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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Sunday, June 24, 2012

EPA: Tooth Fairy Dreams

By Rich Kozlovich

There was an interesting article regarding the insane demands of regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is being blasted for requiring oil refiners to add type of fuel that doesn’t exist…except in the insane minds of the green movement and their lackeys at EPA.

The article didn’t go nearly far enough to show just how unscientific, fact deprived and insane the EPA really is. These are people who went to college and into government. The decision makers never worked in energy production, energy research, energy discovery, energy delivery, or for that matter, it is unlikely that the vast majority of them ever worked in any real job. Most never owned a company, started a company, never had to meet a payroll, or a bank payment to keep a company in existence. They also never had to skip their own paychecks in order to make sure the company’s employees were paid.  If they had they wouldn't be doing so many of the things they do.  They are not business people, and the decision makers are not scientists; although there are many real scientists working there; they don't outnumber the ideologues and they don’t make the decisions...we do need to get that!

Federal regulations can be maddening, but what could be more maddening to energy producers that demands that they sell “millions of gallons of a substance, cellulosic ethanol, that does not exist”.

"As ludicrous as that sounds, it's fact," says Charles Drevna, who represents refiners. "If it weren't so frustrating and infuriating, it would be comical." And Tom Pyle of the Institute of Energy Research says, "the cellulosic biofuel program is the embodiment of government gone wild."…. Drevna of the refiners association says they had no other choice left since EPA insisted they still had to blend some of the nonexistent cellulosic ethanol. "We've had to go to the courts and litigate this thing is because they just turned a blind eye to us," Drevna said. So the refiners are now suing the EPA, in part because the mandate gets larger and larger-- 500 million gallons this year, 3 billion in 2015 and 16 billion in 2022.”

“And still, not a gallon of cellulosic ethanol in sight.”

The really fascinating part of this that it takes more energy to produce a gallon of cellulosic ethanol that a gallon of cellulosic ethanol delivers. Only the greenies and their lackeys at the EPA, and green pandering political leaders could be for this.

In his book, Gusher of Lies, Robert Bryce notes that cellulosic ethanol, which is made from things like grass, wood, and straw has no commercial viability. He says that “cellulosic ethanol is like the tooth fairy, an entity that many people believe in but no one ever actually sees.” That was in 2008, and nothing has changed! He also notes that even if there were a technological breakthrough it would take decades to produce any real amount of ethanol.

However, in order to really understand why this is “Mission Impossible” with any technology in existence today or any technology that can be envisioned, we need to understand some basis science. He goes on to say; “The energy business is ruthlessly policed by the immutable laws of thermodynamics. The first is… that energy is neither created or destroyed” and the second is that “energy tends to become more random and less available.”

Turning sugar, sunlight or kinetic energy as in wind into a more concentrated form of energy is “an uphill climb." And the more diffused the energy source, the more difficult it is to concentrate into usable economically viable products. It takes a lot of energy to turn a corn field into ethanol. Which explains why so-called fossil fuels are so attractive; because they are so energy dense and require little energy to gather per ratio to the energy that can be extracted in usable forms.

“Crude oil contains about 18,400 Btus per pound and coal contains about 12,400 Btus per pound. “Corn contains 7,000 Btus and switchgrass…… contains just 6,400 Btus per pound.”

Then there is the conversion and transportation energy requirements. Every “natural” form of energy must be converted, unlike oil, into liquid form, “both corn and switchgrass must be mixed with large quantities of water, fermented, and then distilled into a usable liquid form before they can be utilized. And each of those steps takes energy”

Bryce calls cellulosic ethanol “vaporware” because it is an “idea that gets promoted and promised over and over, but it’s never actually delivered. No other fuel in modern American history has gotten more hype while providing fewer actual Btus than cellulosic ethanol.”

The belief in cellulosic ethanol is more on the order of religious faith that scientific reality and it infects people at all levels of society…seemingly those at the top more than normal people. As an example;
Cellulosic ethanol would be “a huge new source of energy, particularly for the transportation sector. You’re going to see it all over the place. You’re going to see a lot more flex-fuel vehicles. You’re going to see new processes that utilize waste as a source of energy, so there’s no petroleum consumed in the process.” – Al Gore
“These things are not expensive. We have this kind of biomass to make cellulosic ethanol all over America. It would increase income in rural America. It would increase income in rural California. It would stabilize the environment and improve our national security” – Bill Clinton
Cellulosic ethanol “has the potential to substantially reduce our consumption of gasoline. A technological breakthrough could lead to wide spread use of cellulosic ethanol to fuel our vehicles” - John Kerry
“It’s an interesting time, isn’t it, when you’re able to say, we’re on the verge of some breakthrough that will enable a pile of wood chips to become the raw materials for fuels that will run your car” – George W. Bush
Is it possible that people at this level with the resources they have at their disposal can be that unrealistic? Yes, and what is worse it appears that all those around them that should be explaining the science to them are as equally enamored with tooth fairy energy schemes as they are.

Here is the reality of ethanol. Grain alcohol is produced form a mixture of water and grain called ‘mash’. Just like the moonshiners. About 15 to 20 percent of that ‘mash’ will be turned into alcohol, which was produced from the sugar in the corn. Cellulose is a much tougher nut to crack since it takes a lot to break it down and only has a return or about 5%. Wood and weeds don’t have much sugar in their cells in the first place. Furthermore it took a lot more energy to strip the ethanol from the cellulose than it does for grains because cellulose is so much tougher than grain.

The reality is that for every 1 Btu of energy invested in all aspects of cellulosic production it would only produce .05 Btu by way of return. Study after study has demonstrated that cellulosic ethanol production is prohibitively expensive on a large scale, as a result no one is producing it! That appears to be basic common sense.

So now we know why the distillers can’t sell a product that doesn't exist; irrespective of the stupid regulations from the EPA. Perhaps it really is a good time to disband the EPA. Anyone that dumb can easily have their responsibilities turned over to the state EPA's without any concern that mistakes will be made. It is unlikely they could possibly be any dumber....or corrupt.


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