How Much Alternative Fuel Is Available?

Friday, December 21, 2012

In Turning Oil Into Salt, a paradigm-shifting book by Gal Luft and Anne Korin, they write:

Making methanol from coal
One of the Department of Energy's clean coal demonstration program's most successful efforts is a commercial scale facility in Kingsport, Tennessee that generates methanol from coal at roughly 50 cents a gallon. Methanol contains about half the energy of gasoline per gallon so that's equivalent to about one dollar for a quantity of methanol that will take you as far as one gallon of gasoline.

Producing one million gallons of methanol requires about 5,000 short tons of coal. So 4 percent of current U.S. annual coal production, which in 2007 was 1,146 million short tons, would yield 10 billion gallons of methanol, which is about the same amount of fuel the corn ethanol industry contributes today to America's fuel supply.

There are many other ways to produce methanol. In Germany, Schwarze Pumpe produces 100,000 tons of methanol from sewage sludge and industrial wastes each year. In Sweden, methanol is made from black liquor, a sludge byproduct of paper pulping. Natural gas can also be a feedstock.
And it just so happens that America is rich in natural gas. Says a recent Washington Post article: "So much natural gas is being produced that soon there may be nowhere left to put the country’s swelling surplus."

The OFS bill includes methanol and ethanol, and the sources of ethanol are almost as vast as methanol, and with the advent of such an open market and with so much money to be made, new sources and ways of producing fuel would proliferate in abundance.

We can stop our economy's vulnerability to oil prices right now. We can bring down gas prices permanently. All we need to do is open up the fuel market to competition. If you want to help make this happen, start here.

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Conversation With Eyal Aranoff, Curtis Martin, and Ann Norman

Monday, December 17, 2012

In an hour-long conversation on Curtis Martin's radio show, "Breaking Our Oil Addiction," he talks with one of the founders of the Fuel Freedom Foundation, Eyal Aranoff, and their Vice President of Communications, Ann Norman.

The music introduction lasts 40 seconds, but after that is a very interesting conversation about fuel competition in America. Check it out:

Blog Talk Radio: Breaking our Oil Addiction with the Fuel Freedom Foundation

The official description of this episode says, "Breaking our addiction to oil takes more than a single approach. Eyal Aranoff and Ann Norman, from the Fuel Freedom Foundation, discuss the regulatory barriers that exist and how they may be overcome."

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Most Americans Want Fuel Choice

Sunday, December 16, 2012

75% of Americans support Open Fuel Standard Act.

In a poll commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and conducted by American Viewpoint earlier this year, 75% percent of the adults polled said they supported requiring that auto manufacturers build cars that can run on fuel other than oil. This is, of course, what the Open Fuel Standard Act would require.

The question presented, and the responses were:

Do you favor or oppose requiring automobile manufacturers to build cars that will run on fuel sources other than oil, such as electricity, natural gas and bio-fuels?

Favor: 75%
Oppose: 20%
Don’t Know: 5%

Source: Bob Wyman and the Renweable Fuels Association.

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Unexpected Help From the Software Industry

Friday, December 14, 2012

By William Tucker on RealClearEnergy.org:

Eyal and Yael Aronoff
It felt like an opening night gala in Hollywood held on a spectacular bluff overlooking the Pacific. After assigning their Porches and Lamborghinis to the valet parking attendants, the guests were immediately whisked down a red carpet and into an outdoor lighting studio where they posed for souvenir photos. From there they could spend a few minutes browsing the electric-powered Fisker Karma, a Tesla S (Motor Trend’s 2013 “Car of the Year”) and a methanol-powered Pikes Peak International Hill Club racecar, all parked in the driveway. Then it was down a long, specially improvised tunnel that felt like it should be festooned with cave paintings. The illuminated passage opened onto a broad veranda featuring a view that seemed to stretch from San Diego to Santa Monica.

So began the launch party for the Fuel Freedom Foundation, held at the magnificent mountaintop villa of software entrepreneur Eyal Aronoff, co-founder of Quest Software, and his charming wife Yael (above) in Newport Coast, California, just south of Los Angeles. The tunnel was built just on the off-chance that it might rain. But then it never rains in Southern California, right? Well, this turned out to be one of the rare exceptions. Before Stray Cat Lee Rocker had finished his set on the specially assembled outdoor stage, it started to drizzle. No problem! The more than 50 youthful attendants were immediately handing out umbrellas. The drizzle soon became a steady downpour, however, and so the guests, who had come from as far away as New York and Oregon finally retreated inside, where things became even more convivial.

“It was a memorable evening,” said Aronoff, who completely revamped his villa for the occasion. “People say they are always going to remember it because it rained.”

That may not be the only takeaway. They may also remember it as the evening when America took its initial steps on the road to becoming free of foreign oil.

The Fuel Freedom Foundation is the brainchild of Aronoff and fellow software entrepreneur Yossie Hollander, who as a 12-year-old participated in a 1969 IBM test to see if pre-teens could program. (He could.) Now retired from stellar careers in the software industry, the duo has combined to put together an all-star cast of advisors and executives dedicated to the task of clearing away the regulatory underbrush and moving the country toward replacing the gasoline with a variety of domestically generated alternatives.

“Right now America is spending more than $300 billion a year on imported oil,” says Hollander, an ebullient conversationalist who previously founded the Our Energy Policy Foundation. “That‘s half our trade deficit. If we could substitute any of our abundant domestic fuels, we would not only free ourselves from insecure sources of energy but could halve our trade deficit as well.”

Fuel Freedom’s answer is to bust through regulatory roadblocks and free up the market for all manner of alternatives – ethanol, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, methanol from any number of sources and even electric cars. (That’s the reason for the Tesla.) Although Aronoff and Hollander are at pains to say they don’t discriminate between the alternatives, the one most people seem to feel holds the greatest promise is methanol manufactured from natural gas.

“Methanol is the largest business opportunity of this decade,” says Aronoff as he surveys the guests drifting from the hors d'oeuvres to the two-dozen varieties of pasta to the chicken-and-salmon barbecue. Not as gregarious as Hollander, he still has something of the computer geek about him. “We now produce 1.7 trillion cubic feet more natural gas than we did before we started fracking. That 1.7 TCF would sell today for $4 billion on the gas market. But if we transformed it into 17 billion gallons of methanol, it could replace 10 billion gallons of gasoline, worth more than $30 billion. That’s almost a tenfold increase in value. The economic opportunity here is enormous.”

“We have lots of energy sources in this country but what we need is liquid fuel for transport,” adds Hollander, after pausing to introduce Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez who is on hand to rub shoulders with her Orange County constituents. “Methanol easily substitutes for gasoline. The Indianapolis 500 racecars have run on methanol since the 1960s. It only has 60 percent of the fuel value of gasoline but you can easily compensate with a slightly larger tank. It could be delivered with the same infrastructure we have for gasoline.”

Methanol is corrosive and a few engine adjustments would be required. “It’s just a matter of substituting for rubber and aluminum in a few valves and hoses,” says Hollander. “Any mechanic can do it for $100-300 depending on the car. But the real solution would be to have the auto companies produce flex-fuel vehicles at the factory. The only reason they are reluctant now is because putting methanol in your tank is illegal. That’s what the Foundation wants to change.”

And there lies the rub. Through an odd quirk in the law, burning methanol in your engine is currently against EPA regulations. It’s not that there’s any great harm anticipated. It’s just that the EPA is required to write specs for anything you put in your gas tank. It has done the job for corn ethanol but has never gotten around to doing it for methanol. “It’s just a matter of urging them to write the regulations,” says Hollander. To give the EPA a little encouragement, Fuel Freedom is advocating for the Open Fuel Standard Act, now before Congress, which would cut through the regulatory thicket and require the auto companies to design cars that can run on all manner of fuels. The Foundation is hoping for passage sometime next year.

Try to do anything these days, of course, and somebody will tell you it’s already being done in China. Unfortunately, that holds true for methanol. “The largest methanol producer in the world right now is China,” says Aronoff as he and Yael guide their guests through another round of after-dinner treats in their marble-lined kitchen. “They have a million cars on the road already.”

California had 500 methanol cars in action in 2005 after a ten-year effort but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled the plug in favor of corn ethanol when methanol became too expensive. That was just before the fracking revolution. In 2000 the U.S. produced 10 million gallons of methanol from natural gas but soaring prices drove most of the industry abroad. Now those producers are coming back.

“Methanol has a worldwide market as an industrial feedstock,” says Hollander, after introducing Stephen Johnson, a former hedge fund manager who is trying to build a biofuels-from garbage facility in Illinois. “It’s a proven commodity. There’s no mystery about it. Methanol is produced today in commercial quantities for $1.20 a gallon. That’s the equivalent of $2-a-gallon gasoline. What we need to do is open up the market to competition.”

Fuel Freedom has assembled an all-star cast to help its case before the public and Congress. On board are R. James Woolsey, former head of the CIA; Gal Luft, an advisor at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security; Peter Goldmark a former president of the Rockefeller Foundation and director at Environmental Defense; Dr. Jim Hamilton of UC San Diego, an expert on the impact of oil prices; and John Hofmeister, former CEO of Shell and founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy.

At a luncheon held before the evening gala the advisors painted a grim picture of the security risks America incurs in depending on foreign oil. Luft told the group the country’s naval defenses are stretched paper-thin trying to protect the Strait of Hormuz, the Horn of Africa and other sea lanes around the world. Hofmeister said domestic oil production will plateau but our natural gas resources can make us the Saudi Arabia of methanol. Dr. Hamilton argued that the 2008 financial meltdown, although fueled by an overleveraged housing market, was actually ignited by the oil price run-up of 2008 – another consequence of foreign dependence.

So what does Fuel Freedom plan to do next? The team has a four-point 2013 agenda:

1) Generate public support through media and communications, including a full-length documentary film illustrating the potential of alternative fuels.

2) Challenge the Environmental Protection Agency to remove commercial and regulatory barriers.

3) Develop a proposed Fuel Conversion Plan to present to the Obama Administration that would include pilot programs at the state and national level.

4) Build alliances with other environmental groups, energy security organizations, think tanks and NGOs.

By the end of the evening, the 400 guests had had their fill of food, drink and entertainment. Far from dampening spirits, the move inside had made the evening even more enjoyable. Nor were they unwilling to express their gratitude. Inspired by the impassioned presentations from Woolsey and Goldmark, plus a spirited video message from Virgin Airlines founder Sir Richard Branson, the illustrious gathering pledged more than $500,000 to begin America's move toward a future free from foreign oil.

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The Limits of OPEC?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In a video on the Wall Street Journal, Liam Denning explains the tightrope OPEC needs to walk to keep controlling oil prices without encouraging the development of any competitive fuels. Watch the five minute video here:

Oil Prices Potential Correction in 2013

Let's hope enough of us have had our fill of OPEC bleeding our economy of its wealth, so that regardless of what they do, we can let free market forces work to lower our fuel prices, rather than continue letting a virtual monopoly work to raise our fuel prices.

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Electric Cars Are Not the Solution Right Now

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gal Luft (left) at the Conference
By Sharon Udasin in the Jerusalem Post:

While electrification of the motor vehicle market should be a long-term goal, the automobile industry should be focusing in the more immediate term on popularizing natural gas-based liquid fuel mix options, an energy security expert contended.

“I think we need to be a little more realistic and understand the pace of penetration of new technologies, how it really works,” said Dr. Gal Luft, executive director of the Washington- based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). “I think the Better Place example is very instructive to sort of level expectations with realities. We should be very careful about trying to predict how consumers are going to behave.”

Luft was speaking at a session called “Energy Security through Fuel Choice” on Wednesday morning, at the second of the three-day Eilat-Eilot Fifth International Renewable Energy Conference and Exhibition in Eilat.

Electrification, Luft stressed, will be vital to the long-term survival of the auto industry, but as the market has thus far reflected in the case of Better Place, the consumers are not yet prepared to adopt the technology across the board – as it is “not yet mature” and has “many uncertainties,” according to Luft. This is not to say, however, that customers should remain dependent on gasoline in the short term, he explained.

Running a car on a natural gas-based product would allow a driver to spend the equivalent of $20 per barrel of oil, in comparison with paying the approximately $100 per barrel of oil price available to them at the moment, according to Luft.

“We should have this progress toward electrification – it’s very important – and invest where we need to invest,” he said. “But we should not neglect the nearterm solutions that allow us to use a $20 a barrel equivalent of fuel today, tomorrow, next week.”

The best way to accomplish this near-term solution of readily allowing customers “fuel choice” and breaking the “virtual monopoly” on fuel is by rapidly introducing natural gas-based fuels in liquid form to the market, Luft explained.

Such fuels can enter a car in the exact same way as gasoline, and can include combinations of gasoline with methanol, GTL (Gas to Liquids) and other products.

“We are a liquid fuel society,” he said. “There is a near-term solution and there is a longterm solution. And we cannot sort of sit there and wait for the long-term solution.”

By sitting and waiting for the long-term solution to pan out without attempting the more immediate-term fixes, countries like Israel are putting them at geopolitical security risks, Luft stressed.

“For Israel, if we could advance some replacement for oil and mainly for transportation, I would sell it even for nothing – to free the rest of the world from the influence of the holders of that oil that may be here in the Middle East, and are up against us,” said Itzik Ben- Israel, director for the National Council for Research and Development.

Israel is completely dependent on oil to run its cars, the same oil from which its hostile Middle East neighbors derive their power, according to Ben-Israel.

These geopolitical concerns mentioned by Ben-Israel, however, are “happening right in front of our eyes while we are waiting for the utopian solutions of electrification,” Luft warned.

In order to push fuel choice forward, Israel should be following the example of the United States National Security Council, which is encouraging the legislation of an “open fuel standard,” Luft explained. This simple piece of legislation would say that an automobile dealer cannot sell a new car in the US if it is certified to run on gasoline only.

“We don’t tell the auto dealers what technology to choose, but they have to offer some sort of fuel option to the consumer,” Luft said.

The cheapest way for car manufacturers to comply to this would be to offer cars that are flex-fuel and can run on any combination of gasoline and methanol or ethanol – a measure that US House of Representatives and Senate members support in a bipartisan manner, according to Luft.

Electric vehicle legislation in the US has been problematic, as the government provides tax incentives of $7,500 when a customer purchases an electric vehicle – but only for the first 200,000 units per manufacturer.

A similar rule applies to cars sold in China and Europe, Luft said. In order to advance the electric car market, the price of the now very expensive batteries needs to come down dramatically in order to offset the need for subsidies, he explained.

“The clock is ticking very fast, which is why I think that from an economic standpoint, anything that does not require subsidy or tax incentive has a much better chance of winning the political game than things that rely on having subsidization,” Luft said.

An open fuel standard is therefore “the most important building block” and should become a global standard, according to Luft. This standardization, however, cannot start in Israel as “Israel alone cannot shape the global manufacturing in vehicles,” he said.

“It happened once in history, and that was Better Place, and I don’t think it panned out too well,” Luft continued. “I don’t think that any auto-maker will build a car for the Israeli market any time soon after the Better Place experience. We have to go through the two big markets – the Chinese market and the US market.”

If the US and China encourage methanol use, only then will this fuel be able to truly take off in Israel and elsewhere, he explained.

“I’m second to none in the support of electrification, but it’s important to understand the difficulties here.”

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What An Open Fuel Standard Means

Friday, December 7, 2012

An open fuel standard would mean the end of the petroleum standard, which the world has been stuck with since the early twentieth century. It means the end of a one-fuel economy and the beginning of a free market for transportation fuel.

Many excellent fuels are available that cost less and burn cleaner than gasoline, but our cars were made in such a way that we cannot put these fuels in our cars. An open fuel standard would change this. With only a few small tweaks to the manufacture of a car, it would be capable of burning methanol, ethanol, butanol, and gasoline — in any combination or proportion. Each car would become a platform upon which fuels could compete.

The repercussions of real fuel competition would be enormous. When cars start rolling off assembly lines capable of burning multiple fuels, gasoline prices would have to come down to compete, new jobs would be created by companies scrambling to get a piece of the hundreds of billions of dollars Americans spend on fuel per year, less CO2 and other pollutants would spill into the air, landfills would have significantly less bulk, rural people in developing countries would raise their standards of living, women in oppressive OPEC nations would see the regimes holding them down begin to weaken, America's national security would improve without costing taxpayers any more money, and you, the consumer, would finally be able to have as much choice with your fuel as you do with your coffee.

Learn more on YouTube: What is the Open Fuel Standard?

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Americans Want Choice At The Pump

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A poll commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and conducted by American Viewpoint, shows American voters have a strong desire for greater choice when pulling up to the pump. Cindy Zimmerman of DomesticFuel.com writes:

Seventy-five percent of those polled said they would support requiring automakers to build cars to run on fuel sources other than oil. The RFA has been a strong and early champion of the Open Fuel Standard (OFS) that would accomplish this exact goal.

Perhaps this piece of news might be something we should send along to our Members of Congress. Get their contact information here, and spread the word!

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