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Percival Zhang, a scientist at Virginia Tech, leads the team which is researching the enzymatic method of hydrogen production, which they claim now holds the current record for efficiency.  (Source: Virginia Tech.)
New process emulates nature to yield most efficient hydrogen production yet

Hydrogen production is one of the hottest research topics at the present.  With fossil fuel facing inevitable depletion, researchers are in a scramble, investigating hydrogen, synthetic gas, and other forms of energy fixation and production fixing solar energy into a fuel source.  There remains many exotic methods of hydrogen production from alloy catalysis of water, to photosynthetic cells that emulate nature by using light absorbing pigments.

Now scientists with Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Georgia claim to have developed the most cost-effective and efficient hydrogen production process yet.  In the new process sugar, water, and a cocktail of 13 power enzymes are combined to yield carbon dioxide and hydrogen under mild reaction conditions.

The research was reported before The American Chemical Society, a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress, which aims to further chemistry research and claims to be the world's largest scientific society.  The research, according to the researchers, will help to eliminate the hurdles which the hydrogen economy faces-- production, storage, and distribution.  By relying on sugar the latter problems could be solved and production would be as simple as using the researcher's production method.

Lead researcher Y.-H. Percival Zhang, Ph.D., a biochemical engineer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va states, "This is revolutionary work.  This has opened up a whole new direction in hydrogen research. With technology improvement, sugar-powered vehicles could come true eventually."

The group points out that current production methods from natural gas, that hope to fuel the limited developing fleet of fuel cell hydrogen cars, such as the Honda Civic FCX, are too expensive and inefficient to ever see widespread use.  Microbial production remains a promising alternative, but the yield levels are too low to currently be of much use.

Zhang and his fellow researchers are strong proponents of using biomass to produce hydrogen via enzyme catalyzed reactions.  The researchers have succeeded already in catalyzing the reaction of starch, and believe they can achieve hydrogen production from cellulose as well. 

In the groups experiments, starch from plant mass was combined in water with 13 different, well-known enzymes.  The mixture was left to react at 86 F.  The results was a mixture of pure carbon dioxide and hydrogen.  The process produces less pollution than traditional energy production as it does not yield nitrate or sulfate pollutants.  The new method is known as “in vitro synthetic biology" as it uses enzymes.  While it did produce three times the theoretical yield of anaerobic fermentation, Zhang says much work needs to be done to up the speed of the reaction and further up the yield percentage in order to make it commercially viable.

The currently plan of attack for Zhang and his team is to look for higher temperature enzymes and carry the reaction out under a higher temperature, in order to increase the reaction speed.  Enzymes are typically very temperature sensitive as they are normally proteins, which denature when in an environment with too extreme temperature or pH.  The researchers also hope that by replacing several enzymes they can enable cellulose processing.

Zhang thinks that one day people will go to the grocery store and buy cellulose/starch packs to power their cars.  These packs will be converted enzymatically into hydrogen, with little pollution, and carry the drivers to their destinations.  Alternatively he states, a fuel-station style infrastructure could also develop.

How long until this technology is avialable?  The team estimates that it will take 8 to 10 years to optimize the production to where it is competitive for automobiles, so don't hold your breath.  The team also aims to create a scaled down version of the tech for small sugar-powered batteries for MP3 players and other small electronics.  Its planned batteries will be similar to those developed by Sony or the methanol version champion by MTI Micro, which are being sold commercially next year.  The battery technology will be deploying in a closer 3 to 5 years, so hopefully at least in the near future the realization of the technology will allow you to be rocking out to The Sugarcubes on your sugar powered MP3 player.

The research is being funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science of Virginia Tech.

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By Motoman on 4/11/2008 2:08:39 PM , Rating: 4
...grow more sugar!

...and/or clearcut more rainforest so we can grow more corn to make ethanol for cars!

...or, and this is a really crazy idea, but how about we come up with some "eco-friendly" fuel that DOESN'T destroy the environment ten times faster than what we're doing now?

By jskirwin on 4/11/2008 2:24:00 PM , Rating: 2
how about we come up with some "eco-friendly" fuel that DOESN'T destroy the environment ten times faster than what we're doing now?

First define "eco-friendly" because what the Sierra Club and Earth First! define as eco-friendly differs. Wind farms have been killed in areas by groups who believe they aren't "friendly" to birds, and solar power farms have been opposed for the damage they do to the earth they sit on.

Second, propose an energy source and energy carrier that:
1. Is "eco-friendly" by your definition.
2. Does not require a scientific discovery or engineering feat to implement.
3. Can scale to eventually meet the demand for it.
4. Does not need significant changes to infrastructure.
5. Works at night.
6. Costs about the same as current energy sources and carriers.

By michal1980 on 4/11/2008 3:25:27 PM , Rating: 1
I found it, The north dakota bakken oil field. Along with the colorado river basin deposit. Provide a great source of energy.

oh wait, thats oil... and we know oil is a very good energy source, so we must destroy it.

By Ringold on 4/11/2008 4:01:33 PM , Rating: 5
Second, propose an energy source and energy carrier that:

Nuclear + Chevy Volt.

Oh wait, that actually makes sense, and results in no human suffering. Environmentalists will hate it.

By EglsFly on 4/11/2008 8:50:36 PM , Rating: 5
Looking forward to seeing the Volt hit production. Last I heard it was still on schedule for production in 2 years (2010).

By AmyM on 4/12/2008 11:22:02 PM , Rating: 2
Living here in Georgia I’m happy to say that this last week Georgia Power and Westinghouse Electric reached a deal to construct TWO 1,100-MegaWatt nuclear reactors. We’re waiting for the Public Service Commission to give the green light. It looks as though high oil prices do have a silver lining.

By phxfreddy on 4/12/2008 5:01:07 PM , Rating: 2
Here here!

By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 2:24:47 PM , Rating: 5
Sugar is everywhere. Every living organism on the planet is full of sugars as it is the major biological power source. Even fats are produced from sugars. Amino acids too. Cellulose itself is just glucose, but with a special 1-4 beta linkage between molecules that makes it hard to digest. Starch is just glucose but with an enzyme friendly 1-4 alpha linkage. So, plants, like trees, are nothing but gigantic rods of polymerized sugar.

Seriously, mow your lawn and you'll have plenty. Converting all that grass into a usable form? Now that's hard.

By dever on 4/16/2008 6:08:24 PM , Rating: 1
A few people obviosly don't understand that petroleum products come from biomass. Thus the above rating.

By omnicronx on 4/11/2008 2:45:31 PM , Rating: 1
Similar to eletric cars and how just as much pollution is being produced at a power plant, as is being saved with a non-combustion engine, the production of current sources of sugar cause just as much or more damage to the environment than it will to continue using gasoline. EXCEPT for the fact sugar is used in just about every food you can think of, and when sugar prices start to rise because, (which they will, simple economics here) a cake at the bakery is going to cost you 20 dollars ;)

Corn, and sugar cane, the two sources most countries are looking at using come to mind when talking about sources that do more damage than good... Just ask Brazil..

By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 2:54:49 PM , Rating: 5
That's talking about starch. Which, is just a form of sugar that happens to be very friendly to convert into energy biologically and thus chemically. If we are locked into using starch, then that is a problem and we run into all the pitfalls you list. If we can convert sugar in general, i.e. cellulose, into a usable form, then there is no problem as any plant at all will do just fine. That's what is important to note when thinking about this.

By jbartabas on 4/11/2008 5:06:05 PM , Rating: 2
The researchers have succeeded already in catalyzing the reaction of starch, and believe they can achieve hydrogen production from cellulose as well.

That's the point that attracted my attention. I am not really optimistic about the starch-way, so it looked promising to me that they believe they can achieve similar production from cellulose (with a good efficiency too??).

But here's the catch ... the ' believe '. I hate to be the party pooper, but until they've got some results, even preliminary, there's not much on this front for me (or I missed something, that can happen too ;-) )

By JonnyDough on 4/14/2008 5:49:20 AM , Rating: 2
With the lack of humans realizing we have a population problem, and a lack of self control when it comes to our numbers, just where do you intend to find land for all of this?

You do realize we just had another massive baby boom that is still ongoing here in the U.S., right? It's time we started to ask ourselves if we're willing to sacrifice our clean air and water and SPACE in order to have more people running around?

I know a lot of people revel in the city life and have to have people around them 24-7 to feel they have value, but I prefer to see trees and sky and go fishing now and then.

We continually tear down natural habitat for development of strip malls, crop fields, and new grazing land for our poorly raised anti-biotic bloated soon-to-be slaughtered sick calves.

What was wrong with having a backyard and raising our own vegetables?

Even if global warming isn't happening and the rainforests of Brazil won't be missed by us, don't you think that we have a responsibility to future generations to not clear-cut ALL of our land as we've been doing? I don't know about you, but I'm not having any more kids.

Why? Because in my 30 years of living I've seen farmland become housing development and I realize that my kid's kids aren't going to have anywhere left to play and explore anyway, except some creepy neighbor's basement. It makes me feel a bit more than a bit sick and dejected.

By glennpratt on 4/15/2008 10:57:14 AM , Rating: 2
If you'd like to avoid the development of farmland, perhaps you should consider not living in rural areas. People who keep pushing out further and further are the reason for that development, population density is almost comically low in the US.

Chances are, if you have your own private back yard and raise your own vegetables, you consume far more resources and water then the average individual. Do you really think growing you own crops is actually an efficient use of your time and our resources? It's a hobby.

Jonny, if you sick about you kid's not having play space, maybe YOU shouldn't be planning on having kids, or at least adopt. In other words, follow your own rules.

By Lightning III on 4/11/2008 3:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
Cool maybe it will help curtail early onset diabeties in children.

oooh and how much oil does Brazil import anyway and maybe that's why we have to import our supermodels from there.

By jtemplin on 4/11/2008 3:27:40 PM , Rating: 2
Heres the deal breaker: Can you GROW petroleum?

By Mitch101 on 4/11/2008 3:41:43 PM , Rating: 3
I hear that algae might be a better source for producing diesel than corn plus it doesn't take corn off the food market.

Either way I'm glad that we are seriously looking everywhere for the next fuel. Bring on Mr Fusion!

By StraightPipe on 4/11/2008 2:50:23 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, mow your lawn and you'll have plenty. Converting all that grass into a usable form? Now that's hard.

Have you tried smoking it?

//I'm not sure how "energetic" this grass is.
///kinda making me sleepy ;)
////Ahh, but sleep is good.

By We Healthy on 4/11/2008 3:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
Aww, dude! I love internet pot.

Too Many People not enough energy. Atleast it will be renewable in the future.

Yeah, way too many people on the earth. Some of yall are gonna need to get off. I call staying first!

By JediJeb on 4/11/2008 3:07:32 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like a Horse would solve this problem. It is an efficient way to convert the grass to usable energy, most of its waste could be reused to help grow more grass to power it. It wouldn't need any new technology to impliment. A little bit of infrastructure changes( install hitching post where parking spaces are now) and there you go.

By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 3:16:37 PM , Rating: 2
"Yes, I'd like to by that new BHW... no no, let me see the breeding charts for the latest luxury model. Ahh, very nice."

Fortunately there's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat when it comes to energy production to meet our needs. Nothing that drastic will have to happen... I hope haha.

By ThisSpaceForRent on 4/11/2008 5:58:18 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind having to ride a horse to work. Not to mention you'd totally be covered when you went to the bar. Horse could walk you home. =-)

Off topic, but I had this crazy thought the other day about how much energy we could save by going back to manual labor. The crazy part is if the costs for energy keep rising this may become a more attractive solution.

By Owls on 4/11/2008 3:13:58 PM , Rating: 2
"Sweet!" ok bad pun.

Siphoning gas is going to be a whole lot tastier.

By rsmech on 4/13/2008 9:50:59 AM , Rating: 2
I hardly doubt you could mow your lawn enough to produce anything substantial. If it has been projected that we could turn most if not all of the available farmland in the US into corn production for ethanol & it wouldn't even produce close to 50% of our use. The only way this could work is if we clear cut the forests coast to coast and anything green in between.

The point is that any of these other sources could never be produced in the quantities needed. Could never be produced without impacting our food source or water sources. There would have to be so many different types that if you think the different blends of gasoline per state is bad & impacting cost, how would adding all these different sources be because just one couldn't supply enough.

Another point is that all these impact our environment withing the first phase of production, the source. Plants, organics that must be grown, cut, harvested. On the other hand oil is buried in the ground, can be taken from rocks, the immediate impact is if anything visual. The only world commercially available power sources are oil or electric based off of nuclear power, hydro power, coal. Using organic means will have a bigger impact on life on this planet. All living things will be competing for their basic needs v.s. our need for power.

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/11/2008 3:33:27 PM , Rating: 2
Why are you so inside the box thinker? must be a superhero tree hugger. I like trees to but you are not thinking this through. If you go to were the rain forest are located then you are wasting time, money and energy just to get the product to it's final destination. Sugar cane will grow just about anywhere that it is warm. For the USA it already grows in state like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana,Texas and similar areas. There are plenty of wide open space in these states (no need to cut into any forest so no need to scream about saving the rain forest, it should not even be in play here.), plus it would create tons of jobs, cheaper table sugar, and cheaper Rum!

By Ringold on 4/11/2008 4:14:06 PM , Rating: 5
You need some econ 101. You take higher demand and somehow end up with a result where things are cheaper?

Truth is, you're already been proven wrong. The appetite we already have for ethanol is partly responsible for the demand growth in corn, and crops have been converted to corn to take advantage of this higher demand -- which has lead to record prices for corn, since the supply can't keep up. Supply thus being reduced for other crops while demand continues to increase for them as well (as global propserity increases), prices rise for them as well. These food markets being international in nature, developing countries have responded to the price signal, slashing and burning rainforest and anything else in their path. They're putting marginal, more expensive, and less productive land under cultivation. That hasn't been enough to meet global demand, though, and prices still continue to go up.

The above isn't even debateable; it's observable fact over the past couple years. Go look at any of the data. Even left-wing groups have come out and said crop-based biofuels are a sham, dangerous -- even a crime against humanity. When think-tanks from across the political spectrum agree on anything, time to take note.

By michal1980 on 4/11/2008 4:43:49 PM , Rating: 1
And you didn't even mention the havoc it causes on other food sourches:

wheat, oats, soybeans, etc. All are now in flux, because farmers are re-balancing their crops for max profit, which currently means there is less wheat/oats/soybeans on the market which causes prices to double if not triple.

And then secondary markets that are effect: beards/cerals/sodas, meat. All because a tree hugger thinks its a good idea to use corn in our gas tank.

and lets not ignore that the best esitamte's say that the energy/oil savings from using corn are 0, and worst case estiamtes, say it costs us oil to burn corn.

Stupidty all around.

But hey man made global warming man, were all going to drown: expect at this rate, we will all starve first.

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/11/2008 5:32:20 PM , Rating: 2
Ringold, Corn is the worst plant for growing and getting a return out of it, sugar is suppose to be the one of the best ounce for ounce getting the most product out of what is grown - With that in mind....
1) correct on higher demand will increase price...But then you are not growing enough....Texas is big enough to grow enough sugar to fill this need and still sell for well under a $1.00 lbs for table sugar and we can stop using corn for fuel. You must remember the reverse is true, to much supply lowers cost and we just have to "make to much". So the price of both corn and sugar will go down. Corn because the demand has gone down, sugar because your supply has gone through the roof – while selling fast enough to make a great living as a sugar cane farmer. (assuming you get enough sugar cane farms built and running). You'll learn this type of thinking in econ 106 :)
2) effects of corn are bad when made into fuel and can not get enough out of corn. OK, I've heard this too. But I've heard sugar burns much clearer, grows faster, just plain much better all round for this use....

The questions would be 1) Is it true? (sugar cane many times better then corn) 2) If yes, what will it take to encourage sugar cane farms in open land areas like Texas.

By jskirwin on 4/11/2008 7:46:33 PM , Rating: 2
The National Corn Growers Association states that ethanol production adds about $.30/bushel. Agricultural production has always been cyclical, as shown in this graph

As for supply not being able to keep up, why not? If we've somehow maxed out on the ability to boost corn production, then the price will rise to the point where people will stop demanding it, easing the price.

By AmyM on 4/12/2008 11:11:53 PM , Rating: 4
Nice link you provided, except it is outdated by 12-months. Now you might not think that’s too bad, considering the chart goes all the way back to 1968, but from 1968 through 2007 corn peaked 5 times between $3.00 and $3.50; today it’s at $6.00, give or take a nickel. That’s nearly double the highs over the past 40 years, and it’s happened in the past two years. While I haven’t checked the cause of the highs that put corn between $3 and $3.50 over the past 40 years, I would almost bet that it was due to drought, infestation, or some other cause for crop loss. But today the high cost of corn is certainly from the production of ethanol.

Additionally, the production of ethanol has caused other prices to increase as well. Corn, which is used as feed in the beef and poultry industries, has caused everything from dairy products to meat prices to increase. Last month poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride announced the closing of 7 sites due to the rising cost of chicken feed.


Ethanol production, in my opinion, is the worst possible alternative for petroleum. While some may argue that there is enough farmland in the world to produce crops for food and energy, the world’s insatiable consumption of energy clearly make the farming of fuel the most profitable venture.

By AmyM on 4/14/2008 10:36:05 PM , Rating: 3
Invalid analysis.

Strange – I do not see the graph pass 2007, therefore it does not go into 2007; if it did, the price would have surpassed the $4.50 barrier. The first week in 2007 corn closed at $3.68 which, I assume, is the mark shown for 2007 on the graph. Therefore the graph must show the opening price of corn for each year, because the last week of 2007 it closed at $4.52; hence, my remarks referring to the graph being outdated by 12 months. As a side note: the graph is provided courtesy of a bio-fuel company – shouldn’t we expect a skewed perspective.
You're giving a conclusions [sic] based on a causality which you cannot prove. "But today the high cost of corn is certainly from the production of ethanol." You can't give causality without actually showing it.

I didn’t know I was required to perform a statistical analysis on the opinions I submit to this forum. But since you bring up the matter of correlation and causality, I’ll submit to you that correlation does not imply causation, however, anyone denying the fact that a causal relationship exists between ethanol production and the price of corn needs a review of Statistics as well as Economics. I suppose you don’t believe there’s a causal relationship between Airline profits and the price of jet fuel either. Or do I need to provide empirical data on that subject as well?

By BansheeX on 4/12/2008 6:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, ethanol was a massive mistake on many levels, especially government's role in perpetuating it. I live in Iowa where federal taxpayer money is subsidizing corn growers here under the pretense that ethanol is a way to get us off of foreign oil. So government decided to spend our money on what they thought was best (ethanol) instead of letting us decide where the money should go. That's capital taken away from investment in companies developing better methods and spending taken away from producers of other renewables. How many times does this have to happen before people wake up and get government out of the free market? I want to outfit my home with geothermal and get an Aptera. Too bad I can't afford either because of inflation and taxes going to pay government salaries and the companies they choose are best for us. I'm not a child, give me back my money!

By Motoman on 4/11/2008 4:42:58 PM , Rating: 1
...the only bio-fuel scheme that I ever read about that really got me excited was one where some guys put a "refinery" of sorts next to a turkey processing plant.

It took the leftovers (the "offal") and processed it into 3 outputs - water, a powder useful as fertilizer, and a light fuel oil. Apparently, you could process any kind of biomass through the thing - they could tell you exactly how much water, powder, and oil you'd get from, say, a 200-pound man. Or X pounds of whatever BS is leftover that actually DOESN'T go into Spam.

Anybody else heard anything about this? Growing extra stuff to process into fuel for our cars is a losing bet no matter which way you look at it. Our agricultural load on the environment is already ridiculous, and possibly (probably?) unsustainable. But using pure waste products is a win-win all around.

By mjrpes3 on 4/13/2008 7:01:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I remember that. Was at least 2 years ago since I heard anything about it. Be cool to know what happened since... sounded like great stuff.

By TimberJon on 4/11/2008 5:32:13 PM , Rating: 2
Hey smart guy, How about we grow vertically, so that we can get more yield vertically instead of clearing forests?

By Some1ne on 4/11/2008 7:42:07 PM , Rating: 2
The rainforest deserves to die:

Each year, the rainforest is responsible for over three thousand deaths from accidents, attacks or illnesses.
There are over seven hundred things in the rainforest that cause cancer.
Join the fight now and help stop the rainforest before it's too late.

Yeah, but...
By oralpain on 4/11/2008 1:55:44 PM , Rating: 2
What contains more energy, $3.50 worth of gasoline, or $3.50 worth of sugar?

RE: Yeah, but...
By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 2:01:53 PM , Rating: 2
Considering sugar is a solid at room temp, and the size of the sugar bags I can get for $1.50 at my grocery store... sugar does (sugar and gasoline should also have roughly the same amount of hydrogens stored in their molecules). But it's getting that energy out of sugar in a usable form that's tricky... if you aren't a living organism that is.

RE: Yeah, but...
By zombiexl on 4/11/2008 2:40:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yes and start using sugar as a fuel and watch the price of that sugar rise to 3-5x what it is today.

RE: Yeah, but...
By FITCamaro on 4/11/2008 2:44:55 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Look at the price of corn and wheat.

RE: Yeah, but...
By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 2:52:14 PM , Rating: 3
If we can convert cellulose, which is just polymerized sugar, into a usable form, which is what the whole green gasoline movement is about then this isn't an issue as any plant in the entire world would make a fine source.

Come on people, there's no biological molecule more abundant on the planet than sugar. Even "fossil fuels" if they come from plants came from sugar. The hard cell wall that makes a plant what it is and gives it its rigidity? Sugar. Even The hard shell that makes up insects, nematodes, and your fingernails? Yep, a type of sugar. The lubrication for your joints? A type of sugar.

Sugar is highly stable and hard to chemically convert into something usable if you aren't a living organism. However, if we figure out how to do that, then supply issues will be meaningless as any plant, animal, or bacteria could work as a source for sugar.

RE: Yeah, but...
By We Healthy on 4/11/2008 3:53:35 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure the prices will rise too high as long as there are an adequate amount of fields

RE: Yeah, but...
By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 4:06:11 PM , Rating: 3
Fields of what? Algae? Grass? If we can convert sugar from more than just starch into a fuel source, then we wouldn't be limited to high starch crops like corn and sugar cane. All these researchers need is to add cellulose degrading enzymes to their cocktails and there you go: now you can use grass, weeds, ferns, algae, cacti, wood chips, any plant at all could make hydrogen. It's the rate at which this is done that needs to be optimized, as they say in the article.

Really, where this method would be best suited is being used to chew up biowaste--of which we make quite a lot.

RE: Yeah, but...
By TimberJon on 4/11/2008 5:38:10 PM , Rating: 1
It's not like converting sugar to energy is better than gasoline on a per pound comparison.

Also to note that Internal Combustion Engines arent very efficient...

Why not just burn it??
By Fahlcor on 4/11/2008 1:56:36 PM , Rating: 2
Is there something I'm missing as to why they want to keep powering vehicles with electricity? Why not just burn the hydrogen? Cheap conversion for existing combustion engines...

All you need is storage

just asking...

RE: Why not just burn it??
By martinrichards23 on 4/11/2008 2:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
Electric motors are >85% efficient.

Combustion engine are typically 30% efficient (though some may quote higher figures, but that is only in optimal conditions)

All you need is storage


RE: Why not just burn it??
By 16nm on 4/11/2008 2:41:05 PM , Rating: 2
That makes sense. I'm all for electric cars.

I love the idea of having an electric car that runs on hydrogen with a small solar powered hydrogen producing device that only needs water and a spot on my roof to work, or something convienent along these lines. Anything to stop the hemorrhaging of money out of my wallet and into OPEC's hands will make me a happy camper. Crud oil is $110 a barrel!

RE: Why not just burn it??
By Scott66 on 4/11/2008 3:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
Canada remained the largest exporter of total petroleum in January, exporting 2.586 million barrels per day to the United States, which is an increase from last month (2.360 thousand barrels per day). The second largest exporter of total petroleum was Saudi Arabia with 1.503 million barrels per day.

There are eleven member countries of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. They are: Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Crude Oil Imports (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)
Country Jan-08
CANADA 1,944
SAUDI ARABIA 1,479 Member
MEXICO 1,198
NIGERIA 1,163 Member
VENEZUELA 1,135 Member
IRAQ 543 Member
ALGERIA 366 Member
KUWAIT 239 Member
CHAD 117

RE: Why not just burn it??
By 16nm on 4/11/2008 5:04:21 PM , Rating: 2
exporting 2.586 million barrels per day to the United States

The problem is that the USA is not the only consumer of oil. If we were the only consumer, you would have a point. Ponder this rhetorical question: How come our good friends in Canada will not sell us oil for less then?

The high cost of oil is directly due to OPEC's refusal to meet market demand. As far as I know, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are the only two countries that could dramatically increase output - lowering the price at the pump.

And what happened to OPEC's $25 a barrel policy? They never vote to increase output and the price just keeps rising.

RE: Why not just burn it??
By Scott66 on 4/11/2008 5:48:10 PM , Rating: 3
If Canada sold it to the US for less the US would turn around and sell it on the world market at full price

RE: Why not just burn it??
By geddarkstorm on 4/11/2008 2:15:47 PM , Rating: 1
Hydrogen being burned would be horribly ineffective, and substantially lower energy yielding than gasoline. Hydrogen gas has the lowest density already, so using it for combustion based expansion (how car engines run) would hardly work--not to mention you'd need at least 3 to 4 times more hydrogen molecules (it's diatomic as a gas) than gasoline it's you're only looking at the oxygen:hydrogen to water reaction. You could use liquid hydrogen, but then you run into compression and refrigeration issues, and then it's still lower density than gasoline liquid. On top of the density issue is the fact gasoline yields several gases (CO, CO2, water, other minor ones) all of much lower density than the gasoline fluid to drive expansion whereas hydrogen will yield just water (mostly, and which has higher density than the oxygen or hydrogen used in the reaction); and gasoline burns hotter, again driving expansion more than hydrogen could.

In short, you can't use hydrogen as effectively in combustion (unless you're a solid fuel rocket engine), but for a controlled redox reaction (electricity production), it's great and makes a ton of energy.

Sugar Fuel...
By i3arracuda on 4/11/2008 1:54:15 PM , Rating: 2 gives me wings!

Hopefully, in 8 to 10 years when this technology will be viable, Red Bull won't cost $30.84 a gallon.

RE: Sugar Fuel...
By zombiexl on 4/11/2008 2:43:43 PM , Rating: 2
Considering the current size/price of a can of red bull, and what happens when food becomes fuel... I would say that future price you quoted is a bit low.

RE: Sugar Fuel...
By jtemplin on 4/11/2008 3:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
Drink sugar free, its better for you...I drink red bull for the caffeine. If I need sugar I have 20 lbs of fructose in my pantry.

RE: Sugar Fuel...
By i3arracuda on 4/11/2008 3:53:40 PM , Rating: 2
Way ahead of you...but I figure most people spring for the hi-test. ;)

RE: Sugar Fuel...
By jtemplin on 4/11/2008 9:59:41 PM , Rating: 2
Right on man :)

Yea those unwashed masses do love their sugar. Funny, I bought some "Healthy Choice" diet meal for lunch today cuz they were sold out of the Kashi brand meals. The thing had more sugar than "other carbs" and it was beef, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. It was mostly in the sauce which I strained the meat out of, but still. It always amazes me what they put sugar in.

RE: Sugar Fuel...
By PhoenixKnight on 4/12/2008 4:08:58 PM , Rating: 2
With Red Bull as fuel, we'll finally have those flying cars that we've been promised for decades now.

Just great
By kontorotsui on 4/11/2008 2:43:22 PM , Rating: 1
So the next invasion due to weapons of mass destruction won't target oil rich countries, but huge land mass ones.
Brazil and Argentina beware!

RE: Just great
By zombiexl on 4/11/2008 2:46:12 PM , Rating: 2
Give it a rest already. I havent seen the US steal any oil yet. Hell I wish we would with the way OPEC keeps "regulating" supply.

RE: Just great
By kontorotsui on 4/11/2008 7:23:18 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, who said US? *grin*

RE: Just great
By MrPoletski on 4/12/2008 3:58:45 AM , Rating: 3
Just wait until they start selling in currencies other than dollars.

RE: Just great
By marvdmartian on 4/11/2008 4:11:33 PM , Rating: 2
Well, large land mass doesn't necessarily mean good growing region for sugar, ya know? Might be interesting, though, since sugar cane isn't the only way to get sugar, we have sugar beets as well.
Jamaica might be in trouble, though! Damn! Rum prices through the roof!! ;)

By jbartabas on 4/11/2008 1:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
There remains many exotic methods of hydrogen production(?) from alloy catalysis of water, to photosynthetic cells that emulate nature by using light absorbing pigments.

The group points out that current production methods from natural gas, that hope to fuel the limited developing fleet of fuel cell hydrogen cars, such as the Honda Civic FCX, are too expensive and inefficient to every ever(?) see widespread use.

Zhang says much work needs to be done to up the speed of the reaction and further up the yield percentage in order to make it commercially viable.

RE: Typo?
By Lonyo on 4/11/2008 2:03:08 PM , Rating: 2
The process is less producing polluting(?) than traditional energy production as it does not yield nitrate or sulfate pollutants.

RE: Typo?
By borismkv on 4/11/2008 2:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you, armchair copy editors...

By Inkjammer on 4/11/2008 6:27:33 PM , Rating: 3
Can we fuel our cars with the ever-so-nasty High Fructose Corn Syrup and reserve sugar for food?

By jtemplin on 4/11/2008 10:07:31 PM , Rating: 2
I second that.

By Shwanzig on 4/13/2008 2:47:37 AM , Rating: 2
What's so hard about making cars run off batteries? I've seen many people drive cars that run on big batteries, and they almost emit no noise.

Then we could just use nuclear power for the electricity.

At least until we perfect Solar Power

RE: Problem?
By masher2 on 4/13/2008 3:52:55 AM , Rating: 2
> "What's so hard about making cars run off batteries?"

1. Cost.
2. Weight.
3. Range.
4. Charging Time.

These four factors -- which exist in a classic tradeoff scenario with each other -- are what's limiting electric vehicles today. Gas-powered vehicles exceed them in all areas, sometimes dramatically so.

RE: Problem?
By Davelo on 4/14/2008 12:42:18 PM , Rating: 1
The blind man lobby is trying to kill the electric car. Seems the cars are too quiet and present a hazard for those unable to see.

Dont get it
By MisterChristopher on 4/12/2008 1:03:47 PM , Rating: 2
I think its rediculous that the direction research is headed is not towards completely free renewable energy sources. Obviously, the next major societal advancement should be the elimination of energy as a perpetual cost.

Currently their are solar panels which can achieve 40 percent efficiency,

and they are working on panels that get even higher. Plus I have seen sites offering 20 year warrantees on current production grade solar panels. So the easily damaged/ massive waste/ too untested arguments are going away.

Combine a system like these with some sort of massive energy capture devices, and its not to hard to imagine an end to residual energy charges.

How good for our society would that be; Instead of setting up yet another system where we can get charged and taxed massively on the energy sources, we never pay anything (other than initial setup costs) because all our energy is harvested directly from the sun.

RE: Dont get it
By Starcub on 4/12/2008 3:05:52 PM , Rating: 2
Solar energy panels and collectors can also be deployed exactly where they are needed, thereby elimating the massive waste associated with conventional production and transmission.

Yes we do need better storage mechanisms, and investments in energy storage technology could have payoffs across every industry.

Unfortunately it's hard to develop a good business model around solar energy because it is so free and easy. So the sun is probably one of te the most underutilized source of energy considering it's potential.

why not...
By rsasp on 4/12/2008 4:59:20 PM , Rating: 2
why not take public transit? if 70% of the population takes public transit, I'm sure it can reduce large amount of carbon dioxide.

RE: why not...
By porkpie on 4/13/2008 10:51:47 AM , Rating: 2
Because I don't like taking 2 buses, a train, a quarter-mile of walking, and an hour and forty five minutes to take public transport, when I can just get in my car and be there in 30 minutes?

Oh, and I don't have to sit next to a pool of homeless-man vomit or urine either.

By dflynchimp on 4/11/2008 2:50:19 PM , Rating: 2
I'll wait for a Mr. Fusion...

Enzyme heat problem
By jtemplin on 4/11/2008 3:35:01 PM , Rating: 2
Not that Ph.D microbiologists don't already know this but to solve this enzyme trouble they should look to the metabolic pathways of hyperthermophilic bacteria whose proteins are adapted not to denature at extreme temperature (80 C).

You know..
By DigitalFreak on 4/11/2008 5:37:15 PM , Rating: 2
Thank god for Asians. They seem to be the ones coming up with all the useful stuff.

We have all the oil we need....
By Arctucas on 4/11/2008 6:18:49 PM , Rating: 2
But the eco-fascists will not let us get it out of the ground.

I heard today that the USGS found an estimated approximately 4 billion barrel reserve in North Dakota.

By root mean sq on 4/11/2008 7:46:47 PM , Rating: 2
black, no sugar...

Already here
By masher2 on 4/11/2008 11:08:09 PM , Rating: 2
FYI, Brazil fuels a substantial portion of their vehicles with ethanol produced from sugar.

Sugar Sources
By FredEx on 4/12/2008 2:44:26 AM , Rating: 2
They can use beets for the sugar. Who the hell likes eating them anyway? They grow fast compared to corn. Corn takes around 125 days to mature after emergence, beets can be harvested as soon as 40 days, but may take as long as 50 days. You can process or eat the greens too.

More Bull, less cows
By JayDeeJohn on 4/13/2008 12:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
All this nitpicking about sugar vs corn vs whatever is crazy. I remember someone arguing the point that today, we have too many cows, which have a certain effect on the environment that wouldnt be there, save for us. I pointed out to them that we killed the buffalo too, and that solves the problem. They didnt get it. The buffalo roamed in numbers across the US, and they had effects on the environment too, like ozone depletion, soil contamination. Also, we cut trees down, huge amounts. We replant them as people want to make money, thus re-insuring their profit. Before we came? There were forest fires. No one to put them out, just burning away, sometimes for years. If we dont look at consequences of our decisions, we fail, but if we also dont look at our improvements, we also fail

Energy sources
By Spherical on 4/14/2008 7:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
All of the "alternative" sources of energy, including all of the "alternative fuels", are varying forms of solar energy. The bulk of the energy we use now is either solar energy stored in geological formations or is energy from a star that was at one time much larger than the sun that was also stored in geological formations.

Solar energy does not now, nor will it ever, come in at a rate sufficient to sustain our economies. Conservation and solar energy together are unlikely to sustain our economies. This is grim arithmetic, but it is the arithmetic we are obliged to live with. For solar energy to make up the difference, we must go outside our atmosphere to collect it. It is cheaper to build larger numbers of fission power plants. That done, we can begin transferring a large part of our transport energy needs over to the electrical grid rather than burning fossil fuels to get around. Nothing else is going to work. Nothing else is in the numbers so it ain't.

By rubbahbandman on 4/14/2008 4:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
The least impressive form of alternative energy by far is ethanol fuel. It's too expensive, difficult to transport, and the max theoretical production values using this technology do not even come close to matching demand.

Fossil fuels are here to stay for a long time. With the price of oil constantly increasing it is becoming more feasible to pursue alternative methods of extracting oil out of the earth and if that involves tar sands, or oil shale then once the need arises they will become the new forms of oil production.

There are trillions of barrels of potential reserves in tar sand and oil shale, so the likelihood of the world running out of oil reserves anytime in the near term is completely false. Of course, technology needs to constantly improve for increases in oil production to match demand, but advances in oil extraction have taken place and will continue to take place to meet demand.

It's certainly a good idea to study alternative forms of energy such as hydrogen, fuel cells, and solar energy, but it is unrealistic to expect oil to replaced anytime soon unless a truly dramatic breakthrough takes place.

Think outside the box
By gimpycow on 4/14/2008 11:43:24 PM , Rating: 2
The entire population sleeps for a few million years in Cryogenic chambers and then we wake up when the fossil fuels are replenished.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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