Van Jones of Rebuild the Dream introduces the two presenters by noting that we are in the “post-Whale oil” strategy for liquid fuels; using algae and biomass technologies. Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solazyme, Inc. opens by thanking his investors and then stating, “We make oil.” He declares that oil is not going away, and is not going to be replaced; the choice is what type of oil we are going to use of the three types: petroleum, plant, and animal.
It’s fairly easy to figure out where he is heading. As Van Jones noted, we tried animal, and we’re using petroleum now. Peak oil is past or, at best, demand for petroleum is going to outstrip supply even if we find and refine more and more of it.
Wolfson notes that the developed world uses oil for everything, with a concomitant increase in price as demand rises and the world becomes more developed. He dismisses the inorganic alternatives without even bothering with environmental concerns: natural gas, fracking, and coal liquefaction are all non-renewable, and therefore doomed as an alternative. Working on renewable oil: biomass conversion, plant sugars, photosynthesis and microalgae to convert sugar to oil. Does not require changes in current processing system; renewable oil is fungible with the dinosaur-based creation. Have created a hearty-healthy oil that is similar to olive oil in other ways; have an alliance with a French company.
Solazyme told potential private-sector partners that their technology could produce $1.50/gallon oil. Response was always: don’t talk about costs until you can show us you can scale. So made a deal with the U.S. Navy, and are delivering “the promise of advanced biofuel.”
Following Wolfson is his major investor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Thomas Hicks. Hicks is well-versed in the Total Cost of Ownership: “The Navy simply relies too much on fossil fuels…degrades our national security…and ultimately endangers our planet.” We have young men and women in Afghanistan protecting fuel convoys that begin in Pakistan. Multiple convoys per day; for every 50 fuel convoys, we have one Marine who is killed or wounded. “That is too high a price to pay for fuel.”
Hicks is leveraging the Marine Corps is reducing that dependence, through demonstration in Quantico. Took the winning technologies and moved them into combat zone in May—and then in September into Afghanistan. Solar tents, solar blankets, LED lights—resulted in a 30-90% reduction in fuel use. Patrols able to travel three weeks, not two days, without a Battery Resupply. Now equipping all units in Afghanistan, with a payoff timeframe of six months. Still looking for more, but it’s a great start.
Admits ongoing operations in “Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.” Additional cost for fuel last year ($38/barrel increase) was about $1B ($1,000,000,000)—which comes out of the extant fuel budget, not as an additional appropriation. (In this manner, the U.S. Navy is like a family.) The price volatility of the fuel has a direct impact on ability to engage in efforts, including support.
So the Navy has started an effort to move to 50/50 use of renewable/biomass fuel and oils at a price comparable to that of petroleum. If they can do it, why cannot—has not—private enterprise??
The Navy intends to lead an energy revolution; they have a $1B RFI out, closing at the end of the month, in their continuing attempt to find alternative fuels. “Together we can build a new energy future, a new energy economy.” Again, why do I have to hear this from the Navy, when everyone tells us that the private sector is the leader?
Hicks and Wolfson agree that have a climate that is built for technological innovation. Hicks notes, again, that it worries him that the Navy, not the private sector, is out in front on alternative energy exploration. Speaker from the floor notes that there has been a paradigm shift since a single person took out the power grid in CA and AZ. Energy efficiency retrofitting will put people back to work (as it does in NYC). Will launch a career some time in 2012—not on Earth Day, but on a day—with 50/50 blended fuel all through, including the backup generator. By far the largest purchase, excluding ethanol., in history, per Mr. Wolfson.
Are you certain the extant energy company leaders—and, yes, I am including Jim Rogers of Duke Energy, who has been talking this game for at least twenty years—are really “job creators”?