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"Pump" on Netflix

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by mspohr, May 16, 2015.

  1. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    Watched the documentary "Pump" on Netflix the other night. It's a very interesting exploration of how we ended up with oil powered cars and some suggestions on how we can get out of this dilemma.
    It goes back to the early days of the automobile where there was a wide variety of fuel (electric, ethanol, gasoline) for cars. Interesting in that Henry Ford designed the Model T to run on ethanol which he felt his rural customers could easily make in a backyard still. However, Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Trust stamped out everything other than oil. A consortium of GM, Mack Truck, Standard Oil and others bought up the electrified trolley cars, scrapped them and replaced them with busses. Standard Oil was also instrumental in getting prohibition passed to make it illegal for anyone to make their own ethanol.
    The movie discusses current alternative fuels (electric, methanol, ethanol, natural gas) along with some of their history and the oil industry's efforts to keep people from using them. For instance, at one point California mandated methanol cars to deal with pollution but the oil industry came up with reformulated gasoline (carcinogenic MTBE) to keep people from moving away from oil.
    It points out that the oil companies control about 2/3 of fuel stations and that these will never have any alternative fuel without a government mandate. We'll never see Exxon charging stations for Tesla.
    There are about 15 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road but the high ethanol fuel is not readily available and not cost competitive. Also, most people driving these cars are not even aware that they have a FlexFuel vehicle. Brazil has done a good job of moving to sugar cane ethanol... not clear that the US corn ethanol is competitive.
    Very interesting movie.
     
  2. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

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    Brazil also has three growing seasons, and I have heard--but haven't verified so it might not be true--that they have to import ethanol because they can't make enough.
     
  3. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    Brazil is the world s largest ethanol exporter for many years.
    The Wikipedia article is good.
     
  4. ww73

    ww73 Member

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  5. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    Exactly. Oil companies don't want you to have an alternative.
     
  6. gg_got_a_tesla

    gg_got_a_tesla Model S: VIN P65513, Model 3 Res Holder

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  7. Evbwcaer

    Evbwcaer Member

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    I think it is important to not combine all ethanol into one basket. There are many sources of ethanol and corn is one of them, but not a good one by most measures (competes with food, takes many inputs, waterway pollution, etc.)

    Cellulose based ethanol could, and in a few cases does, come from native prairies that require no watering, no fertilizing, deposit significant amounts of carbon into the soil, grow on "marginal" land, provide good habitat, don't need to be re-planted, and can be harvested/mowed around 3 times per summer. Here is a decent link:

    Cellulosic Ethanol | Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

    Most mid-west states require ethanol blends in regular gas, so you don't really have to seek it out. What is the case in other areas of the country?
     
  8. TheDane

    TheDane Member

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  9. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    The movie covers this issue. There are several factors at play here. First is that corn is a relatively poor source for ethanol but in the US it is politically popular because of farmers. Brazil uses sugar cane and has developed the industry to be very efficient and it does not displace food crops. There are other sources of ethanol which could be developed in the US which would not use corn.
    The movie also notes that the oil industry has contributed to the disinformation campaign to discredit ethanol as a source of fuel.
     
  10. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    What I didn't like was the reference to the middle east wars being all about oil. I don't buy that, and never have. They showed a graphic of US military bases near a bunch of middle eastern oil fields as "proof". Fact is, the vast majority of the US's imported oil comes from Canada, and there's not one US military installation near these fields (or anywhere) in Canada.
     
  11. gg_got_a_tesla

    gg_got_a_tesla Model S: VIN P65513, Model 3 Res Holder

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    It's not about supply to the US alone though. It's to protect the flow of oil overall, on behalf of all the behemoth oil corporations that operate those fields.
     
  12. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    The fact is that we have an entire country full of military installations just across the border from Canada that we can call on if the Canadians get any rebellious thoughts. So far they have been content to sell us oil at reasonable prices (and even have their taxpayers subsidize the oil production) so this has not been necessary.
    I don't know if you missed the whole "Iraq war" bit but this was a war whose only justification was to control Iraq's large oil reserves. The strategic importance of Middle East Oil has been recognized at least since the end of WWII and the US, as "victor" made it a primary objective to control the region. Our many years of "friendship" with Saudi Arabia (and military bases there) were not disrupted by the inconvenient fact that most of the 9/11 bombers were from Saudi Arabia, not Iraq.
    Yes, we are at war in the Middle East because of oil and we will always be at war there as long as the world depends on oil.
     
  13. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that. There are a lot of reasons for the middle eastern conflicts, but I don't believe oil is one of them.

    5-20-2015 10-46-00 AM.jpg
     
  14. ggr

    ggr Roadster R80 537, SigS P85 29

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    I have to agree with the others; it's not about where a particular drop of oil came from, it's about the global supply issues. Oil, like oil money, is fungible.

    Go back to the first Iraq war. Iraq invaded Kuwait over oil, and until the invasion, the US had supported Saddam Hussein. But the invasion was destabilizing to the whole region, so off we go. What did the Iraqis do while retreating? They torched the oil fields. Follow the dominos dropping from there.
     
  15. Evbwcaer

    Evbwcaer Member

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    I just watched it. To me it felt like it was about 15 years out of date, it came out in 2014. It did touch briefly on Tesla and show Elon, but the overriding message was about ethanol and methanol.

    Renewable powered EV's check all the boxes they set up, and emit no carbon at all, better than biomass based alcohols in many ways. Liquid fuels are old news, I feel, no matter where they come from.

    The movie basically advocated for the option of alcohol fuels at the pump, why even take that step (or at least take that step in conjunction with EV adoption/investment)? EV's are here and now and only getting better and/or cheaper.
     
  16. trils0n

    trils0n 2013 P85

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    Seemed like the film focused on consumer choice at the pump, and how corporations, and government, made oil a fuel monopoly, and cars/trucks a transportation leader. Interesting story, with successful (although illegal) corporate conspiracy to dismantle electrified rail in America.
    Standard Oil, GM, Mack Truck, etc. setting up the US to use oil by dismantling electrified public transportation, replacing with gas burning ICE vehicles, add in massive highway public works, etc. Oil seemed successful in building an "ecosystem", to use silicon valley terms, for their products. Have oil -> use various legal and illegal means to switch US to oil based transportation system.

    Very similar strategy that Elon is using with Solar City, and Tesla Motors/Energy.

    EDIT: No mention of Climate change or CO2 emissions in the film. Made it seem like methanol, ethanol and electric were just different choices for fueling vehicles. EV is the only viable choice due to climate change, and that is huge piece of the discussion.
     
  17. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    You're right. They didn't really tie it into climate change except to imply that Ethanol, Methanol were better for the environment. (Not really sure this is true since in the US, ethanol is made from corn with a lot of oil input and methanol is made from methane so only slightly better.)
    The focus was on the extent to which the oil companies have gone to create and preserve their monopoly on oil based transportation.
     
  18. cwerdna

    cwerdna Active Member

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    #18 cwerdna, May 21, 2015
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
    Exactly. It's not ONLY about where the US gets its oil from. The US has a population of only ~319 million while China has 1.357 billion and India has 1.252 billion, each of those has a growing middle class w/more able to afford cars. I've seen many say that China's middle class is past 300 million. We are in competition with others around the world for that oil.

    Take a look at The World Factbook and Oil: Crude and Petroleum Products - Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy - Energy Information Administration. If one divided the "proved reserves" in the US (~30.5 billion barrels by our daily consumption of ~19 million barrels/day (Oil: Crude and Petroleum Products - Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy - Energy Information Administration), if we consumed at that rate, using ONLY our oil (no imports), we'd run out in about 4 years.

    Please see stuff like these:
    Iraq - International - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
    "Iraq has the fifth largest proved crude oil reserves in the world, and it is the second-largest crude oil producer in OPEC.
    Iraq holds about 18% of proved crude oil reserves in the Middle East and almost 9% of total global reserves..."

    Saudi Arabia - International - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
    "Saudi Arabia has 16% of the world's proved oil reserves, is the largest exporter of total petroleum liquids in the world, and maintains the world's largest crude oil production capacity..."

    Iran - International - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
    "Iran holds the world's fourth-largest proved crude oil reserves and the world's second-largest natural gas reserves."

    And, there are oil chokepoints like The Strait of Hormuz is the world's most important oil transit chokepoint - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Interview with WSJR,Maria Bartiromo-CNBC - YouTube has a discussion of how much it cost Saudi Arabia to produce a barrel of oil. Compare that to How much does it cost to produce crude oil and natural gas? - FAQ - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    The recent big drop in oil prices squeezed many high cost oil producers in North America and caused them to shutdown as oil prices fell below their production costs.

    Saudi Arabia claims oil strategy of squeezing high-cost frackers is working

    OPEC Decision: To squeeze US shale oil producers by forcing prices down - Nov. 28, 2014
    Nysveen said the breakeven crude oil price for U.S. shale producers is around $50 or $55. Despite the recent plunge, oil is still well above that at the $70 range

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/01/29/markets-oil-idINKBN0L11XX20150129 from Jan 15, 2015.
     
  19. mwulff

    mwulff Member

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    That may have to something to do with the fact that Canada is very stable compared to the middle east. I believe we would see american tanks in Quebec if Canada was going downhill.
     

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