Barriers to Biofuels Adoption


Barriers to Biofuels Commercialization

Right off the bat, the definition of he term “biofuels” immediately comes to mind. It used to be that what we call biofuels today, was referred to by it’s more fitting name, “synthetic fuels”. Not necessarily unlike the types of petroleum replacements the Nazi war machine had learned how to produce for themselves during WWII. Today at least in the United States, traditional ethanol with cellulosic ethanol gaining ground as “biofuels” as the field comes into the homestretch. The term biofuel has wrongly been co-opted to mean, “Anything that can be made domestically that will acceptably power a vehicle.”, omitting the additional and in my opinion obligatory, “…No matter how the vehicle needs to be changed.” The ethanol industry was a creation of and for farmers originally. Excess grain would be distilled and used to power tractors and flow fields at the lowest possible cost to farmers. In the 1960’s when it was discovered by Congress that emissions and gasoline prices could both be reduced in some small measure by cutting 97+ octane gasoline with lower octane alcohol they were prepared to subsidize the fledgling ethanol industry to life regardless of cost. Hence, “gasohol” was introduced to the public. Ever since, ethanol producers have been using an ever-increasing fraction of human foodstuffs to manufacture fuels. This is unwise as the eventual out come is transportation induced famine in the places that the corn used for ethanol could have gone to feed hungry people instead.
 The emissions from modern 2nd & 3rd generation advanced biofuels are across the board significantly lower than the petroleum derived standard fuels we have been using for decades. The emissions from ethanol include a few characters from the –aldehyde group of chemicals. Acetaldehyde & Formaldehyde being the two that the public would be most familiar with. From petroleum and biofuels the emissions are composed primarily of unburned fuel (HC), incompletely burned fuel (CO), fully combusted fuel (CO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NO x). None of these are nearly as toxic as ethanol emissions. I believe the term “biofuels” should apply only to domestically producible fuels, with emissions that mimic those of obsolete petroleum fuels.

As a biofuels ethanol production is inherently wasteful of water and the energy consumed in producing the finished product. A gallon of ethanol requires 9 gallons of fresh water and an amount of energy equivalent to the amount of energy contained within the ethanol itself. With embalming fluid coming out the tailpipe on top of the production inefficiency, besides an enormous government subsidized jobs program, what is ethanol? Not a biofuel, that’s for sure.


The technology exists in multiple forms capable of scaling up as I sit here tinkling on the keys. Algae was studied by NREL for over 30 years at significant taxpayer expense only to fail to give the government what it claimed it wanted, freedom from the necessity of shipping approximately $700 Billion annually (2009) out of the USA, to OPEC and his little sisters Venezuela & Brazil. Unfortunately, the thoroughly corrupted American politicos over the past few decades has slowly chipped away at the legal protections for the citizens, from the government. All the while government has been busy making back-room deals to get Congress to subsidize businesses that have traditionally been profitable in any economy. Not unlike the petroleum companies (Big Oil) who instead of competing like the rest of us, have been illegally colluding as a cartel for the purposes of manipulating the system to be allowed to stage an ever greater invasion of the lives of private citizens. Why? So petroleum can make a greater profit this year than last year, while the bill is handed to the US Taxpayer. Corruption of the highest levels of government in collusion with the leaders of large corporations has been treating the people as cattle to be fed upon. If you’re in the petroleum industry or government, why would you be willing to allow that sweet little side-deal to be changed? You wouldn’t. This tiny view through the window of human nature is only the beginning.

Enter Climate Change, the Big Villain we all need be concerned about. Not only for the reason of a few forcing the many to live in increasingly unhealthful environmental conditions, but also for the changes that will occur to the thermodynamics of the air and most importantly, the oceans. Big Oil has already polluted an entire ocean in a new, world’s record time. Is a future famine somewhere in the world a direct result of the Gulf oil Leak? Why has nobody gone to jail? How could this be allowed to stand? All 575 Federal Government elected officials have been corrupted to the core. The people new to congress are informed of their new place in the pecking order, and told that now in the “family”, it is best to try to remain. Notice I forgot all about Climate Change. Why? Depopulation, you silly goose.

There are some aspects of modern life that while troublesome have by their existence proven themselves to be a bargain if they were twice the price. Vehicular emission controls where a computer feedback loop controls an engine’s running parameters to assure the catalyst is between 650-1100 deg. Farenheit.

So, unburned fuel that is leaving the engine is slowed at the catalytic converter and combusted more completely before leaving the tailpipe, significantly reducing the amount of harmful emissions at the entering the environment per vehicle road mile. In order to preserve the materials in the catalyst only fuels without any lead content can be used otherwise the lead melts and sticks to the catalyst until is will no longer function. It is the use of a catalytic converter that originally begat vehicle emissions testing on a national scale. But, it is the in-use compliance testing of vehicles for meeting the EPA and DOT for x year old vehicles, (30-40K miles) where a number of appropriate vehicles are procured from DMV records prepared and tested. Depending on the failure and the percentage of vehicles our of the test population fail similarly, a recall may be issued so the carmaker pays to fix a defective product. The keys here are the testing requirements.  One of which is removing the fuel as a variable from the test data for all vehicles so differences in fuels don’t have the opportunity to hide flaws in the vehicles. The fuels used for this emissions testing is marketed under the trade name Indoline.  This fuel is chemically structured so that it is highly repeatable in characteristics. Vaporization, viscosity and volatility are all virtually the same from batch to batch of this industry and purpose specific gasoline derivative.

Without passing these efficiency and emissions tests mandated by Federal CAFÉ standards, (corporate average fuel economy) the engine family in the failed example including all of the vehicles into which it was installed must be recalled for a repair.  Otherwise the factory must re-purchase and/or replace them all and crush and scrap every nonconforming vehicle sold at the corporation’s expense. These tests are the sweating buckets, make or break tests for certification for sale anywhere within all 50 states.  Lose government’s faith in you or your vehicle’s certification, and  potentially lose billions of dollars.

Thus, it necessarily follows that unless or until an algae based “Bio-Indoline” can be developed and EPA & DOT certified for use in testing, the auto industry will have no choice but to keep within the law by forcing the use by many millions of drivers, ethanol. Why? Because ethanol is already listed as an “alternative” or “clean” fuel (even though it isn’t so clean) and as such, an ethanol powered vehicle is exempted from in-use compliance emissions testing. But not from initial baseline testing done by the government, the carmakers and confirmed by a 3rd party emissions laboratory. Bio-Indoline is an absolute necessity for adoption of biofuels on a national or global level. The same dynamic holds true for all vehicles of any type that are powered by an EPA registered liquid fuel. Jet engine emissions tested and controlled in a very similar manner. Just with the letters FAA in front instead of EPA. This basic protocol applies to engines as small as a common weed whacker or chainsaw. One of the mandatory keys to the future of biofuels commercialization is replacement of all test fuels currently in use with “bio-equivalents”. Otherwise, the alternative fuels industry is dead on arrival.




Big Green Monster

The basic physical configuration for growing algae in a sealed space.