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Interview: Robert Rapier on Vinod Khosla, Proposition 87, peak oil, and the need for transportation electrification
Marc Strassman, etopia
After completing his graduate studies at Texas A&M, Robert Rapier worked for a chemical company for the next seven years, mostly involved in butanol production. Then he left the chemical company to work on “gas-to-liquid” (GTL) projects at a major oil company, where he continues to be involved in alternative energy efforts.

Mr. Rapier is a frequent contributor to The Oil Drum (“Discussions about Energy and Our Future”) and maintains the R-Squared blog (“Telling it like it is”) here.

On Sunday, August 13, 2006, Mr. Rapier posted a blog entry entitled “California’s Proposition 87″, in which he talks about the $4 billion oil extraction/depletion/severance/wellhead tax-which-can’t-be-passed-through-to-consumers//”Clean Alternative Energy” initiative on the November 7, 2006, ballot.

This piece is, in a sense, a follow-up to his July 24, 2006, posted entitled “Vinod Khosla Debunked,” Mr. Khosla being the legendary venture capitalist, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and the guiding spirit behind Proposition 87 (in essence, its lead V.C.).

In order to learn more about Mr. Rapier’s take on the Proposition; its progenitor and principal sponsor; and the possible role of cellulosic and/or grain-based ethanol in solving the energy/peak oil crisis, California Politics Today and the Peak Oil/Global Warming Channel spoke with him this afternoon by phone.
(16 Aug 2006)

Indonesia counting on biofuel

Bloomberg News, Reuters, IHT
Indonesia is seeking more investment in industries producing energy from palm oil, sugar cane and jatropha to help create five million new jobs and cut government fuel subsidies, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Wednesday.

The government will set aside 1 trillion rupiah, or $110 million, to help farmers pay interest on loans they take to plant more crops that can be used to produce biofuels, Yudhoyono said. Villagers will be encouraged to grow jatropha, a plant that thrives in poor soil whose seed can be crushed to yield oil for biofuel.
(16 Aug 2006)

Brazil’s Road to Energy Independence

Monte Reel, Washington Post
Alternative-Fuel Strategy, Rooted in Ethanol From Sugar Cane, Seen as Model
SAO PAULO, Brazil — Record oil prices have made the world’s energy landscape a darkly foreboding place this year, inhospitable to optimism and celebration. Except in Brazil.

It has been something of a banner year here, full of milestones. The government predicts that for the first time in its history, Brazil will achieve energy equilibrium, exporting as much oil as it imports. The production of sugar cane-based ethanol is expected to reach an all-time high. And just three years after the introduction here of flex-fuel vehicles — cars that run on either ethanol or gasoline — several major automakers predict that such vehicles will represent 100 percent of their production by the end of the year, eliminating gas-only models.

Pull up to most service stations in this country of 185 million people and you will find fuel pumps offering three choices: ethanol, gasoline or premium gasoline. The labels are slightly misleading: The gasoline varieties are blends that contain at least 20 percent ethanol. The pure ethanol is usually significantly cheaper — 53 cents per liter (about $2 per gallon), compared with about 99 cents per liter for gasoline ($3.74 per gallon) in Sao Paulo this past week.

“I buy gasoline only if I can’t get anything else,” said Alexandre Rigueirra, 28, a Sao Paulo taxi driver who modified his flex-fuel Chevrolet to also use natural gas, which is sold at many locations throughout the country. “Gasoline is always the last option.”

Since President Bush this year emphasized ethanol as one possible solution to U.S. oil dependence, Brazil has become a destination of choice for curious U.S. lawmakers and venture capitalists searching for a crystal ball in which to glimpse America’s future. Ethanol is not solely responsible for Brazil’s newfound energy independence — domestic oil exploration has exploded in recent years — but it has replaced about 40 percent of the country’s gasoline consumption, according to Caio Carvalhal, an analyst with Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Rio de Janeiro
(20 Aug 2006)

Balkan biofuel could be on the horizon

Georgi Mitev-Shantek, Southeast European Times
Southeast European countries are mulling over the prospects of biofuel. Could Bulgaria, Romania or Serbia become the next “Brazilian miracle”?
BELGRADE – With the world price of oil climbing, countries in Southeast Europe are pondering whether they can hope to reduce their dependence on this commodity. Domestic and foreign investors in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia have embarked on the construction of plants for the production of alternative fuels.

Until recently, the possibility that biodiesel could be used as engine fuel was scoffed at in the Balkans. Not any more. Fuel derived from industrial plants, primarily rapeseed and sunflower, is turning into a significant investment. EU regulations stipulate that at least 2 per cent of diesel on the market this year has to be of plant origin, with an annual increase in market share of 0.75 per cent up to 2010.

Romanians were the first to embark on the battle for market share, both domestically and Europe-wide. The country now produces three million tonnes of biodiesel annually.
(21 Aug 2006)