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Category: Background


Permalink 05:19:49 pm, Categories: Background, 20 words   English (US)

Biotech Nation talks Algae to Fuel

Dr. Moira Gunn, host of syndicated public radio program Tech Nation, recently talked with experts about making fuel from algae.


Permalink 02:28:48 pm, Categories: News, Background, 75 words   English (US)

Ford thinks 65mpg car won't sell in U.S.

The 65mpg Ford ECOnetic will go on sale in November, but not in the U.S. Why? Because Ford thinks a diesel model does not make business sense in this country. At a net price of $24,400 (after $1300 tax deduction), the vehicle is about the same price as a Toyota Prius.
The specs on the EcoNetic are 51mpg city, 74 mpg highway. It uses a 1.6L TCDi diesel. CO2 Emissions are 98g/km (better than a Prius).


Permalink 05:59:21 pm, Categories: Background, 58 words   English (US)

MAKE: Homebrew a batch of Biodiesel

Kip Kay at MAKE Magazine's Weekend Project walks through the steps of making one litre of biodiesel from vegetable oil. He includes a water wash/dry step at the end. Note that you need the yellow Iso-HEET bottle, which is methanol, and *not* the red Iso-HEET bottle.
The original MAKE Magazine article, in PDF format, is still available.


Permalink 04:45:25 pm, Categories: Background, 363 words   English (US)

Book Review - "Hey Mr. Green"

Hey Mr. Green bookThe Sierra magazine environmental advice columnist Bob Schildgen (aka Mr. Green) has compiled advice on a wide variety of topics, including biofuels, in a new ~200 pg. book - "Hey Mr. Green". Just to double check - I first made sure the book was printed on 100% post-consumer waste - yup. The book is organized into 5 sections based around the topics Home, Food, Fuel, Recycling, and The Big Picture. Each section has an introductory essay followed by a selection of questions and answers from the column. The author consistently injects humor and erudition into the answers, while keeping a central theme of conservation humming in the background. 15 pages of end notes provide references for the facts and figures used in the answers.
The main message of the Fuel section is to reduce the use of cars - as he writes "Carbon-free doesn't beat car-free". I found the explanation of how 100 gallons of fossil fuel turn into 2000 pounds of CO2 easy to follow. Living on the Space Coast, the question and answer about private space travel was thought provoking. A question about the green-worthiness of a biodiesel powered Jeep Liberty CRD elicited a reasoned response beginning with:

"Biodiesel is a good choice for many drivers: It pollutes less than ordinary diesel fuel and generates a lot less globe-warming carbon dioxide than gasoline does."

That advice is tempered with the caution that

"it's a big mistake to think [biodiesel] is a 'perfect solution' to our energy problems."

He goes on to explain the limits of farmland fuel production in this country. In another answer to an ethanol question a bigger picture solution is offered:

"What we really need is a crash program for efficient mass transit, stricter fuel-economy regulations, and a serious commitment to developing solar, wind, and tidal power. In addition, a vast amount of energy could be saved if we all reduced our car use; made our homes as energy efficient as possible; and stuck to the speed limit when we do drive, making sure our vehicles are well tuned and our tires properly inflated."

Other questions answered in the book range from birth control to burial methods, always answered in an intelligent non-preachy way. An enjoyable green read.



Permalink 11:44:27 pm, Categories: Background, 243 words   English (US)

Notes from Microalgae -> Biofuel a "Great Green Hope" talk

As a follow-up to the FIT talk from today I wanted to post some notes. The key points I picked up:

  • Open raceways are the only possible cost effective way to produce oil from algae. Closed systems (Photobioreactors - PBRS) are relatively costly as they must try and solve temperature and degassing problems.
  • There are lots of estimates on oil production values from algae, but until real world production is in place, the high side numbers are fantasies.
  • CO2 and Sunlight are not really free inputs. CO2 *costs* from $50-$400 per ton. It takes 2 tons of CO2 to produce 1 ton of biomass.

Dr. Weissman, who worked on the DOE Aquatic Species Program (ASP), covered a lot of ground, from some work in 1953, up through the current work FIT is performing (under a $415K grant from the State of Florida Farm to Fuel program). He showed a picture of PBR's on the MIT roof from 1953! Much of the information being patented today seems to be covered in that decades old work such as In Algal Culture: From Laboratory to Pilot Plant.
With genetic engineering, today's algae can be improved in several ways. Dr. Weissman mentioned modifying the reaction area such that "longer antennae" are used for photosynthesis. These cyclotella mutants use 20 chlorophyll instead of 200 as their light processing engine.
In the current FIT project, smaller tanks have been running with cultures in Vero Beach for almost a year - 1/20th acre raceways are about to come online.

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