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U.S. Biofuel Boom Running on Empty

As nations around the world begin to plan for Copenhagen to discuss the next generation Kyoto treaty, it is increasingly obvious that they will be ineffective.

Chief among the reasons for this ineffectiveness is that with the price of oil at its current state, it is simply not cost effective to use alternative fuels that will dump less CO2 into the atmosphere. The oil producing nations are probably not maintaining crude at this level to doom the planet to disaster, they are simply smart business people that are providing their “drugs” to the “addicts” at a price and in a way that will insure that no one can ever move off.

Ethanol’s Grocery Bill

Very good article in today’s Wall Street Journal regarding the use of ethanol and how it costs a great deal to add it to our liquid fuel supply.  The article points out that depending on the technique used to create ethanol, it adds 5%-34% more greenhouse gas to the environment than pure petroleum.

There is also a case to be made that there is pressure put on food prices due to ethanol production as well.

I am not totally against using ethanol as an additive. I think there is some advantage to keeping the market alive and viable to spur development of new techniques of creating the liquid and new crop energy sources other than corn.

Everyone Hates Ethanol

The use of biological processes to create energy for our cars is very suspect.  The current sources of ethanol compete with our food supply which only drives up the price of food which is an extreme burden on the ultra-poor.

While there is a lot of research on alternative sources of ethanol that would not compete with food, this research has yet to make it to development.  The Wall Street Journal put out a good article discussing this a few weeks ago so I thought I would share the highlights.  Click through here to read the entire article.

Heat2Power

There are a variety of techniques and tools that allow an internal combustion engine to capture more of its energy and direct it to moving your car down the road as opposed to sending that energy out of your exhaust. Most of these tools are difficult to use and maintain. They simply are not ready for primetime. However, with the virtual collapse of the automotive manufacturers in the US, it is not likely they are going to be increasing their R&D on getting more performance out of the engines that they make. It is an unfortunate reality that cars are sold on other things than their efficiencies.

Is a gas car better than a coal car?

There has been a bit of discussion that a plug in hybrid car is really a coal car. I believe that this true statement is meant to actually scare consumers from buying or hoping to buy an all-electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid.

Let’s do a bit of napkin math and assume that energy transmission losses (and other losses) are negligible or at least cancel each other out.

Can I sell you a hybrid?

BloggingStocks – January 3, 2009

So once again Americans prove to be a fickle lot.  We just came through a period of record oil prices and now we are enjoying liquid fuel at a price point that is probably as low (adjusted for inflation) as it was in the 70s before the first big oil rush.  Our car companies are in trouble because of lack of money for loans and the general lack of consumer interest in buying cars.  One of the chief complaints about the Big 3 is that they didn’t build fuel efficient cars but instead concentrated on gas guzzlers like SUVs and trucks.  The pundits are all saying they should build hybrids and that would save them.

Cyclone’s Waste Heat Motor

Engadget – June 4, 2008

Cyclone Power Technologies is actively talking about their motor that can gather energy from waste heat. It can also grab energy from non-waste heat and use it to create electricity or propel a vehicle. It is another tool in the arsenal to increase the efficiency and flexibility of our power generation. More effort like this needs to be made available to really reduce our reliance on foreign oil and to reduce our emissions.

Engadget had a video of the motor on their site which I have reproduced below. But first, let’s look at how this think works.

According to the company website:

Should we all set up our own stills?

Popular Mechanics – May 8, 2008

Saw this article on Popular Mechanics.  It really isn’t that hard to set up your own still to create ethanol to burn in your flex fuel vehicle.  This Micro Fueler looks good but your housing association may have something to say about setting up a fueling station in your side yard!

While this isn’t going to make a huge dent in our development of CO2, it is an interesting idea to explore.  Perhaps the best way to reduce foreign oil dependence and cut back on CO2 pollution is to make everything smaller and closer to home.

Gore Delivers Remarks on Energy and the Climate

Washington Post – July 17, 2008

Mr. Al Gore recently gave a speech in Washington DC regarding energy.  While many in the blogosphere will call Mr. Gore “Pope Gore” and refer to environmentalists as a religion, in this case, I don’t think that Mr. Gore makes many of the outlandish comments which I have chastised him about. Most of his comments are regarding energy independence, the status of the technology of alternative fuels, and the balance of power.

He does make a few global warming references which are a little hard to defend. He implies that the fires in California are caused by manmade global warming – this is probably not true since California has been enjoying an unusually wet climate for several decades and it appears that this current drought is simply going back to status quo.

Saving Gas – 11 tips that might help – Part 3 of 3

Your driving habits really affect your gas mileage. While I am not condoning the extreme hypermiling techniques, we can all learn a bit in doing a better job. Read this extremist article but be careful going overboard. This is the third and final entry of this Saving Gas series.

Earlier in this Saving Gas series I wrote that price of crude compared to the price of gold has been pretty steady state. It still hurts when we get a market correction and it affects your budget. This article has 11 tips that might just help a little bit!