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Posts tagged “biofuels”

By Robert Rapier on Feb 21, 2011 with 24 responses

Due Diligence: How to Evaluate a Renewable Energy Technology

Doing Due Diligence To people who follow the energy industry closely, it’s a common occurrence to come across announcements from companies proclaiming to have developed the key to the ‘next big thing’ — for solving the world’s energy crisis. Maybe they say they can take any sort of waste biomass and turn it into fuel — ethanol, diesel, pyrolysis oil, mixed alcohols — at very low cost. Or they say they can produce renewable electricity at a price competitive with coal. The layperson reads the news release and is curious: “Is this real?” When I am asked to comment on a press release, I try to be cautious with my opinions until I have peeled the onion a bit. There… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Feb 17, 2011 with 33 responses

The Media’s Role in the Range Fuels Fiasco

Now that it seems that the mainstream media has finally caught on to the fact that something went terribly awry at Range Fuels, it is time for me to close the book on them. This will be my last Range Fuels story, but I think there is a lesson to be learned here. Waiting Until The Fat Lady Sang In the past week, an increasing numbers of stories have covered the Range Fuels affair. The Wall Street Journal’s take was the most high profile coverage: The Range Fuels Fiasco Vinod Khosla stepped in with his hand out. The political venture capitalist founded Range Fuels and in March 2007 it received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy—one of… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Feb 14, 2011 with 25 responses

Butanol Q&A With Cobalt Technologies CEO Rick Wilson

In the previous story — Butanol 101 — I provided readers some background on the production of butanol, including my own background on working with butanol. This story is about one company’s efforts to commercialize bio-butanol. The interview originated from a press release I was sent a couple of months ago detailing an agreement between Cobalt Technologies (formerly Cobalt Biofuels; and I will get into this name change below) and the U.S. Navy on developing next generation biofuels: Cobalt Technologies and U.S. Navy to Jointly Develop Military Jet Fuel Mountain View, CA – November 03, 2010 – Today, Cobalt Technologies, the leader in commercializing biobutanol as a renewable chemical and fuel, announced the signature of a Cooperative Research and Development… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Feb 9, 2011 with 37 responses

Butanol 101

This story was initially intended to cover a recent interview that I did with Cobalt Technologies CEO Rick Wilson. However, the introduction and background on butanol became long enough that I felt it was a standalone story. The interview with Rick Wilson will follow this story in a few days. I have mentioned before that my first job out of college was with Celanese (at that time Hoechst Celanese). For most of my seven years with Celanese, I was a butanol engineer. I first spent two years developing computer models of the process, doing lab work, and providing engineering support to the Celanese plant in Bay City, Texas. I then transferred to Bay City and spent two years working as… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Feb 6, 2011 with 51 responses

The Natural Gas Debate

The Economist just finished hosting an online debate on natural gas. The resolution was an interesting one: This house believes that natural gas will do more than renewables to limit the world’s carbon emissions. At first glance, the statement may seem preposterous; after all natural gas is a fossil fuel and natural gas usage will therefore generate net carbon dioxide emissions. But there is perhaps more there than meets the eye. Arguing for the resolution was Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry and Gusher of Lies, and Senior Fellow at the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute. Opposing the resolution was Steve Sawyer, the Secretary General for the Global Wind Energy Council. I was asked… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jan 31, 2011 with 53 responses

What the RAND Report on Biofuels Really Said

The just-issued RAND report Alternative Fuels for Military Applications has generated quite a bit of controversy. However, in my opinion many of the news stories covering the report got the gist of the message wrong. In essence, what has been reported is “RAND Says Biofuels are Bunk.” In fact, many in the renewable energy industry have responded as if they are under attack. Biofuels Digest published comments from several in the renewable fuels industry. Some excerpts from those comments: Will Thurmond, CEO, Emerging Markets Online Is it simply a coincidence that RAND’s study on alternative fuels for the military, the “Clean Coal” Coalition’s advertising campaign, and the State of the Union address were released on the same day? In contrast… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jan 25, 2011 with 31 responses

Great Green Fleet Neither Great Nor Green?

In my recent interview with Tom Hicks, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Navy (Energy), he explained some of the Navy’s energy initiatives. One of those is to sail the “Great Green Fleet.” The goal is that in 2012 they will put a carrier strike group in local operations entirely on alternative fuels and then in 2016 they plan to deploy that strike group on all alternative fuels. By 2020, the goal is that 50% of all of the Navy’s energy consumption will come from alternative sources. The reasons for these goals are obvious. The U.S. Department of Defense consumes more oil than any other organization in the world, and most of that oil comes from other countries…. Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jan 20, 2011 with 46 responses

Marginal Land Produces Marginal Biomass

The global potential for energy crops is a topic of great interest, and the media is often filled with reports of the potential for production on marginal land. Indeed, some of these reports go so far as to suggest that a substantial fraction or even all of current global oil consumption could be replaced by energy crops grown on marginal soil. A new study was just released that makes such a claim: Study Estimates Land Available for Biofuel Crops Using detailed land analysis, Illinois researchers have found that biofuel crops cultivated on available land could produce up to half of the world’s current fuel consumption — without affecting food crops or pastureland. The news release goes into some of the… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jan 12, 2011 with 31 responses

Range Fuels Out of Money?

It is no secret that I have been a critic of Range Fuels — not necessarily of their technology but of their approach. I won’t rehash all of the issues I have had with the company; in a nutshell I felt they like were making claims that were very unreasonable, and taking in a lot of taxpayer money based on those claims. As a taxpayer and someone very concerned about energy policy, I spoke out on what I felt were serious deficiencies in the way projects get funded; namely that the companies that make the most outrageous claims are too often the ones that get funded. I also had my critics who insisted that I didn’t know what I was… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Dec 28, 2010 with 31 responses

My Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2010

Here are my choices for the Top 10 energy related stories of 2010. I can’t remember having such a difficult time squeezing this list down to 10 stories, because there were many important energy stories for 2010. It was hard to cut some of them from the Top 10; so hard that I almost did a Top 15. But I made some difficult choices, and offer my views on the 10 most important energy stories of 2010. Previously I listed a link to Platt’s survey of the Top 10 oil stories of 2010, but my list covers more than just oil. Reviewing my list of Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2009, I see that I made three predictions. Those… Continue»