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By Robert Rapier on Sep 27, 2006 with no responses

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Khosla

Note: I am not trying to be disrespectful to Mr. Khosla with this title, nor am I implying that he is a bad guy or a monster. The title is meant to capture his penchant for inconsistent arguments on the same issue, almost as if the issue was being argued by two different people. Mr. Khosla has been much in the news lately. In the upcoming issue of Wired, he again repeats the claim that it is twice as efficient to produce ethanol as it is to produce gasoline: “A typical corn ethanol plant produces 1.3 to 1.8 BTUs for every BTU of fossil fuel input, including the energy required to grow the corn. (Gasoline has half the efficiency of… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 25, 2006 with no responses

Man Builds 105 MPG Car

I don’t think you would want to take it out on the interstate, but it’s pretty cool to see people working on stuff like this. $2,500 DIY Cars Tired of high gas prices? For $2,500 and 1,000 hours, you can build a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon. In a world where the price of oil is trending towards infinity, large companies are quickly seeking alternative energy sources for transportation. Jory Squibb decided he’d build his own fuel-miser, and set about creating it from second-hand motorcycle parts. The resultant vehicle, christened MOONBEAM, gets 80-85 mpg around town and under economy run conditions (max 40 mph) delivers 105 mpg. Two scooters for the bits cost US $500, and the… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 24, 2006 with no responses

CAFE Loophole

The ethanol bubble has been bursting a bit lately. I don’t say that with glee, because I hate to see people lose money, especially when it was due largely to misleading claims. (I say that even though 95% of the hate mail I get comes from ethanol investors). I hope the end of the irrational exuberance we have seen in the ethanol market will lead to a more fact-based look at which technologies are needed to replace or supplement fossil fuels, and what technical challenges must be overcome before that happens. There are certain things we can do to help ethanol along that I completely agree with. Because of the great potential, I think we need to heavily fund cellulosic… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 21, 2006 with no responses

Electric Car Breakthrough?

There are certain alternative energy technologies that I believe will have an enormous impact on our future. Heading that list is solar energy, followed by wind power, biomass gasification, and possibly cellulosic ethanol. Most alternative energy sources that I think have a real chance to make an impact involve electricity generation. Therefore, in order to really impact the transportation sector, we need to move toward electrifying more of our transportation options. I was recently asked what kind of cars we would be driving 100 years from now. Without hesitating for a second, I replied “Electric cars.” A key reason we aren’t driving them now is that the range and convenience is not what we are accustomed to with internal combustion… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 18, 2006 with no responses

No Price Manipulation

I have lost track lately of the number of people who think oil companies are deliberately dropping prices in order to influence the election. I have close ties to the product pricing group, and I can tell you that these assertions are ludicrous. In fact, I mentioned these conspiracy theories this morning in a meeting, and everyone had a good laugh. But one person asked “Don’t people understand how oil and gas are priced?” The answer is, “No, they do not”, so we have this disconnect. I have intended to write a post to address those who insist that gas prices are tied to the election, but I know that there are people who distrust me merely because I work… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 9, 2006 with no responses

Breaking Down Prop 87

Introduction California’s Proposition 87 promises to reduce oil consumption in California, at no expense to the consumer. I am quite sympathetic to the goal of reducing petroleum dependence. This is a goal to which we should all aspire. But I have my doubts that the promises being made by the Proposition 87 campaign can be kept. I also dispute many of the claims made by the Prop 87 proponents. Finally, I have a problem with the way the oil industry is being portrayed in order to win support for this measure. While I do not intend for this to be a point by point rebuttal of Ana Unruh Cohen’s recent essay in support of Prop 87, I do intend for… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 8, 2006 with no responses

Venture Beat Article

A while back I was contacted by a reporter from Venture Beat regarding my criticisms of Vinod Khosla. A back and forth e-mail exchange ensued between the reporter, Mr. Khosla, and myself. That exchange has been documented in a story at Venture Beat: The Oil Drum Debate, Round 1 There were 3 issues in question during this particular exchange: 1). The energy balance of gasoline versus ethanol.2). Whether Brazil had displaced 40% of their petroleum with ethanol.3). Whether ethanol is cheaper to produce than gasoline. When reading through the exchange, I think you will note how Mr. Khosla has difficulty answering the questions put to him. Even in the case of Brazil, in which he has made claims that are… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 2, 2006 with no responses

Addressing Proposition 87 Criticisms

Background Voters in California will go to the polls in November to decide the fate of Proposition 87, also known as the Clean Energy Initiative. However, the ramifications of this proposition have the potential to be felt nationwide. I have previously written a pair of essays on Proposition 87 that you can find here and here. My position is not so much that I am against Prop 87, and I am certainly not against the intent of Prop 87. But I do have concerns about the proposition, which are explained in my previous essays. In response to my essays, Dr. Ana Unruh Cohen, former Rhodes Scholar and the Director of Environmental Policy at the Center for American Progress, asked if… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on with no responses

Postscript with Wang and Khosla

I think the thread on efficiency of ethanol versus gasoline left a lot of things hanging, and there have been some communications with Dr. Wang and Mr. Khosla since then. So, I wanted to more or less close the book on this and share those communications. I don’t want to spend another 300+ posts arguing about efficiency, but I do want to let the readers know how this all turned out. Dr. Wang was clearly miffed about my usage of “sleight of hand.” While I do not consider usage of this phrase insulting, I felt like the right thing to do was to apologize since Dr. Wang took offense. So, I e-mailed back to Dr. Wang, Tom (who never again… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Aug 29, 2006 with no responses

Integrated Bioenergy Center

Believe it or not, I was working on this post before I got massively distracted by the efficiency questions surrounding ethanol and gasoline. To some, I may seem to be a bit of a Jeckyll and Hyde with respect to ethanol. One day, I am bashing it. The next day, I am endorsing it. So what’s the deal? I fully acknowledge the need to move away from fossil fuels, but most grain ethanol in this country is primarily recycled fossil fuels. I object to taking fossil fuels, converting them to ethanol, subsidizing the ethanol not on the basis of energy “created”, but instead on a per gallon basis, while mining our topsoil in the process. However, ethanol does not have… Continue»