Nonpetroleum share of transportation fuel energy at highest level since 1954

“In the United States, petroleum is by far the most-consumed transportation fuel. But recently the share of fuels other than petroleum for U.S. transportation has increased to its highest level since 1954, a time when the use of coal-fired steam locomotives was declining and automobile use was growing rapidly.”

Source: www.eia.gov

>” […] After nearly 50 years of relative stability at about 4%, the nonpetroleum share started increasing steadily in the mid-2000s, reaching 8.5% in 2014. Of the nonpetroleum fuels used for transportation, fuel ethanol has grown most rapidly in recent years, increasing by nearly one quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) between 2000 and 2014. Nearly all of the ethanol consumed was blended into gasoline in blends of 10% or less, but a small amount was used in vehicles capable of running on higher blends as the availability of those flexible-fuel vehicles grew. Consumption of biodiesel, most of it blended into diesel fuel for use in trucks and buses, grew to more than 180 trillion Btu by 2014.

In 2014, transportation use of natural gas reached a historic high of 946 trillion Btu, 3.5% of all natural gas used in the United States. Transportation natural gas is mostly used in the operation of pipelines, primarily to run compressor stations and to deliver natural gas to consumers. Natural gas used to fuel vehicles, although a much smaller amount, has more than doubled since 2000.

Electricity retail sales to the transportation sector grew more than 40% from 2000 through 2014, although sales have declined slightly since 2007. Electricity for transportation is mostly sold to railroads and railways. However, this increase does not include the consumption of electricity in electric vehicles that are not used in mass transit, because charging stations for these types of vehicles are likely associated with meters on residential, commercial, or industrial customer sites where this specific use may not be differentiated from other uses. […]”<

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Oil’s Price Drop Forces Lower Prices for Brazilian Biofuel (Ethanol) Makers

The plunge in oil prices to multi-year lows could have a sour aftertaste for Brazilian sugar processors.

Source: blogs.wsj.com

“> […] The drop in crude prices may spell even more trouble for one of the mills’ two chief products: ethanol. Processors have ramped up production of the biofuel as a way to generate revenue as sugar prices plunged. But now that alternative may lose its luster if cheap gasoline gets in the way. Ultimately, it may push more sugar on the market.

Raw sugar futures on ICE Futures U.S. recently fell 1.6% to a more than six-week low of 15.68 cents a pound. […]

Brazil is the world’s top producer of cane-based ethanol and cane processors have been dedicating more of their cane to produce the biofuel as an alternative to producing sugar, which has slumped in price.

Since Brazil’s cane harvest began in April, mills in the center-south – Brazil’s main cane-growing region – have dedicated 56.1% of their cane to make ethanol, and the rest to make sugar, compared with a 54.7%-45.2% split at the same point last year, according to sugar-industry group Unica.

“If gasoline gets cheaper, it affects ethanol’s competiveness in the blend,” said Jack Scoville, a vice president at Chicago brokerage Price Futures Group. […]”<

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Algae Biofuel Emits at Least 50% Less Carbon than Petroleum Fuels

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Algae-derived biofuel can reduce life cycle CO2 emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and is approaching a similar Energy Return on Investment (EROI) as conventional petroleum according to a new peer-reviewed paper published in…

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>The study entitled Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) is the first to analyze data from a commercial-scale algae-to-energy farm. Researchers examined field data from Sapphire Energy facilities in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory recently concluded that 14 percent of land in the continental United States, or the combined area of Texas and New Mexico, could be used to grow and produce algae for conversion into transportation fuels. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy found that for algae fuel to completely replace petroleum in the United States it would need roughly 30,000 square kilometers of land, or half the area of South Carolina, so the potential is certainly there for a massive transition from dirty oil-based transportation fuels to cleaner burning domestic green crude from algae.<

 

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Synthesis of Butanol: Towards a Better Biofuel

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Researchers have developed a catalyst to convert ethanol into butanol with high selectivity, potentially allowing butanol to replace ethanol as a biofuel.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>[…] Because manufacturers can prepare ethanol from renewable sources, researchers consider the biofuel a good alternative to standard fossil fuels such as gasoline. Indeed, its production and use have increased remarkably in the last ten years; manufacturers now commonly add ethanol to gasoline fuels.

Despite this increased use, however, ethanol has several disadvantages. It has a lower calorific value than standard gasoline (19.6 vs. 32 MJ/liter); moreover, it is corrosive. For this reason, the maximum amount which can be added to standard gasoline is about 10 %; cars cannot use fuels with higher ethanol amounts without engine modifications.

Butanol: a Better Option

1-Butanol (CH3-CH2-CH2-CH2-OH), an alcohol with a longer chain, could be a better alternative to ethanol. Indeed, it has a higher calorific value (29.2 MJ/liter) and it is much less corrosive; because of this, manufacturers can add it to gasoline in higher proportions without engine modifications, and theoretically it could completely replace the gasoline. Moreover, its octane number is very similar to that of gasoline – 96 vs 91-99.

Despite these characteristics, however, we’re not yet using butanol in cars due to the difficulties in producing the alternative biofuel. […]<

See on www.decodedscience.com

Unclean at Any Speed – IEEE Spectrum

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Electric cars don’t solve the automobile’s environmental problems

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>Two dozen governments around the world subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles. In Canada, for example, the governments of Ontario and Quebec pay drivers up to C $8500 to drive an electric car. The United Kingdom offers a £5000 Plug-in Car Grant. And the U.S. federal government provides up to $7500 in tax credits for people who buy plug-in electric vehicles, even though many of them are affluent enough not to need such help. (The average Chevy Volt owner, for example, has an income of $170 000 per year.)

Some states offer additional tax incentives. California brings the total credit up to $10 000, and Colorado to $13 500—more than the base price of a brand new Ford Fiesta. […]

There are other perks. Ten U.S. states open the high-occupancy lanes of their highways to electric cars, even if the car carries a lone driver. Numerous stores offer VIP parking for electric vehicles—and sometimes a free fill-up of electrons. Mayor Johnson even moved to relieve electric-car owners of the burden of London’s famed congestion fee.

Alas, these carrots can’t overcome the reality that the prices of electric cars are still very high—a reflection of the substantial material and fossil-fuel costs that accrue to the companies constructing them. And some taxpayers understandably feel cheated that these subsidies tend to go to the very rich. Amid all the hype and hyperbole, it’s time to look behind the curtain. Are electric cars really so green?

It’s worth noting that this investigation was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and therefore funded entirely with public, not corporate, money.  […]

Part of the impact arises from manufacturing. Because battery packs are heavy (the battery accounts for more than a third of the weight of the Tesla Roadster, for example), […] Electric motors and batteries add to the energy of electric-car manufacture.

In addition, the magnets in the motors of some electric vehicles contain rare earth metals. […]

The materials used in batteries are no less burdensome to the environment, the MIT study noted. Compounds such as lithium, copper, and nickel must be coaxed from the earth and processed in ways that demand energy and can release toxic wastes. […]

See on spectrum.ieee.org

Ethanol critics rev up efforts to repeal biofuel rules on gas

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The ethanol industry is again under fire from critics who want to eliminate the federal mandate that oil companies blend biofuels into the gasoline supply.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>“There will be a push in our committee by some, Republicans and Democrats, to do away with the RFS, saying that it’s just completely unnecessary today, that we have enough gas and oil, that we just don’t need another fuel source, let alone subsidizing it,” Terry said.

An Environmental Protection Agency analysis found that the renewable fuel requirements will displace billions of gallons of petroleum-based fuel consumption, reduce domestic motor fuel prices and increase U.S. farm income. But it also found the potential for higher food prices.

In 2000, ethanol accounted for about 6 percent of the nation’s corn crop. Last year, it accounted for 40 percent of the corn crop.

That’s why the standard’s critics include the grocery industry and some livestock producers that want cheaper grain to feed their animals.<

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What Will Be the Next Technological Breakthrough in Energy?

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What technological breakthrough is most likely in the next 10 years that could completely change the energy equation as we now see it?

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

Jeffrey Ball: Information Technologies to Increase Efficiency, and Solar Power Seem Promising

Predicting new-energy technological breakthroughs tends to be a fool’s errand. A decade ago, few envisioned the breakthrough that has most rocked the U.S. energy world: the one-two punch of fracking and horizontal drilling that has unlocked huge stores of shale gas from California to New York.

Right now, two broad areas of new energy technology seem particularly promising: information technologies that could spur major energy-efficiency improvements; and cheaper and more-reliable solar power. […]

Study after study has pegged energy efficiency as the lowest-cost way to curb fossil-fuel consumption and the resulting greenhouse-gas emissions. The problem has been figuring out how to unlock those efficiency improvements in the real world. Today, creative minds are at work developing electronic systems to track and display the energy use of institutional and individual consumers in ways that could make those users much more conscious both about how much energy they consume and about precisely what they could do to cost-effectively consume less. More information, in short, could equal less power.

See on online.wsj.com

Biofuels Suffering from High Corn Prices and Dropping Demand | The Energy Collective

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Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol plants have stopped production over the past year, the drought having pushed commodity prices so high that ethanol has become too expensive to produce.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

The other half of this is falling demand for gasoline — a result of both the recession, and a renewed policy push for electric and hybrid vehicles and tougher fuel economy standards. […]

Globally, the combined effect of U.S. and European biofuel policy has been a massive divergence of corn crops into biofuel production, which in turn drove up the price of corn and contributed to global food insecurity. […]

Cellulosic biofuels, by relying on crops that don’t double as food, could provide a solution. But whether they can be widely commercialized without requiring high levels of water and land use remains an open question.

See on theenergycollective.com

Next-gen biofuels making slow, slow, slow progress in 2013

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Companies that are still looking to produce biofuels from plant waste (and not corn) are making slow, but steady progress on milestones in 2013.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

According to Bloomberg’s energy research arm New Energy Finance, ethanol made from plant waste could cost the same to produce as corn-based ethanol by 2016. Currently cellulosic ethanol costs 94 cents a liter to produce, or about 40 percent more than ethanol made from corn, says Bloomberg.

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EPA proposes 2013 biofuels quota, RIN verification program – Oil & Gas Journal

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The US Environmental Protection Agency proposed 2013 biofuels quotas representing a more than 1.35 billion gal increase from what it mandated for 2012. Officials from two leading petroleum trade associations immediately called the 16.55 billion gal total representing 9.63% of total projected US motor fuel production unrealistic and unreasonable.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

“We are disturbed that EPA is mandating 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol when zero gallons are available for compliance as of today,” AFPM President Charles T. Drevna said on Jan. 31. […]

“[…] This stealth tax on gasoline might be the most egregious example of bad public policy, and consumers could be left to pay the price. EPA needs a serious reality check.”

“[…] it is shocking that the Agency would mandate such high biodiesel volumes this year since 140 million biodiesel credits turned out to be fraudulent,” […] it is unrealistic to assume the biodiesel industry will actually produce 1.28 billion gal of real biodiesel this year.”

See on www.ogj.com