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By Robert Rapier on Nov 2, 2010 with 104 responses

The Palm Oil Conundrum

People sometimes ask which biofuels are competitive head to head with crude oil. By competitive, I mean those that can actually compete favorably with oil prices on a level playing field (i.e., they don’t require big subsidies or mandates in order to compete). There are two that always come to mind: Ethanol from sugarcane (although less competitive currently due to high sugar prices) and fuel from palm oil (oil derived from the fruits of the African Oil Palm). In fact, in the first book chapter I wrote in 2007 (Renewable Diesel in Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks) I highlighted palm oil as a crop with great promise, but also great environmental risk:

The author standing in front of an African Oil Palm in Sarawak, Malaysia.

By far the most productive lipid crop, palm oil is the preferred oil crop in tropical regions. The yields of up to five tons of palm oil per hectare can be ten times the per hectare yield of soybean oil. Palm oil is a major source of revenue in countries like Malaysia, where earnings from palm oil exports exceed earnings from petroleum products.

Palm oil presents an excellent case illustrating both the promise and the peril of biofuels. Driven by demand from the U.S. and the European Union (EU) due to mandated biofuel requirements, palm oil has provided a valuable cash crop for farmers in tropical regions like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The high productivity of palm oil has led to a dramatic expansion in many tropical countries around the equator. This has the potential for alleviating poverty in these regions.

But in some locations, expansion of oil palm cultivation has resulted in serious environmental damage as rain forest has been cleared to make room for new palm oil plantations. Deforestation in some countries has been severe, which negatively impacts sustainability criteria, because these tropical forests absorb carbon dioxide.  Destruction of peat land in Indonesia for oil palm plantations has reportedly caused the country to become the world’s third highest emitter of greenhouse gases.

I was especially curious to learn more about Malaysia’s palm oil industry during my recent visit there. Once a key ingredient in biodiesel supplied to the West, it later became shunned as details emerged that tropical rain forest was being decimated to make way for palm oil plantations. As a result, Greenpeace has carried out a major campaign to slow the development of the palm oil industry. So which is it? Is palm oil a blessing or a curse? It took a trip to Malaysia to crystallize my thoughts around palm oil, but the truth – as it generally is – is a bit more complex than the sound bites.

Signs of the palm oil industry were everywhere in Sarawak, which is the Malaysian state that I visited. There are African oil palms growing everywhere; in plantations, on the side of the road, outside people’s houses, etc. There are tankers running up and down the roads filled with palm oil. The port in Bintulu, Malaysia has a tank farm and facilities devoted to palm oil exports. It was apparent to me through talking to people there that the country is proud of this thriving business. But I wanted to better understand the nature of the palm oil industry in Malaysia, so I spent some time with a palm oil grower there.

We discussed yields (which he confirmed as around 5 tons per hectare) and cost of production (much cheaper than crude oil). I learned that palm oil is a heavy user of fertilizer (4 kg of nitrogen fertilizer per tree is the number I was quoted), is heavily dependent on manual labor (mostly from Indonesia; I was told that wages aren’t high enough to entice Malaysians to harvest oil palm fruits), and I did see signs of erosion where some plantations had been developed.

But I was mostly interested in the rain forest controversy. I asked about the grower’s thoughts on the campaign to reduce palm oil usage in the West, which it is hoped would slow or stop encroachment into the rain forests. I was told that even if the West refused to buy the palm oil, China would buy all they could make. So the message there was that the industry would continue to develop whether the West boycotts it or not. I also heard from several people that rain forest encroachment had certainly taken place (I kept hearing “it’s much worse in neighboring Indonesia”), but that the government was trying to address that. The Malaysian government has created conservation zones (I was told that these were mostly hilly areas that couldn’t be planted anyway) in order to preserve some of the habitat being lost. Finally, the grower explained that palm oil was a way for rural poor people to earn some money to be able to feed their families and send their kids to school. While Malaysia is quite developed (it was easy to forget I was in Asia; many areas have a very Western look), an estimated 8% of Malaysians live on less than $2 a day, and I suspect most of those are in rural areas.

Fruit from an African Oil Palm.

The palm oil that is produced in Malaysia is mostly being used for food, but it can also be used for fuel. That is one of the risks going forward that countries that want fuel will outbid those who need food, setting up more food versus fuel issues. Palm oil may be converted to biodiesel, which is the mono-alkyl ester product derived from glycerides (long-chain fatty acids contained in lipids ) in vegetable oils or animal fats. Or it can also be converted to a true diesel replacement by hydrocracking. The hydrocracking reaction “cracks”, or fractures the palm oil molecules. The products of this reaction are a hydrocarbon distillate and a propane by-product. Synthetic hydrocarbon diesel produced from biomass in this way is often referred to as ‘green diesel.’

Neste Oil in Finland began developing their NExBTL hydrocracking technology in 2002, and in May 2007 inaugurated a plant with a capacity of 170,000 metric tons per year of renewable diesel fuel from a feedstock of vegetable oil and animal fat. In 2009 Neste inaugurated a second plant, and they have two more under construction. One of those plants is a $762 million plant in Singapore, and will provide a significant outlet for palm oil produced in the region.

Palm oil represents a difficult dilemma: How does the West address negative social or environmental implications from the development of a palm oil industry (or any industry) that is helping to lift rural people out of poverty by providing an income stream for farmers? Western objectives (saving the rain forests) may be viewed as conflicting with their basic needs (feeding their families and sending their kids to school) — which is of course why globally rain forest continues to disappear. If I look into my crystal ball, I see an industry that will continue to develop due to demand outside of the West, and an issue that governments in Malaysia and Indonesia must address themselves. Based on my observations and discussions, Western boycotts will be ultimately ineffective. For me this is a case of what I would like to see happen (preservation of the rain forests) with what I believe will ultimately happen unless the local governments address this problem themselves (destruction of the rain forests to make way for local economic opportunities).

  1. By perry on November 3, 2010 at 1:23 am

    5 tons per hectare works out to about 600 gallons per acre. Corn ethanol is good for about 400 gallons/acre. The advantage of corn ethanol is that we don’t need to import millions of migrant laborors to harvest it.

    At the turn of the last century, it took five acres to feed a man’s transportation. Today, we can feed a car with less than an acre. Half that much if we burn the biomass for electricity.

    “In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in
    horse manure.”

    http://www.uctc.net/access/30/…..0Power.pdf

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  2. By rrapier on November 3, 2010 at 3:28 am

    5 tons per hectare works out to about 600 gallons per acre. Corn ethanol is good for about 400 gallons/acre. The advantage of corn ethanol is that we don’t need to import millions of migrant laborors to harvest it.

    But the energy content of the palm oil is almost twice that of corn ethanol. Big difference. Further, it will go in a diesel engine. Better efficiency.

    There is a reason the Malaysians aren’t growing corn, and it isn’t because they can’t. Any tropical country could grow corn and have an ethanol industry. There is a reason they are growing palm.

    RR

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  3. By perry on November 3, 2010 at 5:39 am

    It wouldn’t work here, because we can’t pay workers a $3 daily wage. What do the economics look like when workers earn 40X as much, and get things like health insurance and a 401k?

     

    Tropical maize does look promising though.

     

    http://nitrogenes.cropsci.illi…..0Maize.pdf

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  4. By takchess on November 3, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Does the Oil come from the fruit? or is it tapped like Maple Syrup? It the tree destroyed upon harvesting?

     

     

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  5. By doggydogworld on November 3, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Perry said:

    The advantage of corn ethanol is that we don’t need to import millions of migrant laborors to harvest it.


     

    The advantage of palm oil is you don’t need to burn a BTU of natgas to make a BTU of liquid transportation fuel, as is typically the case with corn ethanol.

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  6. By Wendell Mercantile on November 3, 2010 at 9:39 am

    RR~

    What is the longevity of a palm oil plantation? For how many years can one continue to expect a palm plantation to thrive in one spot?

    Tropical soils are typically not very rich with nutrients, do palm plantations need fertilizers? Its difficult to imagine one could keep pulling energy out of the without either degrading the soil, or needing to replace it with fertilizer.

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  7. By Kit P on November 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

    RR: Post deleted. Kit, not in the mood for your typical caustic rants. If you can post in an especially civil manner (from now on I am holding you to a higher standard), then do so. Otherwise, you aren’t going to drag down the tone of the conversation by casting aspersions and talking about what “real engineers” might do.

    RR

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  8. By rrapier on November 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    I learned that palm oil is a heavy user of fertilizer (4 kg of nitrogen fertilizer per tree is the number I was quoted)…

    RR~

    My apologies, I missed the comment on fertilizer in your post during the first read.

    But that raises the question that if palm oil is a heavy user of nitrogen fertilizer, doesn’t it have the same problem as corn ethanol? Like corn ethanol, doesn’t that just make palm oil recycled natural gas?


     

    Yeah, we ran some numbers on this. A couple of differences are that the tree density is a lot lower per area than corn plants, so 4 kg per tree isn’t as much per hectare as you might imagine. I would have to calculate to see whether it is more or less than corn, but the difference is in the product. Corn produces starch that has to be fermented and then distilled from water. Palm produces oil, so the energy content per hectare of the product is much higher than for corn (or any oil crop for that matter).

    We tried to rough out some energy return calculations, and best guess is that it is in the 5ish range. I read a source yesterday that claimed 10, but that seems pretty high.

    RR

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  9. By Wendell Mercantile on November 3, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I am sure Wendell will agree that American farmers in northern latitudes should be growing palm oil or sugar cane instead of soy beans and corn.

    Kit P.

    Why would I agree to that? You had better make sure of what you think you read before casting aspersions my way.

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  10. By Wendell Mercantile on November 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I learned that palm oil is a heavy user of fertilizer (4 kg of nitrogen fertilizer per tree is the number I was quoted)…

    RR~

    My apologies, I missed the comment on fertilizer in your post during the first read.

    But that raises the question that if palm oil is a heavy user of nitrogen fertilizer, doesn’t it have the same problem as corn ethanol? Like corn ethanol, doesn’t that just make palm oil recycled natural gas?

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  11. By Steve Koch on November 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    The problems with using crops to generate energy is that it raises the price of food (a huge problem for the poor) and it increases the land dedicated to agriculture, at the cost of land that can be planted in trees or just left to stay wild.

    We need to be moving in the opposite direction and remove the subsidies for crop based fuels.

    I’d like to see a discussion of liquid fluoride thorium reactors for generating electricity. From an environmental perspective, they seem to have huge advantages over traditional nuclear power.

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  12. By Wendell Mercantile on November 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    RR~

    Has anyone there raised the issue of widespread oil palm plantations being a monoculture v. the great diversity that was in the rain forest they replaced?

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  13. By russ-finley on November 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    How does the West address negative social or environmental implications from the development of a palm oil industry (or any industry) that is helping to lift rural people out of poverty by providing an income stream for farmers?

    Alternatives exist. China is proof of that. Farm owners might make a decent living but farm hands do not and the vast majority will be poorly paid farm hands. Some economists have argued that a country cannot rise out of poverty with agriculture. If people who happen to live next to African game preserves are allowed to harvest the bushmeat and  ivory in those preserves for income simply because they live in close proximity to the resource,  elephants and a lot of other creatures will be extinct in very short order. Ivory has one value …status.

    “…even if the West refused to buy the palm oil, China would buy all they could make.

    True that. The Chinese are also buying up wildlife from all over the world to eat, purely for the status of it. They are buying furniture made out of rare tropical woods, again purely for the status. Once we have a roof over our heads and full bellies, our resources go toward increasing out stature and the stature of our children. Status has to be advertised to be of any value but some status symbols are more environmentally destructive than others. People emulate the cool kids. The cool kids need to come up with better status symbols to emulate.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  14. By rrapier on November 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Has anyone there raised the issue of widespread oil palm plantations being a monoculture v. the great diversity that was in the rain forest they replaced?

    Yes, that is the heart of the issue over replacing forest with plantations. You heard mixed opinions; some were greatly concerned and some were more concerned about economic development. I guess it is the same there as anywhere; people fall into very different camps on the subject.

    And don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to come across as advocating for palm oil. I am just trying to put some perspective on why it is happening and will likely continue to happen.

    RR

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  15. By rrapier on November 3, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Does the Oil come from the fruit? or is it tapped like Maple Syrup? It the tree destroyed upon harvesting?

    Yes, the oil comes from the fruit, which comes in clusters. I am holding a single fruit that is part of a cluster in that bottom picture. The tree is not destroyed; it can continue to produce for 30 years or more.

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  16. By Kit P on November 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    “a huge problem for the poor”

     

    Steve huge problems are easy to document.  So I would have to disagree but in any case biofuels create productive jobs helping the poor to stop being poor.  

     

    “I’d like to see a discussion of liquid fluoride thorium reactors for generating electricity. From an environmental perspective, they seem to have huge advantages over traditional nuclear power.”

     

    You can start a discussion in the clear nuclear forum or join the discussion I just started.

     

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..ors/#p6304

     

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  17. By savro on November 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Kit P said:

    Steve huge problems are easy to document.  So I would have to disagree…


     

    Are you saying that high food prices are not a problem for the poor?

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  18. By perry on November 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Palm oil production will be over 46 million tons this year. That’s close to a million bpd. 80% of that is used as food. This plant is incredibly productive. With only 5% of the acreage devoted to growing vegetable oils, oil palms produce 40% of total edible oils. Palms take 7 years to bear fruit, but last 20 to 30 years. Soybeans and other oil seed plants need to be planted yearly. Most palm oil production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, but the plant could do well in any tropical environment. Mexico, Central America, the Phillipines, and most of Africa could be low cost producers of palm oil.

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  19. By Dr Zaius on November 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    takchess said:

    Does the Oil come from the fruit? or is it tapped like Maple Syrup? It the tree destroyed upon harvesting?

     

     


     

    The oil comes from the fruit. It is currently harvested by hand, but this back-breaking work will soon be carried out by machine as the technology is perfected– thus ending the bogus argument of job creation for rural people.

    The trees produce several crops before eventually depleting the soil of all nutients and leaving a desert in their pesticidal wake…

    The ideal alternative to the oil palm is the sugar palm, which is tapped for its syrup by hand and is now being promoted globally by Dr Willie Smits. A nice introduction to his work can be found on the TED website: http://www.ted.com/talks/willi…..orest.html

     

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  20. By Kit P on November 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    “Are you saying
    that high food prices are not a problem for the
    poor?”

     

    I am saying food
    prices are not high and biofuels are not a significant factor in any
    increase. Sam there is a systematic approach to solving problems.
    First you carefully identify the problem and then find root cause.
    Once you know the root cause you can work on that.

     

    In America, both
    food and energy is affordable to all. All the time I hear about
    people who live in 5000 square foot houses, drive Cadi SUVs, smoke,
    drink, shop for cloths at Nostrums, travel to foreign on vacation,
    and eat out 7 days a week. They complain the cost of energy and
    their children depend on public assistance for food. We all have
    seen dead beat dad who do not pay child support.

     

    The point being
    there are some problems that can not be solved without the help of
    someone carrying a gun.

     

    So why are there so
    many poor people in the world. Malaria is one reason but we banned
    DDT. AIDS is another problem that ravages many poor countries. Then
    there is civil war and corruption. At least but not last, droughts
    cause food shortages. All of these causes preclude many from being
    productive enough afford solutions to break the cycle.

     

    Root blame is when
    you ignore all those causes that that have been around since the end
    of the last ice age and blame some recent event. Association is not
    causation.

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  21. By savro on November 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Speaking of sugarcane ethanol’s competitiveness:

    Sugar Prices Hit 30-Year Highs

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  22. By savro on November 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Kit P said:

    I am saying food prices are not high and biofuels are not a significant factor in any increase.


     

    By specifically quoting his statement of “a huge problem for the poor,” you seemed to be implying with your response that higher food prices are not a problem for the poor. Instead, you should have been clear about your point by quoting the beginning of his statement: “The problems with using crops to generate energy is that it raises the price of food…

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  23. By Kit P on November 3, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    “you seemed to be
    implying”

     

    Sam, sorry for the
    miscommunication, I did not intend to imply anything.
    Miscommunication is often a root cause of events at power plants.
    Under some circumstances, formality is important for clarity. For
    example, were you providing interesting information or implying
    something here:

     

    “Sugar Prices Hit
    30-Year Highs”

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  24. By Kit P on November 3, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    “thus ending the
    bogus argument of job creation for rural people”

     

    No actually, the
    goal is to create higher order jobs that replace back breaking jobs.
    Harvesting machines need mechanics, machinists, and electricians to
    maintain them.

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  25. By savro on November 4, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Kit P said:

    Sam, sorry for the miscommunication, I did not intend to imply anything. Miscommunication is often a root cause of events at power plants. Under some circumstances, formality is important for clarity.

    When quoting a previous comment, and then responding to it, it’s usually a given that writer is responding directly to the words he is quoting.

    Under some circumstances, formality is important for clarity. For example, were you providing interesting information or implying something here:
     

    “Sugar Prices Hit

    30-Year Highs”

    Why would you think I’m implying anything other than what I wrote? “Speaking of sugarcane ethanol’s competitiveness” was a direct reference to the lead paragraph of RR’s essay.

    If you’re trying to compare the implications of your response to a quote which you took the time to copy/paste (i.e. you were responding directly to what you quoted) to the ‘implications’ of posting a link in reference to a point mentioned in the essay (i.e. it’s a newsworthy update), then you’re comparing apples to oranges in comedic fashion.

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  26. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 12:50 am

    I’m having a math problem. It looks like 100 million hectares(250 million acres) of oil palms with an average yeild of 35 tons/hectare would produce over 80M bpd of crude oil. It can’t be that easy. Heck, we plant 80 million acres of soybeans in the US alone. Could someone check the math please?

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  27. By OD on November 4, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Sugar Prices Hit 30-Year Highs

    I’m seeing a lot more products that are advertising “NO HFCS”. Products that I buy regularly have switched to a no HFCS version in just the last few months. Could this be contributing to the increase in prices?

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  28. By rrapier on November 4, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I’m having a math problem. It looks like 100 million hectares(250 million acres) of oil palms with an average yeild of 35 tons/hectare would produce over 80M bpd of crude oil. It can’t be that easy. Heck, we plant 80 million acres of soybeans in the US alone. Could someone check the math please?

    The 35 tons might be fruit, but the oil yield is about 5 tons per hectare per year (about 30 barrels per hectare per year).

    RR

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  29. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Never mind. I misread an article. Malaysia is aiming for output of 35 tons/hectare FFB by 2020. FFB stands for fresh fruit bunch. The oil squeezed out would only be 25% of that, so it would take 4X as much land to get the 80M bpd of oil. A billion acres is a lot of land. About 20% of the world’s arable land, in fact.

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  30. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Here’s a sobering thought. 35% of the world’s planted acreage is used to grow livestock feed. That could probably be cut by half if we devoted 20% of agricultural lands to palm oil. Turns out, the oil palm can feed livestock too.

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  31. By paul-n on November 4, 2010 at 3:54 am

    35% of the world’s planted acreage is used to grow livestock feed. That could probably be cut by half if we devoted 20% of agricultural lands to palm oil.

    It is not quite that simple.  You may have missed the fact that oil palms are a tropical tree.  They only grow within 20 degrees of the equator, and most of the world’s arable land is outside this zone.

    That said, where they can grow, they are clearly a very good energy crop – from the Wikipedia page;

    For every tonne of palm oil produced from fresh fruit bunches, a farmer harvests around 6 tonnes of waste palm fronds, 1 tonne of palm trunks, 5 tonnes of empty fruit bunches, 1 tonne of press fiber (from the mesocarp of the fruit), half a tonne of palm kernelendocarp, 250 kg of palm kernel press cake, and 100 tonnes of palm oil mill effluent.

    That comes out to 14 tons of (presumably wet/moist) biomass per ton of oil, or about 7 dry tons.  At five tons of oil per hectare you then have 35 tons of dry biomass – roughly equivalent to 24 tons of coal!

    Of course, not all palm plantations will get these yields, they deplete the soil and it looks like disease is a serious issue in monoculture plantations.

    But, they would probably be a good bet for somewhere like Haiti, where they have cut down all their forests already, and need biomass just for cooking fuel.   Oil palms will probably provide more biomass per hectare than trees, and they will re-grow each year.  And Haiti has plenty of people who would happily work for $3/hr.

     

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  32. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Depleted soil can be replenished with manure. Manure contains nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Palm fronds and palm trunks can be ground up and pelletized for livestock feed. Sounds like a good synergy.

    I didn’t know that 50% of packaged items at a grocery store contained palm oil of one kind or another. That’s pretty amazing. I’m starting to see why Benny loves this plant.

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  33. By PalmHugger.org on November 4, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Palm oil must be the most maligned oilseed in the world. Kudos to Rapier for a balanced and unemotional report.

    However, Rapier failed to address one issue that, in the respectful view of Palmhugger.org is at the crux of this matter; viz: Eurogate. If not for 2 meticulous and eagle-eyed researchers, Caroline Boin and Andrea Marchesetti who published the report entitled “Friends of the EU” (Vide: http://www.policynetwork.net/a…..riends-eu) which exposed that the EU, through its environmental ministries and commissions had been involved in funding up to 70% of the operating budgets of environmental NGOs, nothing on the source of this covert funding would have emerged in the public eye. The provision of massive funding to green NGOs by the EC is a dead giveaway that the real reasons behind the baffling attacks against palm oil is to protect oilseed crops like rapeseed and sunflower which are indigenous to the EU.

    It is inarguable that these EU oilseeds would find it difficult to compete on a level playing field, with “the cheapest oilseed crop in the world” especially in the production of biofuel, the use of which the EU has committed itself to promoting!.

    In fact, palm oil is so productive with typical yields of 4-5 metric tons per hectare which is close to ten times that of its nearest competitor that if palm oil producers were to capitulate to these paid agitators and switch to alternative oilseed crops like soy, rapeseed or sunflower, ten times more rain-forests would have to be cleared just to keep up current levels of production.

    This does not even factor in the increased production required to meet world edible oil needs in the future!

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  34. By Kit P on November 4, 2010 at 9:00 am

    “Why would you
    think I’m implying anything other than what I wrote?”

     

    There you go again
    Sam. It was a simple question. BTW, a question that only required
    and one word answer. The implication of your response is ‘no’ you
    did not imply anything.

     

    “If you’re trying
    to compare the implications of your response ..”

     

    No, I was
    demonstrating the importance of formal communication to avoid
    misunderstandings. Which I am still doing. An example of formal
    communication would be as follows between the engineering officer of
    watch (EOOW) and the engineroom watch supervisor (EWS):

     

    EOOW: “line up
    and add chemicals to alpha steam generator”

     

    EWS: “line up to
    add chemicals to alpha steam generator, aye”

     

    EOOW: “No, line
    up and add chemicals to alpha steam generator”

     

    EWS: “line up and
    add chemicals to alpha steam generator, aye”

     

    EOOW: “correct”

     

    The subtle
    difference between a normal chemical add to maintain SG chemistry and
    having significant out of specification was that time was important.
    Before the formal communication the EOOW and EWS had a lengthy
    informal communication but it was important to follow that
    conversation with formal conversation.

     

    To answer Sam’s
    question, the reason that I thought you might implying something was
    Sam stated.

     

    “you seemed to be
    implying”

     

    It is called
    projection. You can often tell what someone is up to by what they
    think you are doing. On a couple of occasions I have been accused of
    cheating. We were playing cards and my parter was studying for the
    priesthood. We were a good team and rarely lost. The other two guys
    started cheating with a transparent system of signals which my
    partner also picked on. If you know what is in your hand and the
    other teams had, you can deduce what is in your partner’s hand. At
    that point we could not lose. It was not long before the frustrated
    cheaters accused of cheating adding to our satisfaction.

     

    One of my other
    favorite partners had spent time in the joint for armed robbery.
    After an run of good luck we were accused of cheating. After that,
    every time he dealt I got a pat hand. Never saw how he did it but he
    knew how to stack the deck.

     

    So what does this
    have palm oil. I not sure if Sam will agree but any Yankee would
    rather banter about bantering than palm oil.

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  35. By russ-finley on November 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Kit P said:

    I am saying food prices are not high and biofuels are not a significant factor in any increase.

    Every report I’ve ever read on that subject of “global” food price increases list biofuels as one of the drivers. Maybe your definition of significant is different from mine.

     So why are there so many poor people in the world. Malaria is one reason but we banned DDT.

    Actually not, from The worst crime of the 20th century:

    The graph on the left shows that malaria did skyrocket in India in the 70s. But notbecause they cut back on DDT spraying because of pressure from environmentalists. The graph shows that they didn’t cut back on DDT, but dramatically increased its use.

     

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  36. By russ on November 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    After a major flood in Gujarat state, western India in ’92 people were sprinkling gamzine (believe the name is correct) which I was told was from the same family as DDT in the gutters to control plague carriers. They were even sprinkling the stuff on veggies to show they were safe. All work was done by hand and the chemical was carried in open buckets. Workers were white with the stuff.

    A doctor I was with who came in from Singapore (at the demand of the GE workers to tell them if it was safe) was more worried about the pesticide and the handling of it than the plague.

    Palm oil

    The land the oil palm is grown on should have minimal impact on food prices as it was not in food production before was it?

    The developed countries have little right to tell Malaysia and other countries not to develop and suggestions fro outside are looked upon as foreigners minding someone eşse’s business anyway. Malaysia (even more so Singapore) has always been willing to tell the US and Europe to go pack sand anyway – good for them.

    They will develop machinery for the palm nut harvest over time as economics force it. At present there is plenty of cheap labor so they will use it.

     

     

     

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  37. By rrapier on November 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    The graph shows that they didn’t cut back on DDT, but dramatically increased its use.

    Incidentally, when I was in India a few years ago, we were sitting outdoors when suddenly the whole area was engulfed in a choking fog. I asked “What’s that?” I was told that they were spraying for mosquitoes. “DDT?”, I asked. Yes, we were all fogged with DDT.

    RR

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  38. By savro on November 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    The oil yield is about 5 tons per hectare per year (about 30 barrels per hectare per year).


     

    Going on RR’s calculation of 30 barrels per hectare per year, I crunched some numbers that puts things into perspective.

    1 hectare = 0.0821917808 barrels per day

    100,000,000 hectares = 8 ,219,178 bpd

    8.2 million/bpd is roughly the production of Saudi Arabia.

    100,000,000 hectares = 386,102 Sq. Miles

    That means, in order to produce enough palm oil to reach the evel of Saudi production, more land area would be required to be planted than the total land area of Texas and New Mexico combined (link). Add to that the fact that it can only be grown in tropical climates and it cancels out most of the world before we even start.

    Palm oil can provide substantial revenues to certain regions, but there’s a limit to it’s potential scale because of where it can be grown. I have a  hard time seeing palm oil ever making up a large portion of the world’s oil supply.

    This brings us back to RR’s point made in previous essays: that crude oil is the big elephant, and even the best of biofuels can only do so much.

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  39. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Samuel R. Avro said:


     
    100,000,000 hectares = 8 ,219,178 bpd


     

    That means a billion hectares could replace the crude oil now being pumped from the ground. A billion hectares is roughly 10% of agricultural land in use today. I think it’s doable Samuel. Especially when you consider that animal fodder is grown on 3.5 billion hectares now. Why not grow animal feed on 2.5 billion hectares, and use the other billion for oil palms? Oil Palms can feed an awful lot of livestock, while supplying biofuel too.

     

    To be honest, I not only think it will happen, but I also doubt we could do much to stop it. Palm crude is profitable with crude oil at $50  a barrel or so. Farmers will go with what makes them the most money. And crude oil is only going to get more expensive in coming years.

     

    “Worldwide demand for agricultural products is expected to increase by ∼50% by 2050, and evidence suggests that tropical countries will be called on to meet much of this demand. Consider, for example, that in developed countries the agricultural land area, including pastures and permanent croplands, decreased by more than 412 million ha (34%) between 1995 and 2007, whereas developing countries saw increases of nearly 400 million ha (17.1%)”

     

    http://www.pnas.org/content/10…..16732.full

     

     

     

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  40. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Samuel R. Avro said:

     
    That means, in order to produce enough palm oil to reach the evel of Saudi production, more land area would be required to be planted than the total land area of Texas and New Mexico combined (link). Add to that the fact that it can only be grown in tropical climates and it cancels out most of the world before we even start.

     


     

    Brazil alone has 90% of the land area of the entire US. Just saying…..

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  41. By Optimist on November 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Neste Oil in Finland began developing their NExBTL hydrocracking technology in 2002, and in May 2007 inaugurated a plant with a capacity of 170,000 metric tons per year of renewable diesel fuel from a feedstock of vegetable oil and animal fat. In 2009 Neste inaugurated a second plant, and they have two more under construction. One of those plants is a $762 million plant in Singapore, and will provide a significant outlet for palm oil produced in the region.

    RR, why do they use a food grade product to make fuel? Surely waste vegetable oil (WVO) would make a fine feed for this process. Do you think it has to do with the logistics of supply, as you would need to rely on a large number of small suppliers (and lots of driving) to collect the feedstock? Or is it perhaps related to difference in quality between the many suppliers? Both factors?

    The way I see it, if you use WVO you get out of the food vs fuel debate. Feedstock price should be much lower. You also might prevent WVO from being returned to the feed chain, and that would be a good thing IMHO.

    Here’s a sobering thought. 35% of the world’s planted acreage is used to grow livestock feed.

    Sobering or encouraging? The way I see it, it means there is much waste in the system that can be eliminated to everyone’s benefit. There are probably many other products (some of them currently going into landfills) that can be used as a substitute for grains in livestock feed. Once again, the free market would solve the problem: if grain were much more expensive, farmers would be much more imaginative. You can hardly blame the farmer for just buying cheap* grain as long as it is freely available.

    * Your tax $$ @work!Wink

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  42. By perry on November 4, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Optimist said:

    There are probably many other products (some of them currently going into landfills) that can be used as a substitute for grains in livestock feed.


     

    Reading about what goes into our beef made me retch more than once. It used to be common practice to shred euthanized pets and mix them into cattle feed. Millions of dogs and cats went from the pound to the feedlots. Mad cow disease ended that practice. Today, it’s common practice to mix chicken poop into cattle feed. Chicken poop and anything else that hits the floor of the chicken coop. Tons and tons of the stuff.

     

    Free markets are a wonderful thing. But, it can be carried to an extreme. Shredded pets don’t belong in the food chain.

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  43. By Kit P on November 4, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    “Every report I’ve ever read on that subject of “global” food price increases list biofuels as one of the drivers. Maybe your definition of significant is different from mine.”

     

    Yes, we may have a different definition.  I certainly would not define significant by the number of ‘reports’ Russ has read.  I would look at the actually cost of something and then compare it to income over a 50 year period.  

     

    For example, if food costs a family $100/wk with an income of $1000/wk, that would 10% of the family budget.  If food costs become $105/wk with an income decreasing to $500/wk because one family member lost their job, that would 20% of the family budget.  The significant factor is that the family suddenly became poor.

     

    However, the 5% increase is not significant.  If 80% of the increase is caused by drought and 10% by energy costs, I would say we have clearly identified the cause of the significant increase of the insignificant increase.

     

    That is what I mean that it easy to document big problems.  If you tell me that food costs a family $100/wk but because biomass energy it now costs a family $200/wk, I would say we seriously have to look the problem.  

     

    As for DDT, I would not suggests unregulated use of pesticides can not be as harmful as banning a pesticides.  A little energy can vastly improve the quality of life.  I would suggest that a NYC environment NGO might value wetlands but if it was a mosquito infested swamp was dooming their children to a life of sickness and poverty draining the swamp might look like a good solution.

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  44. By rrapier on November 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    RR, why do they use a food grade product to make fuel? Surely waste vegetable oil (WVO) would make a fine feed for this process.

    Scale. These are relatively large plants; I believe a million tons a year. They would have a difficult time accumulating that much waste vegetable oil around the plant.

    RR

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  45. By Optimist on November 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    OK, that makes some sense. How big was that Tyson Foods-COP synthetic diesel plant that the prostitutians killed?

     

    Also, happens to WVO in the existing system? Surely there are some large scale systems out there somewhere.

     

    Also: do you think TDP might be a viable competitor for making synthetic diesel? IMHO, TDP has some potential for lipid feedstocks. TDP seems capable of handling dirty feeds. Process appears quite straight-forward. Would use most of the gas product for process heat. OTOH, it appears their product still needed refining to be made into a fuel grade product.

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  46. By Wendell Mercantile on November 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Yes, we were all fogged with DDT.

    RR~

    When I was a kid, our city regularly sprayed for mosquitoes and sent the mosquito truck around at dusk laying down a dense, opaque white cloud of DDT mixed with mineral oil. During the summer the truck would go by our house at least once a week.

    It was a big deal for all of us kids that lived in our neighborhood. When we heard the mosquito sprayer coming, we would jump on our bikes and ride around in the dense white fog behind the slow-moving truck. We would pretend the it was a destroyer laying a smoke screen.

    That was about 55 years ago and I can’t believe now we did that, or that our parents let us, but that was before Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring. We all thought DDT was a good thing, and loved that it kept the mosquitoes under control.

    All that DDT exposure hasn’t hUrT mE y4t.@4^@……

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  47. By rrapier on November 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    All that DDT exposure hasn’t hUrT mE

    Ne meither.

    RR

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  48. By rrapier on November 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Optimist said:

    OK, that makes some sense. How big was that Tyson Foods-COP synthetic diesel plant that the prostitutians killed?


     

    175 million gallons was the ultimate announced goal.

    Also, happens to WVO in the existing system? Surely there are some large scale systems out there somewhere.

    I think biodiesel hobbyists collect a lot of it.

    Also: do you think TDP might be a viable competitor for making
    synthetic diesel? IMHO, TDP has some potential for lipid feedstocks. TDP
    seems capable of handling dirty feeds. Process appears quite
    straight-forward. Would use most of the gas product for process heat.
    OTOH, it appears their product still needed refining to be made into a
    fuel grade product.

    Maybe so. I still get e-mails from people doing TDP. At some point I need to make a visit to a plant and see what they can show me.

     

    RR

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  49. By russ-finley on November 5, 2010 at 1:10 am

    A lot of the commenters here did not seem to realize how productive palm oil is. Sugarcane is also very prolific. This is why they worry conservationists. I once drove along a palm oil plantation for about an hour before coming to the end of it.  One has to be ah, somewhat optimistic to think that corn and soy beans will successfully compete in a global market against these feed stocks without massive government assistance.

    Why try to create ethanol and diesel fuels from cellulose when you already have two plants that are so prolific? Answer; such technology might  help countries with temperate climates to compete with palm and cane, which can only be grown in tropical climes.

    Certainly, palm and cane don’t enhance the energy independence argument for America.

     

     

     

    Those who do care about global warming and the extinction event often wonder why palm is not grown on denuded, rocky, barren, abandoned lands instead of where forests and grasslands are.

    Ask the farmer who is trying to maximize profit. He’ll know the answer. You can’t force farmers to grow crops on bad land. He can’t compete with those using freshly converted grasslands.

    On the other hand, if a leviathan could rope off what remains of the planet’s biodiversity, it would create a more level playing field as farmers used the less productive land.

    We could use the land that is feeding livestock and growing cotton to grow palm and cane …but do we really want 9 billion naked vegans?

    People tend to forget in their calculations that there are a couple of billion more human beings in the pipeline who will want to eat.

    A recent study in Nature suggests that agriculture has already caused us to exceed some planetary boundaries, biodiversity loss and the nitrogen cycle.

    Jim Hansen of NASA has tried to explain that we can’t just stop dumping GHG into the atmosphere, we also have to accelerate its removal with reforestation–the very antithesis of biofuel plantations.

    We need to minimize the burning of new and fossil biomass for energy. No other way around it.

     

     

     

     

     

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  50. By Kit P on November 5, 2010 at 8:15 am

    “All that DDT
    exposure hasn’t hUrT mE y4t.

     

    When it comes to
    energy, the most dangerous things for the general population are
    carbon monoxide poisoning and getting hit by coal train. This of
    course assumes proper regulations.

     

    “We all thought
    DDT was a good thing ..”

     

    That is because it
    is, properly used.

     

    The thing I worry
    about most in a nuke plant is fires. We all thought PCBs were a good
    thing too because they reduced the risk of fire. I heard of no one
    in the electric industry who thought PCB oil was cooking oil.
    Mineral oil, motor oil, and transmission oil should not be used for
    cooking. It will make you sick. Because some Japanese fisherman
    used PCB oil for cooking, the the US electric industry got some very
    expensive regulations to deal with that made the work place more
    dangerous. We did not have the vision to call PCB pretty cool benign
    oil.

     

    Asbestos is another
    good thing when properly handled. It is an excellent fire retardant.
    Unlike PCB & DDT asbestos is very bad when not properly handled.
    I have friends who were in the Navy at the same time who are at risk
    from asbestos exposure (shows up on x-rays), I was just lucky to be
    doing something else at the time insulation was being repaired.

     

    One of the risks
    that are particularly hard to evaluate is combined hazards. Smoking
    makes asbestos exposure much worse.

     

    “That was about 55
    years ago ..”

     

    Back then we could
    not measure environmental pollutants to parts per trillion and our
    parents worried about polio. Our parents were survivors too. They
    survived the depression and WWII. How do wake up a WWII vet having a
    malaria relapse? Very carefully!

     

    “Those who do care
    about global warming and the extinction event ..”

     

    See Russ, it not
    that we do not care. We do not believe that you have properly
    quantified the risk and prioritized the problems. After we all have
    clean water and electricity on this planet, I will move adapting to
    1.3 degrees C in a 100 years up the list.

     

    “the nitrogen
    cycle”

     

    What I see is fear
    mongering by people who never bother to step in the classroom to
    learn how to solve environmental problems.

     

    This is a test Russ
    and if Russ has read what two environmental engineers have written
    about the PNW on this blog, Russ should know the answer. What is the
    best environmental solution for the sewage sludge from your large
    metropolitan area?

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  51. By biocrude on November 5, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Russ Finley said:

    Every report I’ve ever read on that subject of “global” food price increases list biofuels as one of the drivers. Maybe your definition of significant is different from mine.

    You are probably referring to the World Bank’s 2008 report, “A Note on Rising Food Prices” which said flat-out that “the most important factor was the large increase in biofuels production in the U.S. and the EU.”  However, The World Bank has significantly changed its tune when it just recently issued a new report called: “Placing the 2006/08 Commodity Price Boom into Perspective”  http://aol.it/bJhtNW  which stated that “the effect of biofuels on food prices has not been as large as originally thought, but that the use of commodities by financial investors (the so-called “financialization of commodities”) may have been partly responsible for the 2007/08 spike.”

    Also, this just came out today, which I think warrants some more discussion on this blog: 

    “In Washington, the Energy Information Agency is reporting that US ethanol production reached an all time high in August with an average of 869,000 barrels per day, up from 857,000 bpd in July.”

    “At the same time, a report from Energy Security Analysis projects that the rising levels of ethanol blending, as well as the expansion of US refining, will reduce the import of gasoline to 400,000 barrels per day in 2010, down from more than 1 million barrels per day in 2008.  “The volume of ethanol blending in the United States has moved from something that is a relatively small amount to something that is a substantial and very real part of mainstream fuels,” said Sander Cohan, ESAI principal and the firm’s leading alternative fuels researcher.”

    http://bit.ly/9UNFN7

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  52. By rrapier on November 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    At the same time, a report from Energy Security Analysis projects that the rising levels of ethanol blending, as well as the expansion of US refining, will reduce the import of gasoline to 400,000 barrels per day in 2010, down from more than 1 million barrels per day in 2008.

    Of course overall demand fell by a million barrels per day, so the issue is far more complex than implying that ethanol was responsible for that.

    RR

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  53. By mded on November 5, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    “China would buy all they could make. So the message there was that the industry would continue to develop whether the West boycotts it or not. ”

    So the reality is, the current world palm oil output will never enough to be channelled into biodiesel industry due to high demand on edible oil. In fact, malaysia’s leading palm based biodiesel plant have to stop production for several months ahead due to shortage of feedstock.

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  54. By perry on November 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Samuel R. Avro said:


     
    Going on RR’s calculation of 30 barrels per hectare per year, I crunched some numbers that puts things into perspective.

    1 hectare = 0.0821917808 barrels per day

    100,000,000 hectares = 8 ,219,178 bpd

    8.2 million/bpd is roughly the production of Saudi Arabia.

    100,000,000 hectares = 386,102 Sq. Miles

     


     

    It turns out Brazil does have oil palm plans of its own. If these numbers are right, they have the potential to produce 2 1/2 times Saudi output. I’m not saying it would be a good thing. Conservationists would hate it, because the potential area is in the Amazon. But, greed usually prevails when push comes to shove. If prices are right, you can bet farmers will jump in with both feet.

     

    The potential for palm oil plantations in the Brazilian Amazon is vast: the Woods Hole Research Center estimates that 2.283 million square kilometers (881,000 sq miles) of forest land in the region is suitable for oil palm, an area far greater in extent than that which could be converted for soy (390,000 sq km) or sugar cane (1.988 million sq km).

     

    http://news.mongabay.com/2008/…..m_oil.html

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  55. By Optimist on November 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Why try to create ethanol and diesel fuels from cellulose when you already have two plants that are so prolific?

    The answer, IMHO, is that it is unethical and (ultimately) unprofitable to use food as a feedstock for fuel. Using cellulose (aka waste) is a much better idea. Who cares where the waste comes from?

    And please use those prolific crops to feed people!

    Of course, waste only takes you so far. The next step, IMHO, is to go where you do not (at present) impact agriculture or food production: grow algae (micro or macro) in the open ocean.

    Of course, once you do so successfully, agriculture will follow. By then, let’s hope, we would all be much more energy efficient…

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  56. By Optimist on November 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Maybe so. I still get e-mails from people doing TDP. At some point I need to make a visit to a plant and see what they can show me.

    That’s very interesting. I’d say, avoid them until they are prepared to admit that:

    1. Both the original mass and energy balance were significantly inaccurate, and are prepared to show credible corrections. I estimated their true energy efficiency in the 60 to 65% range. Have they denounced the ridiculous and ridiculously repeated 85%?

    2. Their best feedstock is dirty lipids, such as FOG (fats, oils and grease). Some protein contamination can be tolerated.

    3. The quality of the final product is an issue. Of course, R&D may solve this one.

     

    As long as they insist that they can convert ALL waste into fuel, or that their amino acid fertilizer is an important byproduct, etc. I’d politely keep my distance.

     

    Unless pure curiosity is getting the better of you.

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  57. By perry on November 5, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Optimist said:

    And please use those prolific crops to feed people!


     

    We fed our transportation with prolific crops for thousands of years. It took five acres to feed a horse before the automobile became viable. We can feed a car with an acre of corn, or 1/3 of an acre of palm oil. The alternative would mean going back to the horse and buggy. And that would take a LOT more land.

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  58. By russ-finley on November 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Perry said:

    The alternative would mean going back to the horse and buggy.

     

     Further strides in the electrification of transport may be the least ecologically destructive path. I’ll keep my electric bike and Prius.

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  59. By russ-finley on November 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    PalmHugger.org said:

    The provision of massive funding to green NGOs by the EC is a dead giveaway that the real reasons behind the baffling attacks against palm oil is to protect oilseed crops like rapeseed and sunflower which are indigenous to the EU.


     

    This is of course utterly nonsensical. Every real environmental group on the planet is resisting the proliferation of palm oil plantations.

    Revkin has a post up on his New York Times Dot Earth blog titled:

    Scientists Spar With Defender of Palm Oil and Pulp Firms

    There are three comments of note. One by R. Butler, owner of Mongabay, and the other from the PalmHugger astroturfer above and comment number 17 by TM:

    I see that Sya family of Kuala Lumpur has a new project in its astroturfing campaign on websites and blogs that are critical of palm oil: palmhugger.

    The Sya family is behind such entities as the Palm Oil “Truth Foundation” and “Deforestation Watch” and is involved in the “Brand Laureate” run by Asia Pacific Brands Foundation.

    LS Sya gained some recognition in Malaysia with his book “Branding Malaysia” which presents a rather scary view on peoples’ intelligence: “branding is, after-all, a mind game. A brand, whether it is a product or a nation is a collection of perceptions. However, we know that to the target market, this perception is reality. If the country manages these perceptions well, a more vibrant, confident and dynamic Malaysia will emerge.”

    Anyway thanks for the continued entertainment.


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  60. By russ-finley on November 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Biocrude said:

    You are probably referring to the World Bank’s 2008 report…


     

    I am referring to that one, and the other one you reference, which still lists biofuels as one of the major players along with weather induced crop failures and high energy prices etc, etc, and I have read several other studies as well. They all give biofuels part of the blame,  which is stunning when you consider that this industry is still in its infancy.

    I predicted in an article I wrote in 2008 for Grist that the lion’s share of price increases was the result of speculation, speculation fueled by the fact that some biofuels have kept grain reserves at historic lows.

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  61. By perry on November 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Russ Finley said:

     

     Further strides in the electrification of transport may be the least ecologically destructive path. I’ll keep my electric bike and Prius.

     


     

    You won’t find a bigger proponent of going electric than myself Russ. But, even if that could happen overnight, it would only reduce oil consumption in the US by 40%. We’d still need 12M bpd for heavy machinery, air travel, industry etc. Peak oil will already cause drastic lifestyle changes. But, without biofuels we’ll have 9 billion people experiencing a 15th century existence.

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  62. By Optimist on November 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    We fed our transportation with prolific crops for thousands of years. It took five acres to feed a horse before the automobile became viable. We can feed a car with an acre of corn, or 1/3 of an acre of palm oil. The alternative would mean going back to the horse and buggy. And that would take a LOT more land.

    Yes, back in the day when the ICE was the green movement’s darling for saving the environment.

    We’re obviously not going back to the horse and buggy. Likewise, we can’t afford to waste productive land on fuel production.

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  63. By russ-finley on November 5, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Perry said:

    You won’t find a bigger proponent of going electric than myself Russ. But, even if that could happen overnight, it would only reduce oil consumption in the US by 40%. We’d still need 12M bpd for heavy machinery, air travel, industry etc. Peak oil will already cause drastic lifestyle changes. But, without biofuels we’ll have 9 billion people experiencing a 15th century existence.


     

    From Monbiot:

    In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter “containing 44 x 10 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet’s current biota.”(1) In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries’ worth of plants and animals.

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  64. By paul-n on November 6, 2010 at 1:10 am

    But, without biofuels we’ll have 9 billion people experiencing a 15th century existence.

    I just don’t see how you can make this conclusion.  We have many ways to make electricity, of which biofuels are only a tiny portion.  We may run out of oil for cars, and have to take the train, but that really, is not the end of the world.

    Biofuels are really about transport fuel, and we can always restructure the economy/cities/lifestyles to use less transport fuel.

    The Benny in me says that I would prefer a restructured economy where you don’t need to battle traffic for over an hour each day, rather than doing that ordeal on biofuels instead of fossil fuels.

    Biofuels do not solve the problem, they actually prolong it.

     

     

     

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  65. By perry on November 6, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Paul N said:

    Biofuels are really about transport fuel, and we can always restructure the economy/cities/lifestyles to use less transport fuel. 


     

    You couldn’t have typed that without your petroleum-based plastic keyboard Paul. No petroleum means no antifreeze, dashboards, seats, or even tires for those electric cars. Hundreds of things we take for granted couldn’t be made without oil. Radios, televisions, computers, refrigerators, etc. etc. Without these products we’re back in the dark ages. The plastics and chemical industries know what time it is. They’re already working on solutions.

     

    Brazilian ethanol attracts bioplastics investors

     

    http://www.icis.com/Articles/2…..stors.html

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  66. By perry on November 6, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Never mind the antifreeze. It wouldn’t be needed in an EV. But, most people would expect it to be painted. That could be a problem with oil in short supply. There are hundreds of reasons we need biofuels. Transportation is just one of them.

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  67. By paul-n on November 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Perry,  I don;t deny that we use oil to make all sorts of things, including our respective keyboards.  But this is less than 10% of the oil volume used today.  And the value of the plastics etc is such that they will be produced even if oil is 10x today’s price.  Natural gas is also a major feedstock.

    And, long before that price they will start making them from other feedstocks, and make real efforts on recycling.

     

    I don;t think plastics and other industrial materials produced from oil are really in danger.  Even the Cdn oilsands alone could supply all of the oil used for manufacturing in N. America ad infinitum.  Bio-oils could scale up to supply a significant part of this demand.

    But it is transport that they can’t scale up to meet – we simply use too much.  

    Fortunately, there is plenty of scope to reduce transport, and electrify more of it.

     

    A future where we drive less, and use less plastic, doesn’t sound all bad – I can live without blister packs

     

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  68. By Thomas on November 6, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Its a safe bet that in twenty years most of the developed world will be well on its way to electrifying private transportation.  If you take the urban consumer driving <40 miles/day to work out of the liquid fuel equation, the possibilites for petroleum and its alternatives in industry and commerce are vast.

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  69. By perry on November 7, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Paul N said:

    But it is transport that they can’t scale up to meet – we simply use too much.  

    Fortunately, there is plenty of scope to reduce transport, and electrify more of it.

     


     

    You’re missing the point Paul. While transportation is responsible for 70% of oil use, light transportation is only responsible for 40%. That means MOST of the oil we use CAN NOT be replaced by going electric. Some people are philosophically opposed to growing biofuels. What those people can’t understand is that we have to grow SOMETHING to replace oil. Whether it’s biomass to power boilers to juice up our EV’s, or crops for biofuels, we have to grow stuff we aren’t going to eat. Alternatives like solar, wind, and nuclear simply can’t provide the energy needed.

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  70. By Duracomm on November 7, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Perry said,

    While transportation is responsible for 70% of oil use, light transportation is only responsible for 40%. That means MOST of the oil we use CAN NOT be replaced by going electric.

    What those people can’t understand is that we have to grow SOMETHING to replace oil.

    Your statement ignores the fact that growing things in the US generally requires big chunks of petroleum.

    If oil prices get high enough freight trains could be electrified, and trucks could be converted to run on natural gas.

    Which is far more efficient than converting natural gas to fertilizer and crop chemicals, growing crops, and using more natural gas to convert those crops to liquid fuels to go into trucks that could have run on natural gas in the first place.

    If petroleum prices get high enough coal to liquids and natural gas to liquids is another possibility that would avoid the cost of having to convert the heavy transport fleet to run on natural gas.

    [link]      
  71. By paul-n on November 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Perry,

     

    The point is that things can and are being done to;

    - reduce the need for transport in the first place

    make that transport more energy efficient

    There is more freight being moved by railroad instead of truck, highway trucks are improving in mpg, as are planes and ships.  Much of these improvements are by retiring of older equipment, sometimes decades old,but there are also some systemic changes happening, especially with rail, and improved load factors on planes.

    There is also a continuing downward trend in the use of heating oil – this can be accelerated, but the trend is down

     

    According to the EIA, the breakdown of oil use (by product) is like this;

    • Nat Gas Liquids – 10%
    • Motor gasoline – 48% (this, and the total, include ethanol)
    • Aviation Fuel -7%
    • Diesel (low sulphur) -17%
    • Diesel -high sulphur – 2%
    • Residual Fuel Oil – 3%
    • Petrochemical Feedstock -3%
    • Petroleum coke – 2%
    • Asphalt – 3%
    • Still Gas 4%
    • Other – 1%

    If we set aside the truly non-replaceable uses for oil – avgas, petrochemicals, asphalt and shipping, we end up at all of 15%.  Round that up to 20% and we still have 80% of oil use that could, in theory, be eliminated (not replaced)

     

    Of course, we won’t come close to eliminating 80%, but we can take a good bite out of that by reducing transport needs, electrification, and replacement of fuel for heating applications.  There are also still decent amounts of oil being used for electricity generation in Hawaii and Florida that can be replaced.

    So, as the demand for oil is reduced, biofuels can take a good bite out of what remains.

    Whether it’s biomass to power boilers to juice up our EV’s, or crops for biofuels, we have to grow stuff we aren’t going to eat. Alternatives like solar, wind, and nuclear simply can’t provide the energy needed.

    While we can burn biomass for electricity, and this often a good use for certain biomass (sewage sludge, waste wood, etc), we don’t HAVE to.  We can supply all the electricity we need, for quite some time, from coal, nuclear, natural gas and hydro.  That said, biomass and wind will continue to be in the mix, though they will remain small parts of it.

    The economy is getting more “oil efficient” every year.  I would like to see it happening faster, but it is happening.  When we talk about replacing oil with biofuels, we simply don’t need to replace all the uses of oil today.  If oil is expensive enough for biofuels to be viable, it is also expensive enough that lots of efficiency and electrification/NG substitution will also be happening.

    Biofuels do not have to carry the burden alone, and that’s a good thing too, because they can’t.

    [link]      
  72. By moiety on November 8, 2010 at 4:29 am

    Paul N said:

    Perry,  I don;t deny that we use oil to make all sorts of things, including our respective keyboards.  But this is less than 10% of the oil volume used today. 

     


     

    I would put the non fuel uses of oil around the 15% mark. No real references

    http://www.endoil.org/site/c.d…..of_Oil.htm

     

    Plastics alone account for 5%.

     

    [link]      
  73. By russ-finley on November 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Paul N said:

     

    If we set aside the truly non-replaceable uses for oil – avgas, petrochemicals, asphalt and shipping, we end up at all of 15%.  Round that up to 20% and we still have 80% of oil use that could, in theory, be eliminated (not replaced)

    Biofuels do not have to carry the burden alone, and that’s a good thing too, because they can’t.


     

    Good comments, information. The combination of well distributed small nuclear powerplants to enhance and stabilize a grid that is powered in large part by wind and solar may be the answer. An ICE throws away about 80% of the energy in a tank of gas. Factor that in when you replace it with an electric car.

    [link]      
  74. By Kit P on November 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

    “An ICE throws
    away about 80% of the energy in a tank of gas.”

     

    I know were Russ
    went to college and engineers were required thermodynamics.
    Statements like that are nonsense.

     

    “Factor that in
    when you replace it with an electric car.”

     

    Since 70% of the
    electricity comes from burning fossil fuels in the US, there is no
    reason to think that the thermal efficiency for BEV will be any
    better than ICE.

     

    “The combination
    of well distributed small nuclear powerplants to enhance and
    stabilize a grid that is powered in large part by wind and solar may
    be the answer.”

     

    The grid is already
    stable in the US. Biomass power plants can provide local grid
    regulation when needed. The only place where small reactors make
    sense is remote location. Wind and solar can be managed without
    causing grid stability issues. If wind and solar start causing
    problems, the solution is simple stop building them where they are
    causing a problem.

     

    BEV advocates live
    in their special world where thermodynamics only applies to ICE.
    Generating sources like wind and solar appear if by magic and have no
    environmental impact.

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  75. By Wendell Mercantile on November 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Statements like that are nonsense.

    Why is that nonsense? I’d say Russ is correct when he says only about 20% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline* actually goes to pushing a car down a road or highway. The rest is wasted as heat (that’s why cars need radiators) and noise.

    _____________________
    * Slightly higher for a diesel. Some diesel car engines are pushing 30+% efficiency, mainly because of their high compression ratios. The most efficient gasoline engines might reach 25% efficiency.

    [link]      
  76. By Kit P on November 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    “Why is that
    nonsense?”

     

    Because that is how
    a heat engine works. My ICE uses 100% ‘of the energy in a gallon’
    to push it down the road. There is no wasted as heat.

     

    If my hot water
    heater was 20% efficient then 80% going up the flue would be waste
    but my hot water heater is not heat engine.

     

    Now Wendell if you
    know of some way to convert 100% of the chemical energy in fossil
    fuel into work, please let me know.

     

    Wendell and Russ are
    confusing the ability to mechanical work via an ICE or electric motor
    with the BTU that are in a hot tube.

    [link]      
  77. By Wendell Mercantile on November 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Kit P.

    You’re being pendantic again.

    [link]      
  78. By Kit P on November 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    “You’re being
    pendantic again.”

     

    Thank you, glad to
    help you be more precise in a field of engineering that is outside
    your normal practice.

    [link]      
  79. By paul-n on November 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Since we are being pedantic, we might as well be pedantic on all the points;

    Slightly higher for a diesel. Some diesel car engines are pushing 30+% efficiency, mainly because of their high compression ratios. The most efficient gasoline engines might reach 25% efficiency.

    The engines, at their optimal operating points, are actually quite a bit more efficient than that.  The lastest VW diesel get 40% and the Prius engine (Miller cycle) gets 33%.

    The problem is that in they city driving cycle, they never operate anywhere near their maximum  effciency.  Even on the highway, they are still below it.

     

    The is the engine thermal efficiency chart for a Porsche.  The contour lines are of brake thermal efficiency, with the best being “island” in the upper left of the graph.  The shaded area is the actual engine load on the Euro city driving cycle, which shows just how oversized, and inefficient, the engine is for city driving.  Of course, a Porsche is not designed as a city driving vehicle, but then, neither is a PU or SUV.

    In any case, fueling this vehicle with biofuels is an expensive way to continue an inefficient practice.

    I don;t have the corresponding map for a Honda Fit, or something similar, but the driving range will almost certainly be closer to the most efficient range.

    The appeal of the BEV is that the electric motor, in city driving is at its most efficient point, (and you get free regenerative braking).  Even if fossil fuels are supplying the electricity, that generating plant is likely operating at or near peak efficiency, so the overall fuel used per (city) mile driven is less.  

    Problem is of course, the cost in batteries etc to achieve this is more than the value of fuel saved (at current prices) – though that is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world.

     

    if you know of some way to convert 100% of the chemical energy in fossilfuel into work, please let me know.

    Actually, there is such a way, or at least, very close – the direct carbon fuel cell.  Since it is a not a thermodynamic process, it is not subject to Carnot limitations.  In reality there are some losses, but a net electricity production of 80% is possible.  Of course, like any fuel cell, it is so expensive as to be completely impractical, but it is a way to convert the almost all the chemical energy into work without going through a heat and mechanical energy first.

    High efficiency is not much help if the cost of achieving it exceeds all the benefits thus obtained, but that does not mean it is not possible.

     

     

     

    [link]      
  80. By Kit P on November 10, 2010 at 9:30 am

    “Even if fossil fuels are supplying the electricity, that generating plant is likely operating at or near peak efficiency, so the overall fuel used per (city) mile driven is less.”

     

    Except for the fact that Paul’s statement is not true Paul.  Paul failed to provide any efficiency data for BEV components in real life operating cycles. 

     

    For BEV to reduce oil imports and ghg two things have to happen.  People have to buy them.  People have to drive them.  I think very few will buy them, and even few will be able to drive them because they will neither meet efficiency expectations or reliability expectations.    

     

    I would love to be wrong but I am not holding my breath. 

     

    “completely impractical”

     

    Paul fuel cells are expensive because they are completely impractical.  From Paul’s link:

     

    “which utilizes clean reactive carbon particulate”

     

    Not something that can be found in nature in any great quantities.  

     

    Right now the practical solutions are improvement in the ICE because ICE are very reliable for transportation.  Biofuels are practical solutions.  It does not matter what the merits are for impractical solutions.  To get something to be practical it takes types that have a tendency of being pedantic.   

    [link]      
  81. By paul-n on November 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Paul failed to provide any efficiency data for BEV components in real life operating cycles.

    OK, so let’s run the numbers, even though we already know the result.

    The much hyped Nissan Leaf gets 100 miles of city driving on its 24kWh battery pack.  That is down to 100% discharge (not recommended) but that worls out to 4 miles per kWh.    If we take a gallon equivalent of natural gas, (120GJ) and burn it in a CCGT at 55% electrical efficiency, it will produce 66MJ=18.3kWh of electricity.  Lose 10% in transmission to get to 16.5kWh at the plug, and from there you get 4 miles/kWh, so you can get 66 miles of city driving for one gallon of fuel – more than double the city driving of a similar sized ICE car.

    But the real benefit is not the relative efficiency, it is that the system is not burning any oil at all.  Of course, this will only work in the real world if enough people swallow the high cost of the EV’s, and I don’t think they will, unless the fuel prices go up dramatically, or the cost of EV’s goes down equally dramatically.

    A much better way to use electricity is electrified transit, where the batteries are not needed at all.

    As for the improvements in ICE’s, they already exist, it is the OCD emission rules for diesel engines that are preventing the most efficient ICE’s running on American roads.

     

    [link]      
  82. By Kit P on November 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    “The much hyped
    Nissan Leaf gets 100 miles of city driving on its 24kWh battery
    pack.”

     

    Do you have a link
    for that test data?

     

    “4 miles per kWh”

     

    If 100 miles was
    actually driven under real life conditions and the measured power
    consumption was actually 24kWh at the your house meter, then your math is fine. I think
    Paul has not taken into account energy lost at the charging station.
    If you want to compare it to my 20+ year old ICE, show me the test
    data on the 20 year old BEV. Opps, did Paul forget that electrical
    stuff ages?

     

    “CCGT at 55%”

     

    So Paul you think
    the most efficient new power plant is just sitting around waiting to
    supply BEV instead of being base loaded? Why not a SCGT or old coal
    plant which is more likely?

     

    “more than double
    the city driving of a similar sized ICE car”

     

    No, about the same
    as my wife Corolla in town if you use the most likely power plant
    efficiency. However, on the highway the ICE Corolla will do much
    better and age much better too.

     

    “it is the OCD
    emission rules for diesel engines”

     

    We are locked into
    California rules even in places with good air quality.

     

    [link]      
  83. By paul-n on November 10, 2010 at 6:39 pm

     

     

    Nissan has actually let some motorign writers do road testing on the leaf.  here is one review from autoblog.com

     

    In the end, the Leaf made the trip; that’s 116.1 miles traveled under real-world conditions. The range-testing run utilized around 22.76 kW of the Leaf’s total 24 kWh battery, indicating that it was pushed to the limits.

    So they actually got closer to five miles per kWh, and, apparently, if you really “hypermile”  you can get six.  So, to use four miles/kWh is reasonable.  

    To avoid the whole argument about battery and engine efficiency, all measuring is done at the charging plug, as what really matters is how much you need to put in to drive the miles.  That is also the point where it is measured by the electricity meter for the house/charging stn.

    Since the EV’s are mostly charged at night, we can use baseload generation numbers – not many simple cycle GT’s are running at night

    For coal plants, the efficiency is less, but, in my opinion, this does not really matter whether it is 25% or 45%, or whether that is more efficient than your wife’s Corolla.  

    What matters is that the vehicle is not being powered by oil, and we can accept lower efficiency of coal generation for zero oil use (unless you care about CO2 emissions, which I don’t)

    So, as a system it does achieve the objective of displacing oil, just like a PV panel will displace other electricity generation, and that is why politicians and greenies are touting it with equal vigour.

    And, just like the PV system, it is too expensive to have enough of them out there to make any real difference, other than niche applications,  for at least the next decade.

    People who can’t afford higher fuel prices, when they return, certainly can’t afford EV’s – they will either have to eat the cost, lessen their driving and/or downsize their vehicles, or park them altogether. 

    Biofuels like palm oil can certainly displace some oil, but they won’t make for a cheaper fuel.

    There are practical solutions to reducing oil dependence, but they do not come for free.  The utopia of a drop in replacement fuel that requires no new infrastructure/engines/etc, AND is cost competitive with oil does not exist, for if it did we would be already using it.

     

    [link]      
  84. By Kit P on November 10, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    “So they actually
    got closer to five miles per kWh”

     

    They did not measure
    the power input to the battery. Paul have you ever run an acceptance
    test where you measured something to ASME standards? I followed all
    the links, nobody measured the input power.

     

    “That is also the
    point where it is measured by the electricity meter for the
    house/charging stn.”

     

    Please show me, it
    is odd that you did not reference it.

     

    “These showed that
    the Leaf’s operating range could drop as low as 47 miles and top out
    at 138 miles under ideal circumstances.”

     

    What this mean Paul?
    If you own a Leaf, do not drive it on a hot or cold day unless you
    have a death wish. My cars have chains, ice scrapers, extra water,
    blankets, and Jesus candle with matches.

     

     

    “The 116.1-mile
    drive took Chambers across country roads, through small towns flooded
    with stoplights and onto local byways. Chambers claims that he didn’t
    drive aggressively and often stayed below posted speeds,”

     

    Interesting Paul you
    used 116 mile drive and not the 47 mile range.

     

    Wow, you should see
    how my wife’s Corolla does on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 58 degrees.
    Also drove it through the steepest Sierra pass and then to Las Vegas
    in the summer in the Mojave desert.

     

    “What matters is
    that the vehicle is not being powered by oil, and we can accept lower
    efficiency of coal generation for zero oil use”

     

    I certainly agree,
    glad you changed your tune. Here is what is wrong with that theory,
    I only use 15 gallons of gas a month. $40k is a lot to spend to not
    save very much oil.

     

    “So, as a system
    it does achieve the objective of displacing oil ..”

     

    No!

     

    “just like a PV
    panel will displace other electricity generation..”

     

    No!

     

    Is that like finding
    pocket change in the chair cushions will make you rich? No!

     

    The thing is Paul
    you are all over the place. If you want to solve a problem, you need
    a systematic approach. If your goal is to reduce oil imports, BEV
    may play a part. Do not market based on efficiencies to rubes or
    phony environmental claims. Government and utilities should be the
    test market. Make it work first.

    [link]      
  85. By BilB on November 15, 2010 at 5:51 am

    I hate to say it, KitP, but you are very wrong in the present, and extremely wrong in the future. Internal Combustion Engines are not very efficient at all. It is true to say that for the bulk of the US vehicle fleet up to 80% of the fuel energy is lost as heat. Electric vehicles on the other hand are very efficient and the charging efficiencies are also very high.

    The best result that I have found to date is a converted Audi A2 complete with all the trimmings (A/C, heated seats etc) that was fitted with a lithium polymer battery and suitable motors. It has just completed a 600 klm demonstration run to Berlin and had 18% charge remaining. This battery according to the makers weighs less than 100 Kg, can be charged in 8 minutes, is over 95% efficient, and has a 500,000 klm operating life. Price unknown at this stage.

    Charging a BEV from coal power releases less CO2 than the same vehicle would with a petrol engine, not that coal origin power charging is the preferred outcome. Charging a BEV from ones own solar panels is the most economical process for both household budgets and CO2 emission comparisons. Anyone who sets up their system this way will pay out the cost of there solar system in a fraction of the time if they use money saved on petrol and vehicle servicing costs (BEV’s need very little servicing) for their PV payments.

    If you are following the discussion at “The Oil Drum” you will be learning that the days of cheap petrol are just about over for ever. So the value of BEV’s to the family budget when powered from rooftop PV panels will be steadily increasing as time passes. That PV small change will be turning into substantail bank deposits as the effects of Peak Oil and climate cahnge set in.

    I take it that you guys are in the US. Boy, your country is in real trouble.

    [link]      
  86. By Kit P on November 15, 2010 at 10:13 am

    “The best result that I have found to date is a converted Audi A2..”

     

    That questionable news article was already discussed here.

     

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..to-charge/

     

    BilB you may want to be a little more skeptical of the information you select to tell people they are wrong.

    [link]      
  87. By paul-n on November 16, 2010 at 3:42 am

    They did not measure
    the power input to the battery.

    That is true, they did not report this, and are unclear whether they are talkingabout what went into the battery, or what came out of it.  however, the consenses with EV’s is toe measure whatr goes into it – i.e. the plug, and this will be the basis of EPA ratings.

    Mitsubishi’s i-MIEV gets 83% charging efficiency (KWh available/kWh from plug), and I would expect the Leaf to be at least that.  hence, the five miles/kWh becomes just over four, and I rounded down.

    If you own a Leaf, do not drive it on a hot or cold day unless you
    have a death wish. My cars have chains, ice scrapers, extra water,
    blankets, and Jesus candle with matches.

    Sounds like you would be right at home at Svalbard, Norway then (79deg north) where they field tested an earlier Nissan EV for six years.  No word on what the polar bears thought of it.

     

    Interesting Paul you
    used 116 mile drive and not the 47 mile range.

    That’s right, I used a number achieved by a real driver, on real roads.  of course, if you drive with a lead foot, then you can drive any efficient vehicle in an inefficient way.

    Nissan designed the Leaf with enough batteries to get 100 miles on the official LA4 city cycle test – the same one used for EPA ratings of ICE vehicles.  You can drive any car in a much more aggressive manner, and use much mroe fuel,but what is the oint of rating it that way?

    Here is what is wrong with that theory,
    I only use 15 gallons of gas a month. $40k is a lot to spend to not
    save very much oil.

    I agree, $40k is lot to save 180gal/yr – you use less than 1/3 the fuel of the average American driver, so you have already done more than your share of oil efficiency.

    However, there are plenty of suburb dwellers (poor souls) that have 20-50 mile daily commutes in choking traffic, particularly in LA, and who have little ability to change jobs or location.  Of those, there are probably zero where an EV will pay for itself in a a reasonable time frame. But there are plenty who will buy it because it is an electric – likely the same ones that have solar panels on the roof to run the a/c on their 3500 sq.ft  house.  In this regard, the EV is like a luxury car – it has features that some people “value”, even though these features do not necessarily produce a monetary return on investment.

    Of course, for the government that is subsidising this, it does not produce an monetary return either, but it will not be the first or last govt program in that category.

    Is that like finding
    pocket change in the chair cushions will make you rich? No

    Quite so, but if you do “find” money, it is displacing some that you would otherwise have to earn.  Both PV’s and EV’s are noise in trying to measure the noise of energy consumption, though EV’s are not as bad value for money as PV’s.  But both have their niches, very limited, at present, where they can achieve something, and I have no problem with their use in such applications, even subsidising for such.

    The thing is Paul
    you are all over the place.

    No, I don’t think so.  I have been consistent in my position on EV’s from the start – a technological success, but just not worth the money, for almost all drivers.

    If you want to solve a problem, you need
    a systematic approach.

    Couldn’t agree more.  And when it comes to oil, there are many options, and many false options.  For saving oil, I think think there are other much better ways to save more, faster than Ev’s.  For making city/suburban living better, these do little – the commute will still be frustrating and time wasting.

    But it’s a free country and for those who want to spend their money on this, I don’t begrudge them that.  I wish they were not subsidised to do so, but that’s a different story. 

    Sure, they won’t solve America’s oil problem, but then, what will?  As much as a systematic approach is needed, that is not what we are seeing from the the current government, and previous ones have managed only to hold oil use steady, not decrease it.

    Against that backdrop, any options that reduce oil use, that are economically feasible, are worth looking at.  Even ones that aren’t yet, like EV’s are worth looking at, and there will inevitably be people that want to buy them, because they want to buy them.  At least they are not buying a Hummer.        

    [link]      
  88. By Kit P on November 16, 2010 at 6:24 am

    “likely the same
    ones that have solar panels on the roof to run the a/c on their 3500
    sq.ft  house.”

     

    Sorry to tell you
    this, but solar does not run the HVAC system but it does reduce the
    load on large power plant down the road that does. Of course a
    properly built house with thermal mass would not need cooling in the
    summer. Got along fine in Spain and in several houses in California
    without cooling.

     

    “Sure, they won’t
    solve America’s oil problem, but then, what will?”

     

    What problem? See
    part of the systematic approach is defining the problem. The same
    group that promotes EV as a solution are against drilling for more
    NG, building nukes, mining for coal, corn ethanol but have no problem
    putting up 4000 wind turbines is somebody else’s back yard.

     

    If you define the
    problems as the cost of importing oil, then increase domestic
    production. Increase offshore drilling like we have for shale gas,
    increase corn ethanol, increase CTL, and build more nuke plants.
    Again, I do not have a problem with EV, it is just the stupid things
    people say about them.

     

     

    [link]      
  89. By paul-n on November 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Of course a
    properly built house with thermal mass would not need cooling in the
    summer.

    Of course, but that is so not Californian.

    What problem? See
    part of the systematic approach is defining the problem.

    Quite true.  The way I see it, America’s oil imports are an economic problem, and a large one at that.  Some people would make it into a “national security” problem, though I don;t see it that way.  

    Part of the solution then is to increase domestic supply, though, barring a miracle, it can never come close to meeting current requirements, at least, not at current prices.

    If oil goes to $200, where oil shale and CtL becomes competitive, and oil demand has halved, and every old well ever drilled is pumping again, even if at half a barrel a day, then domestic production might just meet supply.  Of course, this scenario might be a worse economic one than today’s situation, but at least there would be “energy independence” .  I think it is challenge worthy of America, to make it’s own energy, even if there is some coat/pain involved, and get out of the mug’s game of the middle east – those countries can wither in their own dust.  

    I will add that part of that effort is then reducing wasteful uses of oil, and since America loves its cars, it is no wonder people think EV’s are the second coming.

    If you think I am saying stupid things about EV’s then I am happy to debate those specifics.  Overall, I think they are a great technical achievement, and they are an answer to a question many people are asking, but they are not yet an answer where the benefits meet the costs – hopefully that will change, but there is clearly more work to be done to get there.

    [link]      
  90. By Kit P on November 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    “If you think I am saying stupid things about EV’s then I am happy to debate those specifics.”

     

    No, Paul, I think you understand the challenges involved with bringing EVs to market and think the specific discussions we have are worth the time. An example to the contrary would be BilB above and which is why I only took the time to refer to our discussion in a previous post. 

     

    “barring a miracle”

     

    Put me in charge of the energy police and I will get the job done in a week.  A little old fashioned rationing and a few bans would be required.  Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would be flying coach.  Out elected representatives would have to follow the same rules I do when traveling on government business.  Our military personal travel on orders that get them combat pay or other hazardous pay (flight deck, subs, pilots) would automatically get seated in first class, followed by retired vets and just plain old old folks.

     

    Private jets would need permission based on no alternatives.  Ration exemptions would be allow for SUVs with 4 passengers and economy cars with one passenger.  E85 and biodiesel would be exempt too.  Driving to the beach would be banned in any state that does not allow off shore drilling with an exemption of military personal and oil well rig operators.  

     

    With these rules bringing EVs to market would be a snap.

     

    “those countries can wither in their own dust.”

     

    Iowa farmers will supply food aid.  

     

     

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  91. By paul-n on November 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Kit , your plan is not a miracle, but old style suck it up – certainly will get it done, but when was the last time a politician implemented something like that?

    No driving to the beach – they would just have to take the tram;

     

    (Santa Cruz, Ca, circa 1912)

    I do believe your girlfriend Pelosi will be doing quite  a bit less grandstanding from here on, thankfully.

     

    Iowa farmers will supply food aid.

     

    Yes – all the DDGS that Saudi Arabia wants

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  92. By Thomas on November 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Paul,

    I agree with you that the BEV is the best alternative to traditional ICE private transportation.  Most of us agree that the price of energy is rising long term.  With that in mind, the best way to evaluate any of these alternatives is to determine which one uses the least amount of energy.  Even if coal power plants were built in the Midwest to power BEVs on the coasts, the joule/road mile  would be lower than growing, refining, transporting and combusting a biofuel.  Add to that, the fact that we are and will continue to produce and transmit huge amounts of electricity,most new car buyers have access to electricity, “smart” charging will allow millions of BEVs to be added without building a single new power plant and the choice is clear. 

    One thing I would add, after this first generation or two of electrics has blown over, the “range anxiety” that dominates the current discussion will diminish.  A 200 mile range BEV would be a huge waste, seeing as how the average commute is < 40 miles/ day and dropping.  A 100 mile range will be “the standard” upon which car makers can start adding size and features.  BEV owners will not be able to able to drive cross-country on a whim, but an ICE sedan owner can’t move to a new home on a whim either.  The solution to both of these limitations is the same–rent or borrow.  A 200 mile BEV is the equivalent of keeping a moving van in the garage for that 1% of trips. 

      Also we’re going to see healthy entrepreneurial enthusiasm for BEV charging stations.  Something, Paul has pointed out, that is sorely lacking with ethanol distribution.   Companies and business will want to allow their employees/customers to charge their batteries while they work/shop.  Get ready for electric-only parking spots in big cities.        

     

    There will always be situations where ICEs make more sense.  However its time for some competition in the urban upscale segment.

     

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  93. By paul-n on November 20, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Hi Thomas – welcome back!

     

    I will add a qualifier to the BEV thing – well designed urban light rail is better still!

     

    The reason I say this – having used and experienced it in Calgary – is that it allows a City to take some measure of control over its future.  A city can wait for foreign/multi national car companies to decide when it is right to market BEV’s, or it can decide, on its own terms,  to develop rail transit. 

    Calgary not only built a light rail system from scratch, but then powered it with wind power, in 2001,  a full ten years before the first BEV’s hit the market, and probably another ten years before they make any real difference.

    http://www.calgarytransit.com/…..ation.html

     

    It delivers so many more civic benefits to the city that it is not funny – something EV’s can’t match.

    But for the stressed out 40 mile per day commuter, yes EV;s are a solution, just a more expensive on than what they are likely driving now, and don;t save any time.

    And therein lies the problem.  After 100+ yrs of manufacturing refinement, the ICE is still unbeatable.

    Well, the only thing that will will beat a north American ICE is anyone else’s diesel car, but that is a different story, of hiding behind trade barriers.

     Just another reason for cities to seize their own destiny and do rail – they just have to learn that you do not need to replace a Chevy car with Cadillac rail, that’s all.

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  94. By Kit P on November 20, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Paul writes,

    “It delivers so
    many more civic benefits to the city that it is not funny ..”

     

    Do you mean like a
    place for drug dealers, pedophiles, and rapist to hang out? Not
    funny! I suspect that the ratio of nice people who respect the right
    of other to criminals is the same wherever you go, but public
    transportation is an opportunity rube elbows that you can keep.

     

    “but then powered
    it with wind power”

     

    Double hogwash!
    First it is a typical false claims that city politicians recite to
    show who green they are. Second, for some reason urban people thing
    bring the worse aspects of urban blight to rural areas is a good
    thing. Wind farms do provide rural jobs and property taxes. If
    having wind farms is the cost of maintaining a rural life style, fine
    ok!

     

    Electrification of
    transportation is nothing more than elsewhere emission or impact. I
    understand why urban people think the planet needs savings. They
    look around and their corner of the planet needs saving. The urban
    solution is to spread the problem.

     

    So Paul, if you are
    talking about alternatives, that implies you are already doing
    something wrong.

     

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  95. By paul-n on November 20, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Do you mean like a

    place for drug dealers, pedophiles, and rapist to hang out? Not

    funny! I suspect that the ratio of nice people who respect the right

    of other to criminals is the same wherever you go, but public

    transportation is an opportunity rube elbows that you can keep.

    No, that’s not what I mean at all, and Calgary (and Vancouver) have had no such problems.  Keep the system clean, the stations very well lit, and well policed, which those cities have done, and you have no problems.  If you don’t like the train, then you don’t have to take it – no one is forcing you.  But you have the option, and in Calgary 42% of downtown workers get there on the train.  

     

     Double hogwash!

    First it is a typical false claims that city politicians recite to

    show who green they are. 

    Now just why do you think this is a false claim?

     

     

     

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  96. By Kit P on November 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Of course it is a false claim, if not it would be the first but Paul it is your claim so provide the support.

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  97. By paul-n on November 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Of course, there ARE lots of false claims being made about wind energy etc, but Calgary is not one of them, and you know that I don’t make statements like this unless there is something to back it up.

    So here is the story..

    The City of Calgary owns the electric utility (Enmax) that serves all of Calgary and nearby areas, and of course, the City owns the train system.  Enmax buys power in the Alberta pool, from suppliers like Trans Alta, etc.

    What happened with ride the wind is that Enmax did a joint venture with Vision Quest Windelectric, in 2001 to build 12 turbines at Pincher Creek in southwest Alberta, and buy the output for ten years.

    The deal was successful, and the enterprising guys at Vision Quest attracted the attention of Trans Alta, who bought them in 2002, and that is now Trans Alta’s wind division.

     

    They have gone on to build lots more around Pincher Creek, and that is a great thing as it is a bit of a backwater – dry, cold and windy! The windswept countryside is too dry for farming, they can run cattle, but only low stocking rates.  Maybe a bit like the areas of eastern Washington and Oregon you talk about (though I have not been to those places).

    The wind comes through the Rockies at Crowsnest pass and then spreads out over the plains, and blows very consistently.

    So the wind industry has revitalised the town and that corner of the province, and is providing much needed jobs the people have made lemonade out of their lemon (the cold wind).  It has also created a minor “wind tourism” industry, with people, and professionals, going there to see the wind farms.

    And for City of Calgary, the wind deal not only gave a small local company their break, but the City’s approach also ensured that Calgary would become (and it is) the head office for the Canadian wind industry’s major players.

    At 200km south of Calgary, the wind farm is actually closer to its load than most of the coal fired plants, which are in the centre/north of the province.  So in this case, the wind is relatively close to where the electricity is needed, and Trans Alta has storage hydro 150km away in the Rockies to balance out load fluctuations.  There is also a capacity issue for transmission from the north to Calgary, and when this deal was done, there was no such issue in the south. 

    All in all, good business conditions for wind energy, which is why it is growing in southern Alberta without need of large subsidies and the like – the way it should be. 

    Since then, the Alberta wind industry has grown to 900MW, and had to be capped at that becasue of transmission constraints and concerns about grid stability.  However, those issues are being sorted and they will be able to put up more turbines again soon enough.

    Alberta’s approach is similar to Texas – if there is a business to be had, especially involving energy, in any form, then they are all over it.  The approach is to actually produce something of value that someone will buy, not to milk government subsidies for questionable projects, and that is also as it should be.

     

     

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  98. By Thomas on November 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Agreed Paul that why I used the qualifier “private” when I said ”BEV is the best alternative to traditional ICE private transportation.”  If we had to redo the post WWII  urban development of most of the country, mass transit would definitely be the focus.  However,  private transportation has far more commercial incentives and thats what won out.  Add to that a sense among many Americans that mass transit is a form of social welfare.  A treasured indicator of entrance into the middle class is obtaining one’s own transportation.  This builds a sense that anyone who utilizes mass transit is part of an underclass or gang of criminals like ”drug dealers, pedophiles, and rapist”.  Car culture propaganda.  As long as the middle class opts out of mass transit it will continue to be a poorly managed budget drain in most metropolitan areas.  NYC acounts for 50% of all mass transit trips in the U.S.

     

    Light rail has seen something of a revival in many cities across the country.  I lived in Houston, TX when they installed the first few miles of their new rail line (after a luke warm legal battle to stop it).  The problem with Houston’s light rail  and most that have been built recently (Phoneix also comes to mind) is that they are situated at street level.  That means they have to stop at traffic lights, yield to pedestrians, and are vulnerable to traditional traffic jams caused by congestion, mechanical failure and the like.  In Houston, I remeber reading about pedestrians being killed and car accidents involving the new line trains. Below ground (subways) or above ground  (monorails) light rail is far more efficient and safe but that’s another topic.

     

    At the end of the day private transportation isnt going anywhere.  Most Americans will continue to see mass transit like going to the dentist.

    The first new car of a child born today will be an electric.

     

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  99. By paul-n on November 20, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Add to that a sense among many Americans that mass transit is a form of social welfare.  A treasured indicator of entrance into the middle class is obtaining one’s own transportation.  This builds a sense that anyone who utilizes mass transit is part of an underclass

    I guess that is the difference.   In Canada, Australia, and Britain, having the train systems is seen a plus.  If you are close to it, it is a much better option than driving, for all classes of people.  On the Calgary train you are just as likely to see a CEO as a barista, and probably talking to each other – but then Calgary is one of the friendliest cities I have ever had the privilege of living in.

     

    Houston’s light rail  and most that have been built recently (Phoneix also comes to mind) is that they are situated at street level.  That means they have to stop at traffic lights, yield to pedestrians, and are vulnerable to traditional traffic jams caused by congestion, mechanical failure and the like.

    That is the beauty of the Calgary system – it is at ground level for the most part, but runs in its own ROW, and has signal priority at level crossings – the trains don;t have to stop anywhere but at stations.  80% of the benefits for 20% of the cost.

     

    But, that said, as good an option as it is, it is not being embraced by American cities, and when it is, it is at such ridiculous cost that it is no longer worth benefit, and those who don’t can’t use it feel (rightly) they are are subsidising everyone else who is using it. 

     

    So the car culture will continue, even if electric, or alternative fuelled – it just won’t offer any relief from the insufferable traffic of the large cities.  We’ll see if the next generation holds the car as the same status symbol.

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  100. By Kit P on November 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    “you know that I don’t make statements like this unless there is something to back it up.”

     

    However, often you are wrong when you make statements outside of your field of expertise.  

     

    “Enmax did a joint venture with Vision Quest Windelectric, in 2001 to build 12 turbines at Pincher Creek in southwest Alberta, and buy the output for ten years.”

     

    In this case I agree with you it looks like the City of Calgary did develop wind farms and at a fairly yearly point of time for modern wind farms.  Also I am always impressed with   Trans Alta and their approach to the environment.  Thanks for taking the time to explain it. 

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  101. By paul-n on November 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    However, often you are wrong when you make statements outside of your field of expertise.

    I’d like to think more often right than wrong, but I know I can rely on you to call it if you think otherwise! 

    I liked Calgary’s approach because (leaving aside the “ride the wind” marketing) it was a practical approach that resulted in something real being done, not just California style grandstanding.  And the people of Calgary knew that thew wind energy was coming from an economically depressed area, that was closer to them than the coal fired plants to the north.  All in all, I think that was pretty progressive thinking for 2001.

    The real dissappointment is the 900MW cap on wind in Alberta, which was imposed in 2007, and is still there (about 7.5% of total capacity).    It has not been reached, yet, but there now a transmission constraint from the south to Calgary, and it is holding back construction of large wind farms.

    Alberta’s system (statistics here) is characterised by transmission constraints, and surprisingly small interconnections to BC and SK.  A lot of the NG generation is in the oilsands at Fort McMurray (way north), where it is cogen for the steam systems for oilsands extraction/processing.  But they have reached the limits of transmission capacity back to Edmonton, and from Edmonton to Calgary is also near its limit, as is from south to Calgary – that is why Enmax has had to build NG plants in Calgary (120MW at Airdrie/Crossfield), as they couldn’t rely on getting more in!

    Problem is no one can agree on who will pay for new lines, so they are not getting built!  But sooner or later, someone will take the plunge.

    TransCanada (the oil/gas pipeline company) has had a proposal for 10yrs to build an HVDC line from northern Alberta to the Mid-Columbia interchange (description here), but it has never really got past lines on a map.  The original version had the line actually going straight south through Idaho and Nevada to Las Vegas, but they gave up on that some time ago.

    Renewed development in the oilsands may yet get this proposal up and running.  Not many oil operations are net exporters of electricity but all the oilsands ones are, and will continue to be if they can export it to somewhere.

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  102. By Kit P on November 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    “The real dissappointment is the 900MW cap on wind in Alberta”

     

    There is something to be said for going slow and finding out what the impact on wind is.  One of the problems in the electricity industry is the boom bust construction cycle.

     

    It could be that wind turbines turn out to be the new Burma Shave signs. When there is nothing to look at, anything is good.  The Corn Palace was a lot more interesting 40 years ago.

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  103. By paul-n on November 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    There is something to be said for going slow and finding out what the impact on wind is.  One of the problems in the electricity industry is the boom bust construction cycle.

    No argument there – what I don’t understand here (and haven’t really looked into it in depth) is the debate who pays for transmission lines.  The prov government does not want “consumers” to pay for them, but of course, they have to, in the end.  Even though there is plenty of hydro to balance things, it is in a different part of the grid – the southern part has relatively little generation, so the wind% there is much higher, and hence the potential stability problems.  

    It just seems odd, for Alberta, that this hurdle hasn’t been overcome yet – they don’t normally let man-made constraints hold things back.

    The turbines have become their own tourist attraction, and saved quite a few local ranchers from bankruptcy when they couldn’t export their cattle south from the Mad Cow embargo a few years ago – diversity of income for ranchers/farmers is a great thing.

    One thing that could be done in the area, is pumped hydro.  There is already one irrigation storage dam nearby, which has a small hydro station, so must of the infrastructure is there.  but if it hasn’t been done, and isn’t planned, then it obviously is not economic, yet.  I am hopeful this part of the province can grow its wind industry, as there are not many alternatives for economic growth there.

    Of course, some city people (yes, there are even liberals in Calgary) want the windswept plains to remain clear of turbines so they can enjoy the view as they drive past once a year – great unless you are trying to make your living on said plains!

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  104. By Kit P on November 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    “what I don’t understand here (and haven’t really looked into it in depth) is the debate who pays for transmission lines.”

     

    Who does any more with deregulation and RTOs?  It used to be that a utility built transmission lines and others who used then had to pay based on a FERC rate schedule.   I do not know about Canadian regulations but in the US, permits to build new transmission lines are about the hardest hurdle.  The NIMBYs have two blocked themselves.  They want renewable energy but oppose transmission lines.  You can build a CCGT close to the demand with a NG pipeling through a swamp (excuse me wetlands) with endangered mosquito larvae faster than running an extension cord to your BEV. 

     

    I still think the purpose of wind and solar is to have shiny things to distract the eye from CCGT.  Nothing wrong with NG CCGT, it is a good way to get rid of NG in a hurry.    

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