Wednesday Quick Hits

Plug-In Hybrids

The more I learn about plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), the more convinced I am that this would be a far better use of our alternative energy dollar than subsidizing corn ethanol. Learn All About Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs) here.

Thanks to Leanan at The Oil Drum for highlighting this story. Scientists speak, but will the politicians listen?

Scientists Back Plug-In Hybrids

WASHINGTON – A group of scientists urged Congress on Wednesday to fund research for plug-in hybrid vehicles, touting the technology as another way to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil through the help of a simple electrical socket.

With high gas prices straining some Americans’ budgets, advocates of the alternative vehicles told a House committee that plug-in hybrids could reduce gasoline consumption and reduce air emissions. And while ethanol-fueled vehicles will require a better network of fueling pumps, a plug-in hybrid car could recharge at home.

“To think that you could pull into your garage at the end of the day and ‘fill ‘er up’ just by plugging your car into a regular, 110-volt socket in the garage is very appealing,” said Rep. Judy Biggert R-Ill., chairwoman of the House Science subcommittee on energy.

Plug-in hybrids combine hybrid technology — which uses both gasoline and electric power — with large batteries that can be plugged into a standard wall socket. To help learn more about the vehicles, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he would introduce legislation to provide $250 million in grants to research battery technology and develop a fleet of demonstration plug-in vehicles that could be further tested.

The article continues, with comments from some critics here.

Bad News for Brazilian Ethanol

Thanks to fallout at The Oil Drum for bringing this story to my attention.

The entire article is worth a read. Here are some excerpts of note:

Brazil’s Ethanol Lesson Is How to Manage Our Oil Addiction

The Brazilian government is declaring victory in its decades-long struggle to become self-sufficient in the supply of oil. The milestone is cause for celebration in a country that has long paid a high price for imported energy.

Brazil’s success came not from treating oil as an addiction but by producing even more of the stuff and by becoming even more dependent on world markets.

Guided partly by Brazil’s apparent success, American policy-makers are crafting new mandates for ethanol, and flex fuel vehicles are now taking shape. We have the impression that ethanol is king.

In reality, ethanol is a minor player in Brazilian energy supply. It accounts for less than one-tenth of all the country’s energy liquids. The real source of Brazil’s self-sufficiency is the country’s extraordinary success in producing more oil.

Brazil’s self-sufficiency offers three lessons for U.S. energy policy:

First is that ethanol, with current technology, will do little to sever our dependence on imported energy. Sugar plants in Brazil’s climate are a lot more efficient at converting sunlight to biomass than is corn in the Midwest, but U.S. policy nonetheless favors corn (and imposes tariffs on imported sugar) because the program is really a scheme to deliver heartland votes rather than a commercially viable fuel.

Yet, even with Brazil’s favorable climate and sugar’s inviting biology, ethanol is already reaching the limit. That’s because the land and other resources devoted to ethanol can be put to other uses such as growing food and cash crops.

Indeed, today the Brazilian government is actually reducing the share of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline because sugar growers prefer to make even more money by selling their product as sugar on the world market rather than fermenting it into alcohol.

Article continued at Brazil’s Ethanol Lesson Is How to Manage Our Oil Addiction.

Oil Inventories Down, Gasoline Up

The government released petroleum inventory figures this morning. U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell by 100,000 barrels, and gasoline inventories rose by 1.3 million barrels. Refinery utilization was at 89.8 percent of operable capacity, the highest level since Hurricane Katrina struck. Gasoline imports averaged 1.45 million barrels per day, which was the 3rd highest weekly average on record. This is an indication that supply and demand remain in very tight balance, and the summer driving season is still in front of us. However, in the short term, with gasoline inventories starting to build, I would expect some easing of gasoline prices.

Source: This Week In Petroleum

The complete report can be accessed here.

On Deck

Next up is a response to Joseph Miglietta on ethanol. Following that, I will publish a short essay on Fischer-Tropsch (FT), which is a reaction that will become very important as oil supplies become more and more expensive. It will be a non-technical article, but I will provide links to more detailed technical explanations. The article will focus on both the promise, and the peril of FT in meeting a portion of our future energy needs.

5 thoughts on “Wednesday Quick Hits”

  1. The more I learn about plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), the more convinced I am that this would be a far better use of our alternative energy dollar than subsidizing corn ethanol.

    Agree totally Robert. I’d also put in a vote for lightweight, short-range, electric commuter cars such as the GEM.

    There is no reason we should be burning fossil fuels to move around millions of tons of steel, glass, rubber, and glass each day just so people can move their little pink, brown, and black bodies (usually alone) back and forth from home to work.

    We must get a handle on all the fossil fuels we waste commuting each day. Just doing that would delay peak oil significantly. Most of the oil we use each day is used only for commuting.

    One thing you haven’t addressed yet is all the really valuable things we can make from petroleum and natural gas when used as a chemical feedstock — things much more valuable than moving millions of tons of steel and glass around each day. And things we won’t be able to make if we squander all our petroleum for transportation.

    One thing I am sure of, natural gas is much too valuable as a chemical feedstock to waste it making corn ethanol.

    Lightweight, efficient commuter vehicles must be an active goal.


    Gary Dikkers

  2. One thing you haven’t addressed yet is all the really valuable things we can make from petroleum and natural gas when used as a chemical feedstock

    I have seen a quote to that effect over at The Oil Drum:

    “Considering the many productive uses of petroleum, burning it for fuel is like burning a Picasso for heat.”


  3. … it holds one very small person, has no windshield or climate control, isn’t street-legal and is designed to go 18 MPH.

    In short, an electric bicycle goes faster and carries more while burning less fuel (hard to beat zero).

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