Monday, February 27, 2012

Obama energy speech at UMiami on Feb. 23, 2012

Within President Obama's speech on energy at the University of Miami on February 23:

Today we’re taking a step that will make it easier for companies to save money by investing in energy solutions that have been proven here in the University of Miami -- new lighting systems, advanced heating and cooling systems that can lower a company's energy bills and make them more competitive.

We’re launching a program that will bring together the nation’s best scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs to figure out how more cars can be powered by natural gas, a fuel that’s cleaner and cheaper and more abundant than oil. We’ve got more of that. We don’t have to import it. We may be exporting it soon.

We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance -- algae. You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? (Laughter.) If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right.

Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in the United States. And that means greater energy security. That means lower costs. It means more jobs. It means a stronger economy.

Immediately later in the speech, one has text:

There is no silver bullet. There never has been.

(...) We got to look at the facts, look at the science, figure out what we need to do.

We may not have a silver bullet, but we do have in this country limitless sources of energy, a boundless supply of ingenuity, huge imagination, amazing young people like you -- (applause) -- all of which can put -- all of which we can put to work to develop this new energy source.

In a post titled Obama's Favorite Algae Company, Jeff McMahon at Forbes identified the source of the "17 %" number used by President Obama AND, separately, talked about Algenol Biofuels in Ft. Myers/Bonita Springs (although the company's name was misspelled as "Alganol Biofuels" and "Alganon" within the article).

The "17%" number arises from National microalgae biofuel production potential and resource demand. The abstract of the paper notes: Optimizing the locations for microalgae production on the basis of water use efficiency can greatly reduce total water demand. For example, focusing on locations along the Gulf Coast, southeastern seaboard, and Great Lakes shows a 75% reduction in consumptive freshwater use to 350 L per liter of oil produced with a 67% reduction in land use. These optimized locations have the potential to generate an oil volume equivalent to 17% of imports for transportation fuels The antecedent number on "land use" was 5.5% of the land area in the conterminous United States , so a 67% reduction of land area would require 0.33 X 5.5% or 1.8% of the land area in the coterminous United States.

**The first commenter to the article wrote:

As a former Obama supporter and voter, I was sad to see that he is no better informed about the realities of the limitations of algae and biofuels than the general public. Algae and all biofuels are dependent on petroleum based and dependent chemical fertilizers (NPK) to produce any significant scale of production. Four different mass balances studies have shown that biofuels are neither renewable or sustainable because of their NPK dependence and their competition with food crops which are also 95% dependent on NPK. Since we know that both petroleum and phosphates in the NPK have now peaked – it makes no sense to risk food production by using those chemicals for biofuels. Some studies have suggested a large scale biofuel industry would require 2-4 times the NPK that our foods do. Shame on you Mr. Obama for not doing your science home worki.

[But see previous IPBiz post
Phosphorous requirements for algae: as to biofuels?
] which shows that the phosphorous arguments of Rhodes may not be applicable to processes such as that of Algenol. Specifically, Rhodes' arguments pertain to a system such as biomass harvesting, wherein the consumed phosphorous is in the biomass (and assumed to be lost by Rhodes). Those systems in which a product such as ethanol is excreted by a still-living organism will consume less phosphorous/product than assumed by Rhodes.]


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