Why we should break OPEC now

Why we should break OPEC now

The title of this interesting article.

I've often wondered why we didn't do more with alcohol-fueled cars. Now I know: the EPA has regulations against it. But if course they do.

TeslaRocks | January 26, 2014

We already do too much, considering that we hardly get more energy from alcohol than it took to plant, harvest, transport, and process the corn into alcohol. Luckily Tesla will save us from our madness.

Timo | January 26, 2014

@Teslarocks, point of ethanol is not that it saves energy, it was that it would be clean energy, no fossil fuels used. Just like hydrogen ethanol is energy storage, not energy source.

PatT | January 27, 2014

It is not clean energy if it is produced using hydrocarbons.

Timo | January 27, 2014

True dat.

TeslaRocks | January 27, 2014

Ethanol as energy storage would not make much sense because it's cheaper and less environmentally destructive to leave the oil as is instead of using it to make ethanol. It was just a gift to farmers, which is not so bad if we ignore that it sent a billion people starving.

Timo | January 27, 2014

Eh? Billion people starving? Exaggerate a bit?

Brian H | January 27, 2014

Food for Fuel. What could go wrong? |:p

Dramsey | January 27, 2014

Sigh. Apparently, nobody actually read the cited article.

It was talking about methanol, not corn-based ethanol. It can be produced from almost anything, including waste biomass, coal, and natural gas. We already have industrial-scale facilities for producing it since it's a very common commodity use in thousands of applications.

Yeah, it's a long article, but I though that given the membership's purported interest in green tech...oh well.

Timo | January 27, 2014

It's boring to read. You need to skim to middle of the article before methanol is even mentioned, so probably 90% of readers got bored before that. I know I did.

Dramsey | January 27, 2014

A fair point, I suppose. Next time I will summarize.

TeslaRocks | January 30, 2014


I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but I don't mean starve to death, I mean experience more hunger than before. How many people live on $1 a day, $2 a day? I forget the stats, but it's well over a billion. So if the price of corn or wheat rises even just marginally, or let's say by 25 %, that could mean one less meal per day.

PapaSmurf | January 30, 2014

OPEC cannot be "broken". We don't have nearly enough cheap oil (less than $100 per barrel) to ever have any impact on most of OPEC.

Their cost of production per barrel is dramatically less than ours. Our main sources of new oil in the USA are:

1) ultra deep water (deeper than 5,000 ft) in the Gulf of Mexico, needs typically over $70 per barrel to justify the process.

2) shale oil. The extraction methods for this type of unconventional oil

3) Tar Sands from Canada, which needs over $60 per barrel to be worthwhile.

Things like ethanol or methanol don't even make a rounding error in terms of the total supply. And the source materials of biomass are not even remotely plentiful enough to replace any significant amount of OPEC oil.

And even if we did stop buying OPEC oil, don't worry at all about those guy. China and India will happily purchase 100% of the oil that we don't use.

Dramsey | January 30, 2014

Papa, the article I cited suggested the expanded use of methanol as an auto fuel as a way to break OPEC. The author made a pretty good case for it, too.

PapaSmurf | January 31, 2014

I don't think methanol can scale up to replace billions of barrels per year of oil.

And if you read the article, the author is suggesting that we use coal to make methanol. That will release even more CO2.

The other point the author was making related to providing other fuel sources to substitute for oil, thereby harming OPEC.... Isn't that what Tesla is doing by making electricity a viable transportation power source?

I suspect that on a full cycle energy analysis, using just about any source to make electricity will beat methanol, or any liquid fuel, for efficiency per mile.

negarholger | January 31, 2014

@PapaSmurf - yes, but how long will it take to replace 2B gasoline cars on planet earth with EVs? Ethanol or Methanol conversion could be done virtually overnight ( not that I suggest to do it ).

DHrivnak | January 31, 2014

Methanol is very corrosive and most automobile fuel systems are not designed to handle methanol. So the cost to convert a car is not trivial. If designed on the front end the extra cost for the materials is not that much less than $50 but to retrofit ca car with new fuel lines, injectors and fuel tank is quite expensive.

By the way we make methanol from coal, it is quite a capital intensive operation.

Dramsey | February 1, 2014

@PapaSmurf: "I don't think methanol can scale up to replace billions of barrels per year of oil."

And yet it's taken as given that EVs will do this. Many here seem to think that it's only a few years off.

And it's much easier to recover CO2 from this process than it is from burning coal.

The other point the author was making related to providing other fuel sources to substitute for oil, thereby harming OPEC.... Isn't that what Tesla is doing by making electricity a viable transportation power source?

Well, no, because most of that electricity is produced with coal or oil.

All that said, I don't know if methanol production on this scale is a viable proposition. But I haven't seen any good arguments against it yet.

Brian H | February 2, 2014

Almost no electricity is produced with oil. YCLIU. A little in Hawaii.

Orion | February 2, 2014

I will never get back this time I have wasted while reading this thread that goes no where... Infrastructure is the key... and it will be the competitive nature between gas stations and a manufacturer supplied (mainly Tesla) infrastructure.

Mel. | February 2, 2014

Florida uses more oil to produce electricity followed by New York and Florida I think the Municipal Power Authority is the problem.

TeslaRocks | February 3, 2014


Florida, where the sun is shining, uses oil to make electricity? That's ironic.

Mel. | February 3, 2014

TeslaRocks, it gets more interesting in that 30 communities in Florida are owners in the Florida Municipal Power Agency. They own the most polluting plant in Florida which is the Stanton Energy Center which of course loves coal. This quasi government group charges their citizens around 30 to 40 percent more for the power from coal than Florida Power and Light ,a commercial company , charges for their solar.

It is really not as simplistic as I stated but close.

TeslaRocks | February 4, 2014

Mel, sounds like a great opportunity for change, especially as solar cells keep getting cheaper. Do they have a stock we can short? Just kidding, shorting stocks is too risky for me. But seriously, that's a bankruptcy waiting to happen.