Monday, February 25, 2008

Richard Branson is nuts

Richard Branson, the famous aviation business mogul is nuts. That is - he is proposing to run planes on nut oil.

Virgin Atlantic Airways, the British carrier controlled by Richard Branson, tested a jumbo jet on Sunday that was partly powered by a biofuel made from babassu nuts and coconut oil, a first for a commercial aircraft.

“This pioneering flight will enable those of us who are serious about reducing our carbon emissions to go on developing the fuels of the future, fuels which will power our aircraft in the years ahead through sustainable next-generation oils, such as algae,” he said.

Someone tell Branson that all the babassu (whatever that is) nuts in the world won't produce the hundreds of tons of fuel needed for one lone transatlantic flight, let alone for the tens of thousands of daily commercial flights.

But that's ok. He has every right to pursue whatever dubious ideas he has, as he is spending his own money (not tax money), and it would be presumptuous for me to criticize him.
It's governments who mandate biofuels or ethanol or such that make me mad.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Biofuel madness revealed

Two new studies conclude that biofuels produce more greenhouse gases than the oil they replace:

“When you take this into account, most of the biofuel that people are using or planning to use would probably increase greenhouse gasses substantially,”

As I said many times, I don't care much about greenhouse gases, as I don't believe they are a major problem. The madness is the mere idea that it is possible, or advisable, to burn our food (burn as a fuel). Agricultural land is needed for food production, and for conservation. All available land is needed for these ends. There is no spare land (and water) available for fuel supply.

The fuel consuption is enormous, all the cultivable land in the world will never supply more than a negligible amount of fuel, as compared to our needs. And the costs of biofuels are also high, they would never be feasible without govwernment subsidies and mandates. Biofuels are economically a terrible waste of resources.
And all this - for no environmental benefit at all - on the contrary - there are more greenhouse gasses released by biofuels, as these studies show.

All this goes for ethenol as well except, maybe, ethanol or methanol produced from biowaste, but there are not yet any known processes of biowaste conversion.

The European Union has set a target that countries use 5.75 percent biofuel for transport by the end of 2008. Proposals in the United States energy package would require that 15 percent of all transport fuels be made from biofuel by

Madness, terrible, inexplicable madness of our governments and leaders, in the EU and US

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Flex-fuel mandates ? No !

The Instapundit has abandoned some of his libertarian tendencies and is vigorously pushing Bob Zubrin's idea of flex-fuel mandates. A poor cause to bend you basic principles for.

Rick Santorum, the ex GOP senator also favors government mandates:
What we need is a government mandate! We need to mandate that all cars sold in the United States, starting with the 2010 model year, be "flex-fuel vehicles" - that is, they should be able to run on a blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline (the so-called E85 blend), or even a coal-derived methanol/gas mixture. This mandate would cost a fraction of the new fuel economy standard with the added benefit of saving barrels more oil.
Seems than installing a flex-fuel kit on cars is a cheap affair - only about $100, so why not ? Especially, since, as Zubrin claims, "it will free us of our dependence on foreign oil".
Of course, this claim is pure hyperbole, there is no way to produce enough ethanol to reduce considerably the use of oil in transportation. It sounds like the cranks who have an instant cure to all our ailments. It's snake oil.

But, but... 100 bucks for a flex-fuel kit is small change, why not install it ? Why not, indeed? Go and install one on your car, if you feel like it. If enough customers will demand it, it will be installed by car producers. If it offers an advantage, it will be demanded by consumers.
Do we need government mandates ? No, we don't. Government mandates are needed to cram down out throats a medicine that we would not use on our own, because it's not beneficial to us. We don't need a "one size fits all" government imposed wisdom.

And, Ethanol is not our energy remedy. It's expensive, it uses up a lot of energy and water in it's production process, and uses up agricultural resources needed for food production. Not a good idea, by a mile.
But who am I to determine the future energy blend ? I'm not endowed with clairvoyant powers or superior wisdom (neither is Zubrin...). Let the markets decide. When oil is scarce, and therefore expensive, market forces will work out some alternatives that will be better. Let's let them work, they'll come up with the best solutions. Avoid hampering the free development of new solutions with government mandates or subsidies.