Sunday, October 30, 2005

Oil alternatives gaining traction

With the price of oil high, that makes the alternative technologies economically feasible. Perhaps it's unfortunate, but one of the things keeping alternative energy technologies out of the mainstream is raw cost economics. But this is shortsighted, in my opinion, because turning the alternative technologies into actual practice takes a lot of R&D, and when the oil crunch hits there won't be time to do that R&D.

But with the price of oil high, as it is now, the alternatives are getting more attention. Perhaps one of them will catch on this time?

Both Promise and Problems for New Tigers in Your Tank (BY MATTHEW L. WALD, Published: October 26, 2005, NYTIMES.COM)

This article is an overview of some alternatives that can be a direct replacement to liquid fuels such as the fossil based gasoline and diesel we use today.

The first example is Iogen Corporation, and their process for converting basically any vegetable matter to ethanol. They call this cellulose ethanol and part of their process uses an enzyme, derived from Trichoderma reesei, a fungus that company officials say was discovered by American soldiers on Guam in World War II, and which induces rot. They're able to use agricultural "waste" that would otherwise be burned, and turn it into ethanol.

The ethanol can then be blended into oil based fuels, or burned directly. It's very compatible with the existing liquid fuel delivery systems. Ethanol is already widely used by the oil industry, and Iogen's cellulose ethanol is completely compatible.

Next up is Rentech Inc. ( and their gas-to-liquids technology based on the Fischer-Tropsch developed in the 1920's and 1930's by Germany. It's able to take either natural gas or coal, and make a liquid fuel for it. The main demonstration of its usability was the German war engine in WWII that used this technology to create the oil used to fuel their tanks and other war machines.

For example natural gas is often discarded (burned) by oil companies because they have no feasible way to ship it. But with a gas-to-liquids technology this waste can become product.

Also discussed is Syntroleum with a different technology for making liquid fuel out of natural gas.


Bovine tallow to make biodiesel

World’s first tallow-biodiesel plant in Brazil

The largest world factory converting bovine tallow into biodiesel will begin production next June in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said Wednesday Dedini industries, one of the main equipment suppliers.

The 18 million US dollars plant which is being built by the Bertin Group, one of Brazil’s leading cattle farmers in the beef industry is expected to produce 100.000 tons of biodiesel annually made out of approximately the same volume of tallow.

“The input cost is 30% lower than soybeans


Friday, October 28, 2005

New biodiesel plant in India

"[The Telegraph, Calcutta] The state-run Orissa Renewable Energy Development Agency (Oreda) is producing the bio-fuel. Around 37 vehicles of the science and technology department are being run on bio-diesel, which is prepared from crude vegetable oil and different types of seeds. Chief executive of Oreda Ajit Bhartuar said a plant has been installed in Bhubaneswar for the production of bio-diesel. At present, it has the capacity to produce 1,000 liters of bio-diesel per day. Fuel is being produced from over 30 types of vegetables and locally available flowers and fruits, including kusum and polanga."


Thursday, October 27, 2005

New laws in California support clean energy resources





Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Bills to Encourage Alternative Fuels, Protect Environment

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that he has signed legislation that will encourage the use of alternative fuels and reduce California's reliance on foreign oil. He also signed legislation to increase energy efficiency, aimed at protecting California's environment.

"Californians have always led the way in protecting our lands and oceans and pioneering new forms of energy use that reduce our reliance on foreign fuels. Today, we are continuing that proud legacy with new legislation that will decrease our dependence on foreign oil and encourage the use of cleaner burning domestic fuels," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "We also must be more efficient in our current energy usage to better protect our environment. These bills will help California ensure reliable, cleaner and more cost-effective energy - and a cleaner environment."

Governor Schwarzenegger has signed the following legislation:

SB 975 by Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) - Air quality: biodiesel fuel.

  • SB 975 encourages the use of biodiesel, a domestically produced alternative fuel that burns cleaner than conventional fuels and is often derived from waste products, potentially reducing our reliance on foreign oil and increasing available supplies. This bill permits public agencies and utilities to use biodiesel fuel in retrofitted vehicles and off-road diesel engines, encouraging adoption of the fuel.

SB 1037 by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) - Energy efficiency.

  • SB 1037 requires electrical and natural gas corporations to meet their unmet energy needs through all available energy efficiency and demand reduction resources before acquiring energy through other sources. The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), in consultation with the California Energy Commission (CEC), is required to identify efficiency savings and establish efficiency targets.

AB 380 by Assemblymember Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) - Electricity: electrical restructuring: resource adequacy.

  • AB 380 requires the PUC, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), to establish resource adequacy requirements for most load serving entities.

AB 515 by Assemblymember Keith Richman (R-Northridge) - State Water Project: solar photovoltaic panels and systems.

  • AB 515 will allow private entities to lease space for solar photovoltaic panels above or adjacent to the State Water Project. The bill requires the Department of Water Resources to evaluate and approve proposals for solar panels and related systems and receive reimbursement for any costs.

AB 728 by Assemblymember Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) - Electricity: biogas digester customer-generators: net metering.

  • AB 728 expands and extends the existing biogas pilot metering program. By extending the program, biogas-to-energy generators will be encouraged to move towards lower emitting technologies and build more cost-effective facilities. This critical technology converts waste products into energy.

AB 736 by Assemblymember Jerome E. Horton (D-Inglewood) - Public utilities: regulation.

  • AB 736 will streamline the ability of utilities to sell, lease or transfer property of low value. This bill modifies PUC processes to allow for transactions of property valued at less than $5 million to move through an accelerated review and also sets up safeguards to ensure the PUC maintains discretion to conduct a more formal review if necessary.

AB 1007 by Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) - Air quality: alternative fuels.

  • AB 1007 requires the development and adoption of a state plan to increase the use of alternative transportation fuels by 2007. The Energy Commission and Air Resources Board will work to develop the recommendations in consultation with other agencies. This effort will establish a roadmap to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

AB 1182 by Assemblymember Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) - Public Utilities Commission: work plan access guide.

  • AB 1182 requires the PUC to make its annual work plan available on its website and also determine the feasibility of submitting advice letters electronically.

AB 1348 by Assemblymember Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) - Antelope Valley Fairgrounds EE and PV Synergy Demonstration Project.

  • AB 1348 authorizes a large photovoltaic solar energy system at Antelope County Fairgrounds. The project will generate clean solar power while reducing demand on the energy grid, especially during times of peak demand.

AB 1576 by Assemblymember Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) - Electrical corporations: rates: repowering projects.

  • AB 1576 will encourage the generation of cleaner, more efficient energy while also supporting the continued operation of previously existing generating facilities. This bill authorizes investor-owned utilities to enter into long-term contracts for the energy generated by repowered generation facilities.

Governor Schwarzenegger has taken many steps to improve energy efficiency and help clean the environment in California. The Governor set the nation's boldest green house gas emissions reduction targets and permanently funded the Carl Moyer Air Quality Program to reduce emissions. He has also signed legislation implementing a program permitting hybrid vehicles to drive in HOV and carpool lanes, accelerated California's renewable portfolio standard to receive 20 percent renewable power by 2010 instead of by 2017, and issued an executive order calling for "Green Buildings," an effort to increase the energy efficiency of state buildings by 20 percent by 2015.

The Governor has put forward a broad based energy plan to assure that California has a clean, affordable, available and reliable energy supply. Recently, the Governor detailed this comprehensive energy policy in a letter to the California Legislature dated August 23, 2005. With respect to resource adequacy, the PUC approved in October of 2004 the resource adequacy requirement, another central element of the Governor's electricity goals. The resource adequacy requirement directs utilities to identify and contract for adequate power supplies to meet demand, plus a 15 percent reserve margin. At the Governor's direction, the PUC moved up the implementation of this requirement to 2006, instead of 2008.


Biodiesel for long haul truckers

Biodiesel Working Its Way into the Nation's Fuel Supply (October 27, 2005 — By ENN)

The American Trucking Association is advocating the use of biodiesel. It seems that biodiesel's cost right now is less than fossildiesel, plus it's a better and cleaner burning fuel.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Kits for making your own biodiesel

Frybrid: Frybrid manufacturers the worlds most sophisticated vegetable oil conversion system for diesel engines. Each and every component of our systems is designed to exceed its system requirements and each exceeds the functionality of our competitor's components. The Frybrid system uses 4 individual heat-exchanging components and is controlled by a microprocessor insuring that vegetable oil below the required temperature is never injected into the vehicles engine. Our system is in fact so revolutionary that we have applied for three patents on various components.

Greasecar: vegetable Fuel Systems allow mechanically injected diesel vehicles to run on straight, filtered vegetable oil. Vegetable oil as fuel is a cleaner, safer and less expensive alternative to petroleum based fuel. It can be locally produced, even grown in your own back yard!

Golden Fuel Systems: offers a series of conversion kits for many sizes of vehicles from small to huge.

Neotric Plant Drive: supply "SVO Kits" accessories, and equipment for the use of Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO), as fuel in MANY TYPES of diesel engines, and have been in business since 2000. We pioneered a number of the major advances in this field, especially in the area of cold climate use, electric heating, better onboard filtration, greatly increased onboard filter life, and used cooking oil applications.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Oil costs fueling US trade deficit

There are many reasons to work to reduce oil dependency. e.g. burning oil produces carcinogenic substances, it releases excess carbon into the atmosphere causing global warming, etc.

But one really stands out in a certain way. The U.S. imports a huge majority of the oil it uses. In effect the U.S. is shoveling money into the Middle East. This makes for an untenable economic situation for the U.S.

Oil costs fuel US trade deficit (Thursday, 13 October 2005, BBC)

The deficit rose 1.8% to $59bn (£33.7bn) in August - its third highest monthly sum - as the US spent a record $17.2bn on buying crude oil supplies.

The deficit is expected to rise more substantially in September as Hurricane Katrina's economic impact is reflected in trade data for the first time.

US oil production hit a 50-year low in September as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit output in the Gulf of Mexico.

Average oil output totalled 4.197 million barrels last month, its lowest level since 1943.

In the current context the cost for crude oil has risen dramatically this year. First $40/barrel, then $50, then $60, and it's touched $70 a few times. What's causing this? After all, the cost of extracting oil hasn't been rising. It's about supply and demand.

First we have the worsening situation in the Middle East. The Iraq War is worsening daily, and there is the threat the war will spill over to other countries. Since it's the Middle East where the oil comes from, if the war were to damage oil deliveries then the supply would shrink. The economic law of supply/demand says the price should go up. But I don't quite understand why the price should go up before this. Maybe there's some hoarding going on? Or maybe some facilities have been shut down because of the war?

Second, there have been several majorly bad storms in oil producing areas. Most especially the hurricanes to hit the Gulf of Mexico. That's the Katrina and Rita mention in the quote above. That's shut down oil production and refining stations in the Gulf region.

But really those two things are just short term blips in a long term trend. In the long term picture oil supplies are getting harder to find, especially in the U.S. as we deplete the oil fields. The supply can do only one thing, become tighter and tighter. This can have only one long term effect, rising prices. But there's another long term effect, what do we do once the oil runs out? Oil takes a multi-million year cycle to replace. With what we've done with oil over the last 150 years, all this carbon has to settle out, become plants and animals, form huge deposits of dead organic matter, sinking into the ground, and with underground pressure and fermentation become another pool of oil that another future civilization can use to fuel their ...?what?...

But for us, if the oil runs out our society will crumble because of oil dependency.

That is, unless we wake up and find alternatives to using oil.