How to achieve energy independence

November 1st, 2010

New MIT report calls for Open Fuel Standard

June 28th, 2010

A new MIT report on natural gas determines that natural gas to methanol is the best use of natural gas in transportation. The report calls for the introduction of an open fuel standard enabling cars to run on any mixture of gasoline, ethanol and methanol.

“A range of liquid fuels can be produced by thermochemical conversion of natural gas to a synthesis gas followed by catalytic conversion to the liquid fuel. These fuels include diesel produced by the Fischer-Tropsch process, methanol, mixed alcohols (methanol, ethanol and others), ethanol, gasoline and dimethyl ether (which, like propane, requires modest pressurization to remain liquid).10 Among these conversion processes, the only one that has been established at large industrial scale over a long period, with well established costs, is the natural gas to methanol conversion (for purposes other than transportation).
It is the liquid fuel that is most efficiently and inexpensively produced from natural gas.”

“[...] Methanol could be used in flexible-fuel, light-duty vehicles in a manner similar to present ethanol utilization with minimal incremental vehicle cost.11 The incremental cost relative to gasoline-only operation would likely be less than $300. These flexible fuel vehicles could be operated on various mixtures of methanol, ethanol and gasoline.
Presently flexible-fuel vehicles are not equipped to operate on methanol. Removing this barrier through the adoption of some type of open fuel standard would be needed for methanol use to be pursued on a level playing field.”

Anne Korin & Jim Woolsey talk energy independence at the Milken Global Conference

May 1st, 2010

Geopolitics, Global Demand and the Quest for Energy Security

Wesley Clark, Army General (ret.) and former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO; Chairman, Rodman & Renshaw

Jim Woolsey talks Salt on FOX

May 1st, 2010

Ford asks for ideas – tell them to go flex fuel!

April 19th, 2010

Ford has put up a website for the public to make, comment on, and vote on suggestions.

Click here to read and support a suggestion calling on Ford to make full fuel flexibilty, including methanol and ethanol a standard feature across their whole product lineup.

How to End America’s Addiction to Oil

April 14th, 2010

Set America Free Coalition member Jim Woolsey writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“Oil dominates transportation: About 95% of transportation fuel in the U.S. is derived from petroleum. And over three-quarters of the world’s reserves of conventional oil are in OPEC nations. But OPEC is pumping less than it did in the 1970s, despite a doubling in global demand, because it’s a cartel maximizing its income. OPEC sets oil’s price at a level that exploits our addiction but is generally not high enough for long enough that we go cold turkey.

“Oil profits enhance the ability of dictators and autocrats to dominate their people. This is one reason that eight of the top nine oil exporters (Norway is the exception) are dictatorships or autocratic kingdoms, as are virtually all of the 22 states that depend on oil and gas for at least two-thirds of their exports.

“Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth enables it to control around 90% of the world’s Islamic institutions even though it has less than 2% of the world’s Muslims. [...]

“so far every national policy we’ve tried to end our oil addiction has failed, including picking winners. Neither the Synfuels Corporation (the early 1980s drive for coal-to-liquid fuel) nor the hydrogen highway (the push early in this decade to get Americans to drive hydrogen-powered cars long before the technology was ready) had a chance of succeeding. It was too easy for OPEC to drive prices down and crush such costly competition.

“Supporters of cap-and-trade legislation have argued that putting a price on carbon would help us get off oil. But the effect of this would be negligible. Twenty dollars a ton of CO2 equates to about 20 cents a gallon at the gasoline pump.

“Drill, baby, drill? Some suggest that if we replace foreign with domestic oil our problems will be solved. Domestic drilling does help reduce oil’s share—a billion dollars a day—of our huge balance of payments deficit, and it adds some domestic employment.

“But that’s it. OPEC has very large reserves and cheap extraction costs, while domestic drilling costs for new oil will be many times that of the Saudis. We can’t drill our way out of the cartel’s control of the global oil market.

“Shifting the way we produce electricity also has essentially nothing to do with oil dependence; less than 2% of U.S. electricity comes from burning oil. We may decide to shift from coal-fired electricity to wind or nuclear for environmental reasons, or not do so for cost reasons, but these issues are not at all central to the oil debate.

“We urgently need to reduce oil dependence in the short term. This means lowering demand and utilizing substitutes as cheaply and quickly as possible. Here are four strategies we can implement beginning today:

“First, we should take advantage of electronic modifications that are being developed for internal combustion engines in existing vehicles. Innovations in computer chips and valves hold an early promise of substantial improvements in mileage by regulating combustion much better than current engines can.

“Second, we should pay attention to T. Boone Pickens’s recommendations to switch to natural gas for fleet vehicles such as buses, and for interstate trucking. Buses and trucks are easily modified to run on natural gas and would only require new pumps at a few central locations and interstate truck stops.

“Third, we should force petroleum products to compete with other fuels as soon as possible. There are many ways to do this, and we should use them all. For example, we should deploy “drop-in” fuels produced from waste and algae. These fuels can mix freely with gasoline and diesel in existing vehicles.

“We should also require all new gasoline-using vehicles to be “flexible fuel, open standard.” What this means is that these vehicles would use a type of plastic in their fuel lines that tolerates nongasoline fuels such as ethanol and methanol. This is a cheap and simple change: Brazil accomplished it easily several years ago. Methanol made from natural gas can be produced for around $1.20 a gallon (of gasoline equivalent) today.

“Fourth, we should move to electrify automotive transportation. Plug-in hybrids are on the road now (I drive one), and production models such as the Chevy Volt, due out this autumn, can drive electrically for roughly 40 miles before needing to plug in or to use on-board liquid fuel. Three out of four days an average car in the U.S. travels fewer than 40 miles.”

Flex fuel vehicles hold the key

April 7th, 2010

Gal Luft in the Baltimore Sun today.

Oil and its impact on the Geo-political “Stock” market

April 2nd, 2010

Human behaviors are often consistent across many different fields of interest but are wrapped in different buzz language.

The stock market, as an example, is a indicator of future expectations.

It does not tell us what the stocks have done in the past.

It tells us what investors expect in the future.

And it reflects the Net Present Value of those investments—in other words, investors know that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. So regardless of what earnings are expected to be in any short time frame, the market values them by the discounted future earnings looking further into the future.

Well, there is a pseudo geo-political stock market in which all countries and non-state actors (such as terrorist groups and individuals) look out at the political landscape and assess the discounted net present value (or strength) of the various international players, such as the United States, China, Iran, Russia, Israel, and others.

Currently, players in-the-know don’t see the world relieving itself of its dependence on oil anywhere in the short-term or mid-term.

As such, the “stock” of the oil-exporting regions (like Arab world, Russia, and Venezuela) are higher than they would otherwise be.

The moment the world saw that the United States had a clear and determinate path to oil independence, is the day that “stock” in the USA would rise dramatically.

In the short-run, there is only one way to do this.

The Open Fuel Standard Act—which requires that all autos be able to run on any mix of gasoline or alcohol fuels would shift the geopolitical landscape the day it were enacted—not when the oil independence were to occur. The only mandate is the $150/vehicle cost. The free-marketplace would handle the rest of the supply-side solutions.

Analysts would see a near-term rise of vast substitutes for petroleum, in which every nation in the world would be in the energy producing business—not just those that sit atop oil reserves in excess of their internal needs.

It doesn’t matter that it may take 5 to 8 years to make a major dent in oil demand. Because it will be seen as the most credible and likely path to make that dent, it has the biggest short-term immediate effect on the value of US Political “stock”—at a time when we are in real need of more political capital.

While electric vehicles may be a longer-term solution, it will take a long time to for sufficient market penetration to even begin to dent oil consumption.

Nuclear energy, solar, wind are not substitutes for oil since we don’t use petroleum to make electricity today (about 2% of US electricity is generated from oil).

So a prudent geo-political investor would ‘invest’ in the Open-fuel Standard Act. At $150/vehicle, it is an unprecedented return on investment opportunity!

Peter Forman

MoveBeyondOil, Chairman

Cop turned into a flop – what’s next?

December 27th, 2009

With the Copenhagen climate summit’s failure to achieve a binding agreement to resuce greenhouse gas emissions Gal Luft proposes a new approach – oil first.

“Now that delegates to the U.N. climate summit are back from Copenhagen with no more than a non binding, hollow declaration of intent to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it is clear that the main reason “Cop” turned into a flop is the deep divide between the world’s rich and poor — between those who watch the world on plasma screens and those who are forced to sell their plasma to survive another day.

The platitudes and inspirational speeches on how we must all come together to “save ourselves from ourselves” could not mask an inescapable reality: For poor people, while often being the main casualties of an unstable climate, planetary-scale environmental concerns are a distant second to basic human needs — access to electricity, food, and shelter. They are therefore unwilling to put their economic growth on hold until the world comes up with economically competitive alternatives to coal-fired electricity. In India alone, 150 million people have no access to basic lighting. In the face of such grinding poverty, it’s no wonder that the rich countries’ attempts to thwart the expansion of fossil fuels were perceived by many in the developing world as a new form of imperialism.

This pushback by the developing world begs for a unified, yet politically feasible, agenda that can be embraced by rich and poor countries alike. One area where such an agenda can emerge is oil. Whereas reaching consensus about significant cuts in the use of fossil fuels in power generation seems to be unlikely, focusing on reducing the use of oil, which powers 95 percent of the global transportation sector, is a goal that offers a real chance of global acceptance.”

Here is the full article

China: lots and lots and lots of cars…and e-bikes

December 16th, 2009

Two factoids from the Washington Post:

  • Domestic sales for cars and sport-utility vehicles in China passed a million a month in November 2009 — on an annual basis that’s 12 million cars, which could be more than the U.S. in this recession year.
  • China is also on track to 20 million new electric bikes sold in 2009, “if trends hold from 2007 and 2008, when 20 million e-bikes were sold each year. E-bikes are proving most popular in Beijing and other big cities, where some commuters are realizing that owning a car may bring a certain prestige as a sign of affluence but also comes with gasoline prices, parking fees, the odd traffic ticket and the notorious traffic jams. [...] Besides the lower costs for parking, and the convenience of whipping quickly through intersections, she said she spends far less on maintenance than she did on a car. E-bikes need their batteries recharged overnight, and the battery typically lasts about a year before needing to be replaced. They are also relatively inexpensive, from about $219 for the smallest models to about $366 for the largest, fastest variety.
    “The real sweet spot will be if China’s e-bike explosion leads to the development of electric cars and the infrastructure for charging these e-vehicles,” said Alex Wang of the Natural Resources Defense Council office in Beijing, and an avid e-biker. “China is probably better positioned to make this leap than any other country in the world.”
  • We agree with Alex Wang’s point — China, with its low cost basic vehicle platforms is very well positioned to take advantage of good enough batteries and move more swiftly to electrification than U.S. auto companies appear to be, a point discussed extensively in Turning Oil into Salt.