mm499: Blast from the Past! No. 53 – Fuel without oil, or corn

September 19, 2008
© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So it’s been pretty tough this week, as Faithful Reader might imagine, and we’re dipping our toes gingerly back into the blogging sea tonight.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, originally posted November 13, 2007, and with a woman vice presidential candidate, more germane than ever, titled “mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn.”

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been an ongoing theme (here, here and here) at Left-Handed Complement: the pandering, wrong-headed concentration on corn derived ethanol as the U.S. main alternative to Saudi (and Nigerian, Gulf of Mexico and North Slope) petroleum to fuel our transportation system.

This past weekend, the NYTimes featured a fascinating look at non-corn alternatives to powering our SUVs.

biomassethanol

For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.

Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs, including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.

The conceptual problem with ethanol from corn has always rested in the strong suspicion that the energy required to process corn to burn in one’s automobile exceeds the yield of energy so created.

Ethanol from corn is a political hot button, especially for all of the presidential campaigners prostrating themselves before Iowa’s farmers — isn’t it high time to divest this country from its inappropriate emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process?

You don’t see Georgia influencing election trends, and yet:

In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fuel Without the Fossil – New York Times

Obviously, there are some very bright people working hard at solutions, made increasingly economically attractive as the baseline of comparison to petroleum-based fuels persists in climbing inexorably toward $4/gallon.

And, corn-based or not, it looks like ethanol is going to be the end result of all of this chemical creativity, since it’s ethanol that has the Congressionally mandated tax credit.

MUDGE used to believe that the fuel cell guys had the answer, but what with the way the real world works, I can’t see corner hydrogen pumps popping up in many neighborhoods in my lifetime. So chemically derived ethanol will have to do.

Good to see U.S. innovation persists. Like the current IBM advertisements proclaim, it’s easy to say, and so very much more difficult to actually do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm444: End the madness – we need Cuba now!

July 19, 2008

dreamstime_2051374

© Robert Paul Van Beets | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

If biofuels make any sense at all, and the jury is still out on that one outside the White House, and the state of Iowa, ethanol made from sugar cane rather than from corn has already been shown to be far the better choice.

First, a review. We have discussed this topic many times:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation
mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm360: Global food price crisis: Genocide?
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

A prime source of sugar cane, that, if developed, would become the third largest source of ethanol after the U.S. and Brazil, is a mere 90 miles from our shores, in Cuba.

One of the last vestiges of the long since over 50-year Cold War is the United States’ odd non-relationship with the nation of Cuba.

salon

One more good reason to lift the embargo on Cuba

Let’s seize the potential of the nation’s sugar-based ethanol — before China beats us to it.

By Joe Conason

July 18, 2008 | Listening to the mouthpieces of the oil industry on talk radio and cable television — as well as in the Bush White House — one gets the impression that we must start drilling in America’s coastal waters immediately. If only we unleash the oilmen to explore and exploit, then the price of gasoline will start to fall, the scheming petroleum cartel will collapse, and the United States will be independent once again. And if we don’t unleash the oilmen, then the Chinese communists will siphon off all the oil from the coast of Cuba before we can even launch a rowboat into the Caribbean.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation

July 4, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

As food prices rise around the world, evidence that the biofuels initiatives are the cause keeps becoming clearer. As the entire issue of petroleum alternatives has become most pressing, the relationship between the diversion of food stocks to fuel stocks has been guessed at, but there have been few firm numbers of the impact.

Today The Guardian seems to have found the smoking gun.

First, a review. We have discussed this topic many times:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm360: Global food price crisis: Genocide?
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

guardian

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive

Aditya Chakrabortty | The Guardian, Friday July 4, 2008

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm401: Here’s one cure for blistering gas prices

June 5, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We have written appreciatively on the topic of working from home (most colorfully, courtesy Stanley Bing, here; more philosophically, here).

Telecommuting is a fancier term. Telework is the jargon chosen by Stephen Barr of the Washington Post, reporting on a bill working its way through Congress to permit federal employees to do so.

washingtonpost

Telework Bill Cleared by the House

Federal Diary | By Stephen Barr |Wednesday, June 4, 2008; Page D03

A bill that would permit many federal employees to telecommute at least two days every two weeks was approved by the House yesterday on a voice vote.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be required to create and implement policies to enable eligible employees to work from home or away from their regular office as long as telecommuting did not hamper their performance or interfere with agency operations.

Telework advocates and union officials have been pushing for expanded telecommuting programs in the government for two years, and the House action enhances the chances of Congress sending a bill to the president this year.

Similar legislation has been approved by a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, but a committee report has not been released, a step needed before the bill can come to the Senate floor. There are some differences between the House and Senate bills that will have to be resolved, but a compromise is likely because the concept of expanded telecommuting in the government has drawn substantial bipartisan support.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime

May 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The more you know about ethanol as a petroleum substitute, the more there is to dislike. This has been a continuing story in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, as you can see:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

We have spent some time in this space on the subject of water, and its scarcity.

Water, water, anywhere?

mm317: Water, the theme — part two
mm269: Water: Accept no substitutes!
mm253: Water: casus belli for a new civil war
mm206: It’s 10:30pm — Where’s your water been?
mm101: Technology / Water — It’s a theme!

Now, the two concepts: the wrong-headed use for fuel of a key foodstuff; and the menace of the growing shortage of water in the U.S; come together courtesy of a new member of Left-Handed Complement‘s blogroll, fellow WordPress.com blog Optimal Functioning.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm316: Blast from the past No. 3

March 15, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our very earliest days, originally posted May 24, 2007.

mm015: Welcomed back to the guild

So, it just keeps getting better…

While the webtronic world I spend much time in swoops along, I can’t help but touch base in the real world occasionally — okay, every day. Today, for example, for the first time perhaps ever in a passenger car, I paid $54 to fill up my tank with 87 octane. Ouch.

I guess I’m kind of shocked and annoyed that gasoline prices climbing toward $4/gallon haven’t created much of an outcry as yet. Maybe I should start outcrying. And while the rest of the world is smirking knowingly, and the rest of the U.S. is breathing with relief that they don’t share my northern Illinois local conditions (summer blend regulations, a key nearby refinery off-line due to a March fire), I have to feel we’ve all not seen the worst. And why so little concern?

Read the rest of this entry »


mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…

February 11, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Automotive breakthroughs – Truth, or Myth?

  • Carburetors that get you 100 miles to the gallon.
  • Gasoline engines that can be converted to run on water.

Myth, of course. Anyone trying to sell you stock in the latter, which seems to surface every few years, should be reported to the SEC.

Okay, those were easy ones. These next two are more difficult.

  • Hybrid vehicles are good for the environment.
  • Biofuels can cleanly end our dependence on petroleum.

Sorry, myths, both.

Read the rest of this entry »