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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thin Skin and Robert's Rules of Order

Alert to some classic posts on The Oil Drum recently. Robert Rapier somehow got under Argonne Lab's Michael Wang enough for Wang to say:
"You are entitled to have your opinion, but do not imply personal attack on my professional work."
And what did Rapier say to engender this response? He claimed that Wang practiced a bit of "sleight-of-hand". Rapier went on and logically deconstructed the energy efficiency tricks that Wang purportedly used to prove that Ethanol would prove very competitive with gasoline, if not exceed its EROEI!

Even though Rapier has a clear explanation, people in general don't seem to understand energy return arguments. I have a suggestion that might work. Instead of saying that X amount of gasoline provides Y amount of fuel, we should switch the X to indicate the cost of that gasoline. As most people relate to money more easily than symbolic fuel cans as input, it makes a bit more sense to lay it out that way. People like Wang would have no leg to stand on.

Also in the post, Rapier gives vulture capitalist Vinod Khosla another spanking:
Robert's argument would make solar cells a horrible source of energy at an efficiency of 0.15! And why would we ever use electricity?
And Khosla pretends expertise in Silicon Valley electronics? Vinod, please, solar cells don't have the lifetime of disposable razors -- as Robert reminds us, solar cells keep on running and will recoup their cost many times over. This proves Khosla has no business as a leader in the alternative fules debate.

In another TOD post, Petropest said this in a response to the creative accounting practiced in oil production reporting:
I don't think it is fair to add in bitumen or CTL or "refinery gain". You can't change the rules in the middle of the game. Counting some of that tar they pull out of the ground now is bad enough.
Anyone with software expertise would surely appreciate how many times managers have redefined what a "line of code" means. It could mean a count of semicolons, actual lines, lines minus comments, etc. The bottom-line remains that the definition will change depending on how middle management wants to show progress in their metrics with respect to productivity. I have seen it happen to software, and have to agree with Petropest that big oil can redefine what oil production metrics entail any time they want, yet no one asks the right question on what the peak really means.


Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

In the latest SCIAM on alternative fuels, several positive but DIFFERENT values were given in different articles regarding ethanol energy return. It was less than impressive.

A little bit more pragmatism, a bit more of that ol' scientific method, is to be had in -- the latest consumer reports magazine issue:

"To see how E85 ethanol stacks up against gasoline, Consumer Reports put one of its test vehicles, a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe Flexible-Fuel Vehicle (FFV) through an array of fuel economy, acceleration, and emissions tests.

Overall fuel economy on the Tahoe dropped from an already low 14 mpg overall to 10. In highway driving, gas mileage decreased from 21 to 15 mpg; in city driving, it dropped from 9 mpg to 7. You could expect a similar decrease in gas mileage in any current flex fuel vehicle because ethanol has a lower energy content than gasoline-75,670 British thermal units (BTUs) per gallon instead of 115,400 for gasoline, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a result, you have to burn more fuel to generate the same amount of energy.

With the retail pump price of E85 averaging $2.91 per gallon in August, according to the Oil Price Information Service, a 27 percent fuel-economy penalty means drivers would have paid an average of $3.99 for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline."

Whew. Talk about warm fuzzies.

1:54 AM  

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