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1 Jun 28 2012 @ 10:55am by Matt Smith in Biofuels, Crude Oil, Economy, Global Energy, Natural Gas, Technology

To Be Or Not To Be

Well, no it isn’t (the question, that is). It is more of a statement or affirmation, as this post takes a look at two charts from two recent releases, BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy and the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook , to show two contrasting themes. One chart illustrates key consumption levels, and the other illustrates the key lack thereof.

Act 1- To Be…

First up is BP. Being a big fan of simple and garish charts, this one was an immediate winner with me. This illustrates the breakdown of energy sources in the six key regions of the world.

Here are ten key take aways which relate to this chart and the underlying data:

1)      Asia Pacific is the largest energy consuming region, accounting for 39% of global energy consumption

2)      Energy consumption in the Middle East is split equally between natural gas and oil, and basically nothing else

3)      Africa accounts for only 3% of total global energy consumption

4)      The dominant energy source in North America is oil, accounting for 37%

5)      Europe and Eurasia is the largest global consumer of natural gas (34%), nuclear (45%), and renewables (43%)

6)      South and Central America gets 26% of its energy needs from hydroelectricity

7)      Renewables make up only 1.6% of total global energy consumption

8)      Coal accounts for 53% of Asia Pacific’s energy consumption (which is 69% of global coal consumption)

9)      North America accounts for 25% of global oil consumption

10)   Total global energy consumption increased 2.5% from 2010 to 2011

Act 2 – Or Not To Be…

Cellulosic ethanol is ethanol produced from turning the sugars in green plants (=cellulose) into alcohol fuel. It remains the hope for the renewable fuels standard (RFS), which mandates its current production to be 250 million gallons of the current total of just over 15 billion gallons. By 2022 cellulosic ethanol is expected to make up 16 billion gallons of the 36 billion gallon total (or 44%).

There is just one minor problem, however. It hasn’t been invented yet.

The RFS was initially signed into law in 2005 (and subsequently amended in late 2007) with the goal of the legislation to reduce foreign oil dependence, and increase energy stability and sustainability. A noble plan, indeed. However, there was an overbearing onus placed on cellulosic ethanol, and on technological development that would make it commercially viable by 2010.

Unfortunately, here we are in 2012, and we still have not seen commercial production of the fuel, with a study by the Congressional Research Service stating it is unlikely to be until at least 2015.

Ultimately this leaves refiners with an impossible task to stay true to the RFS mandate, blending their products with a fuel which doesn’t exist. As Charles Drevna, a representative of refiners said last week, “forcing us to use a product that doesn’t exist, they might as well tell us to use unicorns.”

That’s all for today. I encourage you to take a quick look at these reports, there is value to be found in both. Perhaps the most surreal part of looking at them is the magnitude of the numbers involved. The RFS mandate is made up of billions of gallons, while annual global energy consumption equates to thirteen billion tons of oil. Big numbers. With that closing thought, I’ll exit stage left.
(curtain closes)

1 Comment on this post:

  1. Duke Green says:

    Good article. A recurring problem (I have watched for four decades now) is the inclusion of government in ANY problem solution.Their lack of knowledge on any subject, energy especially, should eliminate them from serious consideration as a problem solver. To wit, during a previous energy crisis, while reviewing current energy inventories, a member of Congress was reported to say that the answer was obvious; we need to drill more diesel wells. Another was a phone call received by an acquaintance working the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Louisiana. The caller was from the government, confirmed the injection of a certain number of barrels into the storage reservoir, then wanted to know what they did with all the empty drums.

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