Tag Archives: energy

Nuclear Renaissance China

It seems that there will be a nuclear Renaissance in China.


This is probably good news for US companies who can can bid on contracts for the components for new reactors. And the US still is a leader in that field. China considers Nuclear energy to be Green energy – as well they should. The Chinese coal industry kills miners regularly and sickens the populace with pollutants. Say what you will about nuclear energy, it kills a lot fewer people and the pollution is, gram for gram, a enormously smaller problem.


Algae for Biofuels

Another article crossed my desk that was all about algae for biofuels. This one quoted a figure: Algae absorbed roughly 20% of all venture capital invested in biofuels last year. I think that’s pretty impressive. That’s about $180 million. Also impressive: an article over at Green Car Congress talks about a 91 octane gasoline derived from algal a biocrude.

Here are a few of the companies looking into algae biofuels:

Sapphire Energy

Petrosun [edit 3/9/14, defunct]

Imperium Renewables

GreenFuel Technologies [defunct]

AXI, LLC – this one is was cooperating with my Alma Mater [defunct]


Biofuels, economics and starvation – concerns for U.S. profit and conscience

I’m a chemist, and I love the idea of biofuels. America could do better on the energy production side of things, and biofuels seem like an opportunity. What we need is a replacement for petroleum, but what we have is an agricultural production capacity. Biofuels are also an opportunity for readjustment of markets. Right now, big farm production has pushed the third world out of the agricultural game – they don’t have the technology to produce cheap food. It’s cheaper to ship food from the US than it is to grow it almost anywhere else. Ironically, raising food prices and cutting US subsidies could end up really helping the poor, since they could then make a profit selling the food that they grow for themselves.

Think of it this way: cheap US food means that farming is financially useless in places without massive agribusiness infrastructure. Yet, growing food has been the way people have built their own economies since the advent of agriculture. It’s only recently with industrial farming that it has become necessary to trade factory labor for food.

Now, I hope that it is obvious that this is an oversimplification. The above implies  that it’s more complicated than simply making the choice to burn our corn instead or feed the poor. But there is some truth to that, too. The economic reality is that a price increase on food could end up being the best thing ever for poor communities. They can begin to farm their own food and supply their own needs. But if the price goes up faster than the demand can be met by local sources, then people will starve.

When people are going hungry, it is unacceptable to turn corn into fuel. It is unacceptable to be wasteful consumers of corn while our fellow humans contend with food riots. There are new projects on the books. Turning inedible plants and plant waste into liquid transportation fuels feels a lot more reasonable. Congress is investing in these options which I think is a wise move on the part of our legislators.