Friday, May 23, 2008


Although not directly pertaining to ethanol, this post pertains to a recent study by the EIA. But, then again, what doesn't pertain to ethanol these days in one way or another. The EIA (Energy Information Administration), which are the same guys that come around every two weeks to tell us how much gasoline and diesel the US has so that prices can swing up or down, completed an up-to-date study using computer modeling to plot the maximum amount of oil that could potentially be recovered by drilling in ANWR (the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge). Their findings show that the oil production would peak in the year 2027 and would peak at roughly 780,000 barrels of oil per day. Although this is just a computer estimate, the EIA knows what they are talking about and 780,000 barrels per day is not a lot of oil. To put it into perspective, the EIA predicts that 780,000 bpd would lower the price of a barrel of oil by $0.75. That is 75 cents off of a $135 barrel of oil! And for even more perspective, Saudi Arabia agreed to increase their oil output by 300,000 barrels per day after President Bush's latest visit to the region and that hardly decreased the price of oil.
My point is that I firmly believe that if we needed to we could drill in the ANWR without harming any of the habitats or animals. I think a better argument against drilling there is that it probably won't affect our situation greatly and would be depleting a resource that, if anything, the United States should try to retain in terms of domestic proved oil reserves. Just my two cents on a pretty complex and contentious issue.

For more on the original study:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chemically Derived Transport Fuels

With oil and gas prices rising even higher today there is no doubt that synthetic fuels are begged for if not required. This, of course, includes biofuels because if you think about it, all fuels are 'biofuels' the only difference is whether or not they are renewable or sustainable. Interesting news in the past week indicates even more work has accomplished positive results in the field of chemically derived transportation fuels. Researchers at the Biofuels Center of North Carolina have indicated that their 'centia' process allows the conversion of any lipid-like material (fats) to be converted into the three most sought after transport fuels, (jet fuel, gasoline, and diesel). This technology, while new, is not the first to be able to accomplish this feat. However, it is encouraging since they are able to take a relatively abundant resource (fats) and convert them into a 'drop-in' substitute for the fuels listed above.
Before jumping for joy in the hopes that this is a solution to our energy problems in the near term, here are a few things to pour cold water over your head. First off, even though they were able to prove that the process works, the next step is to generate these fuels on "a few gallon level." (Their words). A few gallons is hardly enough to make a splash in today's society. Also, the process requires high-heat and it remains to be seen whether this process is environmentally or commercially competitive, even at these high prices. The bottom line is that it is a start and it is refreshing to see that several different avenues to the same goal are being investigated. For what it is worth, I believe strongly in biological catalysts holding the key to converting renewables into gasoline substitutes. This is because even though chemical catalysts are easier to produce and mold to the researcher's exact specifications, they tend to cost much more and foul much more easily than a biological method.

If you want to read more about the process, here is a link:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Secretary of Ag lifts vail from Anti-Ethanol Movement

The US Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer gave his two cents today about the recent backlash against corn-based ethanol. The secretary released evidence of a concerted effort by food-manufacturers to discredit ethanol in the arena of public opinion and to lobby Congress to repeal to recently passed ethanol mandate. Schafer released documents outlining how the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which governs such food giants as Coca-Cola and General Mills, hired a public relations firm to work behind the scenes to increase public perception that ethanol is a bad product in terms of food.
This by itself is disturbing but not wrong given that special interest groups lobby Congress for all sorts of reasons, including groups linked to ethanol. The problem is when these groups use false or misleading data to try and sway public opinion. Scott Openshaw was interviewed for the original story in the Des Moines Register. Openshaw is a representative for the Grocery Manufacturers and admitted that even though food price increases aren't wholly related to ethanol, it is the only part of the equation that Congress can do anything about.
This is a problem because they are using unfounded facts to scare the public into believing that corn can only go to EITHER food or fuel and not both. Interestingly, Edward Lazear, the White House's chief economic adviser told a Senate committee last week that even though world food prices have increased 43% in one year, the increase in cost due to ethanol only accounts for 3%. Given all of ethanol's other benefits, including keeping more American dollars here in the US and improving the income generated for the farm economy, I would say that special interest groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other groups that would remain in the dark to sway public opinion should be exposed for the liars that they are.
I'm just glad that we are finally starting to see public officials point out that the recent move against ethanol isn't coincidence at all.

For the original DM Register article, follow the link below: