MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Location: file:///C:/B16B324E/April2008Discussion.htm Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Type: text/html; charset="us-ascii" Highlights of Discussion on Oil and National Security, Rayburn 2218, lunchtime, April 16

Highlights of Discussion on Oil and National Sec= urity, Rayburn 2218, lunchtime, April 16

 

1. Greg Dolan and I a= greed on almost everything. Today I did not discuss methanol much myself, but my key slide calls for maximum deployment of GEM-flexible plug-in cars, to = create a five-way open competition between gasoline, electricity, ethanol (E85), m= ethanol (M85) and any other liquid fuels which can be handled by GEM-flexible engin= es. “GEM flexible” is a term I coined years ago, for my talks and discussions = with decision-makers in B= razil.

 

2. Dolan presented im= portant new slides with detailed up-to-date technical information.

For example, he discu= ssed “cellulosic biofuels,̶= 1; biofuels made from sources like woodchips or switchgrass, which are far more plentiful and safe to= use than are grains of corn. If we make methanol biofuel from this cellulosic material, we get two advan= tages: (1) we get three times as many gallons of fuel; and (2) we can use less expensive, well-established ways to produce the fuel, and we do not have to wait for the completion of advanced R&D programs to start mass producti= on. “First generation biofuel” – highly purifi= ed ethanol from corn – is orders of magnitude worse than this kind of old generation biofuel.

 

3. Methanol biofuel will not become realistic until and unless we deploy cars which are GEM flexible. But pure ethanol also requires flexibil= ity, as in the GE (gasoline/ethanol) flexible cars widely deployed in Brazil.= Anne Korin cited recent estimates that GEM flexibility cos= ts only $15-$25 dollars more than GE flexibility, if it is inserted into new c= ars during their production.

 

4. Dolan cited recent= work at EPA Ann Arbor, on how car performance can be improved when methanol is used= as a fuel. Here was the closest thing we had to a disagreement. Much as I resp= ect the important work of EPA Ann Arbor, I know that the best performance in GEM flexible cars can be had with adapt= ive engine control, using the full power of new algorithms f= or optimization and the skills of engineers in the Alternate Energy Task Force= of IEEE (see my slides). Optimal GEM and GE flexibility come from using adapti= ve engine control to minimize pollution and maximize engine efficiency for all fuel choices in a broad range, as well as upgrading materials to handle corrosion.

 

5. Dolan noted that t= he last GEM-flexible cars were made in the US in 1999 – but = China has already begun massive deployment of GEM-flexible cars. These will be fu= eled more and more by methanol made by coal gasification, in a gigantic new synfuels program already larger than what Jimmy Carter imagined in the 1970’s.

 

What about CO2 emissions from China?<= /span> We all agreed that China is being far more effective than the US in moving towards independ= ence from oil and OPEC, but what can it do about CO2, in the real world, aside from ineffective gestures? Unlike the US, China faces real limits to what it can do with earth-based r= enewables. (Details below.) I see only two possibilities:

 

(1) Use oxygenated co= al gasification, to produce methanol (or other corrosive Fischer-Tropsch liquids) and electricity as coproducts. When electricity is produced as a coproduct, th= is kind of “clean coal” can beat conventional coal plants on cost, especially if true “intelligent grid” technology is used to man= age the use of this electricity. It also is more efficient in the use of coal, which helps solves C= hina’s coal supply problems. CO2 can be sequestered fairly efficiently from oxygen= ated gasification plants, but what can we do with the CO2, on a large scale? For= now, the best near-term hope is the use of algae to convert the CO2 to more liqu= id fuel, or feedstock for gasification.

 

(2) Maybe it is actua= lly more realistic, technically, to talk about energy form space, for China, = if only a technically viable US-China partnership could be created. The technical o= ptions are very clear now, because of the outcomes of the NSF-NASA-EPRI activity on energy from space. (See my s= pace page.) But the political obstacles are legion, especially since the sub= ject tends to arouse emotional excess, speculation and irrational behavior both = from skeptics and supporters.

 

In the US, one can ea= sily envision new solar technology producing electricity at 6 cents per kilowatt hour in the daytime in large sunny places in northern Texas or the Mojave desert; from there, it is only 2 cents to transport it a thousand miles, to anywhere in the US. (Source: PJM.)  But China’s Gobi desert is probably not as suitable, and transport all the way to Shanghai would de= stroy the economics.