|Muck and Mystery
Loitering With Intent
|blog - at - crumbtrail.org|
Environmentalists get in the way. They often ask the right questions, but they’re chasing the wrong answers, often hypothetical or uneconomic solutions. Venture-capital firms invest in trends by projecting returns. But most projections are pretty much bogus, and research shows that experts are no better at predicting the future than dart-throwing monkeys. Big ideas are where real innovation is, and calculations are near impossible. We see returns as a side effect of bringing big ideas to market. ...Note that this is Vinod Khosla, who was an advocate for ethanol subsidies and profited handsomely from subsidies and mandates for ethanol. Now, after having looted so well that the price of corn is now so high that ethanol is struggling even with subsidies, he's come out against it.
Electric cars are coal-powered cars. Their carbon emissions can be worse than gasoline-powered cars. And today the Prius has a very expensive battery. Real change needs to meet the “Chindia price.” That’s the price at which people in India and China will use your product without subsidies. Unless your technology can achieve unsubsidized competitiveness against the market and fossil fuels, you’re just a toy. ...
I’m very excited by biomass and biofuels. We have a company, KiOR, that turns biomass—for instance, wood chips—into gasoline. The potential value of this company is huge. It could compete with regular crude oil without subsidies.
Biomass and biofuel derived from it never will make energy sense. There may come a time when there are engineered bacteria that directly synthesize liquid fuels, but they will not depend on sunlight as their source of energy to inefficiently turn into fuel. Khosla is just advocating for his next subsidized killing.
We also have a company trying to create [synthetic] meat that tastes as good as the real thing and may be many times more energy- and plant-protein-efficient. We call it “meat 2.0.”His big idea for liquid fuel is to switch from ethanol produced by fermentation of the simple sugars in corn, to ethanol produced by using the rest of the maize plant, or even tree flesh. The quest is to use the cellulose and hemi-cellulose of biomass, as well as tougher materials such as lignin, into fuel. His big idea for meat is to also switch from using the simple sugars of corn for producing meat, to processes that use more of the plant.
In both cases we already have a solution, though the product is meat and dairy products from ruminants. They live off the cellulose and hemi-cellulose that current yeast based fermentation of corn starch can't use. In fact, the material left after such fermentation is fed to cattle now, and they proceed to digest it and produce meat and dairy.
Meat 2.0 might be more efficient than chicken, pork or farmed fish that are all omnivores and require rich and easily digested food, but it will be less efficient than simply having ruminants graze the rough biomass in the field, leaving behind the mineral nutrients needed to grow another crop.