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SwiftFuel Alternative To Alternative Fuels

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the how-about-pedals dept.

Transportation 725

TheDawgLives writes "PBS has an article by Bob Cringely about the best route to end our dependence on oil and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of replacing all our expensive cars with even more expensive hybrids or electric cars, his suggestion is to use a cheap drop-in replacement for gasoline called Swift Fuel. It is derived from Ethanol, but doesn't require any modification to older cars to prevent corrosion. It can be mixed with gasoline in any amount and can even be distributed using the same network as gasoline, including being pumped in the same pipes and shipped in the same trucks. It is truly a drop-in replacement for gas, and it is real. It is being tested by the FAA for certification in propeller aircraft. It also happens to be about $2 a gallon cheaper than gasoline."

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Food prices (4, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758295)

Where does the ethanol come from?

Re:Food prices (5, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758347)

Switchgrass [slashdot.org]

Re:Food prices (3, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758369)

You still need land to grow it on, which might otherwise be used for growing food.

Re:Food prices (5, Informative)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758461)

It's not the same land or farming resources, though. Switchgrass grows on a wider variety of soil and climate, meaning it can be grown in places where you couldn't grow food crops, and doesn't require much seeding or fertilizer.

Re:Food prices (5, Insightful)

sleigher (961421) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758493)

Your right that it can be grown on land that is not used for food and grow very well there. I think the problem is that the people who do grow food might stand to make more money growing switchgrass so then the land for food will be used anyways. I know if I was a farmer and had a chance to make more money growing a weed I would be all over it. I might be wrong in that. It might not make them more money it is just the first thing that popped in my mind.

Re:Food prices (4, Insightful)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758561)

Plowing up new land creates *lots* of CO2 via soil oxidation too, and quite possibly at a faster rate than the fossil fuels they are "replacing." And since oil is a fungible commodity, the oil you "replaced" will simply be sold off and burned by someone else... Biofuels just make oil a little cheaper than it would otherwise be by decreasing demand ever so slightly. So, it's quite likely that the biofuel initiative is actually make the problem a lot worse. The biofuel initiative is also creating a giant dead zone in the gulf of Mexico due to fertilizer runoff. But don't try to tell any of this to the cult of global warming. They don't like facts interfering in their religion.

Re:Food prices (4, Informative)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758655)

Hmmm, does Brazil have these same problems?

Re:Food prices (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758707)

Don't know, but 144,000 people are about to lose their jobs in Brazil thanks to biofuel:
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article4083137.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

Wait wait wait (5, Insightful)

Calledor (859972) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759633)

Are you actually advocating that brazil not mechanize the nearly 500 yearold process of sugar cane harvest? Are you nuts? Was industrialization something you found "quaint"?

Re:Food prices (4, Informative)

sleigher (961421) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758749)

Brazil grows sugar cane and started back in the 70's. It is only in the past 5 or 10 years that they became energy independent so it took them decades. I am sure they had all sorts of growing pains but they should be commended for doing it. We should be doing it for the same reasons. Better to use a renewable fuel where we can and save the oil for what we really need it for. Moms SUV is not really a need to me. She can have ethanol or swift fuel.

Re:Food prices (3, Informative)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759387)

Don't they have to continually clear rainforest to grow that sugar cane though?

It's not a religion (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758677)

It's not a religion. Religions are based on faith. This is based on hysteria.

Actually you are both quite wrong. (5, Insightful)

Calledor (859972) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759245)

This is based on an economic consequence. The infrastructure of America is built around the car, and not just any car, but a car that had 60 years of dirt cheap fuel. Our cities and towns are modeled around this. More importantly salaries are also adjusted for a much cheaper transportation cost. You have several options and none of them are particularly appetizing, and none of them have anything to do with global warming. You can produce your own fuel through biofuels, switch to electric cars, or produce more oil from costly hard to access oil reseviors which represent the last of your domestic supply. Nothing else is feasible despite all the fairy farts, adament denials, and heartfelt praying that might be offered. If you don't want to live where public transportation can be possible, then do not expect people to cry for you when something clearly predictable damages your ONLY source of personal transportation.

Re:Actually you are both quite wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759507)

Nothing else is feasible

Ahh, peak oil: The other boogie man. You do know it's going to be quite a while before that stuff runs out, right? Not in our lifetime at least. Just when you thought you were all out of black gold, simple supply and demand creates a whole lot more of the stuff. [nextenergynews.com]

Re:Food prices (3, Informative)

Burz (138833) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759451)

Parent is trolling but I'll reply anyway.

And since oil is a fungible commodity, the oil you "replaced" will simply be sold off and burned by someone else...
So all substitutes and methods of reducing emissions are futile, eh? Or had it occurred to you that they are not being developed in a vacuum; that they just might be effective with a global cap-and-trade system?

And FYI, switchgrass and other cellulose feedstocks are being developed in order to address the land use and runoff problems.

I'll stop 'preaching' to you now and let you get back to your "facts".

Are you saying that the dead zone did not exist... (5, Interesting)

Calledor (859972) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759681)

prior to the biofuels initiative or that you are against agriculture in the midwest that produces huge amounts of untreated runoff every year and has been since probably the mid 50s if not before. Remember at one point in time, before gasoline was discovered to be perfect for the combustion engine, ford considered ethenol. As it happens he chose gasoline because it was dirt cheap and they were dumping it straight into the Mississippi (I honestly cannot fathom how that must have smelled) since it was a by product. Mind you I'm not trying to justify this as a perfect circle or some other kind of historical asshatery but I find your most compelling arguement not only contrary to your final statement about global warming but also tangential to the issue.ãã Additionally, while oil will always be sold and burned off by someone else, decreasing the demand will decrease the price and also reduce the incentive for people to tap costlier reseviors.

Re:Food prices (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759729)

"But don't try to tell any of this to the cult of global warming. They don't like facts interfering in their religion."

Your post started of by making a good deal of sense, but then you brought politics into it and fucked it up. I am assuming you have done this because it's a popular US pastime to bash environmentalists and not because you have actually done any reasearch into climate science.

The AGW 'cult' have been telling the neo-cons that corn to ethonol is a bad idea since before the first government subsidy cheque was cut. Yes the 'giant dead zone' is caused mainly by fertilzer run-off, but how about pointing out it existed well before the corporate welfare crowd started sponsering hairbrained biofuel schemes?

OTOH, lets not let facts stand in the way of yet another contorted excuse to bash environmentalists, most of whom would agree with your stance that corn for fuel is an exceptionally bad idea.

Re:Food prices (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759817)

And that's been seen before. It's the paradox of efficiency.

Say we're only using domestic fuel and none can be exported. Yes, that's not realistic, but it makes things less complicated.

As fuel efficiency is raised, the demand for oil dips, as the demand dips the price or supply must do so as well. Oil companies don't want to settle for less money so they're not going to lower production until they need to.

The result is that in general people start to driver farther than they were, and the savings in efficiency disappears.

In a scenario like this the government would step in and introduce a tax on the fuel being sold, to keep the price from dipping.

In terms of the real world, you'd have OPEC reducing the supply to keep the fuel price from dropping and the incentive for people to be more efficient. Realistically, OPEC knows perfectly well that the oil will eventually dry up completely, and it's really in their interest to keep the rest of the world hooked as long as possible.

Re:Food prices (5, Funny)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758997)

I know if I was a farmer and had a chance to make more money growing a weed I would be all over it.
Yeah, I tried that. You go to jail.

Re:Food prices (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758611)

There's also jatropha, which will grow like a weed almost anywhere. It's looking like it's going to become a cash crop in places like the Deep South.

Re:Food prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759705)

Even if it doesn't require land that grows food, it still requires resources of the farmer to grow it, cut it, and move it. Plus, if it makes them more money, why not grow fuel crops instead of food crops?

Re:Food prices (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759751)

Even if it doesn't require land that grows food, it still requires resources of the farmer to grow it, cut it, and move it.
Yes, but that can be paid for with the income they get from selling switchgrass, which is income they weren't getting before because the land was useless for food crops.

Plus, if it makes them more money, why not grow fuel crops instead of food crops?
The same reason every farm doesn't just grow the single most expensive crop. Different crops have different vulnerabilities, and you don't want one outbreak of fungus or one season of bad weather to destroy everything.

Plus, if they stopped growing lettuce in order to grow more switchgrass, what would happen? Lettuce prices would go up and the market would correct itself.

Re:Food prices (0, Redundant)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758503)

Switchgrass [slashdot.org]
And what happens when things like switchgrass and waste products no longer decompose on the land that they grew from? Where are all of these nutrients and minerals going to come from to grow new plants? Unless you plan on replacing them with fertilizer, because we all know that fertilizer is a safe, renewable source that is completely independent of petroleum....

The best alternative is to develope communities in a fashion that is conducive to both mass-transit as well as manual-transit (such as walking, biking, &c.)

Re:Food prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758767)

Fertilizer (mostly nitrogen) IS independent of petroleum, at least here in the states. What it is horribly dependent on is natural gas, which has gotten into short supply due to demand from power plants.

Re:Food prices (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758883)

Where are all of these nutrients and minerals going to come from to grow new plants?

I don't know if switchgrass is a legume or not. Legumes make their own nitrogen fertilizer; and cellulosic ethanol could be made from some kind of leguminous grass. You wouldn't need much of the other nutrients (phosphorous, potassium, etc.)

fertilizer is a safe, renewable source that is completely independent of petroleum...

No more dependent on oil than other products. Ammonia for nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas; not oil. That stupid oil company TV ad that lumps the two together ("Two-thirds of the oil and natural gas consumed in the U.S. is produced in North America") is very misleading.

The best alternative is to develope communities in a fashion that is conducive to both mass-transit as well as manual-transit (such as walking, biking, &c.)

AC's Law of Real Estate: The housing you can afford is 50 miles from where the jobs are.

Oh, and try walking or biking to work in Wisconsin in February.

Re:Food prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759015)

Oh, and try walking or biking to work in Wisconsin in February.
Seasoned cyclists with the proper gear can ride outside to -10F.

Re:Food prices (3, Funny)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759307)

Mt Everest is even colder and people climb that too.

But not to and from work.

Re:Food prices (5, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759561)

Mt Everest is even colder and people climb that too. But not to and from work.

Oh yeah? What about sherpas, then? ; )

Re:Food prices (2, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759549)

Where are all of these nutrients and minerals going to come from to grow new plants?

Are these nutrients and minerals present in the hydrocarbon fuel that's the output? I should hope not; they'd kill the cars! Therefore, they must be separated out as waste. And what do you do with the waste (that, not coincidentally, contains the nutrients and minerals)? Duh, you dump it back on the fields for the new plants!

Eat grass? (1)

westbake (1275576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758403)

Ethanol will eventually come from switchgrass and be very cheap.

uh-oh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758615)

everyone get ready for the sockpuppets [slashdot.org]

Re:Eat grass? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758795)

Ethanol will eventually come from switchgrass and be very cheap.
The final cost of the enzymes needed to digest the cellulose hasn't been very well established. The current cost quotes of the final product (ethanol) are based on a market where it is being added to existing petroleum based fuels. When supplies of regular fuels diminish, the cost of cellulosic ethanol will be very high.

Re:Food prices (3, Informative)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758435)

Where does the ethanol come from?

According to TFA, while they can make it from almost any plant, they're starting with sorghum:

"...sorghum, which isn't a typical U.S. crop, can produce six times the ethanol per acre of corn, turning on its head the argument that ethanol production consumes more energy than it produces. China, the third largest producer of ethanol after Brazil and the U.S., is switching entirely to sorghum for its ethanol production."

Re:Food prices (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758781)

...sorghum, which isn't a typical U.S. crop, can produce six times the ethanol per acre of corn...

Factor of six sounds high. I admit these figures [journeytoforever.org] are old, but...

Yield of 99.5% ethanol per acre from:
Sorghum cane: 500 gallons
Corn: 214 gallons
Grain sorghum: 125 gallons

...turning on its head the argument that ethanol production consumes more energy than it produces.

Only David Pimental believes that, and he's in the pay of the oil companies.

Re:Food prices (3, Funny)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758831)

My sense from the Cringely article is that the "six times" number refers to net energy. Then again, I read the article Friday and my memory is subject to exponential decay.

Re:Food prices (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759325)

...turning on its head the argument that ethanol production consumes more energy than it produces.
Only David Pimental believes that, and he's in the pay of the oil companies.
I suspect it just might be right if "consumes energy" doesn't count sunlight, which is more or less free.

Food? (1)

Zosden (1303873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758303)

Isnt the problem with ethanol the shortage of food we already have I could be wrong though.

Re:Food? (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758365)

The "food shortage" is precisely the same as the "gas shortage" that we are supposedly having. "Increased demand and the same supply means higher prices. It is simple math!", they say. There are still farmers that grow whole crops of corn just to get a government check to silo it up. For me to even consider a "shortage" is going on, there needs to be more demand than there is product. But that simply isn't the case with either product.

Re:Food? (1, Offtopic)

Zosden (1303873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758415)

Sorry I was just worried about the starving children of the world

Re:Food? (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759083)

And the food is there. It exists. If it's not getting to them it's not because there isn't enough food.

And what's so important about the starving children? Presumably, they have starving parents who you should also be worried about. Unless you only care about starving orphans, that is.

Re:Food? (2, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758513)

You might not have a "shortage" in the USA (and I don't, in Europe), but try asking some people in a developing country. Their prices have increased more than ours and there's less international food aid. Some countries have banned wheat exports. Government stocks are low.

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5539 [worldwatch.org]

Re:Food? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758573)

Think of what happens outside your country, too. In some countries it's more profitable to grow a crop that's not food, so the supply of food is low, and the people can't afford to pay more for food than foreigners can pay for the non-food crop.
  And then the US wants free trade agreements to make sure all crops are non-food.

Correction (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758329)

It also happens to be about $2 a gallon cheaper than gasoline for the next five minutes."

There. Fixed it for ya.

Re:Correction (4, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759333)

So wait, I don't get you. Do you mean gasoline is going to go up another 10 cents in the next five minutes so it will be $2.10 cheaper? Or do you mean that once this technology gets found out, they'll jack the price up because it is a substitute for gasoline?

Re:Correction (2, Informative)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759559)

Demand for gasoline means the entire supply of ethanol would last that long.

Oil != Gas (3, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758363)

Even if they use ethanol from algae, hemp, switchgrass, or sugar cane, this might reduce our need for oil, but it can't replace oil used for other things like plastic.

If this is made using ethanol from corn, then diesel is used in the production of this, and it causes food prices to increase.

What is wrong with using a vegetable oil in a diesel engine? That is a bio-fuel with low processing requirements.

Re:Oil != Gas (5, Informative)

linzeal (197905) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758553)

Corn based plastics [csmonitor.com] are just the tip of the iceberg, we will be seeing dozens of new plant based plastics in the decade. Just because oil has been used for a 100 years doesn't mean that they will even need it in another 100.

Re:Oil != Gas (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758597)

What is wrong with using a vegetable oil in a diesel engine? That is a bio-fuel with low processing requirements.
For one thing, most diesel engines can't run on biodiesel unmodified. Yes, the modifications are fairly simple, but they still must be made. In addition, you can't use your existing gasoline infrastructure to distribute vegetable oil.

And, you can't use "fresh" vegetable oil, either. It has to sit in barrels and ferment in the sun.

Re:Oil != Gas (5, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758679)

For one thing, most diesel engines can't run on biodiesel unmodified.

That is wrong. In a new diesel, it will run pure biodiesel with no modifications. In a used diesel, the biodiesel will clean out the fuel system, so the fuel filter will get plugged. That is the only change needed.

And, you can't use "fresh" vegetable oil, either. It has to sit in barrels and ferment in the sun.

Ferment into what? It is running in a diesel engine, not a ethanol engine.

For vegetable oils, it needs to be warmed up before running in the diesel engine, but that is also the only thing needed to do when the vegetable oil is heated up before being sent to the engine.
One [journeytoforever.org] reference for running only straight vegetable engine in a car. There it did need modifications like different injectors and glow plugs, mostly to compensate for the increased viscosity.

Re:Oil != Gas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759349)

For one thing, most diesel engines can't run on biodiesel unmodified.
That is wrong. In a new diesel, it will run pure biodiesel with no modifications.
...
One [journeytoforever.org] reference for running only straight vegetable engine in a car. There it did need modifications like different injectors and glow plugs, mostly to compensate for the increased viscosity.
Did you read that page? There are two types of biodiesel. True biodiesel (which should probably be called biodiesel ester) is made from vegetable oil, alcohol, and lye. It can be used as fuel in unmodified engines. Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) does require engine modifications.

Your mixup and the 'ferment' comment in the GP post are very telling. People (geeks included, alas) are confusing SVO, biodiesel ester, grain ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, methanol, etc; and THIS IS NOT GOOD.

Re:Oil != Gas (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759623)

In a used diesel, the biodiesel will clean out the fuel system, so the fuel filter will get plugged.

...Maybe. My girlfriend and I started using B20 in her Beetle TDI shortly after we bought it 6 months ago, and I haven't replaced the fuel filter yet. Either the fuel system was already clean for some reason, or my butt dynamometer can't tell the difference.

Re:Oil != Gas (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759653)

And, you can't use "fresh" vegetable oil, either. It has to sit in barrels and ferment in the sun.

Actually, to make biodiesel from vegetable oil you need to react it with methoxide [wikipedia.org] and then "washed" and/or decanted to remove glycerin (i.e., soap).

This process has nothing to do with fermentation, except that methoxide is made from methanol.

Sure it's cheap (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758477)

There's no demand right now, and no huge companies controlling the prices. The question is how long will the prices stay low if the demand goes through the roof?

Re:Sure it's cheap (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758629)

Couldn't you say the same thing for electricity? Or batteries, or fuel cells? Hydrogen production is not exactly booming.

Re:Sure it's cheap (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759131)

On the other hand, there also aren't any large refineries pumping the stuff out. Provided the raw materials aren't limited, the price should DROP if it catches on and economies of scale take over.

Price (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758555)

If as the article states this is a drop in equivalent and has more positive environmental aspects wouldn't any marketing guru say charge the same or more ? It's a like saying, I have a perfect drop in replacement widget that is better and Im going to sell it for less!!, any marketing guru would think you are on drugs, you charge MORE!!

Re:Price (2, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758735)

A commodity [wikipedia.org] is anything for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. In other words, copper is copper. Rice is rice. Stereos, on the other hand, come in many varieties of quality. And, the better a stereo is, the more it will cost. Whereas, the price of copper is universal, and fluctuates daily based on global supply and demand.

One of the characteristics of a commodity good is that its price is determined as a function of its market as a whole. Well-established physical commodities have actively traded spot and derivative markets. Generally, these are basic resources and agricultural products such as iron ore, crude oil, coal, ethanol, sugar, coffee beans, soybeans, aluminum, rice, wheat, gold and silver.

Re:Price (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23758865)

It's a like saying, I have a perfect drop in replacement widget that is better and Im going to sell it for less!!, any marketing guru would think you are on drugs, you charge MORE!!
This one isn't very difficult to understand:
You charge less to steal market share.

This works out very well when your costs are less than [whatever] you're replacing.
Otherwise, we call it a loss leader or dumping/predatory pricing.

You can always raise prices after you've built up some market share & brand recognition.

Re:Price (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759687)

If as the article states this is a drop in equivalent and has more positive environmental aspects wouldn't any marketing guru say charge the same or more?

This is exactly what my biodiesel provider [refuelbiodiesel.com] does, because the guy in charge of it doesn't want ignorant people buying it without understanding what it is just because it's cheap. (And I suspect he doesn't mind the extra revenue, either.) It tends to be the same price as dino-diesel, plus or minus ten cents.

Australian Government Fuel Excise (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758667)

I don't know if it's the same in other countries, but our government exacts an extra tax called "fuel excise", which at the moment makes up about 25 or 30 cents in each liter, I think. If this "Swift Fuel" actually works well, and is broadly adopted, our government will just swallow any saving up in more fuel excise. Probably not to the tune of the almost $2 a Liter we pay in this city, but probably quite a bit.

Re:Australian Government Fuel Excise (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758777)

When fuel hits $3/ltr you'll see the fuel excise go away, and then everyone will think the problem is solved.. until we hit it the second time.

It's getting harder and harder to argue with the environmentalists who suggest that fuel should be raised to $5/ltr right now.

Re:Australian Government Fuel Excise (4, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758857)

Per the article (Cringely, so not exactly trustworthy, but I don't feel like verifying the numbers) wholesale ethanol costs $1.42 a gallon and SwitftFuel production costs are ~40 cents/gallon. 1 Barrel of oil (42 gallons) currently goes for $130. That's converted to 20 gallons of gasoline (plus 20 gallons of other useful stuff), so the raw cost of gasoline is ~3.09/gallon. That's reasonably consistent with these [ca.gov] numbers from the California gov't. Refinery costs for gasoline are slightly less, but not too far out of line.

Therefore, IF the ethanol price and ethanol conversion costs are accurate, the end user cost could easily be $1.50-1.60/gallon less than gasoline.

SwiftFuel sounds like a bad idea. (0, Offtopic)

wojosockie (1290770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758759)

I don't care how little tetraethyl lead is in it. It sounds like a horrible idea. tetraethyl lead is a known carcinigen and is most definetly a poison that accumulates in the body overtime. http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/leadtet/leadj.htm [bris.ac.uk]

Re:SwiftFuel sounds like a bad idea. (2, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758855)

You realize that SwiftFuel is an attempt to replace 100LL avgas?

That is 100 Octane, Low Lead.

Avgas already has tetraethyl lead in it, right now. And it is definitely a hazard, as you point out.

Re:SwiftFuel sounds like a bad idea. (4, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759119)

The idea is to use SwiftFuel as a no-lead replacement.

Lead is currently added to avgas to retard premature detonation in the cylinders, and to increase the octane rating. One of the problems with unleaded fuels is that they produce higher compression than avgas. Today's unleaded gas would increase compression to the point where it would literally blow the seals out of the engines. They also have different chemical effects on materials that may cause deterioration in such parts as fuel lines and gaskets. Another difference is that the lead additives help protect the engine valve seats from eroding.

Airplane engines were designed to run on a very specific fuel, that had very specific properties. Avgas produces a precise amount of compression when it's burnt. The old engines were designed to be run at 100% of their potential power, so there is no tolerance for out-of-spec components, such as unleaded fuel.

In order for SwiftFuel to be an acceptable replacement, it will have to have very similar characteristics to today's avgas. Either that or it will have to be "close enough" so that older engines can at least be modified to burn it, and that would promise to be an unpopular, expensive decision (airplane repairs are never cheap.)

Re:SwiftFuel sounds like a bad idea. (3, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759713)

One of the problems with unleaded fuels is that they produce higher compression than avgas.

Forgive my ignorance, but I was under the impression that compression was caused by the reduction in volume within the cylinders between the bottom and top ends of the piston stroke, and had nothing to do with the particular gas that was being compressed. Am I wrong, or did you mean to say that unleaded gas detonates at lower compression ratios than leaded gas does?

RTFA (0)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758787)

This is for aviation fuel, not automotive fuel. TFA specifically talks about this Swift Fuel replacing 100LL (low lead) in small piston-engined aircraft.

I expect that there is far less avgas consumed in the world versus mogas, so it's not like this is a magic solution for our energy needs.

I know we can't expect submitters or "editors" to RTFA, but furrfu.

Re:RTFA (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759241)

It seems to me like the editors actually read the article this time--"It is being tested by the FAA for certification in propeller aircraft." Cringly, if you didn't notice from most all of the paragraphs about them, hints at a future of the fuel with cars. The summary is paraphrased at worst.

Re:RTFA (4, Interesting)

hardburn (141468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759775)

Ultimately, prop planes and cars use the same technology, with some differences in details. One of those details is that airplanes don't have the same emissions requirements, allowing them to use leaded gas with a higher octane rating. The consequence is that they can run a higher compression ratio, and thus be more efficient.

If SwiftFuel can provide an additive that produces octane ratings on par with leaded gas, we can all jump for joy. Combined with direct injection, we could potentially see gas engines with compression ratios and supercharging boost on par with diesels.

No, No, No, No, No... (2, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758891)

Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea. Why? The process is totally inefficient.

Grow sawgrass -> harvest sawgress -> haul sawgrass -> process sawgrass -> haul SwiftFuel -> store SwiftFuel

OR

solar power -> through existing electric infrastructure -> to the battery of your electric car/mower/series of tubes

This is not hard to understand. Why it continues to elude everyone gives me a headache every time I read about "alternative energy." Gasoline combustion or any similar idea involving controlled explosions are highly unreliable and expensive to maintain. It may be necessary for air travel but has no place powering anything with wheels.

Furthermore, there's no such thing as alternative energy. There are three choices when it comes to energy given our current technology: thermal, nuclear, and solar. Sawgrass biofuel is yet another pathetically short sighted delivery system for solar energy. Thermal energy is viable in only a few places in the world like Iceland. Nuclear uses finite resources and requires a lot of investment and still presents many, many environmental concerns.

Solar energy, whether directly converted to electricity with panels or used in a novel solar-powered plants, is decentralized, clean, uses existing infrastructure, and uses electricity as it's delivery medium which is the only transmission system which doesn't move even a single atom after the line is in place.

It uses recyclable materials. We've been working with it for well over a hundred years. We have the engine technology. Am I missing something?

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (0, Offtopic)

Zosden (1303873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23758955)

Yeah how about when I want to go clubin at 3am. By clubin I mean for baby seals in

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (4, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759039)

Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea. Why? The process is totally inefficient.

kpppppffffffffft. Like running solar power through the electric grid into batteries isn't triply inefficient itself? Guess again.

It uses recyclable materials.
Yeah? Metals like steel and copper are pretty recyclable. Doesn't mean they're cheap. In fact, they've more-than-doubled in price over the past several years.

Oh, that's right... (0)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759133)

Copper and steel have gone up while everything else has gone down. Silly me. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the poor valuation of the dollar.

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (2, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759141)

kpppppffffffffft. Like running solar power through the electric grid into batteries isn't triply inefficient itself? Guess again.
Quite more efficient than hauling yet another form of solar energy around as dead weight.

But let's build a new infrastructure around an unproven technology that's dependent on a corporation's patents. That sounds like a much better idea.

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (3, Insightful)

Bjorn_Redtail (848817) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759355)

Now, what kind of battery can hold the same amount of energy as a similar weight and volume of flammable fuel? It's not like they are planning to make this stuff and burn it in a fixed generator. As you point out there are dozens of simpler, more efficient ways of doing that. The plan is to replace automotive and aviation fuels with this. For these applications, battery packs simply cannot store enough energy per volume or per weight.

Which is why you preserve dense energy resources.. (4, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759471)

A person needs very little energy to move around. In fact, a burrito can get you at least fifteen miles on foot. As a civilization, we have to recognize that as the goal, and give up on the idea of cars as we know them. They're just not viable in the long run.

You're right - we'll never see a battery powered Hummer. But electric vehicles that serve the needs of 90% of the population have been in mass production (even if subsequently shut down) since 1996. All because the government of California demanded that car companies deliver them.

Now consumer demand and energy awareness are at an all time high. They're backordering SmartCars and Apteras and even high-performance Tesla Motors sports cars into two and three year waits.

And I have to say, I hope gas goes to it's true cost where it covers our involvement in the middle east. Anyone who wants to stick with their 6 liter engine after gas hits $12 a gallon is getting exactly what they deserve.

Re:Which is why you preserve dense energy resource (2, Informative)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759805)

You're right - we'll never see a battery powered Hummer.

Wanna bet? [electrifyingtimes.com] ; )

(FYI: the point of this is not efficiency, but rather that an electric motor is quieter than a diesel engine so they can sneak up on enemies more easily.)

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759517)

Quite more efficient than hauling yet another form of solar energy around as dead weight.

The mass energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels is magnificient compared to batteries. So is the volume energy density: putting 15 gallons of gasoline in your car in 2 minutes moves energy at a rate of 15 megawatts. I'd love to see the cable you'd use to charge your electric car at that rate.

But let's build a new infrastructure...

Uhhh...the fuel described in the article is a drop-in substitute for gasoline.

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (1)

HandsOnFire (1059486) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759079)

to the battery of your electric car/mower/series of tubes

from summary:

Instead of replacing all our expensive cars with even more expensive hybrids or electric cars, his suggestion is to use a cheap drop-in replacement for gasoline called Swift Fuel. It is derived from Ethanol, but doesn't require any modification to older cars to prevent corrosion. It can be mixed with gasoline in any amount and can even be distributed using the same network as gasoline, including being pumped in the same pipes and shipped in the same trucks. It is truly a drop-in replacement for gas, and it is real.

Solar energy, whether directly converted to electricity with panels or used in a novel solar-powered plants, is decentralized, clean, uses existing infrastructure, and uses electricity as it's delivery medium which is the only transmission system which doesn't move even a single atom after the line is in place.

Panels need to be made, and that creates pollution. Semiconductors aren't all to nice to the environment. And with regards to using existing infrastructure, yes it does. But the panels themselves and the wiring they need is new infrastructure. Another problem with electricity is that you lose a lot of power over transmission.

There are three choices when it comes to energy given our current technology: thermal, nuclear, and solar.

This selection seems a little arbitrary. Coal and oil and gas are thermal, I suppose. But how is nuclear much different? It does the whole heating up water and turbine spinning thing, too. And it's also extracted from the Earth. What happened to wind generators or tidal power generators?

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (2, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759221)

I think the GP was saying there are three choices of non-depletable energy sources (except for nuclear energy), or perhaps he meant non-polluting (not that hectares of farmland or the production of ethanol don't pollute, nor is spent uranium a pollutant.) And by thermal energy being limited to Iceland, he didn't mean you couldn't use a ground-source heat pump in Minnesota. And by no such thing as alternative energy, he didn't mean that oil and coal weren't the primary sources of energy in the industrial world today. And he's probably lumping in hydroelectric dams and wind generators with solar energy (the sun fuels the weather, after all) and tidal power with, ... uh, well ...

I give up. I can't rationalize his mistakes as fast as he can make them.

I just ate an aspirin pancake. (4, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759227)

I'm sorry to yell. But where exactly do you think coal and oil and natural gas come from?

Here's a hint: it's all dead organic material, which originally gathered energy from something that gathered energy from what original source? Yes, that's right kids! It's the sun! Revered for millenniums for a reason...

Wind generation? Another form of solar energy. No sun, no wind. Lakes and rivers? No sun, no rain, no fresh water, no lakes and rivers! Not to say you can't harness these different manifestations of the sun's energy...

Passive solar plants are already in use all over the world, and even store energy using gravity or other passive methods that waste very little energy. Many small power plants can decentralize the grid, improve efficiency since the grid is smaller, and are much more viable than millions of little ICEs.

Imagine, Wal-Mart borrows ten billion dollars to install solar panels to cover their parking lots, which stop local heating effects, decrease A/C usage in all customer cars, and provide them with another revenue stream all in one master stroke.

Re:I just ate an aspirin pancake. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759499)

You might as well argue that eating is also inefficient, and that we should all simply develop photosynthesis to fuel our bodies instead.

Re:I just ate an aspirin pancake. (4, Funny)

Tim[m] (5411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759825)

we should all simply develop photosynthesis to fuel our bodies instead.

Okay, sounds good. I'll need a cost estimate on that for Monday's meeting.

Also, do you know any consultants who have done this before?

Thanks,
Management

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (2, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759147)

Guess what the most efficient way to transport electrical power long distances is? Give up? You turn it into hydrogen through electrolysis, put the hydrogen on a ship, then burn it to produce electricity at the destination.

Inefficient? Yes. But less so than trying to cram it through "existing electric infrastructure."

Perhaps you're getting a headache because you've chosen what you believe is the truth and your brain is warning you to stop paying attention when reality threatens to shatter the illusion?

Crazy (2, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759277)

I thought my electricity was generated about thirty miles away where they burn coal. I wonder how they get a ship on the highway?

Sure, power lines don't work when I want to send energy across a continent or an ocean. But I have this wild idea where smaller solar plants dotting the landscape can decentralize the grid, improve transmission efficiency, and use existing infrastructure and proven technology.

There's that headache again... perhaps my brain is warning me that you're a dumb douchebag who will miss everything cool and die angry.

With apologies to Patton Oswalt.

Re:Crazy (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759719)

Okay, if it's so easy, go do it. I'm sure if you present a business plan showing exactly how easy it is, you'll get lots of funding. You'll be rich too. And a hero.

Perhaps it's not quite so easy as you think? Perhaps the lack of any decent all-electric cars might be a bit of a problem? Maybe the time it takes to charge them? Perhaps the problem that current solar isn't economical in many places?

Somehow I REALLY doubt that you're right and the rest of the world is wrong. But please feel free to prove me incorrect.

Re:Crazy (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759819)

Sure, power lines don't work when I want to send energy across a continent or an ocean. But I have this wild idea where smaller solar plants dotting the landscape can decentralize the grid, improve transmission efficiency, and use existing infrastructure and proven technology.

And here's the part of your argument that gives me a headache: since when were "smaller solar plants dotting the landscape" and "decentraliz[ing] the grid" considered to be "existing infrastructure?!" Either it does exist, or it doesn't. You can't argue it both ways in the same fucking sentence!

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759725)

So, it's more efficient to go with a process that at most 60% efficient, even before taking transport costs and the actual electrolysis efficiency into account, than it is to use a process that is at least 93% efficient?

Did you even read the article? (5, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759279)

He talks EXACTLY WHY the solar power->electric->battery WON'T WORK! Because it will take over a decade for electric cars make it to most households even if we outlawed all non-electric car sales today! Cars have a life expectancy of 10 years or more, which means you will see that same 2007 car that was bought last year on the road until 2017 or later. The government could even outright outlaw all gas powered cars today and still you would not see a full uptake of electric or hybrid cars for several years because people can't afford to make the purchase. Again, it is usually every 3-4 years for someone to get a different car, but not necessarily a brand new car (usually a used one), and most cars will see at least 10 years and 3 owners. This means people expect to have 10 years to save up to purchase a brand new vehicle, or 3 years to save up for a several year old used one. Any change that would be significant would need to be able to affect ALL cars at the same time, not after 10 years. This is why a fuel change that can be used in existing cars is the method of choice to change our energy usage. Yes, keep the hybrids and electrics coming, but do the thing right now which can affect ALL cars right now! And let the 10+ year solution continue to work as well.

Well aware of the arguments. (2, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759381)

There is no simple solution. Any solution that involves combustion is the wrong direction, because you will use up whatever resource it depends on in a heartbeat. That even goes for solar energy, but there are millions of square miles in deserts that could be used for power generation, since it produces no other benefit for human civilization.

In Kathmandu, they already have a fleet of operating electric vehicles, because they're cheaper, more reliable, and cleaner than oil-propelled vehicles. They are run by private businesses, not the government.

Mass transit ridership is the highest since the mid-50s (when GM was tearing down mass transit to sell more cars). Cars are as good as dead in towns and cities.

Whenever possible, build electric propulsion systems. Regardless of what becomes our solution beyond the dead-organic storage we've been using, we can have an infrastructure that uses it.

Transportation has issues (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759437)

The biggest issue with transportation is storage of energy. Gasoline and diesel have pretty decent energy densities - roughly 35MJ/kg. From both a mass and volume perspective, liquid fuels are compatible with the needs of vehicles. Batteries need at least a 10x increase in capacity to become viable for traction applications. The best LiFePO4 and NiZn batteries just don't store enough energy. The bleeding-edge EV guys are struggling to get 50 miles on a full charge. You can do about 10x that in your car, right?

If you want a better interim solution, grow the biodiesel algae and refine the fuel into butanol. Butanol is compatible with gasoline distribution methods, though you'll suffer a slight reduction in range due to the lower energy density. Long term - adopt the Army's One Fuel Forward attitude, and make it a national priority. Get rid of gasoline as a motor fuel, and drive everyone toward diesel. Algae-based biodiesel is the only viable contender for fuel production, and it's not tethered to a feedstock that's also food. Using food as motor fuel is criminally stupid.

Which vehicles? (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759563)

I'm sorry, hauling 3500 pounds of steel to carry one person and groceries using controlled explosions is monumentally stupid.

We need to conserve energy dense fuels for situations where they are are truly needed (emergency vehicles, long-haul transportation through sparse landscapes, aviation).

What people are upset about is that life is much less convenient when we're all not driving powerful vehicles than can carry 10 folks and tow a boat on a whim. Well, tough shit. You may have to carpool or take the bus. You may not be able to keep your own jetski in a garage a hundred miles from your lake house. These are privileges, not rights.

Algae based biodiesel is interesting, but again, we need to get away from ICEs except where they are absolutely necessary. An electric car can receive power from any source - nuclear, coal, and even biodiesel through small on-board generators. ICEs will always be addicted to one type of depletable resource - that derived from dead organic material.

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759479)

"It uses recyclable materials. We've been working with it for well over a hundred years. We have the engine technology. Am I missing something?"

Yes, it has made essentially zero progress in its efficiency and practicality in that ~100 years.

Blame batteries.

Solar and battery powered vehicles also not quite as "green" as everyone likes to pretend, if you also consider the whole manufacturing process.
Effective recycling will help.

For power storage/regenerative braking etc I'm hoping compressed air has a chance, we've been working with that for even longer, but has actually made some significant progress in energy density in that time.

Not efficient enough (2, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759715)

solar power -> through existing electric infrastructure -> to the battery of your electric car/mower/series of tubes

So I worked out the math on this one time. The limiting factor is the amount of light that falls on the earth.

If you assume 40% efficiency (the best we're hoping for) and start building with a year 2050 goal, you'll need enough solar panels to cover 1/4 of New Mexico with nothing but panels. And that's with no room for maintenance or cabling infrastructure - if you include that you're covering 1/3 of New Mexico. If you factor in clouds, it's about half of New Mexico, and I didn't even deal with breakage from all those damn cacti growing up through the panels.

And that just accounts for our electricity needs, it doesn't account for our automotive needs.

Kurzweil is expecting a 2^5 increase in efficiency over the next 5 years, but for the life of me I can't figure out how he's going to get more sunshine in.

Oh, the point (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759731)

Sue me, I hit Submit early...

So, the point is, we've never managed to build anything on that scale in the course of human history. It would be dangerous to bet on it, if you think anthropomorphic global warming is a real problem.

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (1)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759723)

Your description doesn't actually show switch grass is less efficient than solar panels. You are leaving out several issues with solar panels - energy and pollutants to make them, and to dispose of them. Loss of electric power to the distribution network, etc. A nice thing about generating solar power via bio- fuel - the solar generators (plant leaves) are bio-degradeable and don't require toxic chemicals to produce. And, the power once produced can be transported with minimal reduction in efficiency. Not really enough data here to decide which one is 'better' - in fact a Swiftfuel plug-in hybrid seems like the best of both worlds.

Re:No, No, No, No, No... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759779)

Gasoline combustion or any similar idea involving controlled explosions are highly unreliable and expensive to maintain.

And yet, somehow it manages to be cheaper and more practical than batteries despite all that. Hmmm...

Hint: batteries suck. They'd need to become orders of magnitude better in order to stop sucking. And that's not happening.

In fact, batteries suck so bad that people are trying to replace them with fuel cells, so that they can carry hydrogen to make electricity as they go. But those suck too, because there's no good way to store free hydrogen. So then people decide to try combining the hydrogen with carbon so that it can be stored more conveniently. But even then it still sucks, because the lighter hydrocarbon compounds they're trying (e.g. CH4) are still gases at normal temperatures, and therefore hard to store. So what's next? Trying heavier compounds, of course! But wait: then you've ended up with fucking gasoline again!

Conclusion: I predict that in the future, even after all power production comes from renewable resources such as solar, wind, etc., we're going to be using that electricity to synthesize gasoline (or a similar liquid hydrocarbon) from CO2 and H2O, and then burning the result in our internal-combustion cars in exactly the same way we're doing now.

so how does it work? any guesses? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23759097)

A search of US patents for the inventor's name [uspto.gov] doesn't turn up anything relevant.

My guess: Ethanol can easily be turned into aromatic chemicals [archive.org] like benzene, toluene, xylene. These have very high octane when burned as fuel in a gasoline engine. (Both web pages state that this technology will first be used to replace aviation gasoline, which is higher octane than automotive gas and still uses lead.)

Big Oil (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23759207)

From TFA:

I hope that SwiftFuel is a success. I hope it fulfills all Mary Rusek's claims. But if SwiftFuel doesn't succeed, I also hope that isn't because entrenched oil interests kill it. Yet I don't think many of us would be surprised if that is exactly what happens.
Oil companies need to learn to horizontally integrate. If there is something that makes money, start capitalizing on it, don't smother it. We learned from the electric car, don't you lose business that way? Or is it just some evil price fixing conspiracy to make their 5% profits worth more?
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