US BioFuel Breakthrough Headed to Europe
Vol: 47 Issue: 24 Wednesday, August 24, 2005
TV Evangelist Pat Robertson’s boneheaded statement that the United States should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is getting far more press than it deserves.
The reason isn’t because the death of Hugo Chavez would cause many in the US to shed a tear (or even many in Venezuela), but because it was a well-known Christian evangelist advocating political assassination.
Hugo Chavez is a brute, a friend to dictators, a coddler of terrorists, and more than a little nuts (he is known among other South American leaders as ‘El Loco’) but there is something wrong with a Christian leader advocating his murder, even among hawkish Christians such as myself.
The Apostle Paul, writing during the reign of Emperor Nero, the most brutal persecutors of Christians among all the Roman emperors, admonished the Church;
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1)
If the powers that be are ordained of God, then that means God is using those powers according to His own purposes. As Christians, we don’t know what those purposes are, but we trust that they are His and that is enough.
That doesn’t mean I believe Christians should stand meekly for the slaughter; I fully believe in the right of nations to make war. And I see no conflict with Christians serving in wartime.
But I trust God, and I am confident that if He wants Hugo Chavez overthrown, He is fully capable of doing it without Pat Robertson’s advice and consent.
Advocating the assassination of a national leader with whom America is not at war is advocating murder under the banner of Christianity. Legally, it is difficult to draw a distinction between that and advocating murder under the banner of Islam. Morally, it is not the role of the Church to advocate an action that would legally be a crime.
It was this kind of boneheaded statement that gives Christianity a bad name.
Having said that, I said that God ordains the ‘higher powers’ in government according to His purposes. How does Venezuela fit into the Big Picture?
Hugo Chavez DOES represent a significant threat to US strategic interests, if for no other reason than the fact that Venezuela is the fourth largest source of American oil imports in the world, after Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. In terms of importance, Venezuela supplies more oil to the US than both Iraq and Kuwait combined.
The United States was energy self-sufficient until 1948 when it’s domestic needs skyrocketed, forcing the importation of Venezuelan oil to augment US supplies, and beginning America’s dependence on foreign oil suppliers.
US oil imports, which accounted about one-third of total US petroleum needs in 1973, jumped to 60% of US oil needs in 2002. Those of us who remember the OPEC oil crisis, take notice.
Remember when gasoline jumped 400% in price — and only if you waited in line for it? We were one-third dependent in 1973 and look what OPEC cuts accomplished: oil shortages, gas lines, runaway inflation. . . by the end of the decade, mortgage interest rates were over 20% in some places. We are TWO-THIRDS dependent today.
Every day, America consumes over 20 billion barrels of oil. If lined up in 1-gallon cans, they would encircle the earth at the equator almost 6 times (about 147,000 miles of cans) every day. U.S. gasoline consumption of 320,500,000 gallons per day (March 2005) works out to about 3700 gallons per second.
Here’s another image: EVERY DAY, the US consumes enough oil to cover a football field with a column of oil 2500 feet tall.
That’s 121 million cubic feet. 55-60% of US consumption is imported at a cost of $50 billion+ per year, amounting to the largest single element of our trade deficit.
US demand for natural gas is increasing, and production in many long-time prime producing areas (e.g. the Gulf Coast) is diminishing to the point of near-total depletion. Without significant increases in drilling (well beyond anticipated levels), demand is predicted to significantly exceed supply soon.
It is clear that oil is not just a strategic interest to US foreign policy — it is THE strategic interest, dwarfing all others.
As such, Washington has no choice but to coddle dictators like Hugo Chavez, despotic regimes like the House of Saud, or turn a blind eye to immigration problems on both the northern and southern borders.
(Canada is America’s Number One supplier of oil, and Mexico is Number Two. Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are usually tied between Numbers Three and Four.)
But we continue to coddle the dictators that we depend on for the lifeblood of our economy while simultaneously giving away the formula for energy dependence to the Europeans.
A couple of years ago, we discussed a new technology being developed by Changing World Technologies that would turn just about any carbon-based garbage into sweet, crude oil.
Changing World Technologies uses water, pressure, and heat to convert organic material into clean fuel gas, absorbent carbon (like that used in water filters), minerals for fertilizer, and a crude oil that is chemically similar to a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline; this oil can be sold to refineries and converted into fuel.
The system produces no polluting emissions, and the only by-product is potable water. It sounds too good to be true!
But, unlike most things that sound too good to be true, thermo-depolymerization actually works. Not only does it work, but, according to CWT’s CEO Brian Appell, the process can produce oil for about $18 per barrel.
It has been operating a small conversion refinery outside a Butterball plant in Carthage, Mo. since 2003, turning turkey guts into sweet crude oil plus the other valuable raw materials that emerge as byproducts.
And the system handles not only turkey offal; but tires, plastics, sludge, municipal waste, paper, and livestock remains.
Barring nuclear waste, anything can yield these goods, according to proponents of the process: 100 pounds of tires, for instance, yields 44 pounds of oil (along with the other byproducts); a similar quantity of medical waste would result in 65 pounds of oil.
According to an article in Fortune Magazine, “Last year the Carthage plant began selling its output to a Midwestern manufacturer, which buys it for roughly $40 a barrel (25% less than conventional fuel) and uses it to run its plant. The Carthage factory now produces 400 barrels a day.”
One would expect that CWT would be a household name and Brian Appell courted by the US government as if he were Saudi royalty. Instead, CWT has been hamstrung by red tape and government regulations.
Outfits like Butterball usually sell their offal to feed manufacturers for about $40 per ton. CWT was counting on the government to ban the feeding of animal parts to livestock, since the practice has been linked to mad-cow disease. That would have supplied them with endless supplies of free turkey waste.
But feeding animals to animals remains standard practice in the U.S., despite a modest tightening in the regulations last year. So instead of being free, turkey leftovers cost $30 to $40 a ton, a hefty expense considering that one ton of turkey yields just two barrels of oil.
The feds also excluded ‘turkey fuel’ from biofuel tax breaks. In October, Congress passed a bill that gave biodiesel, which is also derived from biological material, such as soybean oil and animal fat, but has a different chemical composition, a tax incentive that translates into a $1-a-gallon break on production costs.
Instead of being classified as a biofuel developer, CWT was classified as a manufacturer.
As a result of those two setbacks, CWT’s production costs have doubled, to nearly $80 a barrel, a crippling blow given that conventional diesel sells for about $50 a barrel. CWT is staying afloat, thanks to a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
But that grant money is about to run out, and so is Changing World Technologies. It is negotiating with the Europeans, where food processors will pay CWT to dispose of animal offal and where CWT has been offered tax incentives as a biofuel developer.
Appell is negotiating to license CWT’s technology to Irish Food Processors, one of Europe’s largest, which plans to build a biofuel facility by the end of 2006.
Europe gets fuel made from turkey guts for $11 a barrel. America gets to keep Hugo Chavez, King Abdullah and Vincente Fox.
Not to mention Pat Robertson.