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By Robert Rapier on Jun 17, 2007 with no responses

Coal and Ethanol

A Lightbulb Uses a Lot of Coal Just a very quick post today while still on vacation in the U.S. I was browsing around the other day, and I ran across this: How much coal is required to run a 100-watt light bulb 24 hours a day for a year? You can pop over there for the details, but I was shocked at the result: 714 pounds of coal, 5 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 5.1 pounds of NOx, and 1852 pounds of CO2 – for 1 light bulb. That just blows my mind. Sometimes I will leave my computer on overnight, rationalizing the decision by thinking “It only uses about as much electricity as a light bulb.” I have to… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 12, 2007 with no responses

What’s On Tap

Update Four essays, plus this one, finished off today: The Problem With Biobutanol This Week in Petroleum 6-13-07 Letter to CNN on Inaccuracies in “We Were Warned” The Problem with CAFE With that, I am on hiatus. I may come back and update TWIP on Thursday. Cheers, Robert Taking a Break I received a welcome surprise yesterday, and found out that I get to fly home this Friday to see my family. I have been away from them for 5 months (so the kids could finish out school) but on Friday I go home to retrieve them for their move to Scotland. Thus ends the most difficult 5-month period of my life. At that time, two things will happen. First,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

The Problem With Biobutanol

The Essay I Didn’t Want to Finish This is an essay that I have been promising for some time. I have had to start it from scratch a couple of times, and I am starting it from scratch again now. I tend to get a lot of e-mail about biobutanol, especially after people read the essay that I wrote on the subject last year: Biobutanol While I wrote about the potential for biobutanol in that essay, I also noted: I need to spend some time going over the patents and linked reports more closely to see if anything suggests a problem that has been glossed over. When I first started this essay, I was going to review the literature and… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

This Week in Petroleum 6-13-07

Update: Very brief update. First, I just came back from the hospital, where they extracted a small boulder from my kidney. With that, I put this horrible episode behind me. On the inventory report, I don’t think this bodes well. I had seen some predictions just before the report was released that the gasoline build was expected to be 4 million barrels. The reported build was zero, which is consistent with what I wrote last week about inventory builds slowing in June before falling in July and August. But refinery utilization and imports both fell a bit. If those trends don’t reverse, the recent price drop will change direction in short order. And now, I really am on hiatus. ——————-… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with 1 response

Letter to CNN on Inaccuracies

Dear CNN, Over the weekend, I watched your special report We Were Warned: Out of Gas. I had previously seen the original version, “Out of Oil”, and wrote to CNN at that time pointing out a number of inaccuracies in the report. (It appears that the transcript still reflects the earlier version). Those inaccuracies remain in the newer version, so again I feel compelled to point them out. While I think the overall message of the report is essential, you give critics ammunition by not having all of your facts in order. So let’s look at some points. First, we have Frank Sesno stating “Ethanol now accounts for nearly 40 percent of Brazil’s transportation fuel.” This is inaccurate. Diesel accounts… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

The Problem with CAFE

As I have been reading reports of the current debate over the pending energy legislation, it occurred to me that there is a fundamental problem with the approach to CAFE standards. The Washington Post reported on the issue in today’s edition: Senate, House Turn Focus to Energy Bills Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said after a speech to the Center for American Progress yesterday that the increase in auto-fuel efficiency requirements, known as the corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards, would be the most controversial part of the Senate package. It orders auto companies to hit a 35-mile-per-gallon target by 2020 and improve mileage 4 percent a year after that. “I know that the auto industry is still… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 10, 2007 with no responses

Ethanol Roundup

A couple of interesting ethanol articles that were recently brought to my attention. First off, we have Iowa State saying something I have been saying for a while: Corn ethanol unprofitable by 2008, says Iowa State Personally, I thought their article was awesome. Biofuels industry observer Robert Rapier (author of Cellulosic ethanol vs. biomass gasification) told Inside Greentech that problems in corn ethanol had been clear since last summer. “Capacity was being built well in excess of the mandated amounts. This ends up squeezing producers on both ends. I have been predicting for at least a year now that there will either be a massive shakeout of ethanol producers—or more likely there is going to be a massive bailout by… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

Gasoline Prices Part II: Long-Term Factors

Introduction In Part I, I discussed the short term factors that have resulted in the recent, rapid increase in the price of gasoline. But there are a number of underlying, long-term issues that have been major contributors. I will attempt to address them and answer a number of related questions, such as: Why have no new refineries been built in the past 30 years? Are U.S. refineries breaking down more than normal? Are oil companies purposely withholding supplies to keep prices high? Have environmental regulations played a role? Does the use of ethanol influence gasoline demand growth? The answers to some of these questions may surprise you. Please note that my essays should not be confused with financial advice. Following… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 7, 2007 with no responses

Why I Sat Out the Feeding Frenzy

I have gotten several e-mails about Cyclone Gonu in which I was asked to comment. Some asked why I haven’t written about it, or why I haven’t participated in the discussions about it. I was content to let this episode fade into history, because addressing it will offend some people who are friends of mine. But I have gotten enough e-mails about it that I will address the issue. The fact is, I feel that there is a lesson to be learned here. I have been criticized by some for my cautious approach toward Saudi Arabian and world oil production. For the record, I don’t believe that their oil production has peaked. (However, I want to emphasize that I don’t… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 5, 2007 with no responses

This Week in Petroleum 6-6-07

Update: The numbers are out. Gasoline made a strong gain this week, as imports remained high. Demand remains well above last year’s numbers. Given that imports were down slightly over the previous week (but still near all-time high levels), and refinery utilization was down sharply, I am going to have to look at this a bit more to figure out why gasoline inventories made such a strong move up. At a cursory glance, they don’t seem to add up. I would also note that while overall inventories rose, inventories on the East Coast – already incredibly low as noted below – fell again this week. The highlights (as I see them): Refineries operated at 89.6 percent of their operable capacity… Continue»