February 2, 2006

California's Experts Seek More Aggressive Ethanol Policies

What we can imagine can be realized. It may not be manifest in a way we expect, but the final outcome and its impact might greatly exceed our expectations. We need to shoot higher and allow investors and developers latitude and support to solve the technological problems. Look at the photo (reputed to be from Popular Mechanics magazine in 1954 but actually a hoax photo concocted in 2004) and read the caption below.

"Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a "home computer" could look like in the year 2004. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use."

I think President Bush woefully underestimated the impact and rate of change of a paradigm shift from a petroleum-based energy economy to one based on cellulosic ethanol converted from waste. Furthermore, conversion technologies are not "untested" - they are real, many have been in use in Japan and Germany for years, and they have undergone stringent emissions testing - meeting all environmental regulations by a significant amount.

The thrust of an article published in the San Diego Union Tribune 2/02/06 indicates that experts agree. Some excerpts...


Untested way to make ethanol is hot topic
Technology cited in State of Union
By Craig D. Rose, STAFF WRITER
February 2, 2006

Each year, President Bush has used his State of the Union address to warn of America's dependence on foreign oil. This year, he added a wrinkle to the warning: a goal of cutting oil imports from the Middle East by 75 percent over the next two decades... ...Bush raised the prospect of producing ethanol from waste material, which holds the potential for making it cost effective and reduce its environmental impact. Supporters say the president's goal is within reach.

“He said that in six years we want to have competitively priced ethanol from cellulose (waste plant material),” said Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a bipartisan public policy group. “What that involves is moving from small scale pilot projects to full scale commercial facilities. I might be a little more aggressive. Ethanol can make a large difference in the shorter term.”

Environmentalists see big benefits to producing ethanol from waste material compared with grains such as corn. “With this new technology, resources to produce ethanol would be much more widely available,” said Daniel Lashof, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Lashof noted that producing cellulosic ethanol – the industry term for the fuel made from waste material – does not require fertilizer and other petroleum products.

The scientist estimated that while grain-based ethanol produces 15 percent to 30 percent less carbon dioxide in its production and use cycle compared with gasoline, cellulosic ethanol produces at least 80 percent less of the gas, which nearly all climate experts believe is a prime contributor to global warming.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, noted that the United States already has about 5 million vehicles on the road that are capable of running on mixtures of ethanol and gasoline.

“The big limiting factor has been the availability of fuel,” Cole said. Cole added that the auto industry is increasingly supportive of using ethanol, given that it costs $200 or less to equip a vehicle with the technology to run on ethanol blends. And that technology is in hand, as opposed to the goal of developing hydrogen-fueled cars, a goal set earlier by Bush...

Last year, U.S. manufacturers produced about 4 billion gallons of ethanol or less than 3 percent of all motor fuels.

Neil Koehler, chief executive of Fresno-based Pacific Ethanol, said that the U.S. energy act passed last year sets a production target of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012, which would be about 5 percent of the nation's fuel supply. He said gas-powered vehicles are capable of running on a blend of up to 10 percent ethanol without modification...

He noted that even the big oil companies have become more supportive of ethanol as gasoline prices have risen... with soaring oil prices and strained refinery capacity, Koehler said oil companies are seeing ethanol producers as an additional source of supply.

Bush's targets for reducing oil imports from the Middle East, meanwhile, would not mean an overall reduction in U.S. petroleum use, which environmentalists say is essential. Reducing Middle East oil imports by 75 percent would shave about 4 million barrels from the 26 million barrels daily the United States is expected to consume in 2025. Current U.S. consumption is about 21 million barrels daily. If America succeeds in reaching Bush's target, the nation wouldn't be cutting oil consumption but instead slowing its increase in oil consumption to 5 percent over the next two decades.

Ethanol, meanwhile, has found its widest use in Brazil, which adopted programs to encourage its use after oil shocks in the 1970s. In Brazil, ethanol is produced from sugar cane... ...Ethanol constitutes about 40 percent of the motor fuel burned in Brazil, Ferreira he said, and most new vehicles in the country are capable of running on flexible fuels.

1 comment:

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