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Posts Tagged ‘Energy

New Firm to Develop Algae-Based Fuel

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A new company called AXI, LLC is looking to develop next-generation algae that makes the production of biodiesel more economical. Specifically, the company looks to algae as

[having] the potential for producing vast quantities of biostock for conversion into biofuels for transportation and heating. Our proprietary methodology for developing specific growth and productivity traits will help any algae production system improve its output of inexpensive, oil-rich algae as the raw material for the production of biofuel.

Further information about the company, as seen on AXI’s company profile is as follows:

AXI is a University of Washington spin-out Company created in partnership with the founders, the University and Allied Minds, Inc.  Allied Minds is a seed investment company creating partnerships with key Universities to fund corporate spin-offs resulting from successful early stage technology research.

This is interesting, as I have documented that algae may be one of the most promising “alternative” energy source in development (see prior posts “Algae Based Biofuels Are The¬†Future“, and more recently “Alternative Fuels“).

Also, it is an example of the type of firms that venture capital has been flooding to, as I discussed in a June 10th post.

Written by walonline

August 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Alternative Fuels

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Popular Mechanics offers a look at the most promising alternative fuels being developed.

  • Cellulosic Ethanol–Biological Method
  • Cellulosic Ethanol–Gasification Method
  • Algal Biodiesel
  • Green Gasoline
  • Biobutanol
  • Designer Hydrocarbons
  • Fourth-Generation Fuel

What is interesting to note is that none of these alternatives has been rolled out on a large enough scale to matter, yet. This is why it is very important to supplement our R & D of alternatives with new oil well development. Also, those in favor of wind use will first need to develop a 21st century energy grid to transfer power to where its needed both from wind and whatever other method is being used to make up any slack (ie when the wind isn’t blowing).

Of these, I’m in favor of the algal biodiesel, which I’ve talked about before.

Written by walonline

August 13, 2008 at 9:46 am

*Ring* *Ring*

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It’s 1978 calling, telling us nuclear power plants are safer to live near than those of the coal-fired variety.

This, per a Gristmill article:

Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article “Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants” [PDF] in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations.

[…]

The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.

Hmmmm. Don’t we look silly for wasting our time on coal? Sure, we’ve got a ton of it, but we can surely find some other use for that black stuff (hard, not liquid variety) than our open-pit strip mining.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).


Sure makes for cool pictures, though.

Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Algae Based Biofuels Are The Future

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As noted a number of times previously at this blog (recently and in April), Corn and other plant-based (in this context meaning seed, dirt, sprout, etc.) biofuels are not efficient. The are horrible polices that help politicians get elected, but ruin all sorts of markets.

The blog Triplepundit has a very interesting article on biofuel that could potentially help our fuel issues with the benefits of far less-destructive environmental and world food market effects. Here are some of the Algae details:

It also produces lipids, or the equivalent of vegetable oil. Depending on the species, 50% of it’s body weight is these lipids. And they can select for certain algae strains that are particularly suited for making jet fuel or diesel, which most long haul trucks use.

[…]

Algae, even in a regular, horizontal, open pond system, can produce up to 20,000 gallons of oil per year.

Based on previous parts of the article, this system is assumed to take up one acre of land, as comparisons have been 18/gallons from corn and 700-800 from palm oil. All of the waste can be reused as well:

With algae biofuel production, they can take what remains after extracting the oil, and put it to use as feed stock for animals, as a component of fertilizer, and even to produce even more biofuel.

I believe most people would be in favor of fuel that is cleaner on a lifecycle basis, and has less of a wide-ranging impact. Algae, at this point, looks to do just that, and would be a very valuable addition to our nation’s energy “portfolio.”

Written by walonline

July 31, 2008 at 8:16 am

Some People Finally Get It

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Gristmill, an environmental news blog, has an interesting post on the inefficiencies of gasoline blended with ethanol and how more people are catching on:

In Oklahoma, some vendors are refusing sell ethanol-spiked gasoline. And they’re winning customers with signs like “No Corn in Our Gas” and “Why Do You Put Alcohol in Your Tank?” the Times claims. In Oregon, new rules requiring the state’s fuel supply be E10 — a mix of 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline — are being associated with sputtering boat engines and failing weed whackers.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Gasohol (Ethanol)" by Todd Ehlers (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Gasohol (Ethanol)" by Todd Ehlers (via Flickr).

The idea that ethanol is less efficient than straight gasoline is easy to document: drive your car to or from a state with an ethanol blend from one with the opposite. Check your milage going either way. Even with other factors (such as wind), you’ll notice a marked difference. I did this at the beginning of the month, travelling from the Minneapolis area to Nebraska and back.

This is nice to hear, since I wrote on this back in April. And my accounting theory professor railed on it numerous times last fall. Gristmill also gets into it. What makes this policy so sickening are the huge amounts of taxpayer dollars being poured into a policy that raises food prices. This effects our nation’s (and the world’s) poorest people–not exactly something any politician would consider politically expedient. Portfolio.com‘s Felix Salmon is writing today with regards to a World Bank report sayng that:

The combination of higher energy prices and related increases in fertilizer prices and transport costs, and dollar weakness caused food prices to rise by about 35-40 percentage points from January 2002 until June 2008.

Salmon also notes:

According to Chakrabortty, World Bank president Bob Zoellick tried to suppress publication of the report – something which, if true, probably only served to draw further attention to it.

Its not exactly like I was expecting a World Bank president clean of politics.

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Thank You, Mr. Leno

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Normally, I don’t watch much of the Tonight Show, but leave it to a car aficionado to take a stab at Congress on energy. Thank you, Mr. Leno.

It would be really refreshing, in this election season, so see Congress pull together to pass a common sense (read: not politically/lobby motivated) energy bill. Neither Al Gore’s 100% renewable idea, nor simply drilling are viable solutions. It hurts everyone if Congress plays its political games, pushing for a black or white solution.

I believe a number of people pushing for off-coast drilling believe this as I do: we need a variety of solutions, and our government is in no place to pick winners. Oil and renewables are both important, because our society is so highly built on oil. A transition will take a long time. Not everyone can afford to run out and buy a new Prius/electric/fuel cell vehicle or pay carbon taxes.

The best thing the government can do is have all possible solutions play out in the open market.

Written by walonline

July 21, 2008 at 9:13 am

Posted in Energy, Politics

Tagged with , ,

Environmental Blog’s CEO Hit-Job

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On Google Reader, I try to have a number of blogs from all sides of political issues to ensure I have a balanced perspective. One of these blogs, Gristmill, launched a traditional left wing hit on Big Oil CEOs last week.

The gist of this Gristmill post (yeah, I just did write that) was that Big Oil CEOs are making huge amounts of money while we pay $4 for a gallon of gas. The writer doesn’t make much commentary (this blog has some of the longest posts I’ve ever seen), but one can be assured that its context is noted in the comments section as normal “outrage inspiring.”

One wonders whether the officer can fathom the level of responsibility required of a CEO. In the world of big corporations, people are paid based on performance. I don’t see how this is any different from successful tech companies (i.e. Google) who are funding the Dems.

These execs are also charged with the shareholder’s best interest, so consider these CEO’s pay as a derivative of success for the vast majority of America’s retirement funds. Who wants to retire, anyways? Looking at one of these companies, ExxonMobil (XOM), you’ll see that the stock is not exactly hot–as of Friday’s close, it is $0.98 off of where it was one year ago and 8.76% off year-to-date.

Written by walonline

July 13, 2008 at 9:31 pm