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By Robert Rapier on Dec 14, 2011 with 10 responses

R-Squared Energy TV: Episode 5 – Cleantech, Oil Industry, Energy Careers

This week’s episode of R-Squared Energy TV answers the following viewer questions:

  • Do you have any comments on Matthew Nordan’s recent 4-part response to Peter Thiel’s comments on cleantech VC as a failure?
  • Do you retain any oil industry ties that your readers/viewers might like disclosed?
  • What books do you recommend that choose a more positive outlook on our future, and are actual realistic predictions?
  • Do you see a future in petroleum engineering, as most think it will be a doomed profession within the next twenty to thirty years?
  • If I choose to become more involved in other energy solutions what would you recommend studying?

Readers who have specific questions can send them to ask [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com or leave the question after this post (at the original source). Consider subscribing to our YouTube channel where you’ll be able to view past and future videos.

Link to Original Article: R-Squared Energy TV: Episode 5 – Cleantech, Oil Industry, Energy Careers

By Robert Rapier

  1. By Optimist on December 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Good stuff, as always.

    Would it be much effort to convert to text? Sometimes I find it easier to read than to listen.

    I have to agree: petroleum engineers aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’re going to do better in the future than in the past. Ditto for chemical engineers, who are beginning to find employment in a host of different industries. I suspect in the next few years the US will return to “real” engineering, as opposed to just financial engineering, as Tom Friedman of NYT fame points out at regular intervals.

    Not only with petroleum engineers be around, petroleum companies will be around, and are likely to survive even a drastic downturn in petrochemicals. I remain convinced that if anybody finds a workable renewable liquid fuel (that is one that doesn’t require food as feedstock, and won’t require government support after existing for 5,000 years, if you know what I mean), American Big Oil will buy the technology and start churning it out. Why buy from Hugo and the Sheiks if you can produce local?

    Loved the implication in question #2 that realistic = optimistic. That’s the approach needed to meet the challenges of the future!

  2. By Wendell Mercantile on December 17, 2011 at 2:33 am

    Off topic, but topical — Open Fuel Standard

    Interesting Congressional testimony today on CSPAN by Gal Luft about the proposed Open Fuel Standard for autos. Even got a few questions from the politicians.

    Thrust is that multi-fuel-cars that could burn gasoline, ethanol, or methanol, would quickly settle on methanol made from natural gas as the fuel of choice.

    Of course the corn ethanol cartel is obbosed — they would rather use NG to make ammonia; use the ammonia to grow corn; and then use more NG to distill the ethyl alcohol out of the fermented mash.


    How did we get so backward WRT to corn ethanol when we have methanol for spark engines and dimethyl ether (DME) for compression engines so easily available and now abundant with our new and rapidly expanding fount of NG?

  3. By paul-n on December 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Wendell, the thing that always gets me about the corn ethanol industry being “opposed” is that this is not an either/or situation.  This is not asking for ethanol to be phased out by methanol, it is allowing methanol into game.


    Clearly the ethanol lobby fear being outcompeted by methanol – but since they have their mandate, that just can;t happen.  Unles the mandate is repealed, of course…

    I do not know why the NG companies are not pushing for methanol.  It would be easier to get acceptance of fracking for shale NG if the people where then able to use that gas in their fuel tanks.


    Given that the US is now starting to export LNG, while still importing oil, I can only conclude that no one in gov is seeing the bigger picture.

    And certainly not the corn ethanol folks.  

    Oil (imported) is the enemy – the more alt fuels there are, the stronger they all become. 


  4. By Rufus on December 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    We still Import 10% of the nat gas we use, and the drillers are leaving the Marcellus in droves (they can’t afford to frack for $3.50 gas.)

    And, about that exporting of LNG. You do understand that that just hastens the day that nat gas in the U.S. sells for the same price as NG in the rest of the world, about $10.00 to $13.00/kcuft (3 1/2 to 4 times present U.S. price.)

    What does *that* do for your cheap, and abundant nat gas/methanol deal?

  5. By Rufus on December 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Paul, your sentiments are admirable. But, let’s face it, the guys that have sunk $200 Million or more into an ethanol refinery are no more looking for competition than the owners of those multi-billion dollar oil refineries.

    Speaking of oil refiners, I guess you saw where Valero is going to provide a large part of the financing for Mascoma’s Michigan, hardwood pulp to ethanol refinery.

  6. By paul-n on December 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    The LNG import terminal at Coos Bay, Oregon has received the first stage of an approval to be come an export terminal



    And, about that exporting of LNG. You do understand that that just hastens the day that nat gas in the U.S. sells for the same price as NG in the rest of the world,

    Yes, that is exactly why these people are doing it.  Like the Cdn oil companies, the NG guys are tired of getting the low market prices in the US, so they are looking to export.

    And I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to export LNG.  

    After all, the US is exporting ethanol…

    If they are prevented from making methanol, then they have little choice but to look for exports.  So, the export income can be used to import more oil – but the idea is to get the US *off* imported oil.  Even the websites for the RFA and Growth Energy say that.

    So, why then do they oppose any other method that might help to reduce oil imports – when that is the real goal?

    Unless of course, they are just interested in protecting their own industry, in which case, their websites wouldn’t be draped in the American flag with talk about energy independence, now would they?

  7. By Rufus on December 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    :) Paul, they’re in it to make a buck. Like Everyone.

    Oil doesn’t want ethanol; and ethanol doesn’t want methanol. And, no one likes “fishin’ in the rain.” :)

  8. By Wendell Mercantile on December 18, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Clearly the ethanol lobby fear being outcompeted by methanol – but since they have their mandate, that just can’t happen. Unles the mandate is repealed, of course…

    If only we had bold political leadership.

    Open Fuel Standard for transportation, no subsidies, no mandates, and then let corn ethanol and methanol duke it out on the open market. I predict we’d quickly see the corn ethanol wave has crested, and we can go back to growing corn to feed hogs, cattle, and chicken, and make tortillas and corn chips.

    Of course with 21 farm states and their 42 senators, a fair free-market competition between corn ethanol and methanol will likely never happen. Making corn ethanol has never been about fuel or cutting America’s dependence on foreign but instead about increasing the commodity market for corn.

  9. By Wendell Mercantile on December 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    the guys that have sunk $200 Million or more into an ethanol refinery are no more looking for competition…


    An old Chinese proverb says the beginning of truth is to call things their proper names.

    When and how did you start using the linguistic trick of calling alcohol distilleries “refineries” instead of saying what they are?

    The technology of turning grain into alcohol has actually changed little over the centuries: Mill the grain and soak in water; let the mash ferment turning the sugars into alcohol and CO2; distill the alcohol out of the water at a lower temperature than the boiling point of water.

    Certainly there have been advances in the practice of handling the materials and the heat energy involved — that have moved beyond what any distance relatives of yours in Harlan County may have used — but the technology is basically unchanged.

    Isn’t it time for the corn ethanol industry to drop the euphemism of “ethanol refinery” and call them what they are: Corn ethanol stills? It may make lobbyists and the NCGA sound more sophisticated testify in front of Congress, but it doesn’t fool anyone.

  10. By paul-n on December 20, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Paul, they’re in it to make a buck. Like Everyone.

    I have no problem with that.

    What I have a problem with is them trying to prevent anyone else from making a buck, with any fuel that is not ethanol.

    Ethanol cannot repalce America’s oil import by itself, not even close.  It can only really double from it’s present level, at which point it will be equal to about 7% of America’s oil use – with imports being more than 50%

    So, if “oil independence” is the goal, and RFA etc say it is, then there are three ways to make it happen;

    1. Domestic oil production needs to double – exceeding the peak production set way back in 1970
    2. Conservation measrues, rationing etc reduce oil usage by half, or
    3. Some other alt fuels come onto the scene.

    Now (1) just isn;t going to happen – the oil industry is drilling everythinng they can – and finding a lot of NG, but no great finds of oil

    (2) is just not the American way, and is certainly not what RFA etc are advocating

    So that leaves us with (3) – develop some more alt fuels – methanol, CNG, DME, electric etc.  There is plenty of space for multiple fuels. And the fact that both methanol and ethanol (and higher alcohols) are all drop in fuels make them the leading candidates.  But none of the alcholos can displace current gasoline consumption on their own, not even close.

    There is plenty of room for more players at this table.  By putting up barriers to methanol and other alts, the ethanol industry is delaying oil independence, and doing a disservice to the whole country.  The idea is to beat the dealer – the OPEC “house” – not the other players.


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