Category Archives: energy

I hope they do

Mirfeysal Bagherzadeh calls for Islamic nations to cut oil exports to supporters of Israel.   I hope his call is heeded.  It is truly a great tragedy for the United States that prices of crude oil have fallen so far in the last quarter.  We need to get off imported oil.  It will be very easy for us to do so, but we need the incentive of profit to make it work explosively.  If crude oil is selling for $140 per bbl, conversion is totally a no brainer.  At $40 a bbl, the profit incentive is missing.

Cut us off, you towel head!  You will be doing us the biggest favor of all time.

Smash Putin right in the goolies

Russia is being squeezed hard by the precipitous decline in crude prices. The decadent west won’t heed W’s wisdom: “fool me once, shame on….fool me again….you won’t get fooled again!”

I hope and pray that western oil companies will never again during the reign of Putin or his lackeys invest any significant funds in Russia’s oil fields. It is crystal clear that Russia cannot get its oil to market without the help of western oil companies, and i hope and pray that Putin is about to be forced to contemplate this eternal truth.

Putin’s jackbooted thugs are stealing BP’s stake in their joint venture. I hope BP says “screw ’em.” Even the commies can’t eat crude. How about a law passed by the EU and the US forbidding western participation in Russian energy plays until and unless Russia honors its previous deals with western companies? Plus Putin has to put on a skirt and kiss the arse of a symbolically masculine western leader? Obama will do, Sarkozy is ok, Gordon Brown fails the test.

Plus, Putin has to evacuate his troops from Georgia, not the one north of Florida, the other one.

Shorts are green

The BAOJ has this article which misses the most crucial, topical, essential point: the wearing of shorts is green!

Everyone knows that many women in the workplace are permanently arctic’d out by the rapacious demands of the woolens-clad male workforce for maximum air conditioning. It is very common for a woman to smuggle in an electric space heater to put beneath her desk to keep the polar bears at bay. From an energy standpoint, this is obviously totally insane. Perhaps the women would maintain that this is an evil male conspiracy to produce engorgement of the mammary papilla sheerly for the entertainment value.

I’m sure that a squadron of economists could produce an analysis conclusively proving that the US could completely eliminate imports of foreign oil if there were a Federal Law banning the wearing of long pants on any day when the average temperature is higher than 72 degrees F. Or, at least, if not banning the practice, stipulating that any state which does not enact such a ban will be deprived of its Federal highway funds.

Enrico does his little bit for the environment by attending all business meetings between April and October inclusive wearing shorts, and by adopting a facial expression intended to convey his disdain for anyone who is not appropriately dressed for the subtropical Houston climate, which is characterized by sweltering heat combined cruelly with withering humidity levels, for an environment completely on all fours with that of a sauna. Enrico can’t be certain that the meaning of his facial expression is really getting through, but he does notice the occasional quizzical expression on the visages of his interlocutors.

Everyone knows that the BAOJ does not really print much news or do much true journalism, but you would think that the one area in which their reportage might have some validity would be fashion. Disappointing.

I’m wavering on McCain

I don’t like John McCain. And I want the GOP to be crushed like bugs in November, because I believe that total devastation is the only hope for the party to reform itself and repudiate the thieves and scumbags who are the current GOP incumbents in Congress.

However! We have a serious, possibly fatal energy problem. McCain is saying some sensible things about this, as here and in this video, in which he says he wants to lift the ban on offshore drilling.

And, total mad props to McCain for his line, in response to ratsocrat charges that McCain will be a third Bush term, that Obama will be a second term for Jimmy Carter. I laughed my ass off.

I wish Obama would call McCain’s nuke plant proposal and raise him 200 plants, and also say that 2030 is waaay waaay too late.

The decade of the electric car

Enrico believes that 2010 – 2020 will be the decade of the electric car.  The economics of powering mass market transportation with electrics are totally a no brainer.  At current retail prices for power, 200 miles or so of driving costs about $3, versus around 10x for gasoline for the same range, and that’s if you have a rather abstemious vehicle.

I guess everyone knows by now that, if you have looked at the US car market in 1910, you would have concluded that electrics were going to dominate the market.  Even then, with the primitive batteries available at the time, electrics had a big edge in reliability, and cost.

I understand there’s a kind of conspiracy theory which maintains that an assortment of malefactors in the American corporate pantheon got together to kill the electric car.  Enrico has not yet evaluated these claims, but he does not dismiss them as mere fantasy. 

Enrico went to a conference in San Diego last year where he got to touch, but not drive, the Tesla, the all electric sports car powered by thousands of lithium ion batteries, not very dissimilar to what you’d find in your laptop, with blinding speed and acceleration (allegedly).  He actually got to drive a Phoenix Sports Utility Truck, an all electric powered by Altairnano’s lithium titanate battery.  The Phoenix was a no-compromises traditional mass market vehicle, with great acceleration, great power, all the typical accoutrements.  These cars are no jumped up golf carts. Enrico has put his name on the reservation list to buy a Phoenix. He’d like to buy a Tesla, too, but Elon is apparently only selling them to football players and movie stars right now.

The price of oil and advances in battery technology conspire to make electric cars on the mass market well-nigh inevitable, in Enrico’s view.  Here’s a link to a listing of about 40 enterprises and ventures which are working on electric vehicles.

There is, unfortunately, a rather nasty worm lurking in this apple:  our power grid is by no means capable of coping with any significant use of electric vehicles in the mass market.   A car that can go 200-300 miles on a charge needs about 35 kWh.  That’s a lot of power, and believe it or not, there are several competing battery technologies which are the basis of some of these ventures which will permit the car to suck down this much power in 10 to 15 minutes.  Well, there’s just no way in hell our current grid can cope with millions of cars demanding that much power in a ten minute span.

Some of the ventures are bundling in approaches to recharging to side-step this problem.  They typically involve some form of distributed power generation or power storage at recharging stations.  This is workable, but this problem is inevitably going to slow down what would otherwise be a juggernaut.

Enrico plans to view this film soon. He is looking for ways to profit from this development. It is tricky, though, with so many entrants, to think how to bet.  Gold rush strategy?  Portfolio approach?  Fast Followers?  Capital Hill?  Looky-loo with a bundle of joy?  The biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever?  Enrico is mixing his metaphors.

Genetic Engineering to make fuel

Craig Venter gave a talk recently at the TED conference on his work on digitally engineering life. He’s working on engineering an organism which converts CO2 into an ethanol-like fuel.

Venter is a genius. He’s the man behind Celera and Human Genome Sciences. Back in the 90s, there was a huge government-backed program to map the human genome. The official government position was that this a difficult, expensive project, and that it would probably take a decade or so to complete, all the while consuming the efforts of thousands of scientists. Venter believed that the project could be done much more rapidly and less expensively, using whole genome shotgun sequencing, a riskier approach involving blasting the human DNA into tiny bits and attacking the analysis on a massively parallel basis. The government program said his approach was bullshit, and there was a falling out. Venter went off on his own, raised capital, and completed the analysis in about 2 years and at a fraction of the cost of the government program.

The science Venter describes is astounding, powerful beyond my imagination. Making fuel will certainly turn out to be the least interesting application.

But making fuel for humanity is a very significant scale challenge. The scale of production needed to produce meaningful quantities of fuel is hard to conceive. The world produces (and essentially consumes) about 80 million barrels of oil per day. On an annual basis, this is enough oil to cover the state of Massachussetts 1.5 feet deep in crude oil.

The corn ethanol program is insane, nearly criminal. Making ethanol uses more energy than is contained in the ethanol. The only reason there is ethanol being made from corn is that the government subsidizes it to a scandalous level.

Not all ethanol is bad in this way. Brazil derives more than half of its fuel for transport from ethanol, but the ethanol is produced from other feedstocks, in a process which is energy profitable. But it is virtually impossible for even the most efficient, most feedstock-versatile ethanol fermentation process to ever make a significant dent in the world’s demand for liquid fuels. We just cannot afford to dedicate the arable land we have to making fuel at the scale the world needs.

I think Venter’s science may still be 10 years away from a place where it can be used to make fuels at commercial scale. But there are other companies exploring similar, though not as amibitious, genetic engineering approaches which have the potential to hugely increase the efficiency of the conversion of feedstocks into fuels. LS9 and Amyris are two of the most promising, well-funded companies, both based in Silicon Valley.

This is an area well worth watching. We are on the verge of a revolution in genetic engineering that will surpass the industrial revolution in its impact on humanity.

We have to get off imported oil

It is at the point now where our dependence on imported oil is a national security issue. I am the last one to seek to expand the role of the federal government in the economy, but the nation’s security is one of the few legitimate jobs of the federal government. The fedgov is blowing it BIG TIME, and the failure is totally bipartisan.

About a third of our nation’s consumption of oil is for transportation, for gasoline and for diesel. We import more than half of our daily diet of oil. The burning of oil products for transportation is far and away the stupidest use of oil, and the use most easily replaced.

Ok, that’s pretty simple, and even Fellatio Girl ought to be able to draw the appropriate conclusions: We need to find some other way to power our transport, and we need to produce more oil domestically.

On the first point, the technology exists TODAY to completely eliminate the use of oil products for ground transport, by substituting electric power. Yes, yes, I know, there are a lot of rollout issues and infrastructure issues, but there is really no technology barrier. The fedgov should make its its business to make this happen ASAP. Fer cryin’ out loud, the fedgov built the highway system for a much more remote, and less urgent national security reason. This problem, by comparison, is totally a no brainer. There is no reason for this project to take more than ten years. It barely needs stating that a critical element in this plan has to be a dramatic nuclear power plant building project. The burning of natural gas and coal for electric power is totally insane, and must stop. Oh, and DID YOU KNOW that there are still places in the United States where oil is burned for electric power? Really, we need to wake up, and cut out this nonsense.

My regular readers will know that I do not accept the anthropogenic global warming scenario, but there is no meaningful doubt that the human race’s massive emissions of CO2 are going to cause a host of other highly unsavory problems. And do we really want to breathe coal soot?

On the second point, the ocean floors off our coast are loaded with oil. Drilling along most of our coast is not permitted. We have to choose, folks, between two unattractive alternatives. If you think preserving our coasts is preferable to being held hostage by oil-rich ragheads and other despots, you are an idiot. If you think this is a false dilemma, ok, I respect that, but I disagree.

With a moderately energetic program, we can replace all the oil we import from the middle east with electric power within five years. Now, anyone who understands the oil markets will immediately realize that there is essentially no meaningfully beneficial way for the United States to avoid buying middle eastern oil as long we are importing some oil, but there is also no doubt that a reduction in our demand will be a very very good thing for a host of reasons.

Our current dire economic situation is significantly engendered by the highly unfavorable trade imbalance, which is in turn significantly a result of our addiction to imported oil. At the same time, at the height of irony, we are funding the war that is being waged against us by radical islamists. We’ve got to cut this out, folks!

The failure of our energy policy has been bipartisan. It is really not a partisan issue. Our survival is at stake. No matter what candidate you support for president, please, please, please, badger them, pester them, hold him or her accountable for facing up to this problem. As George Bush has demonstrated, as Franklin Roosevelt showed, as Lincoln proved, the president has awesome powers to do amazingly illegal things in the name of national security. Insist that our president get on this problem!