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This post continues a theme I covered in my book Power Plays. Part 1 covered the impact on oil price and supply in Petroleum Demand in Developing Countries. Here I discuss some of the climate change implications.
Climate Change Implications
Regardless of one’s beliefs on climate change, it is a fact that the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing since coal began to be burned in large quantities during the Industrial Revolution around 1750. Since then, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has increased from about 285 ppm to the present value of about 390 ppm (See Figure 1). Based on our scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect, we would expect that the increase should cause the average surface temperature of the earth to climb, and this has the potential to cause serious environmental damage. CONTINUE»
A reader recently called my attention to a new and very interesting presentation from the Department of Energy’s Biomass Program:
The presentation explored the question of whether the U.S. government is spending money on the right technology pathways. Costs were presented for biofuel produced from pyrolysis, algae, Fischer-Tropsch (FT), and methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) routes.
I want to share several slides from the presentation to give an idea of what the DOE thinks about the costs for producing biofuels via the various pathways. The first slide below shows the projected cost of production of biofuels via MTG, pyrolysis, and FT for the “Nth Biorefinery Plant” — which is defined as the projected fuel cost after a number of plants have been built and the learning curve has been mastered.
Figure 1. DOE projections of costs for biofuel from MTG, pyrolysis, and FT routes.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently published an article on 2011 U.S. crude oil imports. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at where the U.S. currently obtains its oil, and how that has changed over the past decade. The EIA story is: Nearly 69% of U.S. crude oil imports originated from five countries in 2011. I downloaded their data sources for 2011 import data, and then also went into the archives and pulled up 2001 import data to create the following table:
For reasons unknown to me, I am on an e-mail distribution list from Senator Barbara Boxer. Here’s what she had to say about Bush’s lifting of the federal ban on offshore drilling. (No comments from me just yet, as I have an essay in draft). Dear Robert, George W. Bush wants to give the oil companies a huge gift that threatens our environment — while not doing a single thing to lower gas prices. Urge my colleagues in Congress not to lift the Congressional moratorium on offshore drilling. I’ve been working with many of you to protect our coasts for decades. Now, after today’s shocking news from the White House, I’m outraged. It’s time to take our fight to the… Continue»
I was recently pointed to a new survey on energy conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. I have to admit that I do not know the political leanings (if any) of this organization. The surveys on their homepage looked pretty balanced to me. Regardless, I was pretty surprised at the results of the survey, a summary of which can be found here. Source: Pew Research Center As Gas Prices Pinch, Support for Energy Exploration Rises The public’s changing energy priorities are most evident in the growing percentage that views increased energy exploration – including mining and drilling, as well as the construction of new power plants – as a more important priority for energy… Continue»
I hear a lot of questions about the economics of a diesel engine versus a gasoline engine, given the fact that diesel prices are now much higher than gasoline (and likely to remain that way). Diesels have two things going for them. First, a gallon of diesel contains more energy than a gallon of gasoline. Second, a diesel engine achieves a higher compression ratio, and gets more useful work out of the engine. Diesels are estimated to be around 30% more efficient than combustion engines. I checked the EPA’s site on fuel efficiency – http://www.fueleconomy.gov – and compared a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta on diesel versus gasoline. Comparing identical cars – 2-L, 4-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission shows that the diesel version… Continue»
This is a digression from my normal posts on energy and the environment. As I have said before, this is not a blog on investing or personal finance. Despite that, finance and energy often intersect, so it is a topic that comes up frequently. It is a topic that I am frequently asked about via e-mail, especially in today’s economic climate. Maybe my experience can help someone else avoid some of the mistakes I made. This is not advice directed at the advanced investor. They would have learned these lessons long ago. This is addressed to the average family who may have a negative savings rate, and is struggling to make ends meet. The idea was spawned by a recent… Continue»
I will be flying back to Europe on Monday, so I will be out of touch for a day or so. Meanwhile, I would like to thank a reader for pointing this out: Quantum Vacuum Energy Extraction I am very, very skeptical of their claims, so I was surprised to see that they got them past a patent examiner. US Patent 7,379,286 was granted on May 27, 2008. The patent reads in part: A system is disclosed for converting energy from the electromagnetic quantum vacuum available at any point in the universe to usable energy in the form of heat, electricity, mechanical energy or other forms of power. By suppressing electromagnetic quantum vacuum energy at appropriate frequencies a change may… Continue»
I got a kick out of this story from the newest issue of Subsidy Watch: New research from Missouri refutes allegations that ethanol mandates save money A report from a Missouri-based research organization debunks the claim that Missourians are saving money through a state law requiring that retail gasoline contain a minimum of 10% ethanol. The report is in reaction to an assertion by the Missouri Corn Merchandising Association (MCMA), alleging that Missourians will save more than US$ 285 million through the E-10 mandate in 2008, and nearly US$ 2 billion over the following decade. The MCMA arrived at these numbers by taking the price difference between pure-grade gasoline and E-10 blended fuel, and multiplying it by Missouri’s projected annual… Continue»