Sunday, September 15, 2013

When biofuels are FUN!

You have to love it when the best laid plans of bureaucrats gang agley, as the Gaels would have us say.

The latest example to have come my way is the tale of ethanol in the US fuel pool.

The US EPA introduced a Renewable Fuel Standard, which required refiners and importers to add a predetermined quantity of ethanol to every gallon of gasoline. 

When they mix ethanol into gasoline, or import fuel already blended with ethanol, the refiners/importers get a credit from the government. That credit can be sold to other companies that don’t blend ethanol. To monitor compliance, each gallon of ethanol is assigned a 38-digit Renewable Identification Number, or RIN. Six billion of them were generated in the first six months of this year.

RINs started in 2005, when the Bush administration passed an energy bill setting out renewable fuel standards. The law was broadened in 2007, creating a requirement for the amount of biofuel to be blended annually. In 2013, refiners and importers are required to blend 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol, up from 13.2 billion last year. For 2014, the figure is 14.4 billion.

But there is a problem - the quantity of gasoline sold has been falling in recent years.  Cars have become more fuel efficient, and Americans are driving less.  You can only stand so much ethanol in the fuel.  Too much, and fuel systems gum up, both at the pump and in your car.  So the poor gasoline blenders have to put more ethanol into the fuel than necessary, or buy a credit for not blending ethanol. They have been buying credits like crazy, to avoid gumming up the works.

But this is America, right? They aren't all like George Bush.  Someone saw it coming.  They bought up credits.  Now they are selling them into a buyers' market, and making a big fortune.  Who is "they"? The banks, of course, and a few Mafia guys, and anyone who could think faster than the Government.

The net result is that fuel prices are rising even as shale gas and shale oil bring down input costs.  The US EPA is appalled. The official responsible is reported as saying “The last thing we wanted in implementing this program was to get price increases for the consumer.”[New York Times]

Yet another Green Dream bites the dust of reality!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Arctic laughter

The scientific study of the basis for humour finds that it stems “from a benign violation of the way the world ought to be.”

An excellent example is the Chinese proverb “There is no pleasure so great as watching a good friend fall off the roof.”

In the same vein, I found the story of the Mainstream Renewable Energy Project, which set out in June to row across the North-West Passage in order to draw attention to climate change ( ), the source of a great deal of laughter. The North-West Passage closed solid with ice before the end of August, and the rowers had to abandon their attempt.

“Over the past 54 days we traversed more than 1500-kms of the Northwest Passage from Inuvik, NWT to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut and have come away humbled and awed by the experience. We had hoped to make it to Pond Inlet, Nunavut by early September but this has proven impossible. Severe weather conditions hindered our early progress and now ice chokes the passage ahead.”

“Our message remains unaffected though, bringing awareness to the pressing issues of climate change in the arctic.”

Errr!  Hang on!  The Arctic turns Arctic, and you have to draw attention to some change?? What change?? Seems to me the Arctic is what it has always been, bloody cold, bloody inhospitable, the sort of place that would humble and awe the strongest. Are you trying to tell us the place is getting cold?  We knew that.  You should have known that. What an absolutely futile mission you went on.

But, of course, there were all those True Believers who financed this futile exercise.  So they have to be told the Good News – “Floyd Roland, the former premiere of the North West Territories and the current mayor of Inuvik speaks of winters that now begin a month later than when he was a kid, of strange and inconsistent weather patterns that were once far more predictable. Elders Billy and Eileen Jacobson of Tuktoyaktuk speak of winters shortened by a fortnight at either end.”  Except that for our intrepid explorers, the winters came sooner and were longer, and the weather patterns were only too predictable.

You have to laugh – if it weren’t true, the self-deception would be quite sad.