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By Robert Rapier on Nov 18, 2006 with no responses

Student Sustainability Competition

Now for a public service announcement. Yesterday I received a mass-mailer from the EPA asking for help publicizing a sustainability competition. Since this is a topic that’s very important to me, I thought I would publish it here. The competition is open to graduate and undergraduate students, and the deadline to apply is December 21st (which also happens to be my birthday). ——————————– The P3 Award: People, Prosperity and the Planet A Student Design Competition for Sustainability – Apply by December 21, 2006. Got an innovative solution that protects the environment while growing the economy? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring an exciting environmental design contest for undergraduate and graduate students – The P3 Award. Through this national… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 16, 2006 with no responses

Who Supplies the Most Biofuel?

I learned something interesting today. If you had asked me who is the world’s largest distributor of bio-fuels, I would have probably guessed ADM. It looks like I might have been wrong. Here is a press release that came across my desk today: Shell and Codexis to Explore Next-Generation Bio-Fuels HOUSTON and REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ — Shell Oil Products US, a subsidiary of Shell Oil Company, and Codexis Inc., a privately held biotechnology company, announced today they would launch a collaboration to explore enhanced methods of converting biomass to bio-fuels. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. “Shell is committed to leading the development of second-generation bio- fuels that offer lower well-to-wheel CO2 production and enhanced performance,”… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 15, 2006 with no responses

This Week in Petroleum 11-15-06

The weekly inventory report from the Energy Information Administration came out today, and it provided support for my latest essay. You can read the report at: This Week in Petroleum. A quick look at the gasoline inventory graph can tell you that upward pressure on gas prices is imminent: In my previous essay, I argued that falling inventories had to cause prices to increase. Some excerpts from this week’s report: …inventories dropping much faster than normal for this time of year. Moreover, with demand higher than in recent years, stocks considered in terms of the days of supply (or demand) that inventories can cover are lower than they appear on an absolute basis. This interpretation would lead one to think… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 13, 2006 with no responses

A Case Study in Cluelessness

I saw a familiar name today in a news article, which I will get to in a bit. I was reading an article from the Sacramento Bee that said that gas prices may have bottomed out. (I won’t link to the article, since it requires registration). I have been saying that gas prices couldn’t fall much further based on weekly EIA inventory numbers, and were poised to rise. Gas pricing is pretty simple, really. You basically have to watch gasoline inventories, which are reported every week at: This Week in Petroleum If you want a very reliable indicator of which direction gas prices are headed, watch the gasoline inventories graph. When inventories are plunging, as they were in the first… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 8, 2006 with no responses

Prop 87 Post Mortem

Well, I was wrong. I have consistently predicted that California’s Proposition 87 would pass. I knew that support had been slipping as gas prices have fallen, but I still thought that when the time came to vote, the voters would choose to punish the oil companies. But Prop 87 looks to be headed toward a sound defeat tonight. What Went Wrong I can point to numerous things that went wrong with the “Yes” campaign. While I really was pretty ambivalent about the initiative, I was not ambivalent about the tactics that the “Yes” campaign utilized. Several months ago I commented to a person that was associated with the Yes campaign that it almost seemed like they were running a parody… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 4, 2006 with no responses

People in Glass Houses

VentureBeat, a Silicon Valley-based site that focuses largely on venture capital (and venture capitalists), has been hosting a series of essays on California’s Proposition 87, which will be voted on next Tuesday. The owner of Venture Beat, Matt Marshall, recently contacted me and asked if I wanted to provide some “No on 87” essays in response to Vinod Khosla’s series of “Yes on 87” essays. My response to Matt was that I am ambivalent about passage, and so would not write a “No” essay. However, he said that if I wanted to write on alleged misinformation coming from the “Yes” camp, then that would be OK as well. My first essay, Prop 87: Deceptively Marketed, addressed 3 specific claims coming… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 1, 2006 with no responses

John McCain’s Ethanol Flip-Flop

I knew that McCain had flip-flopped on this issue. The upcoming issue of Fortune tells the tale: McCain’s farm flip It’s a pretty good lesson on how tough it is to oppose ethanol and get yourself elected president, since Iowa has one of the first presidential caucus. So, despite McCain’s long track record of criticizing ethanol, suddenly it’s the thing to do. Some excerpts from the article that I found interesting: John McCain has a problem with alcohol – ethyl alcohol, to be precise. Ethyl alcohol is the fuel better known as ethanol, and over the years, the Arizona senator has made a habit of ripping ethanol subsidies as corporate pork for agribusinesses like Archer DanielsMidland. McCain has argued that… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Oct 30, 2006 with no responses

What is it about Silicon Valley executives?

Over the weekend, I had an essay posted at VentureBeat on California’s Proposition 87: Prop 87: Deceptively marketed Most of you know that Vinod Khosla and I have butted heads on a few issues, but now Silicon Valley executive Bill Jolitz threw in his $0.02: How naive. Do the research. California is the only oil producing state that DOESN’T tax oil companies for pumping the stuff out of the ground or beneath the water! Why can’t we do a tax like Louisiana or Texas or Alaska, and put it to good use. How ironic that California is more conservative on taxes than Louisiana, Texas, and Alaska. Oil isn’t forever – why don’t we start thinking about our kids for once?… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Oct 25, 2006 with no responses

Prop 87: A Reader Responds

Below is a response from reader Earl Killian, who lives in Silicon Valley. Earl sent me an e-mail a couple of days ago in response to my August essay on Prop 87: California’s Proposition 87 It is getting close to election time, so this is a good time to revisit the issue. Besides the entry above, previous entries on Prop 87 are: More on California’s Proposition 87 Prop 87 Interview Addressing Proposition 87 Criticisms Breaking Down Prop 87 Another Khosla Critic Wow. I have written on that a lot more than I thought (although the 3rd link in the list is a pro-87 guest essay). Anyway, I thought Earl made some very good points in his e-mail, and instead of… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Oct 22, 2006 with 1 response

Cellulosic Ethanol vs. Biomass Gasification

Introduction I have this neat new cellulose conversion process. I am looking for funding and working on a patent application. The invention is a personal cellulosic biomass reactor. In the first reaction step, the cellulose is partially converted to CO and H2 (syngas). In the second step, one could do many things with the syngas: produce methanol, ethanol, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, or combust it for heat or electricity. I chose the combustion for heat route, which occurs very rapidly following the 1st step. The combustion products are CO2 and water, but the CO2 that is released is equivalent to the CO2 that was taken up by the biomass while it was growing. It is therefore neutral with respect to Greenhouse Gas… Continue»