Posts filed under ‘Ethanol’
That’s right, I said it. Peak Oil is a straw man argument.
If you want to understand what I mean, watch this alternate ending to “The Lord Of The Rings”. You will quickly understand.
See what I mean?
What it sums up is that fixing Peak Oil all comes down to the community’s decision to follow a smarter plan, act accordingly, and share collective resources and talents with one another. That is how you win.
Think about it this way. The “Lord of The Rings” movie everyone has collectively seen presents a story the way it was written. Everyone leaves the theatre thinking that was the way the story had to be. But Ho Ho! If J.R. Tolkien had written “The Fellowship Of The Ring” to actually follow the course in the alternate ending, people would have had a much shorter movie and still had a happy ending.
And this is our society’s problem. We love thrillers. The story of “Peak Oil” is currently being presented as a potentially cataclysmic global energy problem. It is not. Peak Oil is a communications problem among a spoiled, techno-zombie culture. We have communicated with one another for so long about the story ending, we can’t decide what our global population’s story of continuity should be.
In America, the lagging economy is driving a dramatic move back to basics and a reversal of decades-long trends of convenience. Roughly half of all consumers with incomes less than $55,000 per year say they have trouble affording the groceries they need, while nearly a quarter of those earning between $55,000 and $99,000 also say so. Among those with incomes over $100,000, 16% report having trouble. 42% of consumers say they have given up favorite food brands because of rising prices and economic concerns. Source: IRI Economic Trend Database/AttitudeLink, May 2008
Also, large numbers of Americans face the prospect of energy shutoffs during the coming months because of rising energy prices and stagnant wages.
And so communities around the world are going to have to grapple with dwindling resources at the community level. You will not get help from the folks at the top. Anyone over 30 knows that money drives politics, and money is presently tied up in oil. This will remain true until communities free themselves from the global money system and start basing values on things that matter, such as services you provide that benefit the entire community and that do not cause harm to the environment or other people.
I would argue that hemp does not cause harm to people. It is a renewable energy resource and medicine. It’s human laws and lawns getting in the way of nature that are stopping us from having enough food and fuel for everyone.
Because cars are cool. I like walking, but I still want to drive, damnit! And right now, I am making my own fuel – which can run in any car with a combustible engine. The oil companies took over the fuel market a long time ago, and they are defending their money with as much vigor as they can.
So until local communities start firing up moonshine and having their local farmers plant sorghum as a better feedstock alternative than corn, we aren’t really serious about fixing our problems. Until we each begin to learn about the soil food web, we aren’t serious about fixing the problem. Until we each accept one another’s faiths, and work together to improve earth’s life support systems, we are not serious about fixing the problem. If we aren’t willing to help more than just ourselves, our family, and our friends, we aren’t serious about fixing the problem.
It’s going to take collective action from each of us, as well as the truth to emerge about certain solutions that have been suppressed, to implement desperately needed changes. Changes that allow us to continue to live happy lives, eat better, and travel from one place to another. Changes that are possible, given that we take away so much power from corporations and weapons companies that run the world.
Unless communities immediately create renewable local food and water systems, it means even more war and death. Until a majority of us are ready to act on the advice of innovators with proof that we don’t have to be less than human to one another and that there is plenty of land to grow enough food to feed the entire planet, we will just keep on reading headlines about bombs dropping.
If you are ready to listen to a leader that offers real ways our children of tomorrow can be proud of the actions we take today, my company has created a proven path of how we can get there. It’s a positive, loving, and life-affirming alternate ending to the Story of Peak Oil, and I am launching it in Portland.
by David Blume, Author
The purpose of the Renewable Fuels Standard is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reverse the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, and eventually end the toxic releases from petroleum, coal, and other fossil fuels. The idea is to replace these fuels with clean alternatives like ethanol, which, unlike fossil fuels, are based on captured solar energy that is constantly renewed.
When the alcohol industry agreed to sacrifice the Clean Air Act’s oxygenate standard in exchange for its proposed Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), I was staunchly opposed. Advocates of the RFS said it was a more honest, direct way for us to work toward making our fuel renewable and American, and to wean ourselves from the toxic waste of the petroleum industry (otherwise known as gasoline).
Make no mistake about it: historically, gasoline has ALWAYS been a substance into which oil refineries dispose of whatever waste remains after making valuable products. Just as in the cattle industry, where half of the steer sells as US $15/lb. steaks and the other half ends up as cheap hamburger, in the petroleum business, half of a barrel of oil becomes gasoline. Quite frankly, no one wants to dispose of the 21 gallons of poisonous leftovers at the bottom of each barrel (just how much carcinogenic benzene, toluene, or xylene does anyone really need?)
The Clean Air Act’s oxygenate standard made sure that many of the toxic components in vehicle exhaust would be thermally decomposed (read: burned) to carbon dioxide, rather than remaining as Kevorkian carbon monoxide and a witch’s brew of volatile organics. Destroying these toxins in vehicle exhaust relies on the presence of plenty of oxygen to do the job, and alcohol is about 30% oxygen. Since the act was a regulation that had to do with our health, no discretion existed for waiving oxygenate. That standard was all that stood between Big Oil’s profits and hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from respiratory and cancer illnesses. It also was permanent-it had no expiration date.
But in a poor bargain, we traded a standard based on citizens’ health for one based on economic and environmental values, i.e., the Renewable Fuels Standard. The oil companies insisted that we couldn’t have both, but if we would let go of the oxygenate standard, they would not stand in the way too much on the RFS. Of course, they lied and then only permitted an RFS level that we were already meeting prior to passage of the legislation, so that the regulation had no teeth to increase our use of renewables (very clever of those oil companies).
Well, we did manage, over much opposition by Big Oil, to increase the RFS modestly above the existing level, and investment into the Midwest to make alcohol took off. Big Oil mistakenly thought it could keep the alcohol genie in the bottle…but much to its dismay, the genie escaped and started building distilleries in 2005-6.
Now at the time the bargain was made to trade in the oxygenate standard, I complained to everyone in congress and in the alcohol industry that the RFS would be very easy to waive. It was easy to predict all sorts of conditions where governors or the executive branch could say something like, “These environmental regulations are all well and good, but if they get in the way of economic interests, we just won’t be able to afford to do the right thing.”
“No, no,” the RFS advocates retorted, “we will make sure that a ‘no backsliding’ provision is written into the new legislation.” Well gee, that tidbit didn’t quite survive into the final draft. Now some oil-saturated governors are trying to use their statutory power to get the EPA to waive the standard, so oil companies won’t be forced to use farmer’s fuels.
Instead of cleaning up our air, dealing with Peak Oil, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and reversing global warming, we are doing exactly what I feared. We are talking about simply setting aside the RFS for reasons that ignore health, ignore national security, ignore our dependence, ignore our war to control Mideast oil, and ignore planetary climate stability in favor of simple short-term economic gains. The proposal is even more disingenuous, since the alleged economic gains are not even real. For instance, there is no shortage of corn, no matter what you read in the press. We just had the best crop in 33 years, and we are still trying to find silo space to store the huge surplus. We have increased the amount of animal feed we send around the world to record levels, which is a direct result of our increased alcohol fuel production. We use only cornstarch for alcohol, and all the non-starch parts of the corn become high-quality animal feed. More corn production for alcohol means more animal feed, which means more food. It’s simple.
Now that the data is coming in, we are seeing that in addition to the utterly nonexistent corn shortage, grain price increases have no basis in ethanol or the RFS whatsoever. In fact, the price increases result almost exclusively from the rising price of oil and greater demand for meat in China and other developing countries. If it were not for alcohol fuel, the price of gasoline would be even higher than it is today, and the net effect on a citizen’s pocketbook would be many times the alleged effect of ethanol on food prices.
This attack on the RFS has been planned since the day it was first passed. Because as we run out of oil, the fossil fuel industry plans to replace petroleum with more tar sands, oil shale, and coal to liquids. As the EPA, you are well aware that these fuels will increase greenhouse gas emissions scores to thousands of times the emissions from petroleum. They will also increase the pollution of our air with countless tons of metals and volatile gases, pollute what water is left after we drain the aquifers to make synfuels, and irradiate/poison the planet with radioactive particles and mercury from coal.
But for these environmentally foul fuels to be economically viable, the price of a barrel of oil needs to climb to about $150. Biofuels, on the other hand, can be produced realistically, ecologically, and sustainably for less than $70 a barrel, without any breakthroughs in technology. If biofuels, and in particular ethanol, increase in volume, the economic viability of all the alternatives that Big Oil wants to develop are in jeopardy. And that’s a good thing, since as the EPA, you know for certain that development of these fossil alternatives to petroleum are unbelievably incompatible with continuation of life on Earth as we know it.
No, the RFS is not a discretionary guideline to be set aside, as powerful economic interests and their tamed politicians dictate. The RFS is a health standard meant to protect all living things from the total degradation of our planet. You in the EPA are charged with the responsibility to act as a bulwark against corporate environmental irresponsibility, and doing the right thing requires more than standing firm on the RFS. Far from being waived, the standard needs to be increased annually, bear no expiration date, and remain in force until every single Btu of energy this country uses is renewable. Ultimately, that means an end to fossil fuels and an economic and energy system based on the sun.
A call to action:
The window to submit comment on this critical EPA waiver is closing June 23rd, submit written comments today, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0380, by one of the following methods: One the web at http://www.regulations.gov, follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments, by E-mail: email@example.com or by fax: (202) 566-1741.
Learn more about David Blume’s Fight to Save The Renewable Fuels Standard.
David Blume is author of Alcohol Can Be A Gas and Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is time to kick farming into high gear and start producing sugary sweet hooch across America. And some entrepreneurs have just released a machine that opens the innovation doors to partially kick peak oil’s butt.
Introducing the Efuel100 Microfueler. Fuel for the very rich so they can still ride in their FlexFuel high-end vehicles.
This this is so rad, I can hardly contain myself. But at the same time, I am not too excited.
I have been working hard to promote David Blume’s work while ignorant journalists have been poo-pooing ethanol. Now, not only has the truth emerged that we can sustainably make alcohol fuel, but this amazing machine has been released to kick the home-brew fuel market into high gear. Sort of.
For a cool $10,000, you can join the ranks of big oil and start making your own fuel without doing any of the hard work like chasing down plans and building your own small scale ethanol still. You can simply buy this fabulous machine and PRESTO! You are on the road again.
The problem is that it is a membrane system, which means there can be no solids in the mash. This means you are limited to a complete liquid feedstock (namely bags of sugar). And if you sink in $10,000 for a fuel machine that makes alcohol fuel at a rate of let’s say $2.00 per gallon and can make about 35 gallons a week, it would take you many years to break even on your fuel investment.
But hey, if oil crashes, at least you can still get from A to B, right? As long as Costco still carries big bags of sugar. The good news is that David Blume is working on a larger scale still that will deliver the convenience of the EFuel100, but it will crank out many more gallons per week for less money using multiple feedstocks (he is looking for investors to help fund his venture).
Not that I believe we should continue as-is with our car culture. Riding a bike now and then feels great! And we must consume MUCH less per-person in America, and make intensely smart decisions. But before all of you Food VS FUEL hotheads go on a tirade, you need to know that alcohol fuel can be made from a hell of a lot more than bags of sugar and corn. Go and read the MANY posts on Lawns to Gardens sharing the truth with you. But let me sum it up:
1. Almost every country can become energy-independent. Anywhere that has sunlight and land can produce alcohol from plants. Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world imports no oil, since half its cars run on alcohol fuel made from sugarcane, grown on 1% of its land.
2. We can reverse global warming. Since alcohol is made from plants, its production takes carbon dioxide out of the air, sequestering it, with the result that it reverses the greenhouse effect (while potentially vastly improving the soil). Recent studies show that in a permaculturally designed mixed-crop alcohol fuel production system, the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere by plants—and then exuded by plant roots into the soil as sugar—can be 13 times what is emitted by processing the crops and burning the alcohol in our cars.
3. We can revitalize the economy instead of suffering through Peak Oil. Oil is running out, and what we replace it with will make a big difference in our environment and economy. Alcohol fuel production and use is clean and environmentally sustainable, and will revitalize families, farms, towns, cities, industries, as well as the environment. A national switch to alcohol fuel would provide many millions of new permanent jobs.
4. No new technological breakthroughs are needed. We can make alcohol fuel out of what we have, where we are. Alcohol fuel can efficiently be made out of many things, from waste products like stale donuts, grass clippings, food processing waste-even ocean kelp. Many crops produce many times more alcohol per acre than corn, using arid, marshy, or even marginal land in addition to farmland. Just our lawn clippings could replace a third of the autofuel we get from the Mideast.
5. Unlike hydrogen fuel cells, we can easily use alcohol fuel in the vehicles we already own. Unmodified cars can run on 50% alcohol, and converting to 100% alcohol or flexible fueling (both alcohol and gas) costs only a few hundred dollars. Most auto companies already sell new dual-fuel vehicles.
6. Alcohol is a superior fuel to gasoline! It’s 105 octane, burns much cooler with less vibration, is less flammable in case of accident, is 98% pollution-free, has lower evaporative emissions, and deposits no carbon in the engine or oil, resulting in a tripling of engine life. Specialized alcohol engines can get at least 22% better mileage than gasoline or diesel.
7. It’s not just for gasoline cars. We can also easily use alcohol fuel to power diesel engines, trains, aircraft, small utility engines, generators to make electricity, heaters for our homes—and it can even be used to cook our food.
8. Alcohol has a proud history. Gasoline is a refinery’s toxic waste; alcohol fuel is liquid sunshine. Henry Ford’s early cars were all flex-fuel. It wasn’t until gasoline magnate John D. Rockefeller funded Prohibition that alcohol fuel companies were driven out of business.
9. The byproducts of alcohol production are clean, instead of being oil refinery waste, and are worth more than the alcohol itself. In fact, they can make petrochemical fertilizers and herbicides obsolete. The alcohol production process concentrates and makes more digestible all protein and non-starch nutrients in the crop. It’s so nutritious that when used as animal feed, it produces more meat or milk than the corn it comes from. That’s right, fermentation of corn increases the food supply and lowers the cost of food.
10. Locally produced ethanol supercharges regional economies. Instead of fuel expenditures draining capital away to foreign bank accounts, each gallon of alcohol produces local income that gets recirculated many times. Every dollar of tax credit for alcohol generates up to $6 in new tax revenues from the increased local business.
11. Alcohol production brings many new small-scale business opportunities. There is huge potential for profitable local, integrated, small-scale businesses that produce alcohol and related byproducts, whereas when gas was cheap, alcohol plants had to be huge to make a profit.
12. Scale matters—most of the widely publicized potential problems with ethanol are a function of scale. Once production plants get beyond a certain size and are too far away from the crops that supply them, closing the ecological loop becomes problematic. Smaller-scale operations can more efficiently use a wide variety of crops than huge specialized one-crop plants, and diversification of crops would largely eliminate the problems of monoculture.
13. The byproducts of small-scale alcohol plants can be used in profitable, energy-efficient, and environmentally positive ways. For instance, spent mash (the liquid left over after distillation) contains all the nutrients the next fuel crop needs and can return it back to the soil if the fields are close to the operation. Big-scale plants, because they bring in crops from up to 45 miles away, can’t do this, so they have to evaporate all the water and sell the resulting byproduct as low-price animal feed,which accounts for half the energy used in the plant.
By combining permaculture, smart agriculture and market forces, we can turn Peak Oil on its ugly head and not have to have a collapse. It will be interesting to see how many people actually buy these personal fuel units. In the meantime, get together with your neighbors and start to learn about how you can start making changes to deal with peak oil – whether you buy one of these machines or not!
This Lawns to Gardens post can be read here. I figure it’s a good way to help people discover the Peak Oil social network I have set up.
* Note – The article was written by Tad Montgomery, an ecological engineer living in Brattleboro, Vermont.
By Randy White
Editor, Lawns to Gardens
Have you ever been in a fight?
You know, a real life and death “Oh Shit!” moment in your life when someone is in your face and there is no way to avoid an ass-kicking from one side or the other?
I would rather avoid such entanglements and simply get along with my fellow man. That’s nature’s economy, getting along with others, but then again – so is population correction. The human “Market Correction” we are beginning to experience due to peak oil, overpopulation, and ecological destruction is certainly getting interesting. This article focuses on my Malthusian view of the way things are going down, based on Leap Year night in Seattle.
I feel people are scared right now, and everybody senses that the big problems we have in America to maintain sustainability are getting too hard to handle. This is causing social pressures that are spilling over into forms of aggression amongst ourselves. Here’s an example, put in terms of sociological implications of a typical American bar / nightclub:
The Meat-Head culture that has for so long so blindly followed poor leadership have failed to evolve in time to save themselves. They are now so confused by the implosion of America’s modern, unsustainable living system, that they cannot possibly fathom letting go without a fight. Heads are starting to pop and corks are starting to blow.
For instance, when you mix American testosterone, social pressures caused by overpopulation, and alcohol, the results are utterly predictable. Here is a message to all of our country’s meat-heads:
When you can no longer pay your bills, you tend to get frustrated. If you also happen to pump a lot of iron and you think you have a physical upper edge, you might just pick a fight these days. After all, you aren’t going to take shit from anyone anymore. You are just so sick of it all, so fuck it, right?
I witnessed one of these fights this weekend. I was in Seattle laying the groundwork for a secret project to help Seattle build better local community, and decided to take in a little Rock-and-Roll. Only it ended up being a white hip-hop show instead. And what a fantastic musical discovery it was!
The musical line-up:
No-Fi Soul Rebellion
A Husband-Wife musical duo complete with a one-man atomically-energized musician. I haven’t witnessed such great crowd working since Rabbit-In-The-Moon’s legendary Portland Halloween show.
Telephone Jim Jesus – A horrible crap solo act in between
Sole and the Skyrider Band
Toward the end of Skyrider’s set, a fight broke out over who-knows-what between a couple of Meat-Heads. Their necks were thicker than tree stumps and something sent them into heated fisticuffs. Now, this is a show where people came together for PEACE and FUN, and the pressure was even too great at this place for civil cohesion.
Not that you can use a single event to gauge society, but if I were a city planner, I would be looking beyond what was reported to my police bureau for statistics and demographics of crime. For instances, I would want to know the present growth pattern for fights at clubs and entertainment venues. Live musical performances, night clubs, and church are places in American society where strangers from the same town mix together with sexual tension and alcohol.
I am curious…
How many fights are breaking out within cities?
Who are getting into fights?
What are the deeper reasons for those fights?
Who knows, this show took place on February 29 (Leap Year) and it is, as you know, not a common day of the year. 2008 consists of 366 days instead of the ordinary 365. These special leap years occur every four years. They are what cause our seasons to change at the same time every year and they keep the calendar in alignment with the earth’s motion around the sun.
So perhaps this Leap Year in Seattle was a historical marker for a new reality shift. A time to recognize solutions to our social problems. We had better implement better communications tools to help testosterone driven Meat-Heads deal with the death of industrial society. It is surely falling down, and we are heading into a period of sacrifice. Either we sacrifice our addiction to consumerism and learn to better share resources with one another, or you won’t be able to avoid violence anywhere you go.
“We think we could go into crisis mode in many commodities sectors in the next 12 to 18 months . . . and I would argue that agriculture is key here.” says Jeff Currie, Head of Commodities Research at Goldman Sachs.
It’s time the government hires creative thinkers that can imagine the impossible, and create tools to be prepared for the worst. The reason is that these people will challenge existing expectations.
This is why I would like to pre-announce the April 2008 launch of my company Bright Neighbor LLC. Our team of programmers have been working tirelessly, and we are close to releasing a software program I believe will help solve our societal and currency challenges. It will:
– Help Save America!
It connects people better than MySpace. It is more relevant than than FaceBook. It will un-invite E-vite. It will help people easily grow food gardens within cities. It will do everything right, and will help municipal planners help solve the crises caused by global warming, Peak Oil, financial collapse, and human overpopulation.
Want to see America without intervention?
Take a look at Nigeria. It is a mess, due to the combination of legions of legendarily corrupt politicians, buckets of oil money, and vast pools of neglected citizens. The Niger Delta, the wellspring of Nigeria’s oil wealth, is particularly messy. It’s where people, abandoned by their government, are living at a minimal subsistence level just outside the fences of the major oil company compounds, which sport European levels of convenience and lifestyle for their expatriate employees. As a result, it’s little wonder that the Delta’s political environment is a swirling maelstrom of local actors, from tribal chiefs to gangs all competing for a tiny slice of the Delta’s abundant oil wealth, most of which flows into the hands of corrupt politicians/military leaders in Lagos and the coffers of global oil companies.
Also take into account that the United States’ main worry is that Russia – which set up an official SWF last month – is planning to relaunch the cold war, only this time with oil and gas receipts rather than with the Red Army.
Some western governments are suspicious about the motives of sovereign funds that have been buying up assets in developed countries.
Washington, which has launched talks with funds in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, has concerns over Russia’s one-time rival communist superpower China, which has grown weary of stockpiling US Treasury bonds and has started to size up physical assets in the west.
The big secret is that Rupert Murdoch could help save America using MySpace if he wanted to. If only he wasn’t such a Grinch, I would happily show him how.
But first I want to see if Bright Neighbor can beat him to it.
(Bonus: No-Fi Soul Rebellion Music video!)
For any late comers to the game!
And just one more reminder…
Want to see an example of how Corporate media continues their brazen attack on gas price reality?
Check out this completely misleading headline: “Next Round Of Gas Hikes Won’t Be Due To Oil“.
I call bullshit. The corporate media have a lot of balls to keep misleading you the way they do. Here is how they do it in this particular article:
1) They lead with a headline that sounds like a factual statement
Ask yourself – who benefits from you believing our fuel problems are due to a gas additive instead of the real reason? In this article, the corporate media blame the next round of rising gas prices on the additive alkylate (a byproduct of the oil refining process), which they claim is needed to replace MTBE.
What they DON’T tell you is that alcohol (ethanol) can be used instead of alkylate! Oh sure, it’s buried deep in the article, but they try really hard to get you to think rising gas prices are because of some chemical additive rather than peak oil.
2) They tell a teeny, tiny bit of truth
Here is the very small and buried truth in the article that they printed:
“The federal government long ago required refiners to boost the oxygen content of summer-blend gasoline to make it burn more completely, a problem that was solved by adding MTBE and, more recently, ethanol.”
Ho ho! So they admit alcohol is a substitute they can use instead of alkylate, the culprit they would have you believe is the cause of $4-a-gallon gas. But then they try to discredit the fact that they can simply add alcohol to fix the supply problem. Watch this next slick move they make:
“But ethanol also has a high evaporation rate, so refiners increasingly have turned to alkylate, which Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J., calls the “magic bullet” in making summer gasoline.”
3) They tell you to get used to $4-a-gallon gas prices
“if production (of alkylate) doesn’t rise, American motorists will be faced with big jumps in spring gas prices for years to come.”
See how they do it?
1) Blame high gas prices on an additive in short supply
2) Discredit market substitutes
3) Tell you to get used to high prices
America, the truth is that the world is now past peak oil. We are running out, and oil companies are currently shifting global fuel shortages around to their “less affluent” customers. If you live in a poor country somewhere in Africa, your economy will only crash further as America continues to suck resources dry.
Sorry, it’s the way it is. I wish you the best of luck. In the meantime, the west will continue to be able to fill up our vehicles, but not without paying political and oil company prices.
I suggest people wake up and learn the truth – which is that we can help reverse global warming by decentralizing control over fuel and make it ourselves in small batches. This is possible, and it pisses off the oil companies to no end. Rather than believe the crap these corporate media folks are pushing, America can run it’s auto fleet on moonshine made from potatoes, used donuts, mesquite, and a wide variety of crops.
The problem for oil companies and central banks is that when America starts learning that truth, these old codgers will lose control of money and the political system. They truly are a greedy old establishment, and the fact is they want to control you and everyone else. Hell, once you taste power, control, and hot American dollar sponsored orgies – you tend not to let go easily.
Suggestion for those of you in power – learn to let go. Sure, you will keep lying, but eventually people will wise up and rise up – you can’t hide reality forever.