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August 30, 2006

FBR tells the truth about the Ethanol market

Still a significant supply/demand imbalance that won't be solved before the end of the year. The recent trades down on VSE and AVR are the lemmings getting out. Stick with the fundamentals of supply/demand and you see these companies are bargins today.

From most recent FBR report on Refineries:

Ethanol consumption rose to record levels, latest data shows. U.S. fuel ethanol consumption averaged a record 6.2 billion gallons per year (annualized) during June, we calculate, using recently released DOE production and inventory data. This compares very favorably against the prior month’s 5.4 BG/Y rate and the 2005 full-year average of 4.0 BG/Y. Gasoline refiners and blenders moved to replace MTBE with ethanol much more quickly than most people expected, in our view, creating an octane shortage and causing ethanol prices to spike. U.S. ethanol production rose from 4.5 BG/Y in May to 4.9 BG/Y in June, but domestic production was still 1.3 BG/Y below demand, necessitating a substantial increase in imports and a drawdown on inventories. While U.S. ethanol production capacity continues to grow, we believe it will take several more months for supply and demand to arrive at a more normalized balance. In the meantime, we expect ethanol prices to remain high, benefiting Aventine (AVR) and VeraSun (VSE).

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August 25, 2006

Is diesel price sensitive?

No. Look at the most recent demand growth data

Figure 1 Gasoline, Diesel, and Jet Demand Has Risen Substantially in 3Q06 Versus 1H06

Source: DOE, 3Q06 Data Through 8/18/06

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August 24, 2006

Good letter debunking many biodiesel myths perpetuated by big oil

The Imperium Port of Grays Harbor project is a good teaching moment for the public.

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August 23, 2006

Watch me on Fox News...

Hey, I invented a new word: "newses" Seattle Biodiesel: "Tired of high gas prices at the pump?" Martin's Fox News Interview

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The Saudi Connection

Want to know the Saudi connection to the US oil supply? This is the best article I have seen on it: USNews.com: How billions in oil money spawned a global terror network

Posted by Martin at 8:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New diesel land speed record

for a traditional diesel engine: Diesel-powered "car" edges on half the speed of sound - Engadget. Up to 350mph from previous 237mph. Wow! That is just the normal diesel engine speed record. The overall land speed record is being broken by a jet powered vehicle running biodiesel. Diesel isn't only for efficiency anymore!

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August 22, 2006

The definition of Biodiesel

Here it is from the National Biodiesel Board

“Biodiesel is defined as mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats which conform to ASTM D6751 specifications for use in diesel engines. Biodiesel refers to the pure fuel before blending with diesel fuel. Biodiesel blends are denoted as, "BXX" with "XX" representing the percentage of biodiesel contained in the blend (ie: B20 is 20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).”

When you hear about diesel alternatives made from waste, garbage, chickens, natural gas, coal, and other things, they may burn in a diesel engine, but they are NOT biodiesel.

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August 21, 2006

The bat boat video

Here is the video of me filling up the bat boat that runs on biodiesel. Seattle Biodiesel: KOMO News - IR Sponsored Event: Earthrace

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Chicago Tribune oil article review

Here is the summary you should read: The Chicago Tribune story on oil | EnergyBulletin.net | Peak Oil News Clearinghouse. Ever wondered where your gallon of gas comes from and what is involved? read the summary here and if you have time follow the links to the whole story at Chicago Tribune and the video! I did!

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August 18, 2006

Tesla motors signature 100 sells out

Sold out. Very cool. Three weeks. There is a HIGH demand for effecient fast cars. Very cool.

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Verasun to enter biodiesel business

It is amazing what you can find online. Yesterday I found a PDF of Verasun's application to be a member of the National Biodiesel Board. I suspect they are looking for something to do with the corn oil that can be extracted from the ethanol process and potentially made into biodiesel. This is a good move for an ethanol producer especially in light of the immenient overbuilding in that business.

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August 17, 2006

Had lunch with Rick Santorum today

For all the lightening rod comments made by the left about Rick, I found him to be a very serious and sane individual. He laid out the threat the US is facing from Islamic Fascism in stark terms that will keep me up at night for some time. And it is not alarmist. In fact he was very critical of the Bush administration for not being straight with the American people on exactly what we are facing. I have commented on this myself before. Calling it a war on Terrorism is incorrect. Terrorism is simply a tactic used by a desparate, determined foe. That foe is more accurately described as Islamic Fascism. When the term started being used recently, it drew howls from the left as somehow discrimatory or defamatory. It is not. It is accurate and describes the leaders of Al Queada, Iran, Hezbolah, Hamas, and many others. If you put current events in the historical context of the very real Islam/Christian conflict that has been going on for over a thousand years, you can start to see some light. Since Western civilazation led by King Jan Sobieski and the Polish Hussars sent the "Islamic hordes" fleeing Vienna in 1683, the Islamic fundamentalists have been trying to get their side back on top of the cultural pyramid. Remember, back then a series of Islamic military rulers had had varying success in subjugating Europe under their swords. The fundamentalist on the other side of us know their history and put current fights in that context. Americans by and large can't remember what they had for lunch yesterday and want easy solutions to everything. There is no easy solution to people who are willing to die to redress a hundreds year old grievance. Those same people growing wealthy today off our own addiction to their one value add in this world: Oil. Before today I had never met Rick Santorum and had never thought much about who the enemy really is. I will start now trying to understand them a bit more. I hope Rick is wrong, but I fear he is closer to the truth. Hopefully Americans will think deeper about the dangers we face and not slip into mediocracy again leaving us open to real threats. Am I the only one who remembers the FIRST attack on the World Trade Center? The second was not the last.

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August 14, 2006

Diesel WAY inverted with Biodiesel!!!

At one station, $.49/gallon less for biodiesel than diesel!!!!

SEATTLE, Wash. (Aug 15, 2006) - As oil prices rise in response to Middle East turbulence and production shutdowns on Alaskas North Slope, customers are turning to a more price predictable alternative.
While oil prices continue to fluctuate, the price of biodiesel remains stable, says Rob Elam of Propel Biofuels. On Monday, August 15th the spread between biodiesel and diesel prices reached its largest margin

- Laurrelhurst Oil: Biodiesel $3.11, Diesel $3.51
- Issaquah Grange: Biodiesel $3.15, Diesel $3.39
- SeaPort/West Seattle: Biodiesel $3.04, Diesel $3.55

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Looking for a beach house?

Ah a beach house. One of my favorites is in Laguna Beach owned by my friend Patrice. I have stayed there many times. Patrice is now selling this paradise and moving back to France. Check it out...

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August 13, 2006

Fuel cell scooter

On the lust list for this christmas is this little ditty
Ah, I hope Santa has room.

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Watch the Tesla motor cars video

On AutoBlog. My order is in, is yours?

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Go see Who Killed the electric car

by Chris Paine (II)

Just saw this movie (ok well behind my friends, but I am busy!). My friend Richard Titus helped get this made and I am very glad he put his own money into this. The story of American auto/petroleum industry killing innovations that threaten it is long. The GM EV1 is just one more chapter. You get some of the history and verse in the movie as well which is very helpful. Near the end you get a glimpse of the future. Tesla motors and other INDEPENDENT companies that will make these cars a reality. GM can’t make a profit on a car that sells less than 300,000 copies. Just like Hollywood has trouble making money on small movies. Remember, GM has three retired employees for every one currently working. GM is basically an pension plan that makes cars and car loans. The innovations will come from the start-ups who don’t have that legacy costs. Go buy a Tesla. I am.

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Trying VOX

Andrew invited me to try his new product VOX. He described it (over beers) as Myspace for adults. Sounded like that one could go many ways. Still in beta. Here are some first impressions:

1. Like the clean design, lots of templates.
2. Dislike that I can't import my Moveable Type account into it.
3. Dislike that I can't cross-post from my movable type account (you can from Vox to Typepad, but not the other way and not from your own server install).
4. It is not clear from the get-go what to do on the site. Post a bunch of stuff? How do you link with others, why upload a whole new thing? I don't get it.
5. It is nice to have audio, video and book uploads and links, but I already have all that on AllConsuming.net. Do a deal with them to data share Andrew.

In Summary, good start, but not enough to make me use it. Andrew, make Vox a really WEB 2.0 site. Take it to the next level. Make adoption seamless by having every kind of import/export functionality on the planet. Make it EASY for me to migrate from whatever I am using now to VOX. Enough people have invested enough in other platforms that the switching costs are high enough. Give me a reason to change.

Posted by Martin at 6:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The relationship between excess OPEC capacity and price

I have been talking for some time about the relationship between capacity and price volitility in oil. Students of historical prices miss the fundamental point that we are at max capacity in both supply and demand in the system today. When there is excess capacity, higher prices bring it into the market and prices moderate. Prices wont' moderate because there is little to no excess capacity. Check out this graphic which I just found.

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August 9, 2006

Business week mentions Imerium Renewables (again)

yea, Imperium Renewables is in BusinessWeek (again)

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SNS publishes guest letter on liquid fuel alternatives, misses the mark

Mark Andersen at SNS published a guest letter today from Glenn Spacht, CTO of NanoDynamics. He attempts to give an overview of liquid transportation fuel alternatives, but unfortunately misses the biodiesel boat, trashes the ethanol boat (with some good points) and points to (surprise) a fuel cell alternative that his company makes. Here is my letter to Mark in response as well as Glenn's letter.

Thanks Mark for this insightful summary of alternatives from Glenn. Unfortunately I believe he did your readers a serious disservice by glossing over Biodiesel and pointing to Yet Another Fuel Cell. Glenn's primary knocks on ethanol are the fossil fuels required to make it and the lower gas mileage. While the energy balanceis positive, it is barely so. He is right that ethanol is a push on energy balance and a negative on fuel economy.

Biodiesel is completely different. The Life Cycle Inventory of Biodiesel and Petroleum Diesel for Use in an Urban Bus study concluded that the net energy ratio of Biodiesel made from soybeans was +3.2 units out for every one in (Sheehan, et al). A corn ethanol plant runs at 1200 degrees and has 20% of the COGS of a gallon in natural gas for its boiler. A Biodiesel plant runs at room temperature or slightly above requiring less than 2% of the COGS to be heat. In Imperium Renewable's refinery we use electricity generated from our waste stream and actually contribute green power to the grid. In our process there is zero traditional hydrocarbons used for heat. The mileage of Biodiesel is equal to or slightly greater than petroleum diesel depending on what you make it out of. Today running canola based Biodiesel in my VW Beetle, I actually get about 8% better mileage than I do with petroleum diesel. While Ethanol is limited to a 10% blend in existing vehicles, Biodiesel can run at a 100% pure level in 100% of the existing diesel vehicles (62 Billion gallons). Since January, Biodiesel has been less than petroleum diesel at the pumps across the nation ($3.04/gal in seattle vs $3.24).

Biodiesel is a viable, energy balance positive, equal fuel economy, cheaper renewable fuel available today in today's vehicles. Don't wait for a fuel cell. Buy any diesel off the lot and start running Biodiesel.


From Mark Andersen at SNS.


Publisher's Note: Many Americans today are having a hard time understanding the government's general lack of policy or interest in a subject that is causing wars and costing lives. While other nations have more coherent, and effective, policies (Brazil, for instance, has just become independent of oil, based on many of the ideas espoused in this piece), this frustration no doubt extends beyond U.S. borders. Why is it so hard to get leaders focused on causes, instead of symptoms?

Cynics will point to Bush family oil money, Carlyle group investments in oil and war, ongoing Cheney Halliburton payments, and a general lack of urgency among these ranks in withdrawing from oil addiction. Meanwhile, it has become clear to me that the only real answers will come from the private sector, from California entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and the Tesla Motors project he has helped start up (the subject of our last issue), creating perhaps the world's first fleet of commuter-practical all-electric cars.

Or Martin Tobias, who wrote earlier on his move from tech into Biodiesel, a project he continues as his firm builds the largest refinery on the West Coast of the U.S., if not in the country. I am reminded of space enthusiast Burt Rutan, in attitude at least, who told us at FiRe 2005, "I decided I'd do it myself," when confronted with the immense inertia of NASA.

These are the people, and these are the attitudes, that will change the world, and that will provide a new energy program. As Glenn so carefully notes, they'll probably have to fight the lobbyists and bureaucrats every step of the way.

Glenn Spacht asked us a short time ago whether a review of alternatives in creating energy independence would be a useful Special Letter, and we immediately agreed. Those who think, as I do, that nano-scale catalysis will have a prominent role to play in fuel cells, will understand Glenn's interest in this issue, since his firm is a global leader in things nano.

And perhaps, by sending this to our members around the world, we can each do something to push the bureaucrats and the vested interests aside, and provide solutions that make better economic sense, create less conflict, and just make good sense.

Those readers who laughed when I predicted $80/bbl oil last year, are not laughing any longer. And those who now take my $100/bbl prediction of last spring seriously, are no doubt even more concerned. Certainly the Federal Reserve is now in that boat, together with the central bankers of the world.

Perhaps Bob Dylan said it best, back in 1963:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'. - mra.


By Glenn Spacht
Vice President and CTO, NanoDynamics, Inc.


As we pump $3+-per-gallon gasoline into our cars this summer, a lot of Americans are asking what the government is doing to help the situation. After all, we have a national energy policy, which will lead us from this wilderness, right? Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that there appears to be a way out of this debacle. The bad news is that the federal government is following a series of misguided policies that will need to be reformed to allow market forces to lead us to the promised land of energy independence and affordable fuel.

As the cost of gasoline has spiraled upward, we've heard a lot about supply and demand, China's burgeoning economy, ethanol, E-85, alternative-fueled vehicles, fuel cells, and the hydrogen economy. The promise of fuel-cell-powered automobiles has been dangled in front of our noses like a carrot in front of a mule since the mid '90s. Given that the earliest a commercial fuel-cell-powered car may reach the market is 2010 (according to GM), what should we be doing in the meantime?

Solutions in Progress

I: Corn-Based Ethanol

Well, GM and Ford will point out that they make vehicles that can run on ethanol. Ethanol is a liquid fuel, currently produced from corn, that is renewable (unlike petroleum). If we can operate our automobiles on alternative fuels, we can reduce the demand for imported oil. In fact, the oil companies are using 10% ethanol in conventional pump gasoline in place of MTBE to reduce pollution. No matter how much it may rattle its sabers, OPEC still is subject to the pressures of the free market, and reduced demand will ultimately result in lower oil prices. Lower oil prices will lead to lower heating and utility costs, which in turn will spur the economy. Sounds good, huh? Put down the champagne. There are a couple of minor problems with this plan.

The ethanol on the market today is produced from corn by a process reminiscent of the manufacture of white lightning in a still. In commercial production, hydrocarbons (e.g., natural gas, etc.) are used to convert corn to ethanol. Now here's the rub: there is a debate about whether it actually takes more energy to create a gallon of ethanol than the energy contained in a gallon of ethanol. According to Report No. 814 from the Office of the Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn ethanol contains 1.34 times the energy required to manufacture it. It is clear that the manufacture of ethanol from corn is not very energy-efficient, and through its production process, ethanol's cost is strongly linked to international energy costs.

The impact of high-energy consumption in the ethanol manufacturing process is a high price for a gallon of ethanol. The wholesale price of a gallon of ethanol was recently in excess of $5, but has now fallen to less than $4. Last year, the price of ethanol was $1.30 per gallon. The escalation in price reflects an increase in demand as gasoline refiners began adding ethanol into their fuel products. In fact, a portion of the increased price of gasoline at the pump this past year in certain states is associated with adding approximately 10% ethanol to the fuel in place of MBTE to reduce tailpipe emissions. The refiners are replacing 10% of $2.25-per-gallon (wholesale cost) gasoline with an equivalent amount of more expensive fuel.

GM proudly claims that it has at least 1.9 million vehicles on the road that can use E-85 (gasoline with 15% ethanol content). Are consumers actually going to buy significant quantities of E-85 in place of gasoline with an ethanol price? Fortunately, there are a number of ethanol refineries under construction and due to come on-line in the next 18 months. With an increase in supply, we can expect a reduction in price, bringing the pump price of ethanol more in line with the pump price of gasoline. With the price of ethanol more competitive with gasoline, we should have no problem eventually reducing our dependency on gasoline. Except for one little fact....

Even if the cost of a gallon of ethanol production were equal to that of a gallon of gasoline, the energy content of a gallon of ethanol is less than that of a gallon of gasoline. The effect is to reduce the "gas mileage" of a car operating on ethanol by about 66%, which means that about 33% more ethanol than gasoline is required to drive a fixed distance. Therefore, to be economically competitive with gasoline, the pump price of ethanol actually must be no more than two-thirds the price of gasoline.

The U.S. government, at the urging of corn producers, provides a subsidy for refining ethanol of $.51 per gallon ($21.42 per barrel). Conversely, a gallon of gasoline is not subsidized at all. Guess why all the ethanol refineries are being built. With the incentives in place, the ethanol refiners are making tidy profits from each gallon sold. To make matters worse, we are physically limited by how much corn-based ethanol we can produce by the amount of land that can be converted to growing corn, which is aggravated by the fact that only the grain is used to create ethanol.

II: Sugar-Cane-Based Ethanol

There are, however, alternative methodologies for creating ethanol. The simplest near-term solution would be to use sugar cane in place of corn as the feed stock. This simplifies the refining process and requires less energy. Unfortunately, the U.S. government imposes a tariff on sugar cane to improve the competitive position of corn syrup (yup -- the same special-interest group that is behind the corn-ethanol subsidies). This tariff acts as a disincentive to make ethanol from sugar cane. This must have been an oversight in our comprehensive national energy policy.

III: Cellulose-Based Ethanol

There are longer-term solutions. In a period of about five years, we could be producing ethanol in quantity from cellulose. Cellulose is found in a variety of plant material, including the stalks of the corn plant. The process for production of ethanol from cellulose does not require large amounts of hydrocarbons and is, therefore, much less expensive. If the federal government continues to provide large subsidies for corn-derived ethanol, however, we are in effect providing a disincentive to make capital investment in cellulose technology. The corn lobby will fight tooth and nail, but in the end, democracy, just like the free market, has a way of doing what is right and sensible. In this case, that would see cellulose-derived ethanol become widely available in the marketplace.

Would this lead to energy independence? No, but it is a significant stride in the right direction. There is no silver-bullet solution to our addiction to foreign energy. Multiple emerging renewable-energy technologies -- including solar and wind power, along with ethanol derived from cellulose -- will have to contribute to the solution over a period of time.

IV: Hydrogen

There is something else to consider, however. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere needs to be reduced, or at least the rate of increase brought to zero, in order to avoid the climatic impacts associated with global warming. Consuming ethanol or gasoline in an internal combustion engine produces carbon dioxide. In fact, for the same amount of power, switching to ethanol could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 6%. Is there an alternative that would lead to larger reductions in carbon dioxide emissions?

The president touts hydrogen as the fuel of the future. Hydrogen has the advantage of producing only water vapor when it reacts in an internal combustion engine. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel-cell technology, which is even more efficient than an internal combustion engine in producing energy from hydrogen, while exhausting only water vapor. Therefore, it is considered to be a zero-emissions (no carbon dioxide emissions) fuel.

Hydrogen, however, has a dirty little secret. In general, hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, wherein an electric current is passed through water, releasing hydrogen and oxygen. Currently most hydrogen is made using natural gas, which emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As the demand for hydrogen increases, the demand for power will increase, the availability of natural gas will be out stripped, and another source of electrical power will be required.

It is hoped that advances in solar-power technology can allow local generation of hydrogen in homes, but the technology to accomplish such a feat has yet to be invented. In fact, calculations of the amount of power required for the hydrogen economy indicate that it would be necessary to cover an area roughly the size of the state of New Mexico with solar cells to create enough power to meet the eventual demand for hydrogen. When pressed, the DOE admits that in order to produce the electricity required to generate the hydrogen necessary for a hydrogen-powered economy, a large number of nuclear power plants will have to be built. It is far from obvious that the U.S. populace is ready to accept a profusion of nuclear power plants. In fact, widespread use of hydrogen would leave the United States facing a future dependent on a huge expansion of the number of operational nuclear plants at a time when the security of such plants from terrorist attack is of growing concern.

Furthermore, widespread distribution of hydrogen has its own challenges. Besides the fact that even if it is stored at very high pressures (4,500 pounds per square inch), hydrogen occupies more storage volume than gasoline, is highly flammable, and tends to easily leak. The infrastructure necessary to support refueling hydrogen-powered automobiles with the ease and freedom of choice of refueling location currently enjoyed with gasoline will not develop in the near term. As a result, the PEM fuel-cell cars that may be offered for sale as early as 2010 will be tethered to a relatively limited number of hydrogen filling stations. It is highly likely that when the first fuel-cell vehicles become available they will be operated as fleet-service vehicles (e.g., taxicabs, package delivery, etc.) that return to a common service area each evening for refueling.

Reducing CO2 Emissions: A Device Alternative

If hydrogen is not readily available, then we need to seek an alternative to the internal combustion engine to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. One approach is to process cellulose-derived ethanol in a reformer to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide, then feed the mixture to a proton-exchange membrane fuel cell to make electricity. The process does make less carbon dioxide than an internal combustion engine, but the entire system is too large and costly to be considered as a meaningful alternative to internal combustion engines.

What is needed is a device that can operate directly on cellulose-based ethanol, bio-diesel, or low-sulfur diesel fuel that will produce less carbon dioxide than an internal combustion engine at roughly the same size and cost. Although not nearly as well-funded by the government, such a device is currently under development. It's called a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). The U.S. DOE is funding the development of this technology through the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance. Unfortunately, only relatively modest funding is being invested by the DOE in SOFC development in comparison to the funds being directed toward improved methods for hydrogen storage and distribution, as well as improving the durability and reducing the production costs of PEM fuel cells.

A solid oxide fuel cell differs in several important ways from the more widely known PEM fuel cell. First, an SOFC can operate on hydrogen, similar to a PEM fuel cell -- but more important, it can operate on hydrocarbons, including propane, methane, and natural gas, as well as ethanol, diesel fuel, and others. This multiple fuel flexibility is an attractive weapon in the war for energy independence because it reduces the impact of shortages of a single fuel type.

A solid oxide fuel cell operates at much higher internal temperatures (generally between 800 and 1000 degrees Centigrade) than a PEM system. To resist this environment, a portion of most solid oxide fuel cells is usually made of ceramic material. The higher operating temperature makes the SOFC more fuel-efficient than a proton-exchange membrane fuel cell or an internal combustion engine. Reduced fuel consumption, in turn, results in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

The solid oxide fuel cells, like PEM fuel cells, do not respond to instantaneous load changes. As a result, transportation applications employing solid oxide fuel cells (i.e., cars, trucks, etc.) will inevitably be hybrid systems wherein a battery, capacitor, or both provide instantaneous power to handle spikes in the system loading, such as that created by rapid acceleration for passing or merging with traffic. When the vehicle is cruising, a portion of the power from the fuel cell is used to replace any charge that has been depleted from the battery.

Technical Challenges

The greatest challenges facing the application of solid oxide fuel cells in transportation applications are related to their operating temperatures. An operating temperature in excess of 700 degrees Centigrade promotes high fuel efficiency, but it means that a solid oxide fuel system requires time to heat up before it can produce power. In fact, some large stationary solid oxide fuel cells take days to slowly warm to operating temperature.

In a transportation application, the SOFC will need to reach operating temperature in a matter of minutes, during which time the battery of the hybrid system must provide the power required to operate the vehicle. The longer the SOFC start time, the larger the battery becomes, in the end leading to a larger, more expensive, less energy-efficient vehicle.

Developing an SOFC that can start rapidly and has a durability equivalent to an internal combustion engine in terms of miles or hours of operation, including thousands of start and stop cycles, is a challenge. Small portable systems have demonstrated the ability to make power in 10 minutes. To be meaningful in transportation applications, the size of these portable systems must be increased by three orders of magnitude while the start time is reduced perhaps by about a factor of three. This is a significant technical challenge, but not impossible. Laboratory experiments have demonstrated the ability of small solid oxide fuel cells to reach operating temperature in as little as 15 seconds repeatedly without suffering any performance degradation.

How Policy Can Help

What is needed to further the development of both cellulose-based ethanol as a fuel and a fast-starting SOFC is a comprehensive national policy. It needs to be more than just an energy policy, because it should recognize that energy consumption and environmental quality are linked and must be managed with a coherent public policy. Such a policy would reflect the reality that there is no national infrastructure to produce, store, or distribute hydrogen, and that the time to develop such an infrastructure may likely be measured in decades, not years. A comprehensive policy would provide the vision to guide the development of technologies whose full realization is perhaps decades in the future while simultaneously developing and deploying more near-term solutions that will move the nation in the direction of reduced energy dependence, if not outright energy independence, within the next decade.

The government policy would support the development of production processes for ethanol from a variety of plant sources with a goal of minimizing the production cost per gallon. Subsidies and barriers to market entry for specific feed stocks would be eliminated over time, allowing the free market to dictate the feed stock / manufacturing process of choice.

Finally, the government, through the DOE, should support research and development of technologies such as the SOFC which efficiently convert renewable fuels, such as cellulose-based ethanol, to electricity. The ideal system would be fast-starting, fuel-flexible, inexpensive to manufacture, suitable for the vibratory and shock environment experienced in transportation operation, and require minimal maintenance; a standard set by modern internal combustion engines.

In Conclusion...

International events and natural disasters conspire to drive imported energy prices higher. Currently, our government is subsidizing an unaffordable renewable fuel, heavily funding development of an alternate fuel for which there is no executable plan for creating a national distribution network, and failing to adequately fund power production.

As discussed above, there are technologies that could simultaneously reduce our energy demands, operate from fuel distributed within the existing system, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The time to alter our national course has arrived. Failure to do so will leave us politically and economically captive to foreign states for perhaps a generation.

The author would like to thank Lawrence J. Goldstein for his advice and support in preparing this article.


About Glenn Spacht

Glenn is the Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of NanoDynamics Inc., a leader in the commercialization of nanomaterials and nanotechnology-enabled components and systems. The company was formed in 2002 and has already introduced commercial products for the microelectronics, biomedical, chemical, semiconductor, defense, and alternative-energy (fuel-cell) markets.

Glenn also had over 26 years' experience as an executive at Grumman Aerospace, where he oversaw research and development teams of over 2,000 people involved in tactical aircraft, weapons systems, electronics, and related development programs. He was responsible for program budgets exceeding $250 million and was elevated to the position of Vice President and Chief Engineer for Grumman Aerospace and Electronics in 1990. After leaving Grumman, he helped establish Fuel Cell Components and Integrators Inc., where, as Executive Vice President, he was responsible for a number of successful fuel-cell integration programs, including a fuel-cell-powered wheelchair.

In addition to his professional responsibilities, Glenn was the Chairman of NASA's Committee on Manufacturing Technology Development and was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1995. In 1986, he was awarded the AIAA Aircraft Design Award for the design, development, and test of the X-29 advanced technology demonstrator aircraft.

Glenn was selected as an Outstanding Engineering Alumnus of Pennsylvania State University in 2005. He graduated from Penn State with a BS in Aerospace Engineering in 1964 and holds an MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics from New York Polytechnic, awarded in 1972.


Copyright (c) 2006 Strategic News Service LLC and Glenn Spacht. Redistribution prohibited without written permission.

Posted by Martin at 3:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Mann has done better

by Michael Mann

I was expecting lots of summer action and a thin predictable plot. I got the later and not enough of the former. What I got instead was a healthy helping of new camera angles, mixing of film formats (high film quality interspersed with home movie quality), and some innovative sound work. What struck me most about this movie was the technical aspects of the film making. Not the story. Not the characters. Not the action. That is ok for a film geek. Bad for the overall user experience. Give this one a pass.

Posted by Martin at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A story about "The Lincoln Lawyer"

by Michael Connelly

Another airplane book. Was back and forth from the east coast twice in last week, so picked this up in Newark. Very engaging and lots of unexpected twists. Good summer entertainment. I rank 3 of 5 stars.

Posted by Martin at 8:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 8, 2006

Ten years in internet audio and video

It is not without a little bit of emotion that I note the acquisition today of Loudeye Technologies (LOUD) by Nokia (NOK). Hey, it made Engaget. When I started Loudeye the very idea of audio/video on a PC was a questionmark. The average connection speed to the internet was a 14.4 idal up modem. Sound cards and video cards were "upgrades" and only available on the most powerful PCs. The average harddisk size was 10GB. 1TB of RAID array disk space cost over $250,000. The MP3 audio format hadn't been launched yet (much less the first portable player). Real Networks had just launched Real Audio 3.0 (and changed it names from the left leaning Progressive Networks) and had no video playback capabilities. Microsoft had Netshow for audio/video and no stand alone player at all. Apple Quicktime was something for CD's only, no internet playback. My cell phone weighted about a pound, had a huge antenna and barely made phone calls.

Loudeye was the first company to enable audio and video on computers and the internet on a commercial scale. The company built the largest archive of music in the world from all major labels and independents - over 300TB of uncompressed full track songs - complete with all disk art and metadata. More importantly the company negotiated the rights to reformat those songs legally for all the rights holders. Companies like Apple iTunes, XM Satellite radio, Warner Music, EMI and others were early customers. Loudeye was the last IPO of the technology "bubble" going out in March of 2000 twenty times oversubscribed with a 100% purchase rate of the stock on the road show. The opening day trade was the largest one day gain of the year at that point. Early investors made over 200x their money on that day. Even as the overall market turned and brought Loudeye down with it, the fundamentals that Loudeye was started to exploit continued apace. Audio and video became a standard part of the PC experience and has even passed through platform that to the phone. Lets check the stats:

The average connection speed of a PC to the Internet is an always on broadband (256K or above). You can't buy a PC without built in audio and video. The average hard disk size is 500 GB. 1TB of RAID costs under a grand (a 250x reduction). MP3 as a format is everywhere along with the players and even new formats like DivX, Ogg Vobis, etc. Real Networks has morphed from a software company into a content subscription company. Microsoft has a full blown digital media strategy including player, content management, server, theatre quality HD playback and a set of home media servers and devices. Apple has changed the world with the iPod. My cell phone does e-mail, wifi, has a camera, plays audio and video and is made by Nokia.

So a cell phone company buys the leading digital audio/video infrastructure company. Fitting in a way. Best of luck Loudeye and Nokia.

Posted by Martin at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 7, 2006

Where the "smart money" is investing

Business Week has a funny graphic with the "leaders" of clean fuel investing: Table: A Few Who Think The Market Is Ripe (including Paul Allen and Imperium Renewables of course).

Posted by Martin at 2:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 4, 2006

Join me for World Watch President talk on Global Oil

The Worldwatch Institute and the World Affairs Council of Seattle present

Christopher Flavin
President, Worldwatch Institute

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Registration 6:30 PM
Program 7:00 PM
The Mountaineers 300 Third Ave. West Seattle, WA 98119
The price of oil has risen from $34 per barrel in 2004 to $78 per barrel in 2006. How are sky-rocketing energy prices affecting the global economy? What are some concrete steps that need to be taken in order to decrease the United States dependency on oil? What can Seattle do to prepare for peak oil? Besides oil companies, who else benefits from rising oil prices? The World Affairs Council of Seattle presents Christopher Flavin, President and CEO of the Worldwatch Institute, an international research organization whose focus is the achievement of an environmentally sustainable future and a socially just society, to speak on the U.S. oil dependency crisis at an evening lecture on Tuesday, September 26. Flavin will discuss his strategy for improving energy efficiency, developing renewable fuels, and building cooperative alliances with countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

COST: $10 World Affairs Council Members and students, $15 Guests and general public
To register for the event or for more information please visit
http://www.world-affairs.org/calendar.cfm or call the World Affairs Council at (206) 441-5910.

Posted by Martin at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack