Heading into an era of tighter Pentagon budgets, President Obama has chosen former longtime Monterey Congressman Leon Panetta as secretary of defense in a move that puts a former White House budget chief in charge of the sprawling military bureaucracy, administration officials said Wednesday.
Panetta, 72, was reluctant to leave his job as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a senior administration official said. A budget expert who had little experience in intelligence before taking the job as spy chief, Panetta is credited with restoring morale and order after a period of turmoil over the agency’s role in the torture and detention of terrorism suspects.
Obama personally asked Panetta to take the job, and after thinking about it, Panetta agreed at a meeting with Obama on Monday. With Senate confirmation all but assured, Panetta is scheduled to start his new job July 1.
The president is expected to announce the appointment today as part of a shuffling of his national security team set in motion by the retirement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also held the job under President George W. Bush.
In the shuffle, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, will become director of the spy agency, Gen. John Allen will assume military command in Afghanistan, and Bush veteran Ryan Crocker will become ambassador to Afghanistan.
Archive for April 28th, 2011
Posted by Xeno on April 28, 2011
Posted by Xeno on April 28, 2011
Dutch firm Green Fuel Systems, along with several other companies, has developed flex-fuel conversion kits for the Toyota Prius that cost less than $1,000. Converting our existing fleet to second-generation ethanol could be the best near-term play to directly replace fossil fuels.
Although the concept of a hybrid/biofuel combo has been around for a while, it has (at least in our minds) mostly been in the form of diesel hybrids running on biodiesel (which isn’t going to happen). But what if we could take America’s most fuel efficient car and convert it to run on another domestically-produced renewable fuel: cellulosic ethanol?
It looks like that’s what Green Fuel Systems and a handful of other US-based companies want to do. Although ethanol has been beaten to a pulp by mainstream media, non-food based feedstocks (like switchgrass) are in the pipeline and could be seriously producing in the next five years. If you’re still not convinced, make sure to read this article: Dedicated Energy
Crops Could Replace 30% of Gasoline.
While details on Green Fuel Systems’ specific product are lacking (and it’s not even clear if this is coming to the US), two US-based companies selling the same thing, and their systems are cheaper.
For example, a 4-cylinder flex-fuel conversion kit from Change2E85 costs less than $500. They even have a simple video describing how to install it. We’ve also previously covered AAMCO’s promotion of Flex Fuel US’s kits, and the holy grail: Ford’s prototype flex-fuel Escape plug-in hybrid that gets 88 mpg running on E85.
Converting our existing fleet of vehicles to flex-fuel capability, along with building it into new models, is arguably one of our best plays to reduce fossil fuel dependence in the next 10 years. GM thinks so, which is why by 2012, 50% of their new vehicles will have this capability.
Posted by Xeno on April 28, 2011
WHAT if you could make fuel for your car in your backyard for less than you pay at the pump? Would you?
The first question has driven Floyd S. Butterfield for more than two decades. Mr. Butterfield, 52, is something of a legend for people who make their own ethanol. In 1982, he won a California Department of Food and Agriculture contest for best design of an ethanol still, albeit one that he could not market profitably at the time.
Now he thinks that he can, thanks to his partnership with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Thomas J. Quinn. The two have started the E-Fuel Corporation, which soon will announce its home ethanol system, the E-Fuel 100 MicroFueler. It will be about as large as a stackable washer-dryer, sell for $9,995 and ship before year-end.
The net cost to consumers could drop by half after government incentives for alternate fuels, like tax credits, are applied.
The MicroFueler will use sugar as its main fuel source, or feedstock, along with a specially packaged time-release yeast the company has developed. Depending on the cost of sugar, plus water and electricity, the company says it could cost as little as a dollar a gallon to make ethanol. In fact, Mr. Quinn sometimes collects left-over alcohol from bars and restaurants in Los Gatos, Calif., where he lives, and turns it into ethanol; the only cost is for the electricity used in processing.
In general, he says, burning a gallon of ethanol made by his system will produce one-eighth the carbon of the same amount of gasoline.
“It’s going to cause havoc in the market and cause great financial stress in the oil industry,” Mr. Quinn boasts.
He may well turn out to be right. But brewing ethanol in the backyard isn’t as easy as barbecuing hamburgers. Distilling large quantities of ethanol typically has required a lot of equipment, says Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, he says that quality control and efficiency of home brew usually pale compared with those of commercial refineries. “There’s a lot of hurdles you have to overcome. It’s entirely possible that they’ve done it, but skepticism is a virtue,” Mr. Kammen says.
To be sure, Mr. Quinn, 53, has been involved with successful innovations before. For instance, he patented the motion sensor technology used in Nintendo’s wildly popular Wii gaming system.
More to the point, he was the product marketing manager for Alan F. Shugart’s pioneering hard disk drive when the personal computer was shifting from a hobbyists’ niche to a major industry. “I remember people laughing at us and saying what a stupid idea it was to do that disk drive,” Mr. Quinn says.
Mr. Butterfield thinks that the MicroFueler is as much a game changer as the personal computer. He says that working with Mr. Quinn’s microelectronics experts — E-Fuel now employs 15 people — has led to breakthroughs that have cut the energy requirements of making ethanol in half. One such advance is a membrane distiller, which, Mr. Quinn says, uses extremely fine filters to separate water from alcohol at lower heat and in fewer steps than in conventional ethanol refining. Using sugar as a feedstock means that there is virtually no smell, and its water byproduct will be drinkable.
E-Fuel has bold plans: It intends to operate internationally from the start, with production of the MicroFueler in China and Britain as well as the United States. And Mr. Butterfield is already at work on a version for commercial use, as well as systems that will use feedstocks other than sugar.
Ethanol has long had home brewers, and permits are available through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (You must be a property owner and agree to make your ethanol outdoors.) But there are plenty of reasons to question whether personal fueling systems will become the fuel industry’s version of the personal computer. …