Carbon Intensity

A $100-million bet on making fuel from trash

There, in the high desert of the Antelope Valley, Klann’s company, BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, plans to build a $100-million plant to convert raw trash into an alcohol-based fuel that will help power the cars and trucks of the future.

It’s just the sort of improbable concoction that California is now demanding. On Thursday, the state is expected to adopt the world’s first regulation to reduce the carbon footprint of fuel. And, just as California created the first market for catalytic converters decades ago, this rule, a likely model for national and even global calculations, could jump-start a huge demand for new technologies.


Under California’s proposal, producers, refineries and importers would be forced to reduce the “carbon intensity” of their fuel by 10% by 2020, and by increasing percentages after that. Currently, California gasoline contains 10% corn-based ethanol, most of it from coal-powered Midwestern plants. Its carbon footprint is as high as gasoline’s.

But by measuring the “cradle-to-grave” effect of various fuels, the new rule would favor ethanol such as Klann’s, made from non-food sources. Even “low-carbon” corn ethanol — such as the kind produced in California using gas-fired electricity and efficient machinery — has a far higher carbon footprint than so-called cellulosic fuel from landfill waste, trees, switchgrass or sugar cane.

“Carbon intensity”… Sounds like a Cajun food evaluation metric.

I’m not sure where JR’s run off to. Somehow… he’s figured out how to jam my omniscience fruit set. I think he said something about personally lobbying the IOC to institute Energy Accounting as a new Olympic sport. How’s the weather in Lausanne?

17 Replies to “Carbon Intensity”

  1. Those wacky Germans…


    Berlin’s “Pussy Club” has attracted media attention with its headline-grabbing “flat rate” — a 70-euro admission charge for unlimited food, drink and sex between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

    “You’ve got to come up with creative solutions these days,” said club manager Stefan, who requested his surname not be published. “We’re feeling the economic crisis, too, even though business has fortunately been more or less okay for us so far.

    “Our offer might sound like it’s too good to be true, but it’s real. You can eat as much as you want, drink as much as you want and have as much sex as you want.”

  2. It’s actually a pretty entertaining article.

    Leave it to the Germans to institutionalize and regulate fucking for money.

    Those damned amateurs!

  3. Happy Hour(s) at the Brothel. Just add some hookers to the local Red Baron pizza joint and we got the same, in chain stores. Hooker quality may vary.

  4. “Red Baron pizza”… I totally forgot about those places. What an ally-oop to Doom that was!

    I knew we didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy in vain.

  5. If someone had told me fifteen years ago that a significant part of my life would eventually constitute on-line discussions — with people that I’ve never actually seen in real life (excepting Doom and Bunn, of course) — I might well have thought that this person was mad. And if this prophetic individual were to further reveal that my future electronic discussions would mostly relate, in one way or another, to the failings and fuck-ups of humans, I might have immediately doubled down on my reading and reflecting, harboring a slim hope that maybe in so doing I could convince The Fates to deal me another less lame and relentlessly humiliating hand.

    No need to wear pants today, Bunn Bunn. It looks like we have the place to ourselves.

    When just about the most exciting and positive news story is something about Obama going after perpetrators of credit card usury, I really just want to disconnect the computer and take up another, but this time legitimately physiological, vice in its stead.

  6. Bunn don’t tweet.

    But if I did, it would be child’s play. In no time at all, I’d be at least as popular as Karl Rove, but probably not as popular as Obama. A capacity for metronome-like regularity is all it takes (we all know of at least one example of this modus operandi). That and a vociferous stream of megalomaniacal utterances. Young monkeys will be left scratching themselves, dithering between a choice of subsequent acts including, but not limited to, thinking harder and self pleasuring.

  7. Holmes, when I was at ASPO last fall I heard a speaker (sorry can’t remember his name) who paused and stepped back from his stats and rhetoric for a moment, and essentially got off his chest that the inquiry he had made into “peak oil” had unwittingly opened a pandora’s box of philosophical questions that were so immense as to send him into a hundred obsessive directions and that this was his unexpected and seemingly permanent online curse. Now he was conversing with a bunch of crazy fuckers. He was at the same time both grateful and deeply disturbed. Don’t know if that means anything.

  8. Great article BTW. There are so many companies now working different concoctions of liquid biofuels. I think its facinating. Personal autos and cheese doodles may be doomed, but jet fighters and helos will probably get bio and CTL juice for years to come. Carbon intensity (god bless’em) is an interesting question but process water supply solutions, simplicity and EROEI will rule.

  9. Bunn, being bored at lunch, I decided to read and actually understand this post. There’s always a catch, if you look deep enough. This ethanol will have a lower carbon footprint because it’s produced from trash (either directly and/or from the heat of burning thereof) that would otherwise be buried in some landfill, correct? So, the carbon is just being recycled from waste that was once produced in some way to say, make a cardboard box. OTOH, if one left the cardboard box buried deep within a landfill, its carbon would be sequestered, like the liquid CO2 being pumped into deep strata off Scotland, say, as an example, eh? So, in the sense that the carbon is being recycled, the ethanol is clean(er), but in reality any manipulation to make it requires some CO2 emissions, unless the power supplied is truly non-carbon fuel based, like nuclear or solar/wind/geothermal/hydro.

    Of course, even those “clean” energy sources have a carbon footprint in the making and maintaining of their plants/infrastructure.

    Do you prefer your steak al carbon?

  10. Yes, there’s plenty of room for haggling over what exactly the “cradle-to-grave” effect of various fuels ought to encompass. For example, if there is a shortage of food in the world, an Energy Accountant, mathematician or the like might be able to arrange equations and data inputs on a spread sheet to suggest that corn-based ethanol has a lower carbon footprint due to more people starving to death (and therefore lessening their personal net energy usage — as compared to if they had lived) when food is used to make fuel. Where’s Staniford when you really need him? Don’t answer that. My sources advise me that others seek to fill his shoes.

  11. Bif, your story is right on point. I doubt that most people bother to consider the possible consequences of going off in a “hundred obsessive directions”. I sure didn’t. As interesting as it all can be (and I certainly hope that Ferrari gets their mechanical problems worked out), I can’t help but believe that something in the personality gets permanently damaged along the way. So… Happy Friday everybody!

  12. OK fine, but just tell us what the hell happened with the female Mexican runner you hosted during the Boston marathon. Now is a great time to demonstrate your candid and deeply honest approach to human relations that you are famous for. But, if it was a fail, I understand, these thaings happen, and we still love and appreciate you, you know that, and therefore life is wonderful and we will move on.

    Frankly, I could give a shit about your relations to Gen Xers regarding war and Tarawa, in particular. Do you have something new and interesting to report on Tarawa? I’m all ears (copyright, Ross Perrot).

  13. She’s an ass, and you did the right thing. I’m proud of you. Now, what have you done with Adriana’s telephone number? Your sister will know how to get in touch, won’t she? Heh heh, let’s find out what she’s up to these days. Common, do it because I told you to. If it blows up in your face (it won’t), you can blame me. (Think of me as a much moron aggressive magic 8-ball).

  14. And, if Paul Fucking Newman could drive race cars in his 60s and 70s, what exactly is your excuse?

  15. BTW, I just scored a $336K grant. I know this is chump change for some of you, but it will keep me in beans for at least a year, with two moron proposals pending.

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