Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mmmm, mmm good... Freshly squeezed crude!
July 10, 2006 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Suppose you were like this guy and you had devoted nearly a decade of your life to figuring out how to make oil from turkey gizzards. Now suppose this guy and a bunch of pencil-pushers like these guys came along and started challenging the long-term viability of carbon-based fuels (whether of the freshly-squeezed variety or not). For sake of argument, suppose they were right. How reluctant do you suppose you'd be to admit it, even to yourself?
posted by saulgoodman (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Uh, that first link doesn't work.
posted by dw at 2:45 PM on July 10, 2006


I imagine I would feel lost, and as if I could never be found....
posted by mr_roboto at 2:54 PM on July 10, 2006


Discover.com isn't working at all, not just that url. Hopefully they'll be back up soon.
posted by D.C. at 2:55 PM on July 10, 2006


I found Google's cache of the first page, but can't get to the second. Either way, this is the rub of the question:

challenging the long-term viability of carbon-based fuels (whether of the freshly-squeezed variety or not)

The challengers here are presented as context-free links to Al Gore and UCS. Generally speaking, both entities are in favor of biofuels as near as I've been able to tell. When you make something petroleum-like out of recently-living biomass, like turkey guts, the carbon dioxide released upon combustion isn't "new" carbon. When you burn fossil fuels that have been sequestering that carbon deep in the earth for millennia, that's "new" carbon, and the imbalance of that introduction is what's at the root of global warming issues. Any fuel made from biomass that grew in the past year is generally considered carbon-neutral. (Absent, of course, the fossil fuels required to convert the biomass into fuel.)
posted by blueshammer at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2006


First link cache
posted by puke & cry at 3:00 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


There's an informal game I play with front page posts that want to be big or important or "about the issues": I count up the number of wikipedia links, the number of broken links and then hate you over the internet for not putting any thought into what you've done.
posted by boo_radley at 3:01 PM on July 10, 2006


the number of broken links

That's kind of unfair given that all of discover is broken right now, and presumably isn't normally.
posted by advil at 3:10 PM on July 10, 2006


Can we count links to the New Yorker in that too? It's not that the articles aren't really good, they are. But finding something good and worth sharing in the New Yorker is hardly a revelation either.
posted by rhymer at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2006


Come on guys - it's technology from turkey gizzards! And it broke the New Yorker! Good times, good times.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:26 PM on July 10, 2006


I guess if you raise turkeys fr this purpose they could be considered carbon sequestration devices... of course they proibably balance that out by generating huge amounst of methane.
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on July 10, 2006


sorry if the first link wasn't working initially--it seems to be now (at least from where i sit).

There's an informal game I play with front page posts that want to be big or important or "about the issues": I count up the number of wikipedia links, the number of broken links and then hate you over the internet for not putting any thought into what you've done.

Nice game you got there, booradley, but I should explain this post really isn't intended to be a big important post about the issues (also: point taken, blueshammer--maybe this really isn't as good an example of this phenomenon as I thought)... I just thought the article offered an interesting entry point into some of the more basic human aspects of the problems we face with energy industry related issues.

No doubt, a lot of people in the energy industry are committed, long-term leaders who've poured massive amounts of their own time and energy into their projects. I thought it might make for interesting discussion to explore the inherent challenges of balancing such long-term efforts with the emergence of new information that may in some way undermine those efforts. Basically, reading this article it just occurred to me that having one's life's work undermined by new scientific findings could be really disappointing and might dispose one in such a position to deny away the reality of the findings. That's all. Didn't mean to waste your time by not knowing the Discover site would be down (it wasn't when I made the post). Cheers!
posted by saulgoodman at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2006


Works fine for me - nothing broken here. Neat stuff. Obviously, the next logical step is for me to install a Mr. Fusion into my DeLorean, and feed it chewed-up chicken wingbones, coffee grounds and banana peels.
posted by luriete at 3:37 PM on July 10, 2006


rhymer: you'd prefer two links to personal blogs and one to a reuters article in the future? i'll do my best to meet or exceed your expectations in the future!
posted by saulgoodman at 3:37 PM on July 10, 2006


This FPP is a turkey.

All of the carbon in turkey gizzards came from the plant matter the turkeys ate. All the carbon in plant matter comes from CO2 in the atmosphere. Al Gore has a problem with fossil fuels because they add CO2 to the atmosphere, but this process is carbon neutral.

The thinking behind this FPP is as broken as the links.
posted by NoiseTrader at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2006


Now that discover is back online I don't hate you anymore. Hugs?
posted by boo_radley at 3:43 PM on July 10, 2006


meh, on second thought, yr probably right. just got caught up in the moment, i guess. bad post all around. excuse me while i slink off to lick my wounds...
posted by saulgoodman at 3:43 PM on July 10, 2006


noisetrader: you're right. had a momentary spasm of compassion for a guy i wrongly thought was in a tough predicament and let it short-circuit my critical faculties. last time i let that happen.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:45 PM on July 10, 2006


Should this be in ask metafilter?

Well, assuming the scenario proposed in the question you would say that you tried and that the only way to try everything that could be tried and see it fail - and even there is stil hope. The current state of scientific theory is sometimes wrong as other methods were missed.

But, in the end you might just say ah well - just have to go nuclear.
posted by sien at 3:48 PM on July 10, 2006


sien--meh, i'd be just as happy if the whole post disappeared at this point.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:51 PM on July 10, 2006


i'm pretty much convinced nuclear is the best answer in the short term, accompanied by some deeper lifestyle changes (more telecommuting and home-based e-commerce, replace a lot of brick and mortar commercial properties with websites and save on all that real-estate and commuter related infrastructure)--go nuclear and retreat back into our homes and communities, in other words. that's the outcome i'm rooting for, at any rate. but that's a derail to my own post, so just, like, nevermind.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:57 PM on July 10, 2006


Turkey-fuel = good = recycled carbon from atmosphere.

Dino-fuel = bad = new carbon added to atmosphere.
posted by stbalbach at 4:11 PM on July 10, 2006


saulgoodman, the nuclear option is more complex than it seems on the surface and many a smart people say it can't work. Won't get into details in this post.
posted by stbalbach at 4:15 PM on July 10, 2006


stbalbach: say it ain't so!
posted by saulgoodman at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2006


The technology is Thermal depolymerization, which mimics the natural process of converting complex organic material (turkey bits and pretty much everything else) in simple organic materials (oil).

Far from being detrimental to the environmental, the process looks to be a sustainable way to both dispose of organic waste that is usually buried or burned and create a usable base product. Oil in an of itself is not bad, it is core to many other products such as plastic, fertilizer, and other non-transportation based uses.

Creating a method that can convert not only turkey gizzards, but old tires, plastics, and most non metallic trash into a usable product in a way that actually pulls carbon out of the loop is beneficial.

It may not be commercially viable or turn a profit yet, but having the technology and skills to do this are to the long term benefit of the world.
posted by Argyle at 4:24 PM on July 10, 2006


Oh yeah, well solar power satellites and giant maser antennae. Biodiesel from genetically engineered algae covering the Salton Sea. Biomass and vegetable oil from hemp which would replace crops like cotton which are bad for the enviornment anyway. New cheap large-scale photovoltaic technology cracking hydrogen from the Gulf of Mexico. Quit whining on MeFi and get busy.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:25 PM on July 10, 2006


This is neat, but I wouldn't entirely believe that this is going to be a net energy win until I knew what the "input" biomass has been fed with. If the feed is made from intensively-farmed crops grown with the aid of fossil-derived fertiliser (which seems likely), then although this process might help, it sure isn't going to lead to a closed, renewable cycle.

It's definitely cool as a way of stopping things going in landfills though!
posted by puppygalore at 4:44 PM on July 10, 2006


leading to a temporary shutdown in December 2005. Production costs turned out to be $80 per barrel, meaning that for most of the plant's working life Appel has lost about $40 per barrel.

Oil almost hit $75/barrel a couple weeks ago. You'd think he'd be jumping for joy. if peak oil keeps heading our way he'll be rich. Plus, shouldn't con agra be paying him to dispose of their waste?
posted by delmoi at 4:53 PM on July 10, 2006


A first-stage reactor breaks down the stuff with heat and pressure, after which the pressure rapidly drops, flashing off excess water and minerals. In turkeys, the minerals come mostly from bones, and these are shunted to a storage bin to be sold later as a high-calcium powdered fertilizer.
...
The water, which in the case of slaughterhouse waste is laden with nitrogen and amino acids, is stored to be sold as a potent liquid fertilizer

So this also replaces some 'fossil' fertilizers.
posted by delmoi at 4:58 PM on July 10, 2006


Sure, we hail him as saviour now, but wait till we hit Peak Turkey Gizzards in 2015.
posted by Jerub at 5:02 PM on July 10, 2006


Countdown to PETA outrage in 3... 2... 1...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:05 PM on July 10, 2006


Well, clearly we need to eliminate all carbon from the face of the planet.

You first.
posted by darukaru at 5:13 PM on July 10, 2006


A tempting suggestion, darukaru - believe me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:14 PM on July 10, 2006


Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:27 PM on July 10, 2006


Quit whining on MeFi and get busy.

Cool! I will! Can I borrow $300,000 investment capital? I have a sweet idea about converting "biomass" from construction porto-lets into bio-diesel, fertalizer, and pharmacutical and cosmetic products.

Someone's got $300,000 lying around, I'm sure. I sure don't.

As a side, I've been thinking of a couple coffee table books. One chronicaling the grafiti of port-o-potties, and a special one of just down the hole shots. (MY million dollar idea, DON'T STEAL IT!!)

I promise to fill your tank of the squeezings once a month as a bonus!
posted by Balisong at 5:29 PM on July 10, 2006


fwiw, i like your name. i just reread Illuminatus.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:37 PM on July 10, 2006


i like your name. i just reread Illuminatus.

Who, ME? Illuminatus is a good re-read. Somehow I can see it being relevant for a long time.
posted by Balisong at 5:41 PM on July 10, 2006


I think we might get more energy out of it if we put live turkeys in a treadmill and ran the car off of that.
posted by drstein at 6:22 PM on July 10, 2006


saulgoodman, the nuclear option is more complex than it seems on the surface and many a smart people say it can't work. Won't get into details in this post.

Well, france get's 70% of its energy from nuclear, but if the smart people say it can't work, well then I'm sure it can't.

But how do you tell "smart" people from "people who like to hold contrary opinions because it makes them seem smarter to uneducated people"?
posted by delmoi at 7:24 PM on July 10, 2006


I live in Carthage, Missouri not half a mile from this miraculous turkey guts to oil plant. The article really downplays the God awful stench the place uts out. Last year it was so bad that on many days you could not stand to be outside, the unique burned feathers and rooten flesh smell was so overpowering. The state finally came in and shut it down--and that takes a lot in a Republican state like Missouri. They have cleaned it up some, but the smell still permeates the town regularly. The part in the article about the plant getting blamed for every odor that wafts through town is bull shit, there is no mistaking the odor of the plant, and it is an odor we never had before they set up shop.
posted by LarryC at 7:54 PM on July 10, 2006


That's the smell of progress.

(or Soylent Green.)
posted by Balisong at 8:47 PM on July 10, 2006


ELIMINATE THE CARBON BASED UNITS!
posted by Artw at 9:52 PM on July 10, 2006


Interesting article, thanks saulgoodman. Is there some reason to think that Appel is a global warming skeptic though, even if this process were carbon negative? Or did that really just come out of nowhere?
posted by gsteff at 10:34 PM on July 10, 2006


France gets 76% of its electricity from nukes. Which would be about 35% of its energy. Which would also be why the national electricity generator is in such a precarious financial position.

Building nuclear power stations is about the most expensive way you could possibly generate energy. Even solar PV is cheaper per watt. Turkey guts oil (and biomass processing generally) is much cheaper. Wind is a hell of a lot cheaper.

The option with with the greatest near-term greenhouse mitigation potential by far is subsidizing energy efficiency.

For less than it would cost to subsidize enough nukes to deal with the growth in energy requirements under a business-as-usual demand model, we could we could buy enough near-term energy efficiency improvements and enough mid-to-long-term fully-renewable generation facilities to make energy generation fully sustainable in perpetuity.

The main objection to solar and wind power is that it's not "baseload" generation: that is, energy output from a given generation site can't be reliably matched to instantaneous electricity demand, depending as it does on local conditions on the day. But given that about half of our energy goes into running transport systems, and given that transport fuel is, by definition, an energy storage medium, and given that hydrogen is a fuel and can be made by exposing water to electric energy: as long as aggregate generation capacity is sufficient to keep us in fuel, it shouldn't matter much if the environmental energy -> electricity step is intermittent.

Consider two cases: (a) replacing oil with hydrogen derived from nukes (b) replacing oil with hydrogen derived from wind power. Wind farms will achieve, over the long term, an average power output of about a third of their peak (design) power output; nukes will run about 98%. So if we were going to do case (b), we'd need to install three times as many watts' worth of wind generators as we'd need of nukes. So wind would be the no-brainer choice if it were less than a third of the price of nukes, per watt.

Well, it was already in that ballpark ten years ago. It's cheaper now. So it beats me why so many people are all gung-ho for nukes.
posted by flabdablet at 1:12 AM on July 11, 2006


Interesting article, thanks saulgoodman. Is there some reason to think that Appel is a global warming skeptic though, even if this process were carbon negative? Or did that really just come out of nowhere?

Really just came out of nowhere, I think. (Chalk up another one to ignorance.)
posted by saulgoodman at 5:54 AM on July 11, 2006


All the carbon in plant matter comes from CO2 in the atmosphere.
posted by NoiseTrader at 3:42 PM PST


No, some of it comes from the soil.

I have a sweet idea about converting "biomass" from construction porto-lets
posted by Balisong at 5:29 PM PST


Alas, using an 'uncontrolled' waste stream - you can end up with catalysts in them. A bit of platinum in the waste stream is going to muck up the works.


Far from being detrimental to the environmental, the process looks to be a sustainable way to both dispose of organic waste that is usually buried or burned and create a usable base product.
posted by Argyle at 4:24 PM PST


Considering how prions are hard to destroy, the process would do a good job on 'em.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2006


« Older Wrestling...  |  Metal Storm Limited... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments