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$1/Gallon "Green Gasoline" In Sight

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the happy-earth-day dept.

Power 740

mattnyc99 writes "We've gotten excited here about the startup that claims it can make $1/gallon ethanol out of anything from trash to tires. But we've also seen how cellulosic ethanol is a better option, and how ethanol demand in general is only adding to the worldwide food crisis. So what about $1/gallon gasoline? NSF-funded researchers at UMass Amherst just completed the first direct conversion from cellulose using a new method of hydrocarbon refining, which they claim can be commercialized within 5-10 years and essentially make fuel out of anything that grows. Quoting: 'We already have the infrastructure in place to distribute liquid fuels. We're using them to power transportation vehicles today, and I think that's what we'll be using in 10 years and in 50 years,' Huber says. 'And if you want a sustainable liquid transportation fuel, biomass is the only way to go.'" The process is running at about 50% efficiency now; the $1/gallon figure is based on getting to 100%.

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I say! (5, Funny)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 6 years ago | (#23164568)

Mr Fusion!

Seeing doc putting in that banana peel was just too much :-)

Re:I say! (4, Insightful)

Erioll (229536) | about 6 years ago | (#23164612)

So this technology is 5-10 years away? Kinda like how fusion is always 20 years away?

Basically, I'll believe it when I'm pumping it into my gas/ethanol tank.

Re:I say! (3, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 6 years ago | (#23164678)

Kinda like how fusion is always 20 years away?
... I might have been too subtle, but that was my point.

Re:I say! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164790)

Well, I can't say exactly how long it will take to commercialize, but the company I work for, which may or may not have been mentioned in the article (wink) has a production-scale run of the catalyst scheduled for later this year. I wouldn't scoff too hard at a 5-10 year projection.

Re:I say! (5, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | about 6 years ago | (#23164852)

Actually, it reminds me of thermal depolymerization [wikipedia.org] . Anyone remember that [slashdot.org] ?

Really, though, what we're looking at is one of the things that drives me crazy about a lot of environmental "trends" and congress's role in pushing them. And don't get me wrong; I say this as a hardcore green with CFLs in every socket who is on the waiting list for an electric car [youtube.com] .

Most of these new biomass-to-ethanol plants work based on syngas. That is, partial oxidation of carbon-and-hydrogen-bearing matter into a mixture of CO and H2. They then either, through an wasteful catalytic process or an even more wasteful biological process, convert the syngas into ethanol. Great. Except that we've been converting syngas to gasoline, in a rather simple and fairly efficient process, for the past century. The main syngas source was coal. This Fischer-Tropsch process powered a large portion of Nazi Germany's war machine (until their plants were bombed flat). It powered South Africa during the Apartheid regime.

Let's state this again: they typically are using *more energy* to create *less output* of a product with *less energy density* that *can't be transported in normal pipelines* and can only be used in *small amounts* in cars unless they're *specially modified*, rather than, more efficiently, just creating gasoline. Why? Because gasoline is a dirty word. Because there aren't the same sort of subsidies for "cellulosic gasoline" as there are for cellulosic ethanol. Because cellulosic gasoline won't win you green cred, or get the investors lining up. So the inferior solution gets chosen.

Re:I say! (4, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | about 6 years ago | (#23164702)

Mr. Fusion only powered the time circuits and the Flux Capacitor, the engine runs on ordinary gasoline, always has, always will.

"out of anything that grows" ... (4, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | about 6 years ago | (#23164580)

well, it should be fun driving the Hummer around in all that future desert such "cheapness" will lead to

think sawgrass (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | about 6 years ago | (#23164694)

You won't be able to cut it down fast enough, even with your stupid hummer [fuh2.com] . The great plains could be replanted with native vegetation and we would all be better off.

Re:"out of anything that grows" ... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 6 years ago | (#23164826)

"well, it should be fun driving the Hummer around in all that future desert such "cheapness" will lead to"

Shouldn't be a problem. Hell, if they started using all the fuckin' kudzu we 'grow' down south here, we'd have plenty of fuel to get off the foreign oil teet immediately....and probably fuel for 30-100 years in the future without any other source of plant needed.

Seriously, we've got tons of the stuff...and if we took all the lawn clippings from everyones yard in the US...I'd have to guess with other sources of waste plant life, we could make a huge dent in the need for fossil oil.

I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (4, Insightful)

ottawanker (597020) | about 6 years ago | (#23164582)

I'm willing to pay $2/gallon for the opportunity to use the 50% efficient stuff.. Why wait until you reach your target of $1/gallon when what you have is already cheaper than normal gas?

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (1)

Devin Jeanpierre (1243322) | about 6 years ago | (#23164622)

Because gas is cheaper than even the USD 1.00 figure. Some countries see prices below USD 0.50 .

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 6 years ago | (#23164732)

Maybe where you are. I'm the U.S. and I'm currently paying somewhere around US $3.50/gallon. If I could get gas for $2, I, along with a few million of my closest friends, would literally shit bricks.

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (5, Funny)

CowboyNealOption (1262194) | about 6 years ago | (#23164780)

... I, along with a few million of my closest friends, would literally shit bricks....

So this would be a boon for the construction industry as well?

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (4, Interesting)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 years ago | (#23164754)

For the consumer or in some huge volume?
1 US gallon = 3.78541178 litre

Over here in Sweden the taxes put the gasoline price at something like 12.49-12.99/litre in this town right now according to a webpage.
Say 12.70 sek / litre * 3.785 = 48.07 sek.
8.36$ / gallon in the gasoline station.

So yes, people would gladly pay 2$/gallon here. In face people already pay almost 1.5 $ / litre for etanol/E85. (And we do have tax reduction / no taxes(?) on that.)

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (1)

salahx (100975) | about 6 years ago | (#23164742)

You will be at then some if it were avaiable. Keep in mind gasoline prices include heavy taxes (state, federal, excise, etc).

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (1)

XorNand (517466) | about 6 years ago | (#23164850)

You're assuming that the costs scales linearly, which is pretty unlikely given the huge fixed costs associated with any type of energy production/distribution network on this scale.

$2/gal to produce = $3/gal at the pump (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 6 years ago | (#23164892)

That's rough, but at $118/bbl, the cost of refined gasoline is somewhere about $2.50/gallon. The $3.50 you're paying at the pump includes distribution and taxes. So you'd pay $3/gallon for a fuel that stores only about 60-65% of the energy as the $3.50/gallon gas your paying now. Not really economical. At their theoretical 100% efficiency, it's about a wash, though you'll still have to visit the pump half again as often to fill up.

Re:$2/gal to produce = $3/gal at the pump (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#23164970)

$3/gal not economoical? fuck me i'm paying $1.5 a LITRE. that's about $6.6 USD/gal.

sign me up if you can make fuel for $3/gal.... or maybe you need to realise there is more to the world then the USA

Who wants to bet... (1, Interesting)

vivin (671928) | about 6 years ago | (#23164904)

... that this may not see the light of day? I want to see this come to fruition as much as (most) anybody else and I don't want to be this cynical and/or conspiratorial. But I wonder how the oil companies would react to this, or even the US government - would it be apathetic. I mean... remember the Electric Car [wikipedia.org] ? My more optimistic side hopes for this to actually come true.

Re:I'm willing to pay $2/gallon (1)

kingbyu (682024) | about 6 years ago | (#23164976)

I'll gladly sell you 50% efficient fuel at $2/gal. Steps:
  1. Take 1 gallon of 100% efficient fuel at $3.26/gal
  2. Add 1 gallon of water at $0/gal
  3. Result: 2 gallons of 50% efficient fuel costing $3.25
  4. Sell to you for $2/gal = $4 total.
  5. Profit!

no way. (1)

thhamm (764787) | about 6 years ago | (#23164588)

The process is running at about 50% efficiency now; the $1/gallon figure is based on getting to 100%.

this sounds all too good to be true. (especially the 100% efficiency).

Re:no way. (2, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | about 6 years ago | (#23164668)

Gotta be careful with how they're defining "efficiency" here.

They are not talking about thermal efficiency, they are talking about conversion efficiency: how much of the input gets converted to final product. The thermodynamic limits on efficiency do not apply here, so 100% is technically doable.


Re:no way. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#23164778)

why wouldn't they? claiming ANY process is 100% efficent is plain out lieing.

Re:no way. (1)

XorNand (517466) | about 6 years ago | (#23164918)

Execution by shooting a single bullet into the back a person's head is a pretty efficient process. I would bet money that it's pretty close to 100% efficient in the countries that use that method. As the GP says, a process can be 100% efficient, depending on how you define efficiency.

Re:no way. (0, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#23164994)

" a process can be 100% efficient, depending on how you define efficiency."

anything can be anything you want if you use a crappy enough definition. whats your point?

oh and there are documented cases of the nazi's doing shootings to the head which failed, and they buried the person only to have them claw their way out.

Re:no way. (1)

dfghjk (711126) | about 6 years ago | (#23164942)

How about electric heating?

Re:no way. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#23165040)

err no electric heating produces both heat AND light, so it's not 100% efficent, not even close. not only that but the generation of the electricity isn't 100% efficent. you have to go all the way back in the supply chain or your just fooling yourself.

Re:no way. (2, Funny)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | about 6 years ago | (#23164880)

I heard about a guy that knew a guy that got 500%, but a Big Oil company bought all rights to the process, murdered his wife and slept with his dog!

Well (1)

SheepLauncher (1025544) | about 6 years ago | (#23164590)

The day theres one dollar gasoline is the day cowboy neal isn't in the poll or yellow stone explodes. I don't see this happening

Re:Well (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 6 years ago | (#23164902)

"The day theres one dollar gasoline is the day cowboy neal isn't in the poll or yellow stone explodes. I don't see this happening"

However if it does come back....maybe we can start having fun, big block engine muscle cars again!!!

OH man...it would be fun to drive again!!! Just imagine, redo the old GTO Judges...Camero's, and even the late 455 4-speed Trans Ams, but, this time, with good suspension and handling. Maybe with retro looks (the newer versions after the mid 70's just suck). And....no more fugly Priuses....ahh....

What? (1)

Devin Jeanpierre (1243322) | about 6 years ago | (#23164606)

How is turning ethanol to gasoline supposed to help the food shortage the ethanol production makes? It seems to me to be bound to make it worse, due to extra inefficiencies caused by the extra step, and yet the article seems to imply otherwise. 100% efficiency is impossible.

Re:What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164636)

this process uses non-feedstock/waste materials so it shouldn't have an impact on food supplies.

Re:What? (1)

Devin Jeanpierre (1243322) | about 6 years ago | (#23164674)

How is a conversion to gasoline supposed to help make it even better? Unless you can get an above-or-at-100% efficiency in conversion, it should stay as ethanol.

Re:What? (1)

clampolo (1159617) | about 6 years ago | (#23164696)

How is turning ethanol to gasoline supposed to help the food shortage the ethanol production makes?

They are claiming that they can convert any plant with this, not just food plants. So you could just grab some weeds and make fuel out of them, as opposed to growing crops which is far more expensive(weeding, insects.)

Kudzu! (1)

680x0 (467210) | about 6 years ago | (#23164828)

Start converting kudzu (an invasive plant species... well, invasive in the US anyway) to fuel, and kill two birds with one stone.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

kithrup (778358) | about 6 years ago | (#23164698)

Different articles. First link is about a company that can convert ethanol to gasoline. (And the advantage of that is that you don't have to buy a new car -- your existing car, which runs on gasoline and not ethanol, will still work with the new fuel.)

The fourth link is about converting cellulose (i.e., plant material) into something that seems to resemble gasoline. The 100% efficiency they're talking about isn't thermodynamic -- they're talking about doing 100% of the conversion that is possible, when they're doing 50% of it right now.

I still don't trust it; as someone above commented, with gasoline costing more than $3/gallon in the US right now, being able to do it for $2/gallon would mean they could raise as much financing as they could produce. (On the other hand: one of the reasons gasoline is so expensive in the US is because of the refineries, and this stuff would -- one presumes -- still need to be refined. And might need a different refinery, which would raise the cost even more. The article, sadly, doesn't give any significant details.)

It's amazing how many things are 5-10 years away.

Re:What? (1)

Delwin (599872) | about 6 years ago | (#23164870)

Actually if you break down the cost of gasoline in the US right now you get this:
http://www.energy.ca.gov/gasoline/margins/index.html [ca.gov]
And you see that the cost of crude oil - pre-refine, pre-distribution, pre-everything is spiraling quickly to $3/gallon (it's at $2.80 right now) If this can produce the effective equivalent of light sweet crude for $2/gal then screw any more improvements get that into full scale industrial production right now. We can get it more efficient once we stabilize the world oil and food markets. We haven't had crude at $2/gal since Dec of last year and I personally would love to see gas prices drop back below $3/gal at the pump please.

Well hell, I'll pay $2/gal now for 50% efficiency! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164610)


Huh What? (4, Informative)

tgd (2822) | about 6 years ago | (#23164618)

FWIW, we do NOT have an infrastructure for distributing liquid fuels that are predominantly ethanol... thats one of the real big problems. It corrodes the living sh#% out of virtually all of our liquid fuel transportation infrastructure.

Cheap ethanol is good if the production of biomass to produce it doesn't displace food production, and $1/gallon would certainly be nice, but we have to be realistic about ALL the problems an ethanol-based fuel economy will entail... replacing all the pipelines being just the start.

Re:Huh What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164654)

All your pipelines are belong to us!

Re:Huh What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164764)

and if we need to replace pipelines, why not use something that does not need pipelines?

Re:Huh What? (4, Informative)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 6 years ago | (#23164772)

The article appears a bit vague, but it appears they are not talking about running ethanol through the pipelines, but gasoline. Infact, talking about converting Biomass into gasoline, not ethanol. Atleast that's the idea I got from the quote:

Huber and his colleagues aren't the first to derive hydrocarbons from renewable sources. Virent Energy Systems, for example, just signed a deal with Shell to produce gasoline from plant sugars and expects to open a pilot facility in the next two years. UOP is working on a project to produce jet fuel for U.S. and NATO fighters from algal and vegetable oils. But Huber's work stands out as likely the first direct conversion from cellulose, opening up as potential fuel sources virtually anything that grows. Commercialization of the technology may take another five to 10 years, the researchers predict.
Developments in so-called "green hydrocarbons" arrive as ethanol continues to come under attack as expensive, inefficient and a contributor to rising food prices around the world. (More than a billion bushels of corn are diverted to ethanol production each year.) "There's certainly a lot of historical inertia for ethanol. It's gotten us off to a great start, but I can't see the country transitioning to flex-fuel," says John Regalbuto, director of the Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program at the National Science Foundation. "I almost think, long term, that we will go to plug-in hybrids. But we're still going to need diesel and jet fuel--you can't run trains or fly planes with ethanol or hydrogen."
But, then again in describing the process it goes back to vague (emphasis mine:)

Using a catalyst commonly employed in the petroleum industry, Huber and his colleagues heated small amounts of cellulose very quickly for a matter of seconds before cooling it, producing a high-octane liquid similar to gasoline.
The article seems to be trying to distance this technology from ethanol, stating that ethanol has its problems and that it's not going to be the right direction

Re:Huh What? (1)

joggle (594025) | about 6 years ago | (#23164804)

Good point. It also doesn't address the ongoing problem of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate that can't be reabsorbed naturally (so the concentration of CO2 keeps increasing without limit). As others point out it also exacerbates the world food problem.

While I'd love to see cheap gas, if we need to make a major infrastructure investment then it should be with the mindset that it is truly sustainable and won't ruin the environment for future generations and starve poorer countries.

I'm not saying ethanol won't be the fuel of the future, but if it is then there should be plans on how to address these major issues (perhaps by growing ethanol fuels in locations that currently aren't growing anything--such as within buildings as they do in Japan for some crops--and creating some sort of device to extract CO2 from the atmosphere in large quantities efficiently).

Re:Huh What? (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | about 6 years ago | (#23164956)

It also doesn't address the ongoing problem of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate that can't be reabsorbed naturally.

The carbon in biomass comes from the atmosphere. You have to take it out of the atmosphere before you put it back into the atmosphere via your tailpipe. Increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by burning biomass is like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Of course the reabsorption process isn't natural, but that's the point. It kind of balances the books on humanity's use of atmospheric carbon.

Re:Huh What? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 6 years ago | (#23165002)

Yes... plans...

What we need is a genetically engineered plant! One that matures and spreads quickly. One that absorbs an inordinately large amount of C02 and perhaps stores it within itself like some sort of fat breath! It would need to have a relativly odd sort of reproduction; one that would require human intervention (like a bee and its flower, but without a self-pollination method or an asexual reproduction method.) Requiring human intervention would help prevent uncontrolled spread, but like everything else written above would be a complex and difficult development process decades in the making.

...maybe we should invest in those C02 scrubber towers [americanen...ndence.com] instead. What if we could string them between city buildings or up the sides of skyscrapers? Like through an artificial canyon, winds would drawn the carbon through the scrubbers.

Re:Huh What? (2, Interesting)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 6 years ago | (#23164824)

I know that ethanol has some solvent properties, but corrosion? Yeah, it will dissolve the paint of your car.... Not nice, but don't spill. I have an ethanol powered oven. It's for decoration only, even though it puts out a substantial amount of heat. The ethanol I filled in the stainless steel furnace is still there. I can turn it on anytime I want. No rust (=corrosion) whatsoever.

So, frankly, the typical concrete gas bunker won't corrode. It also won't corrode any of our modern car tanks because they're plastic and ethanol and plastic get along quite nicely.

Yes, in pure gasoline cars it will attack the rubber in the engine. No, this has nothing to do with what you mention.

I really must be missing something.

Re:Huh What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164968)

It corrodes the living sh#% out of virtually all of our liquid fuel transportation infrastructure.

And yet somehow, manufacturers produce and ship hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquor (Which is ethanol) to hundreds of thousands of stores every month.

Does the ethanol corrode the tubes in the distillery ?

Re:Huh What? (1)

metalcoat (918779) | about 6 years ago | (#23164996)

Why exactly would we have to use existing pipelines, This could essentially be made anywhere then stored/trucked/etc

So... (1)

ExploHD (888637) | about 6 years ago | (#23164634)

I'm no economist, but if it's going to be $1/gallon at a 100% efficiency, and it's only at around 50% effienct, wouldn't that make it almost $2/gallon? That is still less than the market prices we have now.

Re:So... (1)

megaditto (982598) | about 6 years ago | (#23164766)

No it wouldn't. You are making lots of assumptions if you think so. To point out just one, the unconvertable 50% might cost money to dispose of.

doing research != speaking well (4, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | about 6 years ago | (#23164638)

Quoth the scientist:

"Crude oil looks more similar to gasoline than biomass does"

More importantly, if they get 50% of the cellulose's energy into hydrocarbons then processing twice as much cellulose should given them a $2/gallon hydrocarbon. What they should tell us is whether a gallon of their hydrocarbon mixture has the same amount of energy as a gallon of oil For example, a gallon of ethanol has about 2/3rds the energy of a gallon of regular gasoline, so if it's only priced at 2/3rd the price of regular it won't break even.

The bottom line: we need price in dollars per kilojoule, not in dollars per gallon.

Re:doing research != speaking well (3, Interesting)

N1ck0 (803359) | about 6 years ago | (#23164808)

The 50% efficiency is how much of the biomass energy they can convert to the "high-octane liquid". Can they get to 100%? No...you cannot extract 100% energy from something, also the process that is getting you 50% yields will probably require much more energy then what you are doing right now.

Also does this $1/gallon figure account for the energy needed to raise/cool this biomass the 1000 degrees per second? Also the cost of getting the biomass? And the cost of collecting (and probably liquifing/straining/etc this biomass. Is this $1/gallon number include current tax rates for transportation maintenance? I have a funny feeling that that might just be the cost to actually execute the refinement assuming everything else was free.

sh1t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164640)

shout the loudest Be forgotten in a

Energy Lobby (1)

Necrotica (241109) | about 6 years ago | (#23164644)

Unfortunately, the energy lobby in the United States will ensure that this never happens.

Re:Energy Lobby (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | about 6 years ago | (#23164872)

I was just thinking this, and if and when this biomass fuel supply does become readily available, guess who it will be coming from? O&G companies, and they will be charging similar prices as gas, because really, who wants to take a pay cut.

Thanks ethanol for world hunger and beer prices (4, Insightful)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | about 6 years ago | (#23164646)

The minute the government stops subsidizing the production of ethanol, not only will farmers start moving back to wheat and other foods that the world needs, but ethanol will be forced to survive on its own next to gasoline, and it will vanish in the puff of bad logic that brought it into existence. Let's not forget the recent story about increases in beer cost as farmers switch over to corn for ethanol [slashdot.org] . Also informative is this recent Time magazine article [time.com] debunking the benefits of ethanol. This is just another political stunt at the expense of the world's food crops and my inebriation. When will Congress learn that manipulating the economy never has the desired effects.

Re:Thanks ethanol for world hunger and beer prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164692)

More like Monsenato's genetic crops whose seeds will not germinate, forcing farmers to buy special growing seeds to have a crop the following year. Particularly so in the third world were we can take the piss and abuse our positions of power to the maximum.

Re:Thanks ethanol for world hunger and beer prices (1)

CanadaIsCold (1079483) | about 6 years ago | (#23164840)

While I completely agree on ethanol disappearing once subsidies are removed, I can't agree that the increasing cost of wheat is related to ethanol production. In fact it's the rising cost of oil for transportation that is being embedded into the cost of wheat products that is raising their price.

CELLULOSE != FOOD (5, Insightful)

jnadke (907188) | about 6 years ago | (#23164862)


Cellulose is plant matter. You know. Grass clippings, corn stalks, etc. I see you really must like eating GRASS CLIPPINGS along with the COWS. Similar intelligence, perhaps?


Cellulostic Ethanol [wikipedia.org] : Educate Yourself!


Re:Thanks ethanol for world hunger and beer prices (1)

nuzak (959558) | about 6 years ago | (#23164966)

> When will Congress learn that manipulating the economy never has the desired effects.

Never. Next easy question?

Hey, I'd be happy with $2/gallon right now (1)

JSBiff (87824) | about 6 years ago | (#23164652)

Seriously, while I'd love to see them get to 100% efficiency and get this down to $1/gallon, at $2/gallon it's still below market (we're paying about $3.35 right now, so it sounds like it's already commercially viable to me. =) If the government really wants to help promote this technology, declare a national ban on taxing this fuel for 10 years. That way, I'd only be paying the actual cost (plus distribution), and not 30-60 cents per gallon additional for the stuff. Overnight, this stuff would be selling faster than they could produce it.

Re:Hey, I'd be happy with $2/gallon right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164846)

declare a national ban on taxing this fuel for 10 years
Um, just because a car runs on magic juice doesn't mean that it doesn't cause wear and tear on the roads, which is where most fuel taxes go. How are you going to pay for repairs and improvements if you're not collecting taxes?

And they will call it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164666)

Mr. Fusion

PopMech! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164688)

I thought this was a joke, then I saw that the article was in Popular Mechanics and thought "whew" (because every story that has ever run in popular mechanics about technologies of the future has been spot on).

I know (1)

eclectro (227083) | about 6 years ago | (#23164704)

We can use the cellulose from cardboard boxes. That way we go to the store, recycle the boxes our stuff comes in for more gas, and be able to drive to the store again to buy more stuff. Maybe we could make it a national imperative to buy more stuff in cardboard boxes and save the economy at the same time. This can't be any worse than the energy policy we currently have.

This is just a green friendly suggestion. I await my prize.

It's always about volume (1)

Bovius (1243040) | about 6 years ago | (#23164726)

Don't get me wrong, this is an awesome idea, and I'm sure they'll jump on even the 50% efficiency option when this is ready for production. Volume of production is going to be a problem, as it is for every alternative fuel source. I don't think this would make an appreciable dent in fuel prices until a long time after its goes into use.

Also! Insert plug about big energy companies and how the only reason they've cared about global warming is because we're rapidly running out of the stuff that contributes to it.

This isn't the solution (1)

Hojima (1228978) | about 6 years ago | (#23164734)

Right now, we're trying to cut down on oil dependency (the US can already sustain itself so don't even get me started on that), but ethanol still creates greenhouse gases. The best solution would be to eliminate the need to drive by working with major developers in order to have housing and all essential needs within a short distance. That and quit wasting energy. I know so many people that drive a block to take their kids to the park (and they don't carry anything so they can definitely walk).

Re:This isn't the solution (2, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 6 years ago | (#23164978)

"The best solution would be to eliminate the need to drive by working with major developers in order to have housing and all essential needs within a short distance."

Yeah...let's tear down cities like Houston, and start all over. Right.

Your example of the kids being driven a block to the park is a valid one, but, not the most common. People in the US just don't like being crammed in so close to each other, we like to have houses with yards. And that is in the cities....many prefer to have acres of land, and live further out in the country. Not to mention that many places where you have to go to work, are not places you want to live and raise kids.

I really don't see the US ever going to an all urban way of life. That is just not the way we are....we prefer to have 'elbow room', which necessitates driving distances to work, live and shop.

ANYTHING that grows? (0)

QuantumFlux (228693) | about 6 years ago | (#23164762)

...which they claim can be commercialized within 5-10 years and essentially make fuel out of anything that grows.

Where do you get the 'Biomass' (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | about 6 years ago | (#23164768)

Seriously, where do you get the quantity of 'Biomass' you need to generate all of this fuel?

I'm not an expert but from what I know most of the waste materials from products we create is used in some fashion, and I suspect the quantity of 'Biomass' needed to generate 1 Litre of fuel is fairly large. Maybe you can just use garbage and other waste materials to make this fuel, but does 1 person generate enough waste in their daily life to create enough fuel to drive their car?

Re:Where do you get the 'Biomass' (1)

Digi-John (692918) | about 6 years ago | (#23164896)

The oceans are full of seaweed and algae, the cities are full of yard waste. Farms make plant waste, although a lot of that gets fed to farm animals (straw, corn cannery waste, etc.).

i want a car that runs on patent applications (4, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | about 6 years ago | (#23164782)

if i had a car that ran on patent applications, i could literally shovel garbage into it and get wherever i needed to go

and it wouldn't cost anything

heck, they'd pay me to take the stuff away

It just isn't true (2)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 6 years ago | (#23164786)

"ethanol demand in general is only adding to the worldwide food crisis."

Utter bullshit. Consuming crops that are grown entirely in the U.S. cannot create a "worldwide food crisis". Unless you believe that the U.S. is responsible for supplying food to people too lazy and stupid to grow their own.

Re:It just isn't true (2, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | about 6 years ago | (#23165042)

USA also _buys_ food in other countries. Reduced internal food supply causes less exports and more international purchases.

What about Thermal Depolymerization? (1)

steveha (103154) | about 6 years ago | (#23164798)

I was hopeful when I first saw the news stories about Thermal Depolymerization [wikipedia.org] . This is not complete vapor; there is in fact an operational plant. Given where oil prices are now, we should be reading about TDP plants opening all over the place.

We aren't reading about TDP plants opening all over the place.

So what happened? I can't figure it out. There were allegations that the TDP plant was emitting bad odors, but none recently, and I think they have figured out how to make the plants trap the worst odors. Given the profits they could be making right now, I can't believe that the odors problem would stop them even if they did not have a solution (just put the plants in really remote areas).

My best guess is that they are profitable enough to keep running the plant, but not so profitable that it's tempting to build more plants. Given oil's current price, that is somewhat surprising... maybe the big investors are expecting oil prices to drop again in future?


Re:What about Thermal Depolymerization? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164958)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changing_World_Technologies [wikipedia.org]

The reason Changing World Technologies is an instructive case is that, when they started out, they made all kinds of wonderful claims. Yes, they can make oil from turkey guts. That's about it though. My personal theory is that they can't use different feed stocks successfully.

With this and all other schemes, I will believe it when I see it.

Re:What about Thermal Depolymerization? (1)

ShawnDoc (572959) | about 6 years ago | (#23165012)

That's exactly what it is. The cost to drill oil is still extremely low, in the $30/barrel range. Maybe even lower. From your wikipedia article, they are able to produce oil at around $80/barrel. So most of the money is still going to drilling oil wells, and shale oil production which produce 2-3x the profit at current market rates.

I just tried this E85 stuff.. it sucks (4, Interesting)

bill_kress (99356) | about 6 years ago | (#23164810)

I just bought a car that happens to take this E85 ethanol combo gas.

It dropped my mileage from city 22 to like 16, highway 30 to 22.

It was a little cheaper due to government subsidies ($2.77 vs $3.30 at the time), but it didn't come close to breaking even with the drop in mileage.

Overall very disappointed.

Where are the plug-in hybrids?

Re:I just tried this E85 stuff.. it sucks (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 6 years ago | (#23164982)

Yeah, an electric car that runs off my home's power. That would be awesome! Except that my power plant runs on coal.

Re:I just tried this E85 stuff.. it sucks (0)

night_flyer (453866) | about 6 years ago | (#23164990)

they have done the same will most of the pumps in my city. they switched to E10 and didnt tell anyone, but now everyone is experiencing a 2-25% reduction in fule efficiency. so now they are burning more fuel and filling up more often.


plutoniah (545112) | about 6 years ago | (#23164830)

Nuclear, nuclear, nuclear. JTFC, build more nuclear. All this hippie green power bullshit is crap. It will never give us enough energy. Build more nuclear. A LOT more!


Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23164906)

You user name makes me think you might not be the most objective person to ask about this...

I've lived through this before (1)

hey! (33014) | about 6 years ago | (#23164860)

Back in the 70's, we called it the Energy Crisis.

Mining companies chewed up mountains and spit out piles of rubble just to get at a paltry quantity of shale oil. Thousands, probably tens of thousands of startups had ingenious ideas for conserving or producing energy. I knew a lot of smart, creative people who jumped to be part of the new field of alternative energy technology.

Then prices went down and it all collapsed.

I don't think prices will go down as far as they did from the 70s to 80s, but we have to be aware that news of these ideas gets a great deal of play when prices are high, then drop off as prices go the other way. Unless we have reached an era of monotonically increasing oil prices, it will be a long road to replacing oil, littered with companies choked off by fluctuations in cash flow driven by fluctuations in oil prices.

I'm optimistic (???) this time around we're going to see a more consistent trend towards higher oil prices, which means we'll see greater progress in replacing petroleum with renewable energy sources. But I'd be astonished if renewables replaced a significant fraction of our oil consumption within ten years.

Re:I've lived through this before (1)

nuzak (959558) | about 6 years ago | (#23165020)

> Unless we have reached an era of monotonically increasing oil prices

It's quite possible we have. Most of OPEC, save for Saudi Arabia, has replied to increased demand with "we're pumpin' as fast as we can cap'n, she just won' give us nae more!". Okay, maybe not quite with that accent. Sure, SA can turn a knob and produce more, but their capacity isn't infinite either, and they would rather have supply when others start dwindling. We may not completely run out of oil for quite some time yet, but peak oil is about production rates, and there's a lot of signs pointing to us having reached it.

What about auto efficiency? (1)

Trevin (570491) | about 6 years ago | (#23164882)

I assume the 50% efficency quotes refers to the ethanol conversion process. What kind of mpg can we expect cars to get which run on ethanol? This article [wikipedia.org] indicates it's only 66% as efficient as gas, so that needs to be accounted for in the comparison. Are current production automobiles equipped to run on ethanol as well as regular gas?

What I want to know... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 6 years ago | (#23164884)

First of all, this will NEVER be 100% efficient - not even close. There will be other waste products, possibly a LOT of other waste products. What I want to know is, what are those other waste products and in what quantity are they produced in proportion to ethanol? What does it take to separate the ethanol from these waste products? How toxic and/or disposable are these waste products?

Long on promises, short on details.

Compare energy, not gallons (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 6 years ago | (#23164898)

This just screams optimistic spin.

First of all, they shouldn't be comparing "gallons," they should be comparing energy. Ethanol has only about 2/3 the energy per gallon of gasoline.

So, today, with the "50% efficiency," the implication is that they could produce $2 a gallon ethanol... which, guess what, is equivalent to $3 a gallon gasoline.

Second of all, we've all seen umpteen press releases that tout how great something is going to be. Remember how OLPC's $100 laptop became a $200 laptop?

Third, even if "It generates 7.7 times more energy than is required to produce it..." (is that for what they're actually doing now, or what it will be after the double the efficiency?) it does use energy, and the cost of that energy is going to rise.

Fourth, even flex-fuel cars don't use pure ethanol, they use E85... which means the fuel the car uses will cost more than the ethanol cost.

By the time they get done with it, my guess is that it may be a very important incremental improvement, but I don't look to be putting "$1 a gallon gasoline" in my car "within five to ten years." For one thing, I don't own a flex-fuel vehicle right now. Do you?

You heard it here first... (3, Interesting)

rickb928 (945187) | about 6 years ago | (#23164944)

When we can make affordable fuel out of trash, garbage, and untreated sewage, then trash, garbage, and untreated sewage will nearly immediately be in short supply. Cost of the raw material will increase, and make the finished product less affordable.

Pretty soon after that, we will cut down perfectly good trees for no other reason than to make liquid fuels. Darn. There goes the forest. And the parks, etc. Not so good.

It's just not that easy. But it's attractive, and will keep us until we can do the electric car thing and do away with liquid fuels altogether.


Politicans on Bio fuel (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | about 6 years ago | (#23164948)

Earlier in the month the brainless politicians said the UK had to add 2.5% of Bio fuel [bbc.co.uk] to petrol and diesel "to be green". Today the same moron says that we have to do something to cut the price of food for people.

How about reversing the idiot decision to add 2.5% bio fuel, and release that land back to growing food, and thus make the price of food cheaper.

Oh, that idea is a bit too simple though, they'll never go for that.

Soylent Fuel (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | about 6 years ago | (#23165036)

"which they claim can be commercialized within 5-10 years and essentially make fuel out of anything that grows."
Soylent Fuel is made from people! PEOPLE!
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