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By Robert Rapier on Oct 6, 2006 with no responses

The End of Fossil Energy

A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from John Howe, author of the book The End of Fossil Energy and the Last Chance for Survival. He indicated his concern that the public is not getting the message on Peak Oil, and he asked if I would be interested in receiving a copy of his book. I accepted his gracious offer, which I received in the mail a few days later. A couple of weeks later, I read it on a flight to San Francisco. There is something in the book for just about everyone, but I would especially recommend it as an introduction to the topic of Peak Oil. I told John I would post an essay here… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 29, 2006 with no responses

Another Khosla Critic

A reader recently e-mailed me the following link from Reason Online: An Open Letter to Vinod Khosla This letter to Mr. Khosla, from a fellow Indian émigré, echoes a number of points I have made regarding Mr. Khosla and California’s Proposition 87. Some excerpts: Now you have become the prophet of alternative fuels that, you believe, are going to revolutionize the energy industry, much as the internet revolutionized communications. You are impatient to cut by half President Bush six-year timetable to bring cellulosic ethanol produced from farm waste to the market. But, with all due respect, even a man of your stellar track record can’t simply will markets to do his bidding; an economy is not a machine that can… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 27, 2006 with no responses

Ammonia and Biofuels

The following is a guest post by Dave Bradley, who has some very good technical essays on wind power here. Dave introduced himself to me via e-mail several months ago, and after exchanging a few e-mails in which we covered many technical issues, it became clear that we share a number of very similar interests. One of Dave’s essays that caught my attention involved the very interesting idea of using excess wind power to make methanol, ethanol, or even ammonium nitrate fertilizer. But Dave doesn’t just throw an idea out there; he gets into the important technical details. I mentioned this paper in my essay on Compressed Air Energy Storage. Dave explains in the following essay how we could use… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on 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»