Monday, January 30, 2012

Will Environmentalists agree to the production of ethanol from seaweed?

Or will they continue to insist that corn should be used, thereby continuing to drive up the cost of food?

They will LIkely come up with some reason why seaweed just will not be acceptable. They have to have some reason, don't they?

January 29, 2012

From Environmental Views

Will Seaweed be the Biofuel Solution?

by: dennis t. avery

Churchville, VA—Researchers may have broken the biofuel barrier. A new biotech discovery enables ethanol to be made from a common variety of brown seaweed. This would by-pass the biggest problem with corn ethanol and biodiesel—the world’s shortage of cropland. The new ethanol process uses the familiar E coli bacterium working on kombu, a variety of edible brown kelp, which is common in the world’s seas and oceans. It has been grown and harvested commercially by such countries as China, Japan, and Korea for hundreds of years. If you like sushi, it is the brown wrapping on your favorites.

The new process can turn a mixture of kombu and water, with the E. coli added, into a solution of about 5 percent ethanol in two days. Distill the ethanol from the water; put the water back into the ocean and “Voila”! Better yet, this happens at low temperatures, between 25 and 30 degrees C. Thus the ethanol can be produced without the use of additional costly energy—a big advantage over the current efforts to produce cost-effective ethanol from algae.

An analysis by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory suggests that the U.S. could supply one percent of its annual gasoline needs by growing the brown seaweed for harvest on less than one percent of its territorial waters.

The world already grows and harvests more 15 million metric tons of kombu and other seaweeds for direct human consumption. There seems no reason why large additional amounts of the seaweed could not be harvested for ethanol without driving up the costs of other foods. Corn ethanol competes directly for land with food and feed, thereby increasing food costs to consumers, especially for meat, milk, and eggs.

The seaweed catch? The new ethanol depends on genetically engineered bacteria. The process has been developed by BioArchitecture Lab., Inc. (BAL) and the University of Washington in Seattle. They modified the common E. coli bacterium to turn the sugars in edible kelp into ethanol. The research has just been reported in the January 20 issue of the journal Science. “The form of sugar inside the seaweed is very exotic,” says Yashuo Yoshikuni, one of the developers. “There is no industrial microbe to break down the alginate [in the seaweed] and convert it into fuels and chemical compounds.”

How badly does the environmental movement want to get rid of fossil fuels? Enough to accept the biotech ethanol solution? At this moment, the world’s acceptance of other renewable fuels is plummeting, due to their high costs compared to coal and natural gas. Meanwhile, the new horizontal drilling and fracking processes have suddenly made long-known and abundant shale petroleum reserves far more cost-effective. The claims that fracking will pollute drinking water are not holding up, since the petroleum drilling is thousands of feet further down in the soil profile than the water-well drilling.

The eco-movement has long demanded “natural” food production. Biotech food production has been successfully banned in many third-world countries because of the pressure from first-world activists. But would that apply to kelp ethanol vats? The kelp for biofuel can be grown in Puget Sound, but kelp farms have been rejected by landowners and fisherman.

On the other hand, if kombu ethanol can be produced so readily, other nations have at least as much seawater in their surroundings as the “rich” in North America and Europe. Meaning all countries having access to seawater could make energy and support their own populations while expanding their economies into the 21st Century.

Remember, of course, none of this will much reduce our dependency on oil. One percent of our territorial waters for one percent of our fuel means it will only be useful in fulfilling the congressional mandate and perhaps rescue us from corn ethanol.

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to or visit us at

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Two Professors at Cornell University See Shale Gas from Vastly Different Viewpoints!

Read on and Decide Which One You Believe!



The carbon footprint of shale gas is about one-third as high as if coal was burned to produce electricity, says a team of researchers who were obviously offended by the rush-to-block-any-new-fuel “study” of Cornell University’s Robert Howarth. Howarth’s recent widely circulated, paper in Climatic Change claims shale gas is perhaps twice as bad for the environment as burning coal.

Dr. Lawrence Cathless III, also of Cornell, sees shale gas as a bonanza for the whole world. He and his team reject the Howarth contention that huge amounts of shale gas will leak during well completion and gas delivery.

“For a high volume shale gas well, the leakage rates [Howarth and his co-authors] assert are routine would indicate about a million dollars of methane is routinely vented to the atmosphere from each high volume well,” Cathless says. This is an economic loss no business would tolerate, and a safety risk no company—or its rig workers—would endure.

The methane escapes Howarth et al. expect over a 10-day pre-production period “would fill a square mile with an explosive mixture of 5 percent methane—to a height of 176 feet from a single well,” says Cathless’ Cornell-vs.-Cornell riposte. Nor has the Howarth team documented any instances of such substantial methane releases.

It’s a familiar pattern by now, of course. The true believers in man-made warming cannot allow any cost-effective new energy source to shove aside the ultra-costly renewables, even if no renewable really works well. Teams of believing academics obviously stand ready to perjure their professional reputations to give the New York Times a disparaging quote in opposition to whatever new energy comes along. This media strategy relieves them of having to assess whether or not there is truth in the statement. Meanwhile:

· CBS says 11 more solar energy firms are poised to go bankrupt like Solyndra, taking with them another $6.5 billion in public money from the Department of Energy.

· A cellulosic ethanol firm, Range Fuels, backed by more than $150 million in public funds, has just declared bankruptcy after failing to produce a single gallon of cellulosic ethanol (from non-food biomass).

· All over the country, power companies are being forced to raise their rates to cover the mandated costs of wind turbines that erratically produce a tiny fraction of their rated electrical capacity—and we are being forced to pay the bill.

· President Obama, after trying to evade a decision on the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada until after the 2012 election, was forced to decide by Congressional mandate and came down against the thousands of new jobs it would create and the cost-effective oil it would have delivered.

None of the green failures are as dangerous to the Green Agenda, however, as those massive shale gas deposits being found around the world. That’s why the opponents claim fracking will pollute our drinking water, even though our wells are a few hundred feed deep and the fracking is down a mile or two. And, that is why the Howarth “study” is garnering so much publicity from the media.

Tell it to the folks from Pennsylvania and Poland who are drilling energetically while creating both jobs and human comfort. They seem to not much care what the greens think. Perhaps the rest of us should follow their example.


1. R. W. Howarth et al., “The greenhouse gas footprint4 of natural gas in shale formations,” 2011, Climate Change, doi.10.1007/s10584-011-00761-5.
2. L. Cathless III et al. “A commentary on ‘The Greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas in shale formations.’" (requires log in)