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By Robert Rapier on Mar 20, 2007 with 1 response

Hot Gas Lawsuit in Utah

I wrote this up a couple of weeks ago, but never got around to posting it. I guess business is slow for the folks who sue people for a living: Suit Seeks to Deflate Excess ‘Hot Gas’ Profit Source: Salt Lake Tribune Mar. 7–When the temperature of gasoline rises, the volume of the fuel expands. And that means Utah drivers who fill up during the summer may get fewer miles out of a tank of gas than during the colder months, when the temperature of the fuel they pumped into their automobiles and pickups was lower. The prospect that motorists may not always be getting all the energy from each gallon of gasoline that they paid for has ignited a… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with 1 response

Water Usage in an Oil Refinery

There has been much controversy regarding the amount of water used to produce a gallon of ethanol. Considering just the usage in the ethanol plant (ignoring any irrigation requirements for the corn), this amounts to about 4 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced: New Research Paper Finds Water Availability Critical to Growth of Ethanol Industry Generally, an ethanol plant will use 10 gallons of water per minute for each 1 million gallons of ethanol produced. A typical 50 million gallon plant, would need 500 gallons per minute of water. There are no publicly available records on water use by ethanol plants in the United States, the authors found, with the exception of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources…. Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 19, 2007 with no responses

Ethanol in the News

There were several ethanol stories in the news today. It was a mixed bag. From BusinessWeek: Ethanol’s Growing List of Enemies Paul Hitch has spent his entire life raising cattle and hogs on a stretch of the Oklahoma panhandle he says is “flat as a billiard table.” But he worries that they’ll face mounting pressures in the industry, particularly because of the soaring price for corn, which the business depends on to feed the livestock. In the past year, corn prices have doubled as demand from ethanol producers has surged. “This ethanol binge is insane,” says Hitch, who’s president-elect of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA). “This talk about energy independence and wrapping yourself in the flag and singing God… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 16, 2007 with 2 responses

Refining 101: Summer Gasoline

Just what is summer gasoline? Twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, you hear about the seasonal gasoline transition. However, most people probably don’t understand what this actually means. AAA recently provided a Top 10 list explaining the recent rise in gasoline prices, and summer gasoline checked in at #7: 7. The summer blend switchover. This transition from winter-blend to summer-blend fuel, a concoction that causes less smog, occurs every spring. It causes a dip in gasoline supplies as refineries in the U.S. shut down temporarily to retool their production facilities. That’s only partially correct, and is probably the extent of most people’s understanding of this transition. But given that I am very keen that people should… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 15, 2007 with no responses

Energy Heating Up Inflation

I am not quite sure why this was a surprise: Producer prices unexpectedly jump 1.3% There were two major culprits identified: Energy and food. However, the food component was also related to energy: Food prices rose 1.9%, as prices for unprocessed foods rose 11.2%. Fresh fruit prices rose 15.7% and fresh vegetable prices rose 8.3%. Pasta prices rose 4.3%, the most in 11 years. Food prices have been rising rapidly, in part in response to the diversion of corn into the ethanol market as a substitute for gasoline. Food prices have now risen more than 1% for three months in a row and are running at an annualized rate of 18.1% in that time. Other than a spike in 2004… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

OPEC Holds Steady

I have been trying to get inside the mind of OPEC lately and predict what they would do at this week’s meeting. Worldwide crude inventories have been falling, so the market appears to be undersupplied heading into high-demand season. So, if I was in charge of my country’s oil, do I open the taps a bit and risk bringing the price down, or do I hold steady and hope that I can react fast enough if prices start to spiral out of control? Or, do I make additional cuts in an attempt to stabilize prices at a higher price band? After mulling this over, I think I would take the middle-ground. The current prices have not stemmed demand. The money… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 14, 2007 with no responses

When Will Saudi Arabian Oil Production Peak?

The eventual decline of oil production in Saudi Arabia will likely have a profound impact on all of our lives. This event will result in energy shortages around the world, and depleting oil supplies will be bid up to higher and higher levels. Poor countries will no longer be able to compete, and they will be the first casualties of oil depletion. The richer countries will bid against each other for the remaining supplies, and if the depletion rate is high enough we will be in for some very tough times. The Saudis say they have plenty of oil. However, there are a lot of skeptics. So, I am very interested in understanding what’s going on inside Saudi Arabia. One… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 13, 2007 with no responses

Conflicts of Interest

Critics often charge me with a conflict of interest for my position on grain ethanol. They suggest that I have something to gain by opposing grain ethanol. Often, a charge of bias will be the extent of my opponent’s argument, which is of course an ad hominem fallacy. While it is certainly fair to suggest that I might have a bias, at the end of the day it is the arguments that must be addressed. This is true whether I am employed by Greenpeace, or on the staff of Dick Cheney. Furthermore, as I have pointed out, ethanol producers use a lot of natural gas, and my company sells a lot of natural gas to them. Given our market share… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 12, 2007 with no responses

Inventories are Falling Fast

There has been a lot of speculation lately over whether the Saudi oil production cuts over the past year have been voluntary. I have argued that they were voluntary based on a combination of what was happening with inventories last spring (crude inventories were very high and trending higher), and then price (started falling in the summer and fell for the rest of the year). But I think we will soon know for sure. This is subscriber information from the daily OPIS report, so I will only post a small portion of the report: Over the past five weeks, there has been a fundamental shift in the oil Market — a shift that has resulted in increasingly higher prices. The… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 8, 2007 with no responses

The Handy-Dandy Khosla Refuter

The web site Seeking Alpha has just published a new article on ethanol: Ethanol: A Few Myths Debunked To be honest, there are so many misconceptions and myths in the article that a better name for it would have been Ethanol: A Few Myths Repeated. I think all of these “myths” have been covered at one time or another in this blog, but he does quote Vinod Khosla at length. So, this might be a good time to re-debunk Khosla, given that he has repeated this claims many times since the first debunking. So, once again, here are Vinod Khosla’s claims, repeated from the above article, dissected and debunked. VK: Energy balance is not even the right question to answer…. Continue»