Is there a CTL in your future

This must needs be a short note since old Heading Out is off on his travels again for a few days. But I noted that there was some comment on the imminence or otherwise of CTL plants, and I had mentioned that last week Roger Bezdek had commented that one of the solutions to our coming energy shortage would be that each year would see five 100,000 bd of CTL plants constructed in the United States. Since there is some comment on whether we have any, I draw your attention to a story in the Energybiz insider that comments on the situation.
The company has a project in East Dubuque, Illinois, which it expects to be the first commercial coal-to-liquids plant in the United States by 2010. Even before that, it expects to show the project is doable. A demo plant in Colorado will be producing 10 barrels of coal-based oil a day by the first quarter of 2007, says Ramsbottom.

"The future of coal-to-liquids in the United States is no longer a theoretical, what-if, conversation," says Ramsbottom. "We plan to have a fully commercial, fully operational coal-to-liquids plant up and running by 2010.

And as I sit in a hotel room, somewhere distant from Dave, I thought I might add just a little note to the discussion on depletion rates in Saudi Arabia, that erupted at the bottom of the Drumbeat.

About the time that this post first got started Aramco were designating the increased production from Abu Sa'fah and Qatif (some 800,000 bd) as being purely to replace depletion of existing wells. They subsequently have added them into available increased production, while stating that they would balance of the depletion by, instead, going back and doing more in-field drilling in the old fields. If one takes that number and recognizes that it is roughly 8% of Saudi production this is consistent with other statements, that have been coming out for about 6 months now, and which are reported here when we find them, that the basic Saudi drop from existing production, is around 8%.

Mainly as I have tracked this over the past year (and posted on it), and the situation has changed, I chose to concentrate on how much additional production Aramco can bring on stream, given that we have an indication of the number of rigs they have, how many are set aside for exploration (against production); how fast they normally drill wells, and how much oil, on average, one can expect from each well. (A number that declines a bit each year and which I recently suggested is now in the range between 3,000 and 3,500 bd).

The actual sentence that I picked up on this time was the one about them now only being able to sustain 10.8 mbd, since this is down from numbers that have been quoted in the past.

And as a final aside, since my travels continue on the morrow, I chatted with someone today that was just back from MENA and his comment was that light sweet crude had definitely peaked and is in decline, and the industry is still adjusting to the needs to work with the heavier crudes, since the change in production practice extends all the way from initial extraction, through refining, to final EOR.

I thought it was 10 years from the word 'go' to make a 100,000 barrel CTL plant - they are talking small scale by 2010 I think. Im not sure what it all entails but Sasol has been doing it for a long time and has plenty of coal and is only up to 150,000 barrels or so. Maybe they werent incentivized until recently to ramp up - anyone know if they are doing so?
I thought it was 10 years from the word 'go' to make a 100,000 barrel CTL plant - they are talking small scale by 2010 I think.

Yeah, there is no freaking way they are going to have a full scale plant up and running by 2010. I think they are trolling for dollars. It takes enormous capital to build a CTL facility. For 100,000 bbls, I bet you are talking in excess of $3 billion, and a huge design project.

The company involved is Rentech, and their entire market cap is $700 million, and they have operated in the red for several years. So, no, they aren't going to be building any full scale CTL plants any time soon. That may be their intention, much like it is my intention to rule the world in 2010.


For 100,000 bbls, I bet you are talking in excess of $3 billion, and a huge design project.

I was off by a factor of 2. But, I did say "in excess". According to that EIA link that I provided below, capital costs for CTL are $60,000 per daily barrel. For a 100,000 barrel facility, you are talking about $6 billion in capital. So, where is a company with a market cap of $700 million going to come up with the funds? Maybe they could float some more stock, and get some uninformed investors to give them some money.


So, where is a company with a market cap of $700 million going to come up with the funds?

How about the military? All previous CTL facilities (Nazi, apartheid) have been built by governments for national security reasons. The U.S. military is interested in CTL, and they've got a bottomless budget.

About $6 billion for 100,000 barrel production capacity? $6 billion is what the government of China spent last year on all renewable energy investments.

"Energy is a national security issue," said Michael A. Aimone, the Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for logistics.


Ground experiments are scheduled to begin in coming weeks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, followed by test flights at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Although the Air Force is leading the project, it is working with the Automotive Tank Command of the Army, in Detroit, and the Naval Fuels Laboratory, at Patuxent River, Md.

The research and tests on synthetic fuel would ultimately produce a common fuel for the entire military, Air Force officials said.

The initial contract for unconventional fuel for the tests will be signed with Syntroleum Corporation of Tulsa, Okla., which has provided synthetic fuel for testing by the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Defense since 1998.

John B. Holmes Jr., Syntroleum's president and chief executive officer, said his firm would sell the Air Force its synthetic fuel for testing "at our cost, and we may be losing a little bit."

Neither Mr. Holmes nor the Air Force would provide cost estimates for the experimental fuel deal in advance of signing a final contract, expected in coming days.

Air Force officials have acknowledged, however, that the cost per gallon of the test fuel will be expensive.

Syntroleum can produce 42 gallons of synthetic fuel from 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The raw materials cost about $70.

If the military moves ahead with using the synthetic fuels, the Syntroleum technology could be used by factories elsewhere to produce the same 42 gallons of fuel from just $10 worth of coal, Mr. Holmes said. Military Plans Tests in Search for an Alternative to Oil-Based Fuel

Given that during the .com era investors were willing to fund business models like ordering heavy low-value petfood over the Internet, a CTL plant might not be too much of a stretch as the oil/commodities sector prices get more bubbly.
The time to payoff is vastly greater than it was for the Internet companies.  At least 5 years to build a plant, and nearly 10 from start to full production, including site acquisition, environmental approvals etc.

These projects will either be done by very large energy/mining companies, who can spread the risk over many projects


with the help of government loan guarantees.

Last year I asked the president of Exxon Production (one of the subsidiaries) about the economics of LNG versus GTL.  He said that while they were funding a GTL project, he thought that the economics of LNG were superior to GTL.  Robert, any thoughts on this subject?

This is a timely subject for me.  I have been asked by the Dallas Morning News to write a 900 word rebuttal to a cornucopian essay by a writer for Reason Magazine (I'll have to start talking nice about at least some sectors of the MSM).  They are going to run the columns side by side, the pro and con arguments regarding Peak Oil.

As I have outlined before, fossil fuels can be viewed as a continuum, from natural gas, to natural gas liquids, to condensate, to light sweet crude, to heavy sour crude, to bitumen, to coal.  This is a progression from gas, to liquid to solid.  This is also a progression from cleanest, natural gas, to dirtiest, coal.  The world wants Liquid Transportation Fuels (LTF's)---principally gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.  LTF's can be obtained for the least expenditure of capital and energy from condensate and light sweet crude.  It only makes sense that light sweet has been the first to peak.  The industry is upgrading refineries as fast as they can to handle more heavy sour crude.  

But increasingly, we are looking at the endpoints for LTF's--GTL and CTL.   As has been discussed, these are vastly expensive projects, in terms of both capital and energy expenditures.   There is another factor.  Increasingly, we are going to be looking at a bidding war of sorts between companies that want to use natural gas and coal for heating and electricity generation and companies that want to use them for LTF's.   It seems to me that this is somewhat analogous to the battle between food producers and biofuel producers, for a finite supply of land.

In any case, by moving to the endpoints of the fossil fuel continuum, we are only accelerating our rate of extraction of our finite fossil fuel supply.

Last year I asked the president of Exxon Production (one of the subsidiaries) about the economics of LNG versus GTL.  He said that while they were funding a GTL project, he thought that the economics of LNG were superior to GTL.  Robert, any thoughts on this subject?

I would say that in most cases, this is true. I know a bit about this, but not much I can comment on unless I find it published in public sources.

In any case, by moving to the endpoints of the fossil fuel continuum, we are only accelerating our rate of extraction of our finite fossil fuel supply.

This is why I am more concerned about the global warming angle. There are ways of extending the endpoint, and some of these ways are being implemented. Global warming is going to hurt us, though. In any event, we can't move the endpoint forever. You have to deal with sustainability sooner or later.


Hi Westexas

I'm just making sure you wont use too many acronyms.  They tend to confuse ordinary people more than necessary :)

I'm confident you will be able to write a column that will be sound and useful.  Either way, the depate is on and it is always better to have a debate than none at all.

Remember that when people try to argue against, they are just one step toward understanding.  Think of Chris Skrebowski, he was arguing against before siding with our camp.

Hi westexas,

if there's one thing worse than a cornucopian libertarian, it's a cornucopian fake libertarian. These Reason magazine people are anything but reasoned. Good luck. And just remember, we would live in a perfect infinite world if it wasn't for that goddam government and its corruption and taxation. Oh, and the market and technology will solve all problems if we would just let them do their magic. Reason? Who needs reason when we have the religion of the market? Halleluyah! We're saved!

Take a look at Macquarie Bank, as an example, listed in Australia.  Specialists in infrastructure finance and own assets all over the world.

It is the Project Risk which will terrify the market.  Those sorts of sums can be raised, but the market will cough on the cost overruns/ risk of lower future oil prices problem.

These things will get built when governments get behind them-- China first, I am sure.  Governments will build these things as hedges against things going wrong.

In the West, governments will have to provide some kind of debt guarantee to the Project Finance.  Effectively what happened with Eurotunnel (although there is a UK law against such, effectively the refinancings are only working because the government is sitting behind it).

The UK nuclear industry is another good example of government intervention to maintain an energy option.  Or the French one (the largest in the world).

You are stealing my thunder! :) I am about to write a bit on GTL, CTL, BTL, and Fischer-Tropsch. Mainly FT, though, and how it will be a household word in the not too distant future.


Dont forget DTL  (Deer-to-liquids)
Why are you up so late? Isn't it like 1 a.m. there? No school tomorrow?

Regarding the OP, CTL is certainly feasible. It's just that the capital costs are even higher than for GTL. See:

This is the 2006 Annual Energy Outlook from the EIA. There is a section in there with a graph comparing carbon to liquids facilities. CTL and BTL won't be competitive until we start to deplete all of the stranded natural gas. There is no telling what the global warming implications will be once we get to that point, but I am preempting my essay a bit.


   I was thinking today about all the yard debris and wood trash we produce.  Would localized plants to convert this material be possible or would incineration for electricity be more efficient?  I just strikes me that in the future our grass clippings and fall leaves may be more valuable.


I was thinking about this just a couple of days ago. I was behind a truck full of sawdust and tree trimmings. It was headed to the dump. When it finally turned off, it had a "Tree Doctor" sign on the side of it. I told my son, who was riding with me, that that was a perfectly good waste of biomass, and that programs should be in place to convert this kind of waste into energy.

You could convert this kind of stuff into ethanol, but it would be far more efficient to convert it to electricity, or use it directly for heat and displace coal or natural gas.


  Wood is easy to burn in a stove, but leaves and grass mostly smoke and they don't store well.  Do you know of any process currently used for this material?  As far as ethanol from the stuff at what point would it be economical for a company to remove curbside trash for free to convert and sell?
You can convert all of the things you mentioned via cellulosic ethanol technology. At the moment, I don't think it is competitive even if the raw material is free. When I was working on this in graduate school, one of the key pieces of the process economics was getting "tipping fees" for taking this waste. Free waste wasn't good enough.


Do you know of any process currently used for this material?

Composting! I would have thought most municipal dumps would separate compostable materials, simply to save landfill space?

Bingo! Speaking as a farmer-to-be (got the land, need the skills) this is almost exactly what I was thinking.

Conventional agriculture harvests crops from fields and replaces the non-renewable nutrients removed by the process with fertilizers of various kinds. When a homeowner (stupidly) cuts their lawn and gathers up leaves just to ship the "waste"  to a landfill, they too have to replace the nutrients removed with fertilizers.

Better systems would use "smaller loops" to return the nutrients to the soil. With the homeowner, a mulching lawn-mower (or better yet, a reel mower) and a compost bin results in a tight loop. For the farmer, going vertical and doing as much on-farm processing can keep much of the nutrients on the farm (as "waste" by-products of processing) so that they can be spread back on the fields. I often see trucks headed for the landfill with stuff that I'd rather see dumped on my property so that I could spread it on my fields, possibly after composting.

This is one of the reasons that I would liek to see a more agrarian lifestyle in the future. It has relatively tight nutrient loops. These smaller loops can have much smaller energy demand.

How do you know the organic waste wasn't going to separated for composting at the dump? Most of the dumps I know of have separate sections for organic wastes where compost is produced for municipal use.

Seems to me that the energy in tree clippings and garden wastes is quite small, especially considering the high moisture content of these materials, so making compost is a better use. Composting is a process requiring very little capital expenditure and produces a useful product which replaces chemical fertilisers manufactured using natural gas.

How do you know the organic waste wasn't going to separated for composting at the dump?

I am glad to hear that. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case for our dump. I could be wrong, but I have never heard anything about this. Heck, my city doesn't even require recycling, which I think is irresponsible for a city of 100,000 people.


I have something of a personal (local) story to tell there.

Some years ago, during the mid 1990's, our fair city of 70,000  souls decided to get out of the sanitation (garbage pickup and handling) business.  They let all the sanitation workers go, sold their trucks, closed the various "drop off" dump sites located around the area (where you could take larger items, like old washing machines, etc), closed the city dump, and hired a private sanitation company to take over the duties, including trucking the garbage to a new facility 3 counties away (about 50 miles).
Everyone got a single new green plastic wheeled bin to put their trash in, instead of the self-provided trash cans of various types, and garbage pickup switched from twice a week to once a week. Additionally, non-household garbage (such as lawn debris) would now be collected every other week, instead of was now picked up once a month, instead of biweekly. On top of it all, everyone's sanitation bill went up nearly 20%.
The upside of it all was that this company gave everyone a small recycling bin, and was going to sort all garbage and recycle as much of it as possible, as part of their contract. They were even going to sell those recycled materials (such as aluminum, glass, newspaper, etc) for reuse.  As a 'green' solution for the whole city, most applauded the effort.

Some years passed, and around 2003 it came to light that the recycling center operated by this sanitation company had been a revenue drain on the company, and they had closed it soon after it opened, years previously. Instead of sorting and recycling the materials collected by the city's citizenry, they had been simply been dumping it back in with all the other garbage.
Needless to say, our citizens were inscenced, they had been asked to pay more and accept less service in the name of the environment. Politicians ran around like chicken little. The city sued the company for breach of contract, to which it responded by going belly up (bankruptcy).  
The city ended up hiring another sanitation company, which continues pretty much the same practices as its predecessor.
Those recycling bins are now mostly used to store gardening supplies and what have you.

In my region (Rhone Alpes in France) the forestry/wood industry is now organised to use wood waste as boiler fuel (due to regional government encouragement and subsidies). Lots of new housing and even office buildings are getting this sort of system. I'm thinking about a household heating solution, as I have room to stock several cubic metres of mashed up wood waste (which I would need to get through the winter). This feeds a boiler via a continuous screw mechanism. There is very little ash, due to the efficiency of combustion.

Only problem is, there won't be enough for everyone, and the price will go up at some point (currently much cheaper than heating fuel). Also, in case the distribution network breaks down, it would need to be useable with manual loading (good old logs...)

I read that Monsieur Président Jacques Chirac, had, as part of his 'grand projects' (or some such), propsed HOMES, an effort to develop home-based electricity generation.  I feel that such a distributed network solution has a lot of merit, and was wondering if you had any information on this.
I had several acres of immature slash pine cleared recently, and the tree surgeon I hired mulched the entire trees and trucked the material (16 full truckloads worth) to a couple of local child care centers, for use as playground mulch/compost. I spoke with him about it at length beforehand, and agreed wholeheartedly that such was a much better use for the excess material than simply taking it to the dump and paying tipping fees, which is what most of the other tree surgeons around here do (and as you witnessed).
Here is one that has been running for 20 years.

These are going in all over Oregon.  One is slated for my town that will create 25 MW of electricity and warm up LNG when it comes in.

It might be best to leave grass
clippings on the ground. Otherwise,
you wind up having to fertilize the
lawn using petro-chemicals. Of
course, just because it makes sense
to do this doesn't mean it will be
done. I know that lots of people
wind up capturing their grass
clippings and burning or dumping
them. That should be one more thing
that will have to come to an end
with peak oil. That's if people will
even bother with lawns. When you're
starving, it makes more sense to
grown crops in your yard instead
of grass, unless you want to graze
a cow.
it depends on whether your primary goal is power generation, or global warming remediation.  the interesting number is "carbon dioxide tons per mw produced."

the most efficient combustion fuels, from a gw standpoint, are natural gas, then oil, then coal, then biomass.  so sure, you can burn it, but you'll get more co2 than you would had you generated the same power from natural gas.

(i really wish i could point to a table on this, but even thou i'm sure i've seen them, surfing now i can't find one.)

my sister, a chem-eng, now doing a bit of work in biofuels, had a good phrase ... something like "carbon prejudice" ... as people put more emotional value on one kind of carbon and not another.

from a chem standpoint carbon is carbon, and at the end of the day it only matters how many tons you burn, and how many you sequester.  if you've got the nat gas - then burning that, and landfilling/sequestering waste puts you ahead, on a non-prejudiced carbon standpoint.

If the biomass is grown and harvested in a way that encourages the next new growth, then the net carbon released is zero.  On the other hand, some kinds of biomass, e.g., peat, are essentially non-renwewable, like mining coal.

(But if you are only counting carbon/hydrogen ratio, then coal is definitely the worst.)

Many people get confused about carbon accounting...  Burning trees does not release carbon, and planting trees does not capture it, unless the burnt trees will not grow back (desertification), or the planted trees would grow where none would grow naturally (de-desertification).  And one must look at more than just the trees, e.g., the organic matter in the soil, that may build up -- or may rot.  A mature forest may or may not be accumulating carbon, depends on the climate and species and soils.  E.g., some northern areas accumulate peat, which does not rot due to coldness and wet anaerobic conditions underground.  GW is causing some of this accumulation to rot now, a disasterous feedback loop.

I've read of a Dutch fossil fueled power plant that boasts its green-ness by venting the flue gases into greenhouses in which vegetables are grown, "sequestering" the carbon.  Never mind that:

  • the carbon is released once the vegetables are eaten and digested, and
  • the same vegetables grown elsewhere would (temporarily) trap the same amount of carbon.

The same is true for the idea of bubbling the flue gases through ponds of algae.  It's only of any advantage if the algae grow faster due to the added CO2.  But the limiting factor is the sunshine (the energy source) these algae need to convert the CO2 back into carbohydrates.  And as one makes the ponds wider but shallower there are tradeoffs in cost and land needed and materials and energy for piping the gases - for a marginal benefit, as algae can grow without those gases.

If we limited ourselves to burning only the carbon we can trap via photosynthesis in a closed loop, and left the fossil fuels in the ground (fat chance), we wouldn't be causing GW.  That is only possible with a stable population and a steady-state economy.

it is zero, but it could be negative.  yes?

net-net, burning gat gas and incarcerating biomass puts you ahead.

i understand that with a narrow scope my mesquite charcoal is neutral ... but it could be carbon prejudice to be that narrow.

this closed loop stuff assumes one glaring thing: that you can power everything with closed loop sources.  when you are force (by consumption) to burn a mix of fossil and fresh biofuels it should become a question of which is the optimal mix.

"(But if you are only counting carbon/hydrogen ratio, then coal is definitely the worst.)"

i really think i saw numbers that put biomass beyond coal on the carbon line ... but i think the lack of mercury in biomass could put it ahead of coal on that basis.

by the way, using "landfill gases" (methane) in preference to burning the whole mixed mass does produce a better carbon/mw ratio ... though of course with a lower and more prolonged mw output.
CTL and BTL won't be competitive until we start to deplete all of the stranded natural gas.

Apparently even Sasol, the South African coal liquefier is switching from CTL to GTL due to the high capital costs of coal mining:

Under the belief that partially replacing coal with natural gas as the synthetic-fuel feedstock would reduce investment expenditures in coal mining operations, Sasol began importing gas from Mozambique in 2004.Source

GTL is for real. I worked in GTL for several years, and plants are being built. The stranded gas is out there. But CTL and beyond are a long ways off. Pipe dreams, at the moment.

OK, I will quit hogging this thread and go to bed.


But if the stranded gas is large in quantity, wouldnt it make more sense to 'unstrand' it, economically by building pipeline infrastructure, or is there a financial advantage in that case using GTL instead?
It is case dependent. They always consider the economics of building a pipeline. I think part of it depends on the length, terrain, and which countries would have to be crossed.


Coal to Liquid is quite real BUT

  • the capital costs would be huge

  • the CO2 impact would potentially be an even greater problem
I try to maintain a show me the money attitude, yet remain hopeful. CTL conversion is not very efficient.

"Fischer-Tropsch yields a wide distribution of molecular weight hydrocarbon products but without any way to control the desired mix. The low-weight and the high-weight Fischer-Tropsch products are useful - the light as gas and the medium-heavy as diesel fuel, Goldman explained.

"The problem - the greatest inefficiency of the process - is that you also wind up with a substantial quantity of medium-weight products that are not useful and you are stuck with them," Goldman said. "What we are now able to do with our new catalysts is something no one else has done before. We take all these undesirable medium-weight substances and convert them to the useful higher- and lower-weight products."" Coal-to-Diesel

Anyone been to China? I may be heading there for the summer. Any suggestions or tips?
Who is jet setting? LOL

The countryside is much nicer than the cities. Do you speak cantonese or mandarin? If so pick a region with one of those. Have your physician write you a script for Tamiflu before you go to keep with you and consider vaccinations for Hep A, B Japanese Encephalitis and typhoid. Also poultry and poultry products should be well cooked or avoided. The healthcare there is excellent but if you have preexisting conditions you might have your history translated and keep a copy with your passport ID etc.  If you can stay with a family or in their version of a bed and breakfast you will see more about how they live.

Also don't talk politics, they are communist and you would come off very left of them :)

Have a safe trip

We had one of these plants slated for our valley back in the early 1980s. I left, because I just couldn't stand the thought of watching one of the nicest little farm and ranch valleys in America be turned into a national sacrifice zone.

Then, thank god, Volcker stepped into the Fed and crashed the stagflated economy into recession. At the same time everybody bought those little Japanese cars, cut oil demand and we were saved for awhile.

Now we're doomed.

Ahh, coal to gasoline, or should I say Benzin? This process is the one the Nazis used in desperation - not sure if the Japanese did also, but a big part of winning WWII was choking off the oil supplies to the bad guys. Now that we're the bad guy, I guess our seriously planning to use this method says it all.

CTL is a well understood and scalable technology. SASOL in South Africa perfected it during the Apartheid era, when they were worried about not having an oil supply.

However it is very polluting (in CO2 terms).  And very capital intensive-- it would require a really big investment programme to turn the US' vast coal reserves into liquid oil.

If oil sustainably sits above $100/bl, I predict that it will happen.

What we will then do about the CO2 problem is anyone's guess.  Ignore it I suspect, and hope the next Katrina isn't too devastating (although initial indications of the surface temperature of the Gulf this season are pretty unpleasant).

A figure on costs.

If $3bn to produce 440m bl pa ie 1.2 m bl/day is right, this is not an expensive technology.

Remembering that given labour costs, etc., construction cost in a Western economy could be as much as 100% more.

I have some scepticism the plant can be so easily scaled.

The problem will be CO2.  If we solve the world's oil supply problem with CTL, then we could well drown in our own CO2 (in the sense that climate change would be irreversible, and larger in impact than we currently think - a 10 degree celsius rise in average temperatures could finish off our civilisation).

Whatever is the startup cost of a CTL plant the conventional wisdom is that there is as much CO2 byproduct as when the fuel is burned. In other words double the GHGs of petrofuels. If there was a CO2 cap-and-trade scheme better managed than the Euro version this would mean a tradeoff. That is, to produce a ton of CO2 from CTL means you have to save that ton of CO2 from say coal fired electricity. More driving, less home heating.

I think the UK researcher (link lost) was right who said  that CO2 capture and storage at the (CTL) plant will not be economic at likely carbon trade prices.  Strike another oil substitute off the list.

Whatever is the startup cost of a CTL plant the conventional wisdom is that there is as much CO2 byproduct as when the fuel is burned.

Actually, there is more. I know that sounds illogical, but it has to do with efficiency losses in the CTL steps. If you burn coal, you get more useful energy than if you convert it to liquids. So, in the liquids conversion step, you have to use more coal.


I came across this story today:

Project to turn old tires into oil is moving ahead

Now that's a grand idea. Of course, if we start turning old tires into oil, we're going to run out of tires pretty soon. But given the ethanol debacle, I can just imagine the Bush administration giving a big tax break and/or subsidies to the tire companies to produce more tires so that they can be converted into oil.

Our energy problems are solved!

Sort of like building giant electric fans to blow on wind generators so that we can generate wind power 24/7 no matter what the weather. Hey, I should patent that idea!

Well said, Oaksmoke. Exactly right on point, a fair comparison to the ethanol debacle indeed.

I'm off right now to buy some heat lamps, to shine on my PV cells so they work all night long, too!  Subsidize me!

Oops, I meant well said ozonehole. Doh!
CTL is insanity when conservation is so much easier. We have to get the gas-guzzlers off the road. The first step is being brutally honest with the public about what their addiction to oversized vehicles is doing to our future. We have to get the demand below the depletion curve to salvage any policy flexibility. It is appalling that people are buying these monster machines on credit with very little room for savings in their budget. The free market solution to peak oil would be an environmental and economic disaster. Trucks and SUVs are a big threat to our future.  
"The free market solution to peak oil would be an environmental and economic disaster. Trucks and SUVs are a big threat to our future."

From the energy viewpoint it doesn't matter at all what kind of a vehicle you drive - only thing that matters are the gallons of gasoline used. SUVs are no more a threat than smaller cars - it all depends of how much you drive. The gas prices are obviously still far too low.

Why don't everbody hear yell all time about the too big houses? Heating and cooling consume more energy in a bigger house. This is far more serious problem than the SUVs, because  having a giant SUV standing in front of house as a status symbol (as you drive with the smaller car and car pool) doesn't use much energy - but the house does.

In fact, why should we bother exactly how the Americans use their energy - the main thing is how much is their total energy use. And we should count also the energy embedded in the imported goods. All imported energy doesn't show as oil and gas imports. It is quite obvious that the huge trade deficit with China means a net import of energy from China.

People will listen when the time comes - but then they will already know not to drive around with gaz-gussling cars. Do you have anything else to say to them then?

"Do you have anything else to say to them then?"

Yeah, too bad the MSM didn't tell the people before their world came crashing down around them.

there are plent of people who pair "McMansions and SUVs" in the same sentence.

but i think the best answer is that our mental focus is about "peak oil" and oil is primarily used as a transportation fuel in the US.

peak natural gas is a related issue, and natural gas does heat and cool (indirectly via electricity) those McMansions.

Or directly, in the gas of gas heat, gas water heaters, gas stoves, and gas fireplaces (very popular in new homes here).
"inderectly" was supposed to be sticky with "cool" ;-), but yes I have all of the above.  i don't use my fireplace and my heater pilot is turned off.

i used 17 'terms' last month.  a therm is equal to 100000 Btu, a US gallon  of Gasoline is 115000 Btu ... interesting, 15 gallon gasoline equivalent.

assuming i do 15K miles a year in my prius (not sure where i'm at right now, i don't drive much in town but have done a few road trips in the last 12 months), that's 25 gallons a month.  so my natural gas use is roughly half my gasoline use.

(nationwide we'd save a lot if pilot lights could be eliminated on everything ... maybe this is in the works.)

The total residential energy use (in Btus) is lightly more than transportation use. ( ess_ID=3055)

So natural gas and electricity use at home is not irrelevant. As I said, you can leave the SUV or Prius standing when the time comes, but it is not so easy to cut electricity and gas from your house. This is the problem here.  

i wasn't trying to disprove the general case (more people, bigger house, colder climate, worse mpg), just thinking out loud about my use.  i'm at the low end, one person, in a warm climate, trying to conserve.

not that it's that much of a burden, a bike ride to the beach isn't to hard to take.

by the way, i called my gas company out when i smelled a leak outside.  it turned out being a small leak on their side of the meter.  no, the thing is, they seems annoyed that i could smell it, and almost acted as if they'd measured that level of leak themsleves they'd have left it alone.  since i reported it, they fixed it.

... i smell similar leaks around the neighborhood (maybe getting a chem degree educates your nose a bit) ... i wonder how much leaks away in a whole city?

I know I'm old fashioned, but I would find your posts easier to read if you used the Shift key once in a while :)

PS I do like what you have to say!

I had 7 stitches in my left pinkie for a while ... I guess I'm healed enough now to switch back.  Once you get in a pattern though ...
The problem with the McMansions, and the 'Edge Cities' in which they live (Big Box retailers etc.) is the energy intensitivity of low density.

Yes they are typically badly designed from a heating and cooling viewpoint, but the low housing density, meaning more driving, is the biggest problem.

good thoughts on GTL, CTL.

Economic at $50/bl oil, the big problem will be scaling and construction.  The world doesn't have the capacity to build that many big plants, that fast.  The skilled labour, the metalforming, heavy capital equipment etc. just doesn't exist.

The other really serious problem with these technologies is CO2.  This is the one we ignore at our peril.  Peak Oil is a maybe (at $100/bl some pretty radical conservation measures and alternative supplies start to come in) but Global Warming is a lot less of a maybe.

Of course, after Peak Oil comes Peak Gas and Peak Coal.  'and so on littler fleas, ad infinitum'.