresh air mix into the engine instead of a partial fill of fresh air only we can reduce power while also reducing pumping losses.

    However, there is a limit to how much you can dilute the incoming fresh air with exhaust gas before the engine starts to misfire. E85 is significantly more tolerant of charge dilution than gasoline, allowing us to run the engine at close-to-peak efficiency at cruise power.

    E85 has other attractive qualities. It (ethanol) runs cleaner than gasoline. It is renewable. As ethanol production moves from corn to cellulose-based sources ethanol becomes more energy efficient to produce and competes less with farmland.

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  35. By paul-n on July 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Rufus, fair enough if they can get better mileage on E85, lets hope we see this in all the flex fuels soon.

    Ihave to disagree with this statement though;

    As ethanol production moves from corn to cellulose-based sources ethanol becomes more energy efficient to produce

    I can see no evidence that cellulosic is more energy efficient – it less, as there is more energy involved in the pre-treatment, enzyme manufacture etc.  It may one day be cheaper, (if the cellulose is free) and it certainly won;t compete with food, but I can’t see how it is more energy efficient.

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  36. By Rufus on July 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Paul, you’ll be taking cellulose, that otherwise wouldn’t be harvested, and using it for, not only the fuel, but for the Energy to process the cellulose. Also, you’ll be getting electrity from it.

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  37. By Perry on July 29, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Ford developed an engine called the Bobcat that runs on both gasoline and E85. It’s a dual injection system that requires two fuel tanks. The combination somehow produces the torque and efficiency of a diesel. Adding ethanol somehow increases mileage 30%, instead of the other way around.

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  38. By Kit P on July 29, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Since Robert lives in a mild
    California climate and has a generation mix of low in fossil fuels I
    am not sure why he is complaining about the cost of NG generation.

     

    http://www.cityoflompoc.com/Ut…..tlabel.pdf

     

    Robert wrote,

     

    “Since PV panels have an
    operating life of over a hundred years that depends on the cost of
    electricity in the year 2100.”

     

    It is this kind of dishonest
    analysis that makes me disrespect some solar advocates. So Robert
    tell us what the system cost. Now tell us how much electricity is
    produced. The rest of us can figure out the cost of generation using
    the same accounting methods for comparisons of your system to other
    systems.

     

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  39. By paul-n on July 30, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Robert, I am with Kit, if you don;t like electricity at $0.16/kWh, then buy less of it.  

    But you should like at at that price or even higher, as it makes your PV panels less of a money loser.

     

    Using your $10/W, and the average solar insolation for the LA area of 5.5 hrs/yr, your 1W of PV will produce 2007Wh/yr, worth $0.32 at your current retail price.  That means it will take 31 years to recover the installation cost.

    Most solar panel manufacturers quote a 25 yr service life, and a loss of capacity of 20% over that time (most of the loss occurs in the first five years), so the actual power production is even less than my estimate. I would be very interested to see  panel maker that quote 100yrs.

    Of course, with the government paying two thirds the cost, it means the general taxpayer is subsidising the most expensive way to make electricity there is.

    A much better investment, for you, the taxpayer and the country, would be to simply find a way to save the 2kWh/yr instead, and let the government money go to something that creates real value, or leave it in everyone’s pocket in the first place.

    As Kit says, electricity is cheap at twice the price – you will give up a lot of other things if they double in price, but probably not electricity.

     

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  40. By paul-n on July 30, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Rufus, you are dodging the issue on cellulosic.  You can still harvest the cellulose, and make electricity from it.   This is done every day, on massive scales, in pulp mills.  

    But I haven;t seen any hard evidence that making it from cellulose will be more energy efficient than from corn.  If it is, I’m sure POET has some numbers to justfy their government funding, and I’m sure you are aware of them, since you watch Poet’s every move.  If you can provide such data, I will stand corrected.  But to use the cellulose for process energy, electrical generation etc is not “cellulosic” ethanol, and if that was more efficient, why are almost all the distilleries using NG?

     

     

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  41. By paul-n on July 30, 2010 at 3:25 am

    @ Perry 

    Looks like Ford is not going to use that enginem, despite its merits, this from autoblog.com;

    Now that Ford has officially revealed the new 5.0-liter V8 for the 2011 Mustang GT, we began wondering whether the new engine was the basis for the Bobcat. We had a chance to chat with Mike Harrison, the chief engineer on the 5.0-liter and the 6.2-liter truck V8, who told us that the 5.0-liter Bobcat was actually derived from the old 5.4-liter V8 currently used in the F-150 and the Shelby GT500

    For the Bobcat experimental engine, the longer-stroked 5.4 was used in combination with a smaller bore that provided thicker cylinder walls needed to withstand the high internal pressures of the boosted 750 pound-foot engine. According to Harrison, the Bobcat was part of a Department of Energy funded research project and there are no current plans for a production engine based on the technology. He also tells us that the extra cost of the dual injection systems and more robust block and heads negates much of the savings from not needing a diesel after-treatment system.

    Which is too bad, as it looks like just the sort of thing needed for E85 to be more desirable.  

    The company that developed the system for Ford is http://www.ethanolboost.com.  Looks like a well connected company, they have a few former Ford employees on their board, some MIT guys and a former senator.

    Also looks like no one presently wants to use their technology, or if they do, they are not saying so.

    This is the sort of innovation I like to see – maybe they can develop an aftermarket conversion kit, there are lots of tinkerers out there, especially in corn country with plenty of E85 (or E100) to use.

    That’s enough ethanol for me tonight!

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  42. By Kit P on July 30, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I advocate utility scale
    solar projects located in industrial settings. These systems are
    operated and maintained by trained professionals who follow safety
    precautions.

     

    Putting PV on the roofs of
    homes where people live is a dangerous scam. I put home PV systems
    up there with breast augmentation surgery and tats. If you have to
    do such things to feel better about yourself, it is a waste of time
    for me to try to explain why you should not.

     

    PaulN, the PV panels are not
    the limiting component of a solar PV systems. Anyone considering a
    home PV systems should carefully read the guarantees and check the
    replacement cost of each component. Then consider the failure modes
    of these components. If the smoke emitting diodes cause your house
    to burn down, is it worth the risk.

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  43. By takchess on July 30, 2010 at 10:44 am

    RR,
    If you are so inclined, your thoughts on this would make a good post.

    http://www.technologyreview.co…..rgy/25545/

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  44. By paul-n on July 30, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Interesting editorial here from the NY Times, calling for an end to the ethanol tax credit.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07…..editorials

    Rufus- am suprisied you didn’t put this up for discussion here, given that you have commented on this on other blogs.

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  45. By Perry on July 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Valero says ending the credit won’t keep a single barrel from being blended, because ethanol is 30 cents a gallon cheaper than gasoline. The quote surprised me, because Valero is a major player, and collects some handsome subsidies for blending.

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  46. By Rufus on July 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Paul, for some reason your link keeps bringing me back to this thread.

    As for the “Blending Credits” brouhaha, I’ve said before, on this blog, that I don’t think it’s the “end of humanity” however it turns out. They mostly go to the oil companies, and, although I don’t trust Valero any farther than I could throw them, I, also, don’t think it will have a big effect on the amount blended.

    One reason for this, is that I expect oil to rise through the end of the year (the “floating” inventory is about gone,) and I expect a large corn crop this fall.

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  47. By Bob Schmidt on July 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I think this is the link Paul originally referred to:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07…..ef=opinion

    Those two links make me want to take one more shot at that dead horse.  Takchess’ link describes one more time the ridiculous imbalance between fossil fuel subsidies and those for alternative fuels.  The second has the usual argument against the ethanol subsidy while ignoring the elephant in the room.  Isn’t it obvious to everyone that fossil fuel subsidies are an important part of the reason that ethanol distillers use NG to power their corn plants in the US and thus why the energy return is so poor?  Unless we face reality and do something about it, the solution is going to be very hard to come by.

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  48. By ROBERT on July 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    It isn’t 2006 any more. Say someone installs a one watt system in Lompoc today. They pay $8 of which the utility pays them a $3 rebate and the IRS gives them a $2.40 tax credit. So he’s out $2.60 out of pocket. I don’t care if you think this is good public policy or not. I’m just quoting reality.

    There’s 5.5 hours of sun in the LA area. So your one watt system generates 2kWh/ year of electricity. At 16 cents a kWh, that’s 32 cents worth. So an 8 year payback period. If the price of electricity doesn’t increase (yeah right). You making 12.5% interest on your money?

    The manufacture guarantees the power output of your panels for 25 years. That doesn’t mean your panels mysteriously vaporize on their 25th birthday. Maintanence costs none. Failure modes none. Go ahead and spread your fear uncertainty doubt. Somewhere out there is a reader who lives in the LA area who is making half a percent interest on his CD or 4% interest on his california municiple bonds.

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  49. By Kit P on July 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    So Robert is not going to tell us that the actual cost of his system was something like $37,000 and produced something like 1300 kwh each year since installed. At $0.10/kwh the result is $130/year.  Ignoring the future value of money, this results in a 285 year payback period for the PV system.

     

    I would further suggest that my example is typical of real life home PV systems.  Of course nobody ever reports being the victim of scam when they can talk about how green they are.  

     

    “Maintanence costs none. Failure modes none.”

     

    Of course electrical equipment needs maintenance.  Of course electrical equipment shorts out either failing to produce anymore electricity or causing an electrical fire.

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  50. By rrapier on July 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Valero says ending the credit won’t keep a single barrel from being
    blended, because ethanol is 30 cents a gallon cheaper than gasoline.

    Maury – It won’t keep a single barrel from being blended because they will still be legally obligated to blend it.

    RR

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