2005 Archive

Q: Can a combination of drought, tree-cutting, and forest burning destroy much of the Amazon?
A: Yes, it can, and the Earth will become a different planet, more like Mars.  No technology will save U.S. from the dire effects of such a global calamity. For more see here.
Q: Do we produce too much corn?
A: Yes, see here.  What to do with the surpluses? Well, burn corn? See here
Q: Which biofuel destroys the Earth the most?
A: Clean renewable biodiesel from the tropics is the ultimate exterminator of tropical forests.   For more click here and here.
Q: Will the farm income be slashed because of the higher fuel costs?
A: Yes, quite substantially.  For more click here.
Q: Is sugarcane ethanol a better solution in Australia?
A: Apparently not, see here
Q: Where can I find the October 13, 2005, Side Lines article in Forbes?
A: The article Moonshine on Capital Hill is here
Q: Where can I find the September 26, 2005, article by the Contra Costa Times profiling you and your work on biofuels?
A: The article can be accessed here
Q: Do ethanol plants pollute?
A: You bet!  The September 11, 2005, Des Moines Register article is here
Q: Where can I find your presentation at the Ag Biotech and at the Midwest Rural Development Conference organized by the Federal Reserve Bank Of Chicago, September 8, 2005?
A:  My viewgraphs are here and the link to the Conference Site is here
Q: Where can I find the materials you presented at the National Press Club conference in Washington DC on August 23, 2005?
A:  The annotated briefing is here and the slides are here
Q: Does it matter what kinds of energy we use?
A: Senator Dianne Feinstein thinks so.  Her August 3, 2005, editorial in the San Diego Tribune Fuel's Gold Turning Corn Into Ethanol May Not Be Worth It can be found here
Q: Can I build an ethanol refinery in the middle of a town?
A: Yes, if you like breathing foul air and being chronically sick.  For an evaluation of air emissions from the St. Paul, MN, Gopher ethanol plant look here
Q: How do you respond to the media blitz by the ethanol lobby and their friends, who branded you  as "petroleum engineer," "ex-employee of Shell Oil"  and "pseudo-scientist," and condemned your research?
A: My preliminary answer is summarized here.  Please look at Figure 5 and its caption.
Q: Are corn growers and ethanol producers critically dependent on the nonrenewable, unsustainable fossil fuels?
A:  You bet!  Here is  the testimony by Ms. Theresa Schmalshof of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Washington, D.C., May 19, 2005.  She is in favor of getting more natural gas and oil from anywhere in the U.S. and its continental shelf to provide more of the vital  fossil fuels for the corn and ethanol industries.  She also wants to use a lot more coal in agricultural plants to displace the increasingly expensive natural gas.
Q: How much motor gasoline will be replaced by the 7.5 billion gallons of anhydrous EtOH mandated by 2012 by the 2005 Energy Bill?
A:  It depends. On energy-equivalent basis this ethanol will equal 5 billion gallons of gasoline, and require energy input equivalent to 7.5 billion gallons of gasoline.  However, states may remove the current 1 psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waver for gasohol to fight increasing air pollution.  According to an EIA study here commissioned in 2002 by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the removal of the RVP waiver would reduce ethanol contribution to conventional gasoline by 30 or 40 percent.  In other words, without the waver, in 2012 we will be displacing only 3 billion gallons of gasoline per year.
Q: If I call you "petroleum engineer," can I relax and ignore your arguments?
A: No.  Each scientific argument should be judged on its merits, not on the affiliation of the person who makes  it.  Otherwise, no one  from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Corn Growers Association should ever speak publicly about corn or ethanol, because USDA has been in the business of  distributing $131 billions in agricultural subsidies between 1995 and 2003 ($37.4 billions to corn growers), plus an estimated $24 billions this year, and the members of NCGA have been receiving most of these subsidies.  Similarly, no one from the Ethanol Producers Association should ever extol the virtues of distilling corn beer because ethanol refiners receive $0.51/gallon of the federal gasoline tax credit, ~$0.15/gal of state gasoline tax credits, $0.10/gal of the small ethanol producer credits from USDA, and many other state and local subsidies.  By labeling me "petroleum engineer," the ethanol lobby seeks to distract me and others from focusing on the real issues we are trying to sort out.

Here is the 2002 USDA report (1) and its 2004 update (2),
and the 1997 Argonne National Laboratory report (3) and its 2005 update (4)

For more information about money flows in our political system you may go to:
http://www.ewg.org/farm  (to check who receives what in corn subsidies)
http://www.opensecrets.org (to check who in the House and Senate is paid by the Agribusiness and Oil & Gas sectors, and how much)

So please try not to believe everything they tell you in the articles like these two: (5) and (6).

Q: Is your analysis incomplete and based on obsolete numbers?
A:  My analysis is based on many of the same numbers and inputs that went into the 2002 report by USDA's Dr. Shapouri et al., the 1997 Argonne National Laboratory report by Dr. Wang et al., and the 2004 USDA update.  The energy inputs in all these analyses have been compared in Part I of my report, and the main comparisons are plotted in Figures 12 and 17.  Please click here to check it out.
Q: Are you a petroleum engineer?
A: I am a chemical engineer and physicist who has worked for and with the petroleum industry for the last 23 years.  My background is in mathematical and numerical modeling of earth systems and in thermodynamics.  I am a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.  I was a senior researcher at Shell Development in Houston between 1983 and 1989, and a senior reservoir engineer for Shell Western E&P between 1989 and 1990.  I have been at U.C. Berkeley since 1990. For more information please click here.

Q: Do you receive any money from the petroleum industry?
A: Yes, I am currently doing research with Chevron on advanced waterflood control.  Over the last 15 years I have received money from several other oil companies. For more details, please click on the U.C. Oil link here.

Q: Do you receive money from the oil industry for biofuels research?
A: No.

Q: Who funds your research on biofuels?
A: Thus far, my only source of funding has been my university salary at Cal.  I have been helped by students here and elsewhere, especially by my son Lucas (a biology major) and daughter Sophie (a biochemistry senior).

Q: Where can I find your other papers on biofuels?
Please click on these links: