Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

Posts tagged “hype”

By Robert Rapier on Jan 16, 2012 with 22 responses

Venture Socialism?

With the recently announced foreclosure of Vinod Khosla venture Range Fuels, followed by the fire sale of Range Fuels’ assets to Vinod Khosla venture LanzaTech, I have been getting a lot of calls from reporters wanting to discuss exactly what happened here. After all, well over $300 million was invested into Range Fuels — including tens of millions of taxpayer dollars — and what resulted were assets that were ultimately bought by LanzaTech for about $5 million. Two articles were published over the weekend by journalists I spoke with last week: Georgia failure not the only ethanol misadventure Range Fuels fiasco: Finding renewal energy in Georgia forests didn’t work out This quote caught my eye from one of the articles:… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Dec 19, 2011 with 50 responses

Range Fuels Goes Bust, Harms Biofuels Industry in the Process

Recently it was announced that Range Fuels has gone into foreclosure, thus marking the official end of their story. For all practical purposes, the company has been finished since early 2011, but the foreclosure puts an end to the notion that they will yet rise triumphant from the ashes. Last week, Heather Duncan — a reporter for The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia — called me to discuss the Range story. She has just published an excellent summary of what went wrong at Range Fuels, and what lessons might be learned from their failure: Range Fuels failure raises the question: How much risk should the government take with taxpayer dollars? Here I want to excerpt some of the highlights from her… Continue»

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 Jan 27, 2011 with 65 responses

Vinod Khosla and the Gasification/Fermentation Debate

Vinod Khosla Prognosticates Vinod Khosla is once more offering up his prognostications on the future of the energy business: What Matters in Biofuels? Given the likely continued dominance of the internal combustion engine, cellulosic and sugar-derived fuels offer one of the lowest risk advances to quickly and affordably achieve low-carbon transportation. I predict that long before 2022, half a dozen technologies within and outside our portfolio will be market competitive and will blow away the cost structure of corn ethanol. In the same article, he offers his view on those he deems energy Luddites: The old fashioned bias among traditionalists, mostly Luddites unfamiliar with the vibrant new research especially in startups, is that Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FT) of liquid hydrocarbons from… 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 Jun 22, 2010 with 64 responses

Range Fuels’ Number One Critic

That title appears to be reserved for me, even though I did not set out to earn it. It all started with the first story I wrote on Range Fuels in which I pointed out that their progress does not remotely align with their early promises. Since that initial story was published I have been frequently contacted to provide a skeptical side of the Range story. Below I report on another story on Range that has just come out that reiterates my skepticism – not on the nature of the technology but on the disconnect between the intial claims and actual progress to date. One person recently e-mailed me and said “I bet (Range backer) Vinod Khosla and (Range CEO)… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on May 31, 2010 with 64 responses

Examining Calera Corporation’s Claims

The following is a guest post by Dr. Jerry Unruh. Jerry is a Ph.D. chemist that I had the pleasure of working with for several years. (More on Jerry in A Conversation on Energy Issues). Below Jerry presents his concerns that Calera’s claimed process for carbon sequestration may be grossly exaggerated. Calera responded to Jerry’s initial letter to the editor of High Country News, but unfortunately they provided no calculations to refute what Jerry has presented. Jerry’s analysis was quantitative, but Calera’s response was qualitative. Calera Corporation’s presumed Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) Process by Dr. Jerry Unruh, May 31, 2010 Calera Corporation has made several high profile statements recently about their process to capture carbon dioxide (CO2), particularly from… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 2, 2010 with 47 responses

Range Responds

I just became aware that BiofuelsDigest wrote a story on my recent blog on Range Fuels, and got some comments back from Range Fuels’ CEO David Aldous: Battle of the Falling Timbers Aldous said pretty much what I would expect the CEO of Range Fuels to say. He defended his company, and complained that the funding includes money for future phases. That may be, but it is true that Range recently went back to the DOE for more money. If they are already funded for future phases, then why not show us what you can do before asking for more money now? The truth is that the early public statements from those involved with Range – prior to them getting… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Mar 1, 2010 with 23 responses

A Day Late on the Bloom Box

I wasn’t going to write anything on the Bloom Box, but people keep writing to ask what I think. My initial reactions were “What a lot of hype” and “I have seen this all before.” I also wondered why it is that people keep falling for these kinds of stories. But fuel cells aren’t my specialty, and as such I won’t weigh in on the relative technical merits of this design over another. I know that fuel cells have been very expensive for many years, and the initial projections I have seen over the Bloom Box are that they will be very expensive. Lots of people with expertise in fuel cells have weighed in on the matter, though. If you… Continue»