Ethanol / Back Up Energy Usage

Ethanol

[Vinod Khosla, who helped found Sun Microsystems] is particularly enthused by “cellulosic” ethanol, a highly efficient way of making fuel from agricultural waste. President Bush touted this new technology in his recent state-of-the-union speech, suggesting that it may come to market in six years. In typically impatient form, Mr Khosla wants to halve that gestation period.
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Mr Khosla is convinced that “this fuel is greener, cheaper, more secure than gasoline–and this shift won’t cost the consumer, automakers or the government anything.” There are undoubted attractions to ethanol. But making the switch will surely not be as easy or cheap as he suggests. Retail distribution is one obvious problem: fewer than a thousand petrol stations in America sell the most desirable blend of ethanol fuel today. Expanding infrastructure will cost money and take time, and the oil industry is not exactly enthusiastic. And cellulosic technology, which seems so promising today, may take much longer than expected to achieve commercial scale, or might fail altogether.

What is more, the OPEC cartel is suspected by some of engineering occasional price collapses to bankrupt investment in alternative energy. Mr Khosla concedes that after he made his ethanol pitch at this year’s Davos meeting, a senior Saudi oil official sweetly reminded him that it costs less than a dollar to lift a barrel of Saudi oil out of the ground, adding: “If biofuels start to take off we will drop the price of oil.”

A healthier addiction: Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billionaire, who wants to save the world from oil,” The Economist, March 23, 2006

Back Up Energy Usage

Strange though it seems, a typical microwave oven consumes more electricity powering its digital clock than it does heating food. For while heating food requires more than 100 times as much power as running the clock, most microwave ovens stand idle—in “standby” mode—more than 99% of the time. And they are not alone: many other devices, such as televisions, DVD players, stereos and computers also spend much of their lives in standby mode, collectively consuming a huge amount of energy. Moves are being made around the world to reduce this unnecessary power consumption, called “standby power”.

Pulling the plug on standby power: Energy: Billions of devices sitting idle in “standby” mode waste vast amounts of energy. What can be done about it?” The Economist, March 9, 2006
Executive Order 13221-Energy Efficient Standby Power Devices (3-page pdf)

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