Posts tagged “algae”
Earlier this week, the Washington Times wrote a particularly angry and irrational editorial arguing against the military planning for climate change. The proximate reason for their editorial was Secretary Panetta’s speech on May 2 at the Environmental Defense Fund in which he said “Climate Change has a Dramatic Impact on Our National Security.” ASP blogged about the speech last week.
Normally, I would not take the time to respond to the Washington Times editorial, as they are notorious for being at the far edge of the spectrum on this issue, and far away from any scientific mainstream, but some of the assertions are so scurrilous that they require a response. They simply cannot stand without being challenged.
They write that the national-security threat of climate change “is a fight America can’t afford.” However, as I have discussed before, a changing climate does pose real threats to America’s national security. Rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, increasingly dangerous weather disasters, and melting polar ice caps could destabilize countries, and the U.S. military must be prepared to react to the conflicts that could result from these changes. There is a robust academic argument about the precise linkages between climate and conflict, but that is not where this editorial goes.
Instead, there are some serious assertions in the editorial that must be responded to because they are so far from reality. I will precisely go through them.
On October 13, 2011 I paid a visit to Solazyme’s headquarters in San Francisco. For those who are unfamiliar with Solazyme, they produce oil from genetically modified algae. The company was founded in 2003 by two college friends, Jonathan Wolfson and Harrison Dillon. I had previously visited with Dr. Dillon at the 2009 Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in Honolulu. Harrison is Solazyme’s Chief Technology Officer, and he filled me in on some of what the company was doing at that time. This time I was going to have a chance to interview Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson. A lot has happened since that meeting with Harrison in 2009. Solazyme has delivered hundreds of thousands of gallons of… Continue»
Prior to publishing the previous essay, U.S. Navy Pays Big Bucks for Biofuels, the editor for Consumer Energy Report asked why I didn’t go with a more descriptive title like “U.S. Navy Pays $425 per Gallon for Biofuels.” I told him that the reason I didn’t is that the source clearly said that some of the money was for R&D, and there was really no way to know how much. The information given for the second contract didn’t indicate that there was any R&D money involved, and the calculated price was much lower. Still, I considered that there were some other details of the contract that weren’t public, which is why I just said “Big Bucks” instead of specifying a… Continue»
The U.S. military, as the single biggest consumer of fossil fuels in the world, are particularly interested in alternatives due to supply risks and price security.
Here are five positive notes extracted from the USDA report on next generation biofuels.
The USDA has just issued a report detailing the outlook and challenges of next generation biofuels.
Many of my essays here are reprinted at The Energy Collective. Following a reprint of my recent essay examining DARPA’s extraordinary claim on the cost of algal fuel, a reader named Durwood Dugger (this gentleman, I presume) posted some very interesting comments that are worth reproducing here. His original comment can be found here. ————————- I was at the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) meeting in Orlando in February and participated in the biofuel for aviation workshop round-table discussion at the invitation of NASA. I have been producing algae (not for fuel) for commercial purposes for the last 38 years. None of the presentations or the discussions in round table discussion in which I participated leads me to… Continue»
By now I have had at least a dozen people send me the link or ask me to comment on the recent DARPA announcement that they can produce algal oil for $2 a gallon. My fellow blogger Lou Grinzo has already made a few comments, and I share his skepticism. It is an extraordinary claim, to me ranking up there with “We have invented time travel.” Then again, if you invented the Internet, I suppose people tend to cut you a lot of slack. But it is true that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and in this case I find the latter to be lacking. First, the claim:US military to make jet fuel from algae Scientists at the Defense Advanced… Continue»
The following guest essay is by Frank Weigert, a retired DuPont chemist who was involved in some of DuPont’s early work on alternatives to petroleum in the mid-1970′s. This work spurred a lifelong interest in a renewable hydrocarbon economy. Recently Frank sent me an e-mail in which he described his views on a pathway that could lead us away from our dependence on petroleum. It was a very detailed and technically interesting e-mail, and I asked him if we could turn it into an essay for others to read. What developed from that request was the essay below. —————————– Many people find it hard to think rationally about our energy problems because there is so much misinformation and disinformation out… Continue»
I am hopping on a plane again today, this time bound for the Orlando Energy Conference. The topic I will present is An Overview of Global Energy Issues. Good thing they asked for something easy and non-controversial. This is the last trip I have scheduled for this year, and I am hoping not to have to travel again for a while. Following Orlando, I will spend a few days at the family farm in Oklahoma, where Internet access has yet to make an appearance. Therefore, I will be slow to return e-mails and respond to comments. If all goes according to plan I will be back in Hawaii on November 21st (after having missed my wife’s birthday for the 4th… Continue»