Posts Tagged ‘biofuels’

Obama got a little jab in at Romney in a speech in Iowa:

Noting that the Republican candidate has criticized wind energy, saying a windmill can’t be put on top of a car to power it, Obama had a zinger.

“I don’t know if he’s actually tried that,” Obama said. “I know he’s had other things on his car.”

I’m not going to comment on the Seamus thing because I think it’s dumb, but I am going to defend Romney here because he’s right. He’s making a distinction that most people seem to forget when they’re talking about alternative energy sources, the difference between electricity and liquid transportation fuels. I hear this mistake constantly from folks on the left, and it annoys me to no end. Energy sources such as wind and solar generate electricity, which you can’t use to drive around in your car unless you own an electric car, which most folks do not. And so we need to distinguish between alternative electricity sources and alternative liquid fuel sources (biodiesel or ethanol, for example). Those two can be used to drive around in your car.

So when you hear people say things like “we shouldn’t do biodiesel / ethanol because we should do wind / solar instead”, they’re comparing two things that shouldn’t be compared. That is not a criticism of wind energy because we need electricity too. It’s just an important distinction to make. We need both electricity and liquid fuels, but when we talk about alternative energy everyone seems to think that their favorite source should be done at the expense of all others, ignoring the important distinction. We can and should do both.


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Robert Rapier passes along a bar napkin calculation showing that 1000 acres of miscanthus (a plant you can make ethanol from) production would fill 55 seconds of US oil demand.

I don’t feel like checking RRs numbers right now, I just want to pass along a note of caution about numbers like these. I can use this kind of calculation to make any liquid fuel technology look bad, because US oil consumption is just too high. And no single tech, not cellulosic ethanol, grain ethanol, butanol, biodiesel, or anything else will single handedly replace oil.

RR is right to carefully scrutinize producers claims, because there is a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of promises have been made and broken, and that harms the biofuels industry on the whole.

But these kinds of numbers, while good to provide perspective on the scale of our problem, can themselves be misleading. So keep that long lost shaker of salt handy.

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Biofuels Digest emailed this out this morning. It’s a good point:

Thought of the Day

“Isn’t it a little strange, that a company which monetizes the social habits of teenage girls (Hello Facebook!), is more valuable than the future of food, materials and energy?

“Without exaggeration almost everything we touch, wear, eat, drive, etc. depends on chemicals and fuels. Yet, right now the market capitalization of the entire publicly traded sector for renewable fuels and chemicals is down sharply to ~$2.5B (not including corporate subsidiaries, ethanol, sugar, etc.).

“Facebook of course is expected to price soon around ~$100B. That’s not quite in the league of ExxonMobil, but it’s close to BP, and right there with the combined value of Dow Chemical ($39B),DuPont ($48B) and Archer Daniels Midland ($22B).

“Does this make any sense? If Facebook disappeared tomorrow the world would go on. If petroleum disappeared tomorrow would there even be an economy?”

Sam Nejame, Promotum.com

Interesting, though, that when talking about renewable fuels, Sam excludes ethanol, the most widely produced and used renewable fuel in the US and globally by a very wide margin.

At any rate, I continue to believe that Facebook is massively over-valued. That isn’t to say it’s a bad company, but $100B?

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