Archive for December, 2008

Senators urge funding of vehicle electrification provisions

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Thirteen senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell, urging full funding of the plug in hybrid and other vehicle electrification provisions authorised by last year’s energy bill. Full text and signatures are viewable here.

First PHEV coming from China

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

A Chinese company, BYD Auto, did what the big auto companies failed to do so far: introduce the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid, the F3 DM. BYD’s new car, with a $22,000 price tag, can run for up to 60 miles on a battery charged from an ordinary electricity outlet. The Dragon is at Detroit’s gate.

SAF member Salazar accepts Obama offer to join Cabinet

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Sen. Ken Salazar accepted President elect Obama’s invitation to serve as America’s next secretary of the interior.
As head of the Interior Department, Salazar would be in charge of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Geological Survey. Sen. Salazar has been one of the lead proponents of energy independence and fuel choice in the senate and a lead sponsor of the Open Fuel Standard bill.
We wish him good luck and success in his new position.

Bioenergy and Biofuels: The Biomass Resource in Washington

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Craig Frear starts with an overview of agricultural biomass resources for biofuel production in Washington state. Larry Mason continues to talk about forests as a source of raw material for biofuels production. Kristiina Vogt discusses linking biomass to biofuels as a logical energy solution. Jake Eaton concludes with an assessment of producing biofuels from sustainable tree farms.


Dealing With Disaster Debris–making fuel from debris

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Biomass Magazine reports: “A professor of eco-management at the University of Washington is working on a way to overcome all the issues involved in transporting disaster debris. Rather than bringing the biomass to a centralized plant hundreds or thousands of miles away, Kristiina Vogt supports the concept of mobile disaster units to convert woody debris to fuel—methanol specifically—on-site. She has been working to promote this idea in Indonesia and a few Latin American countries. “When Katrina hit, I got a lot of phone calls from people interested in getting a mobile system out there because a lot of the wood was down, but nobody could access it,” Vogt says. “

Cellulosic methanol

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

A recent Japanese study titled “Biomethanol Production and CO2 Emission Reduction” concludes:

This study demonstrates that the practical oxidation reaction during gasification of readily available biomass materials could be optimized for methanol production, yielding ca. 40 to 60% of dry weight. This opens the way to utilization of a wide range of harvested plant material low in sugar and starch, including byproducts of other processing operations such as sawdust, bran, straw and husks of rice. Sawdust, rice bran and rice husks are particularly attractive biofuel resources since factories
already produce large quantities.

The potentially positive economic impact of biomethanol production on Japanese farming and social systems from planting grasses and trees in unutilized land is immense. Reduced CO2 emissions, recycling of abandoned upland and paddy field and woodland in mountainous areas, and recycling of wastes of agricultural products would all be possible by promoting biofuel production systems based on this new method of gasification. This
technology is particularly attractive since biomethanol can be produced from a wide range of biomass raw materials.

More info: Paper, Slides

Another interesting presentation:
North Carolina Animal WAste as a Potential Resource for Reducing CO2 and Methane Emissions—note the diagram showing production of methanol from biogas. If new cars were flex fuel vehicles warranteed to operate on ethanol, methanol, and gasoline, that methanol could then be used directly to fuel cars.

One more, hot off the press, by Kristiina Vogt et al:
Bio-methanol: How energy choices in the western United States can help mitigate global climate change: “As a gasoline substitute, bio-methanol can optimally reduce vehicle C emissions by 2–29 Tg of C (23–81% of the total emitted by each state). [...]In the state of Washington, thinning “high-fire-risk” small stems, namely 5.1–22.9 cm diameter trees, from wildfire-prone forests and using them to produce methanol for electricity generation with fuel cells would avoid C emissions of 3.7–7.3 Mg C/ha. Alternatively, when wood-methanol produced from the high-fire-risk wood is used as a gasoline substitute, 3.3–6.6 Mg C/ha of carbon emissions are avoided. If these same “high-fire-risk” woody stems were burned during a wildfire 7.9 Mg C/ha would be emitted in the state of Washington alone. Although detailed economic analyses of producing methanol from biomass are in its infancy, we believe that converting biomass into methanol and substituting it for fossil-fuel-based energy production is a viable option in locations that have high biomass availability.”

Gaffney: include Open Fuel Standard in any auto bailout

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Frank Gaffney writes:

If we are to allow a massive raid on the Treasury in the hope of providing a speed-bump on the certain road to reorganization and downsizing of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, the least we can do is get for the country something of lasting value in exchange. Here’s a modest proposal: Set America free from its enslaving addiction to oil.

As Robert Zubrin, author of “Energy Victory” has observed, what is really “addicted to oil” are our cars. The vast majority have to use gasoline or diesel fuel derived from petroleum, the preponderance of which must be imported from places that are, at best unstable and at worst downright hostile to us.

[...]By making new cars sold in America capable of running not only on gasoline but on ethanol or methanol, we can offer consumers fuel choice and wean ourselves from our present, dangerous dependency on foreign oil. Such cars are called Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). Detroit knows how to make them cost-effectively (for less than an extra $100 per car): There are more than 6 million of its FFVs on America’s highways now and many millions more that it has sold to Brazil where they are required.

[...]If Congress wants the American people along on its current road-trip with the autos, it had better have something to show for the ride other than throwing good money after bad. Adopting an Open Fuel Standard as part of the rescue package this week – and, thereby, helping to set America free from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries – would be a lasting achievement on the path we must take to energy security.

Senators urge inclusion of Open Fuel Standard in any auto bailout

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Senators Salazar, Cantwell, Brownback, Collins, Dorgan, Landrieu, Johnson, Ben Nelson, and Lieberman sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell, urging that assistance to automakers “be predicated on an agreement to increase the percentage of new cars and trucks configured as Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) – vehicles with the ability to use any percentage of gasoline and ethanol or methanol.”

The Senators noted:
“In 2006, the Big Three automobile manufacturers committed to making at least 50 percent of their new vehicles FFVs by 2012. We respectfully request that, during any negotiations over providing additional federal assistance, you insist that the CEOs of the Big Three reaffirm their earlier commitment and also agree to meet a second milestone of 80 percent FFVs by 2015.

“By integrating such goals into their future plans now, automakers will be able to make the necessary changes to production lines without undue disruption or appreciable additional cost. We note that the marginal cost of manufacturing a FFV is less than one hundred dollars per vehicle, while the resulting fuel cost savings to consumers from increased fuel competition could be hundreds or thousands of dollars over a vehicle’s lifetime.

“[...] we favor the adoption of Senate Bill 3303, the bipartisan Open Fuel Standard (OFS) Act, which would apply these FFV requirements to all manufacturers of new cars sold in teh United States.”

Read the entire letter here.

Daschle, Woolsey, Ballentine, Broin at ACORE in DC yesterday

Friday, December 5th, 2008

LUFT/GAFFNEY: Fact vs. fiction on food vs. fuel

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Set America Free members Gal Luft and Frank Gaffney write:

Back when oil cost $3 and $4 per barrel, the increased use of ethanol was blamed for high food prices, food riots and starvation of the poor. Senior United Nations official Jean Ziegler called the use of food crops for fuel a “crime against humanity.” Anti-American demagogues like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro seized the opportunity to pile on to the anti-ethanol jihad.

Competing explanations for the rise in food prices – such as the role of speculators, the rise in oil prices and the increased demand for meat in China and India – were given short shrift by the “smart” people. Ironically, at the very moment that oil prices were at an historical high, the only alternative fuel available to keep gasoline prices from going even higher was facing an unstinting and ferocious attack. The last few weeks have clearly demonstrated all this was a farce.

An immutable fact is now clear for all to see: Food prices track oil prices, regardless of how much corn is used for ethanol production. When oil was selling at a premium, the costs went up for essential components of our food supply – especially those associated with operating agricultural machinery, fertilizers, packing, labor and transportation. When prices came down, the price of corn quickly followed.

In fact, oil has now fallen nearly 50 percent from its record $147 a barrel in July 2008. In the same period, corn prices have fallen by the same percentage, from $7.50 a bushel to under $4 today.

Did the price of corn drop because we used less ethanol? No. To the contrary, since the summer, ethanol production has actually risen nearly 10 percent.

It is now clear it was not ethanol that drove up the price of grain, and therefore the price of food. Rather, it was a result of the same speculative forces that jacked up oil prices. When the bubble created by hedge funds and other speculators popped in the current financial crisis, commodity prices declined.

This is not to say ethanol had no impact at all on food prices. It did. But this impact was marginal in comparison to the other factors at play.

Read the whole thing, for it is good.