The use of more efficient
energy carriers will typically correspond directly with higher levels of
income, correspondingly inadequate access to modern energy is both a
determinant and a manifestation of poverty.
Sebastian Junger in an
Vanity Fair describes very eloquently why liquid fuels
are so valuable: "one tank of gas from a typical S.U.V. has the energy
equivalent of more than 60,000 man-hours of work - roughly 100 men working
around the clock for nearly a month. That is the power that the American
consumer can access for about $60 at the gasoline pump. If gasoline were a
person, we would be paying 10 cents an hour for this labor"
The global community
firmly recognizes the centrality of energy services for achieving all
Millennium Development Goals to bring people out of poverty. At the ninth session of the Commission for
Sustainable Development, held in 2001, it was concluded: “To implement
the goal accepted by the international community to halve the proportion
of people living on less than US$ 1 per day by 2015, access to affordable
energy services is a prerequisite”.
Biodiesel is a renewable
alternative for diesel and Ethanol is a renewable alternative for
gasoline. Renewable Diesel, FT Diesel and Biobutanol also hold out the promise
of alternatives for petroleum derived liquid fuels.
Fuels require more energy
to produce that they contain. Gasoline needs 1.25 gallons of gasoline
equivalent energy to extract, process and deliver one gallon of gasoline
to the consumer, representing an Energy Ratio of 0.80
Fermented corn Ethanol
delivers approximately 30% more energy than the fossil fuel inputs
required to grow, transport and process the corn into Ethanol fuel,
representing a Fossil Energy Ratio of 1.3 and an Energy Ratio of 0.25.
Biodiesel is much better
at a Fossil Energy Ratio of approximately 3:1 and future predictions have
cellulose ethanol up around 7:1.
Soybeans and corn are the
current feedstocks of choice for the existing biodiesel and ethanol
producers. Corn, soy oils, animal fats and other vegetable oils can only
take the biofuels industry so far, so
the industry is looking for complimentary sources of feedstocks to boost
the feedstock supply.
Cellulose ethanol is the
holy grail for the ethanol industry as it opens up the feedstock supply
base to many different types of material. Cellulose ethanol is produced
using a much less energy intensive process. so dramatically improves the
well to wheel ratio of ethanol.
Algae holds out the
promise of order of magnitude improvements in yield per acre over soy and
is the biodiesel holy grail. There are two basic approaches to cultivating
algae for fuel crops, closed, CO2 enhanced photobioreactors and open pond systems.
There are a number of
technical challenges standing in the way of commercialization of both
cellulose ethanol and algae derived diesel.
Flex Fuel Vehicles
A Flex fuel vehicle only
needs software to adjust the engines ignition timing for any fuel/air mix
and all the vehicle's fuel plumbing made of materials that will not
corrode in the presence of an Alcohol based fuel like Ethanol.
The problem with only
making these changes is that Ethanol has less energy per gallon when
compared to gasoline so the vehicle suffers mileage and performance
degradation. In countries that sell a lot of alcohol based fuels like
Brazil, the alcohol fuel has to be priced significantly lower than
gasoline to educe consumers to buy it over gasoline.
However, alcohol based
fuels like Ethanol and Methanol run cooler and enable an engine to run at
a higher compression ratio than the same engine running gasoline. Taking
advantage of these fuel properties enable an Ethanol powered vehicle to
easily exceed the mileage and performance that can be achieved using
None of the flex fuel
vehicles on the market today offer variable compression ratios on their
vehicles, so one has to ask are they really flex fuel vehicles or just
vehicles that can use alcohol base fuels. There are some devices out there
like Honda's VETC or Electric Powered, camshaftless valve train that allow
an engine to vary it's compression ratio to suit the fuel making the
engine a true flex fuel vehicle. Nissan has their Variable Valve Event and
Lift (VVEL) and continuous valve timing control (C-VTC) technology that
allows the engine power output to be controlled without a throttle, BMW's
system is called Valvetronic.
The ideal variable
compression ratio device is the turbo charger as it can make an engine
perform as if it has the right compression ratio on all fuels ranging from
gasoline to Ethanol. The problem with turbo charges is that they need
exhaust gasses to work, so turbo's are known for their turbo lag.
Superchargers overcome this problem but have mechanical losses at high
RPMS that rob power, so is the answer, the electrically powered turbo
Biotechnology & Biology
for Fuel Production
Gas to Liquids
Renewable or Green