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By Robert Rapier on Jul 23, 2007 with no responses

The Future is Solar

I have done a lot of research lately into various alternative diesel technologies as I was working on my renewable diesel chapter. One thing that became very clear to me is that the world will not be able to displace more than a fraction of our petroleum usage with biofuels. I already knew that this was the case with ethanol, but now I believe that is true of all liquid fuels. Consider this sneak preview (still in draft form) from the book: There are approximately 4 billion arable acres in the world. There are many different feed stocks from which to make renewable diesel, but most biodiesel is made from rapeseed oil. Rapeseed is an oilseed crop that is widespread,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 22, 2007 with no responses

Venezuela’s Production Difficulties

I think this speaks for itself: Venezuela drops 2007 rig count target by 40 pct CARACAS, July 20 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s difficulties in acquiring oil rigs amid soaring global demand could lead to lower oil production amid a nationalization crusade by leftist President Hugo Chavez. Chavez has forced the hand of foreign energy companies in Venezuela with an aggressive campaign to take over oil projects that last month pushed Exxon Mobil (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) out of multibillion-dollar heavy crude ventures. Apparently, for some odd reason the nationalization campaign 1). Seems to be scaring some foreign firms off; and 2). Is being met by falling production. The problem comes amid growing concerns that PDVSA’s… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 20, 2007 with no responses

Current Status of the Renewable Diesel Chapter

Most sections are pretty well filled in. Below is what the outline looks like. I still have this weekend to work on it. What am I still missing? I am not quite satisfied with all of the titles. For instance, in “The Potential”, I do a thought experiment that I think demonstrates that thoughts of biofuels displacing major amounts of petroleum are completely unrealistic. So, “The Potential” isn’t quite right, but I have had writer’s block on that one. My idea for that section was to basically show how much petroleum equivalent we could produce by planting the entire arable world in rapeseed. Any better ideas for demonstrating this? I started to go back to first principles and calculate using… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 18, 2007 with no responses

Jim Jubak Gets Religion, NPC Endorses Peak Lite

Jim Jubak, a popular prognosticator over at MSN’s MoneyCentral, has gotten religion over peak oil: The oil squeeze has just begun “World will face oil crunch in five years.” That’s not exactly the kind of headline you want to read when crude oil is already at $73 a barrel. When things are this bad — crude prices are up 12% in the past two months as of July 12 — you don’t want to hear that they’re going to get worse. Yet that’s exactly what consumers — and investors — should expect, the International Energy Agency said in its latest Medium-Term Oil Market Report, issued July 9. The market for oil will get even tighter over the next five years…. Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

Biodiesel Growth Slowing

From yesterday’s OPIS: It has been a tough year for biodiesel markets as well as for biodiesel producers. Plants are struggling to break even against high feedstock costs including near-record high soy oil prices. That has made an issue of liquidity as many producers shut down for extended periods or run well below capacity. A number of new plant projects have also been taken off the table. The result is biodiesel production will grow this year, but industry sources expect it will not see the fantastic growth rates of previous years. Some biodiesel sources expect that only about 300 million gal may end up being produced this year – that would still be up around 33% against last year but… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 16, 2007 with no responses

Storing Renewable Energy

First, thanks to all who provided input for the renewable diesel essay. The comments were useful, and will help me to strengthen the chapter. Second, I had said that today I would comment on Benjamin Cole’s Seamless Transition to a Post-Fossil Economy. Frankly, I think other readers adequately addressed this, and even Benjamin realizes that a seamless transition is unlikely. So I will leave that one as is. One of my major interests is storage systems for renewable energy options that would be characterized as intermittent. Solar and wind would fall into this category, and their intermittency really limits their ultimate potential. If wind turbines must be backed up by coal-fired power plants, it lessens the benefit. Therefore, the development… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 14, 2007 with no responses

Requesting Feedback on Renewable Diesel Essay

As some of you may know, I am writing the renewable diesel chapter for a book on renewable energy. My submission is due at the end of July. The chapter is well underway, but I have a nagging feeling that I am forgetting to address something. So, I wanted to share the outline I have, and see if anyone has any comments. If you know of a substantial feedstock that I have missed, or can think of some things you think should be covered in a specific section, let me know. For instance, in the section on environmental considerations, I am going to point out that tropical forest is being cut down to produce palm plantations for palm oil. On… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 11, 2007 with 6 responses

Peak Lite Revisited

Introduction While I believe that a global peak in worldwide oil production presents an unprecedented challenge to the way most of the Western world lives our lives, I do not believe that world oil production has yet peaked. However, in looking at the new oil capacity that is scheduled to come online, and contrasting that with the projected demand growth, it became clear to me over a year ago that demand was going to rise faster than new supply could come online. This prompted me to propose the idea of “Peak Lite.” It is “peak”, because the symptoms will mostly manifest themselves as those of a true production peak: Not enough supply to meet demand. In fact, we have already… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 10, 2007 with no responses

When Did Share Repurchases Become a Crime?

Ten years ago, I did a lot of investing into individual stocks. While my investing these days is mostly limited to mutual funds, one thing that always attracted me was when a company bought back shares of their own stocks. To me, this always signaled confidence in the company, and a belief from insiders that the stock would perform well in the near future. While there are some who feel that stock buy backs are what companies do when they don’t have very good investment prospects for their cash on hand, share repurchases always made perfect sense to me. If I were the CEO of a company, and I felt like my company was undervalued, share buy backs are going… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 9, 2007 with no responses

What It Takes to Be Carbon Neutral

A popular newspaper in Scotland, The Scotsman, has detailed what it will take for Britain to be carbon neutral within 20 years. I have said before that despite Al Gore’s pleas, despite the awareness and scientific consensus on Global Warming, I do not see the world becoming carbon neutral as long as there are fossil fuels left to burn. Some highlights from the article drive that point home: Green Future Demands a Radical Shift in Lifestyles for British Meat-free menus, battery-operated cars and an end to affordable flights. These are among the radical visions outlined in a report which says Britain could be carbon neutral within 20 years – but only if major steps are taken to change our lifestyles…. Continue»