Monday, February 21, 2011

a factor of ten

Broken Promises from Range Fuels

In the past week, an increasing numbers of stories have covered the Range Fuels affair. The Wall Street Journal’s take was the most high profile coverage:

The Range Fuels Fiasco

Vinod Khosla stepped in with his hand out. The political venture capitalist founded Range Fuels and in March 2007 it received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy—one of six cellulosic projects the Bush Administration selected for $385 million in grants. Range said it would build the nation’s first commercial cellulosic plant, near Soperton, Georgia, using wood chips to produce 20 million gallons a year in 2008, with a goal of 100 million gallons. Estimated cost: $150 million.

In early 2010, the EPA said Range would finally produce some fuel in 2010—but only four million gallons, not 100 million, and of methanol, not cellulosic ethanol. So taxpayers have committed $162 million (along with at least that much in private financing) to produce four million gallons of a biofuel that others have been making in quantity for decades. This politically directed investment might have gone to far more useful purposes.

As some readers wrote to me and noted, the WSJ article reads as a condensed version of an article that I wrote a year earlier called Broken Promises from Range Fuels.

Robert Rapier has de-constructed something that was never really there. The Vinod Khosla energy investment portfolio. This outcome is not unexpected to me. A few years ago I cast a bushy eyebrow at this software asshole Khosla and his bad math, scribbling a few choice words about this well connected Pied Piper. Click on the saint below to learn more.

The thing about it is, Khosla may or may not have understood why he failed. Understand, software assholes make 200 million dollars on a big play and they think they've accomplished something. But software is ephemera. There is an existing base of platforms, growing on one end and shriveling on the other. These platforms run on energy. For a software maker, the difference between 10 units and 100 million units is negligible in terms of production. Really, getting the licensing figured out is probably more energy intensive these days than delivering the bits.

Of course, 100 million units of software X is what turns a humble software person into a software asshole. Word, friends. I imagine Khosla thought printing energy would be as easy as printing bits.


And the next time one is glancing in awe at the balance sheet of one of the software "bigs," SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, whatever - remember that the amount of money sloshing around every year just for semi-refined petroleum ("crude") is on the order of 584 to 730 billion U.S. dollars.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

yum, mea culpa

Gulf Seafood Sales Get Boost From U.S. Military In Wake Of Oil Spill
Gulf seafood sales fell sharply after BP PLC's Gulf well blew out in April, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the sea. Consumers have long feared that fish, oysters and other products could be tainted by oil and chemicals used to fight the spill, even though extensive testing has indicated the food is safe. The perception has lingered – along with the poor sales.

It's all good. Feed the troops with healthy seafood! The hole is plugged, Matt Simmons was wrong about a second hole, and he isn't around to explain. Rest in peace Matt. You were right about most of the lies, wrong about a few. Me? What me worry? Let's bury this like a massive plume of oil sunk with corexit, a tar ball resting on an inch of sludge. Just another feather in the cap for the Goldman Sachs portfolio.

Oh, and the Corexit is still there, but that's cool. I don't live in the Gulf region, and if I did, I wouldn't be seeing oil any more - at least - not as much.

First Study of Dispersants in Gulf Spill Suggests a Prolonged Deepwater Fate
“We don’t know if the dispersant broke up the oil,” Kujawinski added. “We found that it didn’t go away, and that was somewhat surprising.” [...]
Kujawinski and her colleagues found one of the dispersant’s key components, called DOSS (dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate), was present in May and June—in parts-per-billion concentrations--in the plume from the spill more than 3,000 feet deep. [...]
Using a new, highly sensitive chromatographic technique that she and WHOI colleague Melissa C. Kido Soule developed, Kujawinski reports those concentrations of DOSS indicate that little or no biodegradation of the dispersant substance had occurred.

The lies have all been painted truthy, and as time passes, the victor rights history with a steady hand. Is the salt dome out in the Gulf cracked like a Pennsylvania frack? Of course not. That cap is tight.

Go to sleep. Stay inside. If you go outside and a bird falls out of the sky and hits you, that's natural. Scientists know all about it. They go outside lots.

Some people say they're getting sick, but they're probably stupid. If they're not stupid, they'll soon be dead, and either way, it kind of amounts to the same thing.