Shortage of Rare Metals for Hybrids Is Overblown

Toyota Could Gain Advantage

China is tightening its grip on its rare earth metals, which may derail production of hybrid and electric cars, according to The New York Times and Bloomberg. Hybrid cars use rare metals, especially neodymium for magnets in electric motors, and lanthanum in nickel metal hydride batteries.

Prabhakar Patil, CEO of battery-maker Compact Power and former chief engineer of Ford’s hybrid program, sees the rare earth supply concern as “not very high,” when compared to other factors that could limit production of hybrids and electric cars. Patil believes that if supplies or prices for rare earth metals become an issue, car companies will work around a shortage by using induction motors and power electronics. He admits that there will be a penalty in terms of size, cost, and efficiency of motors. “But it is not a show stopper,” Patil told HybridCars.com.

Neodymium

Officials from Toyota, by far the biggest manufacturer of hybrid cars, believe rare earth materials are a concern, but not a major or immediate one. “This is something that we have to address as more manufacturing of electric vehicles and hybrids come on line,” said Jana Hartline Toyota’s environmental communication manager, in an interview with HybridCars.com. “Does that mean next week? No. It becomes a legitimate thing to consider when you talk about production in the order of millions over several years.”

Recent media reports also described the process of mining the rare earth metals as damaging to the environment. Hartline said, “Mining in any way, shape or form is never an environmentally friendly process. That’s the nature of the beast.” She said that Toyota is continually looking for sourcing and manufacturing processes that are less damaging to the environment.

Planning Required

Jack Lifton, an independent Michigan-based strategic metals expert, believes there could be “a gap” in hybrid and electric car production in the future—but only if new North American production of rare earth metals does not come on board as expected, and auto engineers fail to plan for a shift to magnets and motors that require fewer or no rare earth metals.

A mineral facility in Mountain Pass, Calif.—owned by Molycorp Mineral—is the richest rare earth deposit in the world, said Lifton. Molycorp and other North American mining companies stopped producing a decade ago, when China started supplying the metals at a cheaper price. If Molycorp, and other Canada-based companies, go back into production as planned, within three to four years, hybrid and electric car production will “not only be on track, it could be done in the United States,” said Lifton. Currently, nearly all hybrid components, such as batteries and motors, are manufactured in Asia.

There is a window of approximately five years, according to Lifton, before China’s planned use of neodymium for a range of products, especially wind turbines, could cut off automakers. At that point, “the electrification of motor cars will probably go on hold, but not for Toyota,” Lifton told HybridCars.com. “Toyota has been stockpiling. They’ve been buying. They’ve invested in a mine. Toyota will probably be okay.” He believes that Honda and Ford are also making necessary preparations, but that all other carmakers will have a difficult time with supplies needed for powerful motors required for hybrid and electric cars. “If you didn’t develop raw materials sourcing already, you’re done,” said Lifton.


  • TD

    Sounds like the stories on the lack of materials for batteries is simply more FUD from the oil companies.

    One would expect the NY Times and Bloomberg to check their sources, but business news organizations these days will take almost anything that is fed to them and print or read it on the air with hardly any due diligence in checking the facts. I’ve seen it first hand from press releases from companies I’ve worked for in the past.

  • Mr. Fusion

    At least Asia isn’t stockpiling Adamantium.

  • Samie

    Sometimes fear or uncertainty along with complacency prevail in both political and environmental camps. The cost of doing nothing in some cases is greater than the problems that could be associated with the need for diversifying our energy needs.

    The question I have is why are some surprised that hybrids or EV’s need raw materials that mostly come from non renewable resources? Yes there is environmental damage in extracting, transporting & fabricating these materials but that could be said w/ almost anything including some steps that occur with petroleum or production of most plastics. And as the article said if the cost of some of these materials are too much for production there will always be an incentive for someone to find other materials that can be used as a substitute.

    What I think it comes down to is fear that comes with change & the fact that some falsely believe in a perfect environmental solution to our energy needs. Its great to look at the whole energy process though some who raise concerns about coal or mineral extraction fail to look at total energy consumption with fuels like biofuel but anyways what makes EV’s critical is that we need the choice to supply energy to vehicles in ways that don’t keep us being bound to our current refueling process or market structure.

  • Fred Linn

    So what?

    High compression internal combustion engines can achieve as much increase in efficiency as hybrids(or more)—and they do it across the board, not just stop and go city—they are also more efficient on highway conditions. Clean diesels(ie: VW) get roughly the same mileage as Prius—with no complex and expensive batteries. They cost significantly less to produce.

    With ethanol widely available enough—we can produce engines that can more than double the efficiency and power of the typical gasoline engine. We can easily replace large V8s with 4 or 6 cylinder engines with less than 1/2 the displacement, with no loss in power and double the amount of work/BTU of fuel(mileage).

    And that can all be done with off the shelf parts and manufacturing, no industrial retooling. We’ve been doing it for over 40 years.

    We do not need to replace our technology. What we have is fine. We need to replace the fuels we use. Biodiesel can be used with no modification at all. After Oct. 1, all diesel sold in the US must be Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel—in order to make ULSD you have to add biodiesel—take the sulphur out and there is not enough lubrication, it will destroy the engine.
    Flex Fuel engines that can run on either gasoline, or E85(whichever is available)—cost no more to produce than conventional gas engines and we have been producing them for about 20 years. With enough E85 available, we can make high compression, high thermal efficiency engines(compression has to be kept low to allow the use of gasoline because of octane rating).

    VW is now selling cars that use both gasoline or compressed natural gas. By next year, they will be selling diesel/CNG bi-fuel cars. This avoids the problem of cold weather(present with both petroleum or biodiesel). If the weather is cold, simply start up and run on natural gas till the engine is warm—then switch to diesel if you need to.

    Let the Chinesse keep their rare metals—we don’t need ‘em anyway—besides, they are too expensive anyway.

  • Alex Besogonov

    ” High compression internal combustion engines can achieve as much increase in efficiency as hybrids(or more)—and they do it across the board, not just stop and go city—they are also more efficient on highway conditions.”

    That’s false. There is a hard limit on heat engine efficiency – Carnot cycle. Diesel engines come pretty close to it. You can claw several more percents of efficiency, but there won’t be anything groundbreaking.

    Even better, hybrids allow for more efficient ICEs by decoupling engine and transmission. For example, in GM Volt engine will always work in several optimal power bands. And that really saves fuel.

    Besides, oil is a limited resource. One day it’ll be gone.

  • Fred Linn

    Alex—-”That’s false. There is a hard limit on heat engine efficiency – Carnot cycle. Diesel engines come pretty close to it. You can claw several more percents of efficiency, but there won’t be anything groundbreaking.”———–

    Diesels are already high compression engines. The typical diesel engine runs about 16:1 compression ratio, compared to about 9:1 for gasoline. Gasoline engines run about 20% efficiency—-you get back about 20% of the energy put into the tank as BTUs at the wheels. The octane rating is the resistance of the fuel to preignition—knock. Preignition will destroy the engine if it is bad enough. The octane rating of regular gasoline is 85-87, the octane rating of ethanol is about 115~120. Off the scale when compared to gasoline. The compression in Flex Fuel engines must be kept low to allow the use of gasoline. In dedicated ethanol engines the compression ratio can be taken to about 18~24:1 safely. Ethanol engines produce high power output per weight and are highly thermally efficient. About 45% compared to 20% for gasoline. We’ve been doing it for over 40 years. Indy League Racing Circuit cars all run on 100% ethanol, and have been using alcohol fuels for over 40 years.
    The Indy cars use Honda 3L V8 engines, smaller than most cars on the road today. They can hit 240-260 mph on the straights and develop around 1200 to 1600 hp—about the same output as 3-4 over the road diesel rigs. Ethanol can also be used in diesel engines with minor modification—the Swedish company, Scania, is currently operating over 600 buses in Sweden and UK on ethanol, and has been for several years.
    High compression dedicated ethanol engines can be built using all off the shelf parts and current manufacturing capabilities. We need to new factories or scarce elements to double the efficiency of what we now have. Batteries not included—or needed. Doubling the thermal efficiency of our current engines with no added cost would go a long way further to energy independence that the measly 25-30% overall from hybrids. As for long distance highway driving—hybrids offer almost no saving at all.

    The first engine that Rudolf Diesel built in 1893 was designed and demonstrated to the public running on peanut oil. You can tell a diesel engine that is running on biofuel at a glance when it starts up or accelerates—there is no cloud of black sooty smoke. There is nothing at all. Biodiesel burns so clean, you can smell the difference instantly. Sulphur is what gives petroleum diesel its smell. Biofuel, burns so clean, that when salvaged cooking oil is used to power the engine, you can smell the french fries that the oil was previously used to cook. You don’t need any fancy equipment to measure how low in pollution biofuel is—you can see it plainly with your own eyes, and smell it plainly with your own nose.

    ———”Besides, oil is a limited resource. One day it’ll be gone.”——–
    That is why I think we need to switch to biofuels. The problem is not ICE—-we can do anything we need to do better with biofuels and no complicated and expensive technology. Biofuels can be made from any type of plant material at all, and the raw materials can be produced almost anywhere with renewable and sustainable conditions. We’ve been able to do it for over 100 years. Ethanol was produced in commercial quantities from wood logging and milling waste in both the US and Germany as far back as the 1890′s.

    I have nothing against hybrids. But they are complicated, and expensive to produce—-and we can achieve greater savings by switching fuels than we can by trying to change technology. I say, go for the easier, less expensive and simple to do solution.

  • Fred Linn

    ——–”At least Asia isn’t stockpiling Adamantium.”———–

    LMAO!!!! I had to look it up. At least somebody around here has a sense of humor. Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

  • Shines

    Fred,
    Ethanol has 30% less energy than gasoline and 40% less energy than diesel. Indy cars can go over 200 mph because they weigh 1500 lbs and seat only 1. Their ethanol engines produce about 650 hp not 1200. The Indy engines last 1200 miles before needing to be rebuilt. Sure we can build high efficiency ethanol burning engines. We may be able to create them with off the shelf parts, but if we must rebuild them every 1200 or even 2400 miles, the cost is a lot higher than you are suggesting.
    Honda is making the Indy engines. Don’t you think they would mass produce a high efficiency ethanol engine if they could? Yet Honda just released a new hybrid (that costs less than the VW diesel) instead. I hope more diesel and bio-fuel vehicles become available, but I think a better future includes wind and solar power supplying energy to batteries and capacitors. Even if they don’t need Adamantium.

  • Fred Linn

    Shines—thank you for responding—at least SOMEBODY out there with some reasoned logic.

    Horsepower—we may be talking a difference in measuring methods—-bhp(measured from the engine) vs. dynamometer at the wheels. Either way, it is fine with me, we can use your figure of 650 hp—-that is still WAY more than we’d need to power the largest over the road truck rig.
    Engine rebuilds—that is true of any high performance racing engine. Street use engines are tuned down—the point is we still have plenty of room to tune down and have plenty of power. Nobody needs a family sedan or SUV that goes over 200 mph(even if they think they do).

    ——–” Ethanol has 30% less energy than gasoline and 40% less energy than diesel………..”————–

    That is only relevant when you use ethanol in a low compression/low efficiency engine that also uses gasoline. When there is enough ethanol available everywhere that is is no longer a problem about where to fill up—-then we can build high compression engines without the need to keep compression ratios low to be able to also use gasoline. When we do that we can raise the efficiency rating of ICEs enough to make up the difference in fuel BTU content. You’ll be able to go as far or farther on a gallon of ethanol as you can on a gallon of gasoline.

    ——–” Honda is making the Indy engines. Don’t you think they would mass produce a high efficiency ethanol engine if they could?”———-

    They can. They are doing it now. What good would it do to build a car to sell to the public when the public can’t buy fuel to put in it?

    ——-” Yet Honda just released a new hybrid (that costs less than the VW diesel) instead”———

    Honda has to build cars that people will buy—-just like any other car manufacturer. I’m not against that at all. I think that hybrids only make sense though if they were to put a Flex Fuel charging motor on them. With a Flex Fuel charging motor, people could use either gasoline or E85, whichever they choose. If they don’t want to use E85, they don’t have to. They can run just fine on gasoline. It costs no more to manufacture Flex Fuel vehicles than it does to make conventional gasoline only engines. Why not just make all vehicles Flex Fuel?

    ——–” I hope more diesel and bio-fuel vehicles become available, but I think a better future includes wind and solar power supplying energy to batteries and capacitors.”———

    I do too. Diesels are already high compression/high efficiency engines. Use biodiesel, and they are also clean. We can make biodiesel from many sources, including algae and cellulose. The Germans powered everything from submarines to panzer tanks, even V1 and V2 rockets and the Me 262 Swallow—the world’s first operational jet fighter using alcohols and diesel fuels made using the Fischer-Tropsch process and the Scholler process, after the loss of North Africa and the Allied bombing of Ploesti left them with virtually no petroleum. The very first engine that Rudolf Diesel built in 1893 was designed and demonstrated to the public using peanut oil as fuel.

    Diesels have a problem with fuel in cold weather. It tends to gel up when it gets cold, either petro or bio. VW is soon going to introduce factory installed diesel/compressed natural gas bifuel engines on some models. This will eliminate the cold weather fuel and starting problems with diesels. Simply start up and run the engine on natural gas till it is warm—then switch to diesel if you need to. Natural gas is methane and easily producible from biological sources. It is clean, efficient, already a gas, produces low emissions and can be mixed in any proportion with fossil fuel natural gas with no loss of performance—-it is exactly the same chemically.

    Diesel bifuel engines seem to me to answer all of our needs for what we want done, and they do it in ways that can preserve the environment. And they don’t need batteries.

  • Fred Linn

    Hybrid electric and Electric Vehicles will always remain a small and insignificant factor in petroleum use. They will never make a significant inroad into the use or the price of petroleum.

    Here is why.

    ———–”The Mountain Pass Mine lies at the summit of Mountain Pass near the center of the Ivanpah Mining District. It is operated by the MolyCorp Division of Union Oil Corporation. Access to the mine site is restricted. “—————-
    first paragraph, “Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine” UC School of Geology, Pomona

    http://geology.csupomona.edu/drjessey/fieldtrips/mtp/mtnpass.htm

    Union Oil is in the business of selling oil—-not batteries.

  • Samie

    Fred Linn I’m not sure you get it.

    You seem to be focused on narrow assumptions of what ifs in your comments.

    You don’t address the need for alternative ways to refuel vehicles besides more of the same fueling processes.

    Any E85, biofuel or CNG person has never fully explained how markets work or ignore this as you did when you followed my first comment w/ “So what”

    —So here are some real questions to think about

    E85 or biofuel requires enormous amounts of energy in production, harvesting, & processing. You need not talk about algae or switchgrass as somehow low maintenance stalks b/c that fails if again you really think about how markets work & the needed subsidies.

    Land resources are scarce, again you need to think about markets. IE where would your E85/biofuel come from? A realistic person would not bet that 80-100 percent comes from the U.S. Production costs in the U.S. are much higher than other parts of the World as the American & European solar industries are about to find out next year.

    That leads to the next problem you rely on foreign policy/diplomacy w/ geopolitical factors to supply your e85 & biofuel. This can create volatility in any energy market. To say no country that produces ethanol would not create policies that promote the growing of fuel crops over food crops is silly & unrealistic as again you depend on the will of foreign domestic polices.

    How does E85 or biofuel allow for individuals to create the fuel/ the energy to power vehicles themselves? Be realistic about that not everyone has the capacity to produce their own bio-fuels even if they do have the wealth to do so. Think of how you are advocating for more centralized energy processes that we have been stuck w/ for the last hundred years or so…

    So if you can answer any of this with some thought I would be glad to debate this with you. Until you do so your comments are not as logical as you think they may seem. Until you look at the whole picture you are making narrow points about technological outliers that have never made it to production or technological advances that for some reason or another have not made it in normal vehicles that Americans use everyday.

  • Fred Linn

    OK Samie, I will try to answer each of your questions—keep in mind that I can’t write a book here, I have to be brief.

    If you want to go into more detail, flwetdog@hotmail.com

    ——–”E85 or biofuel requires enormous amounts of energy in production, harvesting, & processing.”——–

    According to Argonne National Laboratries DOE report the cost/benefit ratio in BTUs is 1.23:1(it takes 1.23 million BTUs to produce 1 million BTU of petroleum product)——–the ratio for corn ethanol was .73:1 It took 730,000 BTU to produce 1 million BTU of ethanol. This number has improved as time and process has improved. There were no comparisons to any other processes because none were being used at the time.

    Land is not scarce. Oil is scarce and getting scarcer everyday. In our entire 150 year history of oil use, there has never been one single drop of oil produced—all we have done is continue to pump it out and use it up faster. We have past Peak Oil—–there have been no major new discoveries in the last 15 to 20 years. AND, estimates of available reserves are wildly inflated. One of the guages of assetts of an oil company hence its value, is reserves. Nobody can look down through 2 miles or more of solid rock and see how much there is, only guess. Therefore, the reserve estimates have been inflated to add value to company holdings, and increase the price of stocks.
    ———-” A realistic person would not bet that 80-100 percent comes from the U.S. Production costs in the U.S. are much higher than other parts of the World as the American & European solar industries are about to find out next year. “————–
    That is why we have an import duty on ethanol. The US is currently the world’s largest producer of ethanol.
    ———–”That leads to the next problem you rely on foreign policy/diplomacy w/ geopolitical factors to supply your e85 & biofuel. This can create volatility in any energy market.”——–

    That would be petroleum, not biofuels. We must import about 70% of our oil now. We are currently involved in two wars over oil. And have already fought one before in Kuwait. If we had been using biofuels, there would be no logical reason in the world for us to even be in the Middle East at all, let alone fighting wars there.

    ————-”How does E85 or biofuel allow for individuals to create the fuel/ the energy to power vehicles themselves? Be realistic about that not everyone has the capacity to produce their own bio-fuels even if they do have the wealth to do so. Think of how you are advocating for more centralized energy processes that we have been stuck w/ for the last hundred years or so…”———

    That would be petroleum, not biofuels. The basic raw materials for biofuel production are everywhere—-they are antimonopolistic because of their ready availability and abundance. The process is not difficult—it can be done by anyone with a little bit of knowledge and skill, and has been for centuries. There have been numerous people who have made biodiesel and run their own vehicles on it, mostly from salvaged cooking oil. Anyone can make whiskey or other distilled alcohol with any type of sugar or starch and a still. Ethanol distilling dates back to Irish monks in about 500 to 600 AD. Wood alcohol(methanol) production dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, they used methanol in their mummification process.
    Every if you had oil under your backyard—-you could not make any use of it. You’d need an oil company to get it out. Then, you’d also need an oil company to refine it. This is why oil companies are cartels with virtual market monopoly conditions. This is why oil companies are so threatened by biofuels—-they would lose their monopoly market if biofuels become widespread.

    ———–” So if you can answer any of this with some thought I would be glad to debate this with you. Until you do so your comments are not as logical as you think they may seem.”——–

    All of my points are perfectly logical and have plenty of real life experience to back them up. All of this has been done before.

    ——–” Until you look at the whole picture you are making narrow points about technological outliers that have never made it to production or technological advances that for some reason or another have not made it in normal vehicles that Americans use everyday.”———-

    Normal vehicles that Americans use everyday have diesel engines. Diesel engines need to modification at all to run on biofuel. We have been producing Flex Fuel vehicles for 20 years and Americans use them everyday—there are over 8 million on the road right now. By next year, about 1/2 of vehicles produced will be Flex Fuel capable.
    The reason we have petroleum today has more to do with coporate decisions concerning market control by imposing monopoly conditions than technological advances.

    That is why an oil company owns the world’s richest rare earth mine needed to produce batteries and electric motors.

  • Fred Linn

    ——” Diesel engines need to modification at all to run on biofuel.”—

    Proof reading error, that should be “need NO modification at all”

  • HybridDan

    Fred, the following comment that you made in your first post surprised me …

    “Clean diesels(ie: VW) get roughly the same mileage as Prius—with no complex and expensive batteries. They cost significantly less to produce.”

    From the numbers I see, the Prius gets a combined highway/city mileage of 50 mpg, and the very best diesel from VW, the Jetta TDI gets a combined 35 mpg. Plus the base price of the Prius is $22,000, and the base price of the Jetta TDI is $21,900.

    That makes the Prius 42% more efficient, and only 0.4% more expensive than the Jetta TDI. What am I missing?

  • Fred Linn

    Dan——–”Many of us tried to drive the Prius like committed Greens. Other less patient colleagues hammered down. Our combined results: 1338 miles per 31.832 gallons, or 42.03 mpg. That’s well up on the 35 mpg we managed from our last Prius, and it puts this one in fifth place in the C/D-Observed Fuel-Economy Hall of Fame, behind a 2002 Honda Insight hybrid (48), a 2000 Insight (47), a 1992 Suzuki Swift (45), and a 1998 VW Jetta TDI (43). That’s still impressive, considering the Prius is bigger than all the above and that the Jetta was driven from coast to coast on the superslab.”—————-

    Car And Driver—-Toyota Prius – Road Test pg.3 pg 2

    Both the Prius and the Jetta have changed since that review. Prius has gone the economy route and improved—-while Jetta has opted to a bit more power and luxury.

    I concede the point that Prius gets more mileage—but for my own part, I’d trade a little mileage the added power. Trade off. Both are good choices.

    Now, if we are talking about how much petroleum we are using—the Jetta can run on B100 with no modification. The Prius can only run on E10 or E20. I could use the Jetta with no petroleum diesel at all.

    The Jetta now has 140 hp vs. 98 for Prius.

    Prius is a good car, and getting better. So is the Jetta.

    So, for next year models—you are right, Prius is coming out ahead on mileage—-and the price is about the same.

    I think for myself, I’d choose the Jetta—I’d want the added power. But pay your dime and take your choice.

  • Samie

    Thanks for the reply Fred I will have to look into some your facts

    As for why the U.S leads in ethanol it is no surprise. We first subsidize the heck out corn & other stock materials, we next put tariffs on other countries who import biofuel or ethanol ie Latin American countries, large producers who refine stock into fuel get huge subsides also we set a quota for certain ethanol blends to go into vehicles of consumers. All these government handouts lead to non competitive pricing that will stay above the cost of petroleum. If you do decide to lower tariffs & handouts for farm subsidies you would see biofuels compete closer to actual petro products but doing so will mean cheap fuels from countries that will decide to reduce say rain forests or convert food crops into fuel crops.

    As for one other point you bring up, we are not at peak oil. Basic economics & accounting will tell you this. If scarcity rent increases as you say oil firms like the oligopolies & cartels will increase prices to reduce the rate of exhaustion over time. As prices of oil goes up demand reduces or slows. So the point is if we were at peak oil you would see prices that don’t reflex current production & hedging costs (remember that production costs are delayed from the time of production to refining). The price of oil will continue to increase but current pricing does not indicate the situation that you are talking about. Also as prices increase from production you will see extraction methods like shell oil become more profitable, though this situation is not a long-term solution.

    Just because a car can consume flex options doesn’t mean large oil producers don’t have a hand in these markets. You simply can’t produce the fuel yourself even if you have the options. That should not be understated. Now putting subsidies aside you have to produce E85 or biofuels at a level which creates a production of scale/ w/ low labor costs. Almost all current production of biofuels creates a cost prohibitive situation when competing w/ refining oil products. Again if you want to reduce the price of biofuels or E85 you have to reduce subsidies & tariffs so to bring in cheaper supplies.

    Even if you impose protectionist/ political ideologies on ethanol & biofuel for the U.S. you need a concentration of producers & large amounts of capital to scale up production. Small time biofuel companies will not make it. So you still get stuck w/ futures markets, hedging/speculation that does not reduce a consumers independence from fuel sources. Land in the U.S as with other places is a scarcity this may not seem to be true but any cost reduction in ethanol or biofuels translates into large crop areas to do so. So here are some other reasons why land is scarce, keep in mind that external costs are associated with these competing uses, water resources, non-protected wildlife areas (voluntary land conservation under the AG program will be reduced), food crops like wheat, soy, & corn that create cheap consumption foods, fertilizer runoff on semi-arid land due to soil structures, drainage retention values & back to the Midwest, depletion of prairie & veg. & wildlife that goes w/ it.

  • Fred Linn

    Sammie, Range Fuels is just completing construction of a facility in Soperton GA that when fully operational will produce 100 million gal/yr of ethanol from wood logging and millwork waste. This uses Fischer-Tropsch process that has been around since the 1920′s. Fischer-Tropsch was one of the processes that Germany used to supply all of their fuel needs during WW2 after the loss of North Africa and the Allied bombing of Ploesti left them with virtually no petroleum. The Germans powered everything from submarines to panzer tanks, V1 and V2 rockets and even the Me 262 Swallow, the first operational jet fighter. They used alcohol and diesel fuels made from wood and coal. Wood was the prefered feedstock to produce fuels, wood does not contain the sulphur that coal does which destroys the catalyst beds, and the coal was needed for steel production.
    http://www.rangefuels.com/conversion-process.html

    Peak Oil is here. The development of the tar sands in Canada is proof of that. Just 20 years ago, the Canadian tar sands were well known but considered far too expensive and environmentally damaging to develop. Now, they are falling all over themselves to develop them as quickly as possible.
    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text

    Oil companies are valued by the reserves that they hold rights to. No one can see through two miles or more of solid rock to actually SEE how much oil there is. Oil reserves are a guess. Since the more you have, the more money you get—-how do you imagine they “guess” how much oil is down there? If you said “Wildly and blindly high overestimate.”, you are correct. What that means is—we don’t have a whole lot of time. Oil is going to run out, probably sooner than later. MUCH sooner.

    So—all things considered, we need something to replace oil. It needs to be something that does not pollute, is easily producable from wide spread, cheap and readily available feedstock, that is renewable and sustainable. It needs to be compatible with our current infrastructure with a minimum of change and expense. We need to be able to integrate it quickly and seamlessly into what we use now.

    Biofuels are the only technology that fit all of those criteria.

    I have nothing against PHEVs or EVs—we can have those too. But they will take far too long to do us much good right now. We can switch to biofuels, and if EVs are still better than biofuels they can evolve from there.

  • Samie

    Fred Linn

    Lets be clear that no technology or fuel will ever give us a perfect environmental solution. This is due to energy being consumed throughout the cycle of the product including recycling. If you do support biofuels or ethanol you have to be extremely clear on what types of feedstock are acceptable. You argue that wood feedstock produces enough cheap supplies to be mass produced into fuels? Also as I said there are so many subsidies for biofuels & ethanol that create a barrier to cheaper supplies & if there is less intensive labor & land feedstocks w/ higher rates of combustion we should be investing in those materials not the junk that politicians support now. Let me illustrate hydrogen needs more R&D as there are issues of storage & the way it is currently extracted but most on this issue fail to realize they are going about it the wrong way in trying to muscle their way into getting Americans hooked on that w/o looking at ways in which the technology could be made better first that is to be extracted in a renewable fashion. This is why I criticize many how claim to be green as only looking at short-term get rich schemes at the expense of American’s & environmental folks who fail to look at the whole process. I think this is the same case w/ biofuels & ethanol. For all the talk about algae as a feedstock there has been very little support in dollars behind it I have heard this as somewhat of a pipe dream for at least a decade. Remember the scheme is control of distribution & pricing of the fuel not a fake assumption that American’s will have more choices by being independent from large futures markets. Feedstocks of biofuels or ethanol are dominated by stupid anti-competitive government polices that actually don’t help small farmers but mostly for large agro businesses. I hope you see the problems w/ current feedstocks even the scheme of switchgrass but as I said in order to produce a viable feedstock you need to mass produce it to scale w/c I doubt most disposable feedstock can actually do. Any crop including swithgrass can be susceptible to growing conditions, bacteria, or insect damage.

    I worry that there are too many process in the chain of biofuels. At some point you will have to look to foreign suppliers to meet demand from set quotes or from bad production years for the products as policymakers will have to juggle food prices w/ energy prices of crops that is when w/ lobbing of the Shells of the world you will see more imported ethanol or biofuel coming into the U.S. at some point dumb trade barriers will not matter as cheaper supplies will hit the market that is you will not be able to control how the fuel is produced. This is where you lose the idea of waste feedstocks as it may be easier to grow feedstock in large quantities from foreign countries. Your idea is realistic as a competing fuel but at a given rate maybe hypothetically 20 % you reach the limit of whats possible with production of waste stock. If you say this is a actual substitute for oil products at that hypothetical number you will have to go outside the U.S & again you will have no control in how blends are produced or how markets & the big oil companies will dictate prices. I don’t see how long term conditions from markets would grant any differences in how we consume or get oil now?

    We know that electrification of vehicles has its own problems w/ environmental issues. But how would biofuels or ethanol supply a more diverse fueling option than independently storing energy & using it to “fuel a vehicle”. The flex option does not allow for most to independently fuel your own vehicle w/o the dictation of a futures market that can change in pricing daily.

    You know a lot about ethanol but for someone as smart as I think you are I would challenge you to find better feedstocks say taking a closer look at improving algae production. I hope you see that markets in the long-run will not be to kind to your only waste feedstock view. It may seem like a non issue now but lobbyist will continue to expand feedstocks into hap hazard imported fuels that will not go away for decades. Look at the process & find real solutions that minimize land issues or issues of labor & other natural resources first so that in the long-run we can have decentralized productive ways in which consumers in this case freight & large trucks can receive biofuels at a reasonable price w/o subsidies that will not in the long-run create the same mess we are into today.

  • Toots McGillicutty

    Speaking of rare metals, I have a rare heavy metal band, White Snake first edition album still in its wrapper.

  • Fred Linn

    LOL!!!

  • Fred Linn

    Sammie—-you cover a lot of ground there.

    I’m not sure where to start. It still looks like you are hung up on the food/fuel, scarce land, afraid everyone will starve. OK, I guess I’ll start with that.

    As I’ve said, we can make ethanol from any type of plant material at all, including cellulose and we’ve been able to do it for over a century.
    The US Forest Service estimates depending on species, spacing and local climate, the pulpable mass obtained from culling managed timber lots is from 2,000 to 3,000 dry tons per acre. Seedlings are planted close together, and must be regularly thinned to provide space, light and nutrients to provide maximum growth without competiion and to allow remaining trees to grow tall and straight in order to provide the best milling lumber. Currently, culls are simply stacked and burned to reduce damage from fire and insects.
    Fischer-Tropsch process currently yields about 70 gallons of ethanol per ton of dry wood. That is 140,000 to 210,000 gallons per acre we could drive our vehicles on that is simply wasted energy now. And you still have the lumber logs left over to harvest later, also.
    There are similar conditions for all sorts of agricultural crops also. Corn stover, wheat straw, citrus rinds, cotton bush, sugar cane bagasse, almost any kind of agricultural product you look at has some kind of waste cellulose. Even lawn and garden waste.

    It isn’t a matter of either food or fuel—-mostly it is a matter of food AND fuel.

    As for market control—-petroleum is a monopoly cartel. You are already being manipulated and have no choice or control of price. This is because not only can you not produce petroleum yourself—-you also have no choice of a substitute product, the petroleum cartel has seen to that. With a Flex Fuel vehicle—-you can choose to use either biofuel, or petroleum, whichever you choose. If you drive a Flex Fuel car—-you don’t HAVE to use E85—-but you can if you want. If you drive a diesel car, you don’t HAVE to use biodiesel, but you can if you want to. Freedom means having a choice. If you don’t have a choice—-you have no freedom. Big Oil has done everything they can for the last 100 years to take your choice away from you and keep it in their pocket.

    If you really want to be free—-FIRST, start thinking free. Most of the things you have been saying to me are verbatim quotes of the propaganda that Big Oil has been spouting for years to keep their hands in your pockets. Big Oil does not want biofuels to gain a foothold in the market—-they’d lose their monopoly status.

  • Jay

    http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/toyota-auris-hybrid-unveiled/242859,,

    http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/bmw-vision-hybrid-concept-on-show/242874

    Electric motors are going to be used one way or another to power cars fully or partly in the future!! Simples!!

  • nathanj

    who cares about biofuels or hybrids or electric cars. i want my Mr. Fusion on the back of my car. i can take out my trash and fill up my tank at the same time.

  • Vlad the Impaler

    Hybrid cars are silly, expensive, and ugly to boot. How much fossil fuel does it take to replace the batteries every 4 years and maintain these excessively complex vehicles?

    If you’re worried about the effect of using too much fossil fuel, ride the bus or carpool. These have a REAL effect, not a delusional one.

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