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| V-2007: 26 | VI-2007: 03 | VIII-2007: 19 | IX-2007: 20 | X-2007: 21 | XII-2007: 28

New translation, the Magna Carta

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cellulosic ethanol subsidies in the usa

Context:

“new US Energy Bill incentives for ethanol, more investors will be chasing the cellulosic ethanol startups [...]”

Marker at abelard.org

“Cellulosic ethanol production has two basic modes: bugs and thermo-chemical attack, or some combination thereof. Specifically, variations on Thermoanaerobacter pseudoethanolicus (pictured) are going to be corralled in processing/fermentation reactors to consume wood breakdown products for our alcohol needs. Alternatively, huge amounts of heat, acid, and electricity will be thrown to the wheels of alcohol commerce, with as-yet unevaluated consequences to the environment. The specter of genetic modification of both feedstock organisms and bugs is yet to be grasped by the public at large. Both of these possibilities involve patents, of course, some of which are held by entities not presently involved in cellulosic ethanol processing designs.

“Initially, cellulosic ethanol processes will consume materials from naturally propagated trees (logging residues in some cases, whole trees in others), and from agricultural byproducts. Eventually cellulosic feedstocks will include non-food fuel crops such as switch grass and wood from plantation trees cultivated and managed specifically to optimize the efficiency of ethanol processing operations.

“Because natural forests contain the highest amount of cellulose per hectare, and because the infrastructure and labor force needed for logging and chipping exists where significant harvests are already underway, regions already known for their forest products are likely to dominate initially in cellulosic feedstock provision. Equally important, presently forested acres don't generally offer much potential for food crops. Little Bear only need be concerned if his den is dug up by the road builders and chippers.”

Marker at abelard.org

A long summary starts here: page 1 page 2

“ [...] no commercial facility yet makes cellulosic ethanol. The economic explanation is simple: it costs far too much to build such a facility. Cellulose, a long-chain polysaccharide that makes up much of the mass of woody plants and crop residues such as cornstalks, is difficult--and thus expensive--to break down.

“Several technologies for producing cellulosic ethanol do exist. The cellulose can be heated at high pressure in the presence of oxygen to form synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that is readily turned into ethanol and other fuels. Alternatively, industrial enzymes can break the cellulose down into sugars. The sugars then feed fermentation reactors in which microörganisms produce ethanol. But all these processes are still far too expensive to use commercially.

“Even advocates of cellulosic ethanol put the capital costs of constructing a manufacturing plant at more than twice those for a corn-based facility, and other estimates range from three times the cost to five. "You can make cellulosic ethanol today, but at a price that is far from perfect," says Christopher Somerville, a plant biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how cellulose is formed and used in the cell walls of plants [...]”

page 3:
“ In a number of opinion papers posted on the website of ­Khosla Ventures, a firm he started in 2004 that has invested heavily in biofuels and other environmental technologies, Khosla envisions biofuel production rapidly increasing over the next 20 years. According to his numbers, production of corn ethanol will level off at 15 billion gallons a year by 2014, but cellulosic ethanol will increase steadily, reaching 140 billion gallons by 2030. At that point, he predicts, biofuels will be cheap and abundant enough to replace gasoline for almost all purposes.

“While Khosla readily acknowledges the limitations of corn-derived ethanol, he says it has been an important "stepping-stone": the market for corn ethanol has created an infrastructure and market for biofuels in general, removing many of the business risks of investing in cellulosic ethanol. "The reason that I like [corn ethanol] is that its trajectory leads to cellulosic ethanol," he says. "Without corn ethanol, no one would be investing in cellulosics."

“But back in the Midwest, there is a "show me" attitude toward such blue-sky projections, and there are lingering questions about just how the nation's vast agricultural infrastructure will switch over to biomass. If Khosla's projections prove out, "then wonderful," says the University of Minnesota's Runge. "Meanwhile, we're stuck in reality." Perhaps the main point of contention, Runge suggests, is whether corn ethanol will in fact lead to new technologies--or stand in their way. "It is my opinion that corn ethanol is a barrier to converting to cellulosics," he says, pointing to the inertia caused by political and business interests heavily invested in corn ethanol and its infrastructure.”

related material
biofuel - a fossil fuel replacement

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#cellulosic_ethanol_281207


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putin seeks to build a state nuclear power conglomerate

“The Kremlin is seeking to restore Russia as a leading player in the global atomic power industry with a drive to create a state nuclear energy giant to compete directly with Areva, of France, and Westinghouse, which is owned by Toshiba.

“President Putin is consolidating Russian civilian nuclear assets, including everything from uranium mining and enrichment to the design and construction of power stations, into a single company - Atomenergoprom.

“With annual sales of about $8 billion (£3.9 billion), Atomenergoprom is designed to be a nuclear equivalent to Gazprom, the state-controlled Russian gas monopoly, and forms part of a strategy to bolster the country’s position in key international industries in which it has resources and expertise.”

related material
Nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous?

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#nuclear_putin_111207

the end of the carbon age

“Government efforts to tackle climate change are creating a "megatrend" investment opportunity that should tempt even those sceptical about the nature and pace of global warming, Deutsche Bank analysts said on Thursday.

“ "The climate change markets are being created by governments through their regulation," said Mark Fulton, the bank's global head of strategic planning and climate change strategist.

“ "Whether you believe the science or not, investable markets are being created by governments, and these investable markets we think will grow significantly over the next 20 to 30 years," he said at the launch of a report on climate change investment.

“The bank has attracted around 6 billion euros (US$8.55 billion) into climate change funds, which target firms with products that cut greenhouse gases or help people adapt to a warmer world, in sectors from agriculture to power and construction.” {Quoted from planetark.org]

Marker at abelard.org

solar mirror generation expansion

“THE 10 cents SOLUTION With utilities scrambling to meet mandates for green power in 25 states plus the District of Columbia, analysts say there's room for many companies. Ultimately, the technologies that deliver reliable power at the lowest price will win. They'll be a big success if they supply electricity at a price close to a new coal or natural gas plant today. The magic figure is 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh) or less. "If we can lock in a 10 cents number for the life of a solar plant, it will be a clear winner," says Mark Kapner, senior strategy engineer at Austin Energy.

“There's an intense debate about which of the competing solar thermal approaches will hit that target--and whether it's imminent or 5 or 10 years away. Ausra's unique claim is that its simpler technology brings it down to the crucial 10 cents already--even with the extra risk premium investors are demanding. "They've engineered out a lot of the costs," explains Lewis Hay III, CEO of Florida Power & Light. Competitors acknowledge they're at least a few years behind in making their approaches as cheap as Ausra claims to have done, even though most experts agree such cost reductions are going to happen. "It seems there is a pathway to very low-cost concentrating solar power," says Andrew Kinross at Navigant Consulting Inc. (NCI ) "This opportunity is finally taking hold." ”

“As a startup with newer technology, Ausra faces harder financial challenges. Coal plant builders have been able to count on 80% to 90% debt at an interest rate of 5.5% to 6%. Their equity investors expect about an 11% return on equity. That puts the average cost of capital at about 7%. But since no one has built a giant solar plant, investors demand a risk premium. O'Donnell's equity investors want a richer 20% rate of return. Plus, he can get only 50% debt, at an interest rate of 7.5%. As a result, the overall cost of capital for Ausra's first plants is 12%.

“The hope, therefore, is that the first few large plants show investors that the risk is low, causing the future cost of capital to drop. That would enable Ausra to lower the price below the current 10.4 cents. "Once people build one or two units, the financial risk premium goes away," explains Jim Ferland, senior vice-president at New Mexico utility PNM.” [Quoted from businessweek.com]

Field of mirrors graphic - click current image 
        to go to interactive version. Image credit: Businessweek.com
Field of mirrors graphic - click current image to go to interactive version. Image credit: Businessweek.com

Useful article - recommended scan.

Marker at abelard.org

Extracting uranium from coal ash slag heaps

“Sparton Resources announced that it had successfully produced a small quantity of yellowcake (U3O8) from fly ash from a Chinese coal-fired power plant.

“The uranium extraction test work is being conducted by Sparton's processing engineering consulting firm Lyntek Inc of Denver, Colorado, USA. The test to produce yellowcake used 6.1 kg of mixed fly ash produced at the Xiaolongtang power plant. The ash averaged some 0.4 pounds of U308 per tonne of ash (160 parts per million uranium).”

Marker at abelard.org

There is an average of approximately 2.8ppm uranium in the earth’s crust:

“There are many uranium mines operating around the world, in some twenty countries, though more than two thirds of world production comes from just ten mines. Most of the uranium ore deposits at present supporting these mines have average grades in excess of 0.10% of uranium - that is, greater than 1000 parts per million. In the first phase of uranium mining to the 1960s, this would have been seen as a respectable grade, but today some Canadian mines have huge amounts of ore up to 20% U average grade. Other mines however can operate successfully with very low grade ores.

“Some uranium is also recovered as a by-product with copper, as at Olympic Dam in Australia, or as by-product from the treatment of other ores, such as the gold-bearing ores of South Africa. In these cases the concentration of uranium may be as low as a tenth of that in orebodies mined primarily for their uranium content.” [Quoted from world-nuclear.org]

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#carbon_age_211007

pork barrel and self-interest

“But assisting Detroit’s suicide seems to be contagious. Everyone wants to get in on it, including Toyota. Toyota, which pioneered the industry-leading, 50-miles-per-gallon Prius hybrid, has joined with the Big Three U.S. automakers in lobbying against the tougher mileage standards in the Senate version of the draft energy bill.

“Now why would Toyota, which has used the Prius to brand itself as the greenest car company, pull such a stunt? Is it because Toyota wants to slow down innovation in Detroit on more energy efficient vehicles, which Toyota already dominates, while also keeping mileage room to build giant pickup trucks, like the Toyota Tundra, at the gas-guzzler end of the U.S. market?”

Conversion table imperial [UK] gallon US gallon litre

imperial (UK) gallon

1 1.2 4.546
US gallon 0.83 1 3.785
litre 0.22 0.26 1

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#counter_intuitive_041007

replacing platinum in fuel cells

“Japan's Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd said on Friday it has developed a technology to make fuel cells without platinum, the precious metal used in the electrolyte process in existing hydrogen-based fuel cells.”

related material
Fuel cells and battery-powered vehicles

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#no_platinum_200907

china’s fake industry - the auroran sunset

Fascinating five-page look at China's product cloning industry.

“The miniOne looked just like Apple's iPhone, down to the slick no-button interface. But it was more. It ran popular mobile software that the iPhone wouldn't. It worked with nearly every worldwide cellphone carrier, not just AT&T, and not only in the U.S. It promised to cost half as much as the iPhone and be available to 10 times as many consumers.”

“Nearly every type of product can be - and is - cloned in China, sometimes so well that the ripped-off manufacturers inadvertently service the fakes when warranty claims come in. Cloners make air conditioners with the LG brand name in the country's remote west, along what was once the old Silk Road trading route. But cloners don't have to sell their wares under the same brand name: In Anhui province, near the Yangtze River, one of China's biggest auto manufacturers builds a part-for-part replica of a top-selling Chevrolet model, then slaps a new badge on the car. In the south, one cloning operation didn't just copy a technology company's product line - it duplicated the entire company, creating a shadow enterprise with corporate headquarters, factories, and sales and support staff.”

“The end of Chinese cloning will come when Chinese products become good enough to stand on their own, just as Japan's did in the 1970s and Korea's did in the 1980s. The difference is that China is moving much faster toward this goal than Korea or Japan ever did.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#china_fakes_190807

here comes pv

“[...] total net revenues grew 174.5% year-over-year to $246.7 million, and total production output grew 138.2% year-over-year to 64.7MW [...]”

Recent Business Highlights
• In its key sales geographies, Suntech's sales continue to outpace market growth. In particular, sales volumes have grown measurably in Spain, where the Company shipped 27MW in the first quarter of 2007, similar to shipment volumes in Germany.

• Recent project wins highlight Suntech's increasing traction in the North American market. Suntech was selected by Sun Edison as the cornerstone supplier for the 8.2MW Alamosa Central Solar Plant in Colorado -- one of the largest North American solar power plants. Suntech is also collaborating with BASS Electric to supply a 450KW PV system to the San Francisco International Airport's new Terminal T3 solar project.

• The Company has increased its BIPV sales and marketing activities especially in North America demonstrated by its letter of intent with Open Energy Corp. this month. Suntech intends to provide cost effective and high quality production of their SolarSave(R) PV Tiles and explore broad initiatives to expand BIPV product sales within the North American market.

• The Company has recently won multiple projects totaling 5MW in South Korea demonstrating the growing strength of its Asia-based sales outside of China. The market size for solar products in South Korea was 18MW in 2006 according to Solarbuzz.

• The Company is on track with a key step in its move towards multi-gigawatt manufacturing with the construction of its new facility in Wuxi, China. The 540,000 square foot, 1GW capacity plant is scheduled to begin installation of new PV cell production lines in June 2007.

• Suntech's innovative 20% conversion efficiency PV cell, based on its new low cost ''Pluto'' technology platform, is ahead of schedule achieving over 18% conversion efficiency in pilot production successfully validating the commercial feasibility of this technology in comparison to conventional PV cell technology.

• To address the growing market for thin film and BIPV products, Suntech recently began construction on a thin film R&D and manufacturing facility in Shanghai. The initial phase with 50MW of capacity is expected to begin operation by the middle of 2008. Suntech projects an average production cost of $1.20 per watt and conversion efficiency of 6% to 9%. The thin film modules will be nearly 6 square meters in size contributing to a balance of system installation cost for Suntech's thin film solution that it believes will be significantly lower than other PV solutions.

• MSK's third-party PV cell to module business was halted during the quarter. Production has since started in Suntech's Wuxi facilities and has now become an integral and profitable part of Suntech's operations, providing Suntech with additional capacity to meet the increasing demand for Suntech's products with nearly no incremental operating expenses. During the first quarter, Suntech also successfully established BIPV production lines at its Wuxi facility. First Quarter 2007 Results”

related material
Photovoltaics (solar cells) briefings document
energy: some ways of the future - on photovoltaics

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#photovoltaics_030607

new billion dollar fund to concentrate on ‘alternative’ energy

“JPMorgan, seeking to capitalise on the boom in environmentally friendly technologies, has established an alternative energy investment banking unit and hired a former executive from General Electric to run it.

“In an internal memo sent to staff this week, JPMorgan said it had hired Vandana Gupta from General Electric to head the new effort.

“At GE, Ms Gupta managed $1bn in equity investments in the energy and power sectors, including solar and wind power.”

When will one of these “ethical”/“green” fund owners develop the courage to include the most serious alternative, safe clean nuclear power?
The cowardice detracts from both the greenness of their offerings and the attraction for serious investors. [the auroran sunset]

the return of nuclear power

“Today, only eight countries are known to have a nuclear weapons capability. By contrast, 56 operate civil research reactors, and 30 have some 435 commercial nuclear power reactors with a total installed capacity of over 370 000 MWe (see table). This is more than three times the total generating capacity of France or Germany from all sources. Some 30 further power reactors are under construction, equivalent to 6% of existing capacity, while over 60 are firmly planned, equivalent to 18% of present capacity.

“Sixteen countries depend on nuclear power for at least a quarter of their electricity. France and Lithuania get around three quarters of their power from nuclear energy, while Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia and Ukraine get one third or more. Japan, Germany and Finland get more than a quarter of their power from nuclear energy, while the USA gets one fifth.”

Looking at the US nuclear power industry:

  • The USA has over 100 nuclear reactors providing almost 20% of its electricity. These have a high level of performance
  • With deregulation, both ownership and operation of these is becoming concentrated.
  • Extension of reactor lifetimes from 40 to 60 years is enhancing the economic competitiveness of plants.
  • The industry envisages substantial new nuclear capacity by 2020 and several regulatory initiatives are preparing the way for new orders.
“After 20 years of steady decline, government R&D funding for nuclear energy is being revived with the objective of rebuilding US leadership in nuclear technology. In 1997 nuclear fission R&D was, at US$ 37 million, lower than in France, South Korea, or Canada - only 2% of total energy R&D, which compared pathetically with 68% (US$ 2537 million) of a much larger budget in Japan. From the 1999 budget, this situation has been turned around with various programs including the flagship Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) and also Plant Optimisation. The first 45 NERI grants were awarded in 1999, signalling a reinvigoration of the federal role in nuclear research, following successful conclusion of the advanced reactor program in 1998.

“For [financial Year] 2008 (from October 2007) the Department of Energy is seeking $875 million for its nuclear energy programs. The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative for closing the fuel cycle and supporting the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership would receive $395 million of this and Generation-IV R&D would get $36 million, chiefly for the very high temperature reactor. The Nuclear Power 2010 program aimed at early deployment of advanced reactors would get $114 million. ”

The previous linked page has much other information on the history and development of nuclear power in the USA.

related material
Nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous?

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#nuclear_return_260507

censorship by british airways - who runs that circus!

Advertising like this you cannot buy. First crosses, now this. Methinks the shareholders could do with a new CEO.

“When passengers on board a British Airways flight watched the new James Bond flick "Casino Royale", some sharp-eyed viewers who'd already seen the film noticed something was different about it.

“And now we know what it is.

“There's a moment in the flick where Sir Richard Branson, who runs rival Virgin Atlantic Airlines, makes a cameo appearance as an airport security scanner.

“You can see his face in the original film.

“But in the version being shown on the BA flight, the scene has been edited to feature him only from the back.

“And the airline has also apparently blurred out a shot of one of its competitor's tail fins, so the word "Virgin" can't be seen.”

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#ba_virgin_240407

a more interesting epistle by kaletsky

I’'m not fully convinced by the story, but it is at least an interesting angle.

“Globalisation has also affected the growth of borrowing in ways that are not yet fully understood. For example, outsourcing has made Western economies far more stable, as demonstrated by the marked decline in all measures of economic volatility since the early 1990s, especially in Britain and the US. This new-found stability has, in turn, made high levels of borrowing both safer and more attractive for businesses and consumers in the advanced economies. At the same time, the integration of global capital markets has allowed countries that embrace high levels of borrowing and financial sophistication, such as America, Britain and Spain, to take advantage of excess savings in more conservative countries such as Japan and Germany.”

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the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#kaletsky_121106

updated: americans very slowly waking up to energy crunch - starting with republicans in california

“The "California Solar Initiative," backed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, aims to add 3,000 megawatts of solar energy over 11 years through the installation of 1 million rooftop solar energy systems on homes, businesses, farms, schools and public buildings.”

“ Solar spending could save California utility customers an estimated $9 billion from a reduced need to build new power plants and purchase electricity supplies during high demand days in the summer, according to a commission report. The Republican governor's energy goals call for making renewable energy like solar and wind power 20 percent of California's electricity resources by 2017.”

dishonesty and anti-environmental action by democrats and unions

“After two years of trouble with the legislative effort to institute his "Million Solar Roofs" plan, Arnold Schwarzenegger hit pay dirt today when the California Public Utilities Commission enacted the California Solar Initiative or CSI...roughly $3 billion in rate-based customer incentives over the next decade to install solar power devices to generate 3000 megawatts of electric power [...]”

“ In 2005, things were better organized, and the solar roofs plan became Senate Bill 1, a bipartisan venture between liberal LA state Senator Kevin Murray and conservative Orange County Senator John Campbell (now California's newest congressman). SB 1 took flight from the Senate on a wave of bipartisan support, environmentalist backing, and acclaim from editorials around the state, only to run afoul of opposition from organized labor and Democrats in the Assembly who were determined to deny Schwarzenegger an image-boosting win as he pushed his ill-fated "Year of Reform" initiatives in the hotly contested special election. Another problem was that the governor, distracted by his coming special election debacle, didn't campaign for the bill after he declared it his top legislative priority.”

related material
replacements for fossil fuels—what can be done about it?

the web address for the article above is
http://www.abelard.org/news/business_markets2006.php#california_140106

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