A question of quantities

From Mr. Seldon B. Graham

To The Honorable James F. Wood,
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for Fossil Fuel.

Dear Mr. Wood,

Thank you for answering my email to Energy Secretary Steven Chu which asked for an answer to the following simple question:

  • Why is it that carbon dioxide from carbonated beverages, pets, cattle, farm animals, humans, yeast, dry ice, fireplaces, charcoal grills, campfires, wildfires, alcohol and ethanol is good, and carbon dioxide from fossil fuel is bad?

You did not provide a scientific answer to my question. However, you did state that “One of the largest sources of CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels” and that “Combustion is considered a ‘point source’ since all the emissions from the combustion process are emitted from a chimney,” I assume that you are the James F. Wood who recently retired from Babcock Power Inc., “The Babcock that is more than just a boiler company.”

Sir, fossil fuel includes petroleum, the life blood of American transportation. American transportation is vital to the national security and economic welfare of the United States. Vehicles do not have chimneys.

Sir, as you should know, the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center does not bother to measure any CO2 emissions other than from fossil fuel. Therefore, no one really knows the amount of CO2 emissions from the other sources.

You correctly point out that government policy is to reduce CO2 emissions. That is the purpose of my trying to get a scientific answer to my simple question.

The government climate policy to reduce CO2 emissions conflicts with the government energy policy to replace gasoline with renewable ethanol biofuel. There is a fatal conflict between these two government policies.

A gallon of gasoline contains 124,262 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy, and the weight of carbon dioxide produced by burning a gallon of gasoline is 19.56 pounds. A gallon of ethanol biofuel contains 76,000 BTUs, only 61% of the energy of gasoline, and the weight of carbon dioxide produced by burning a gallon of ethanol biofuel is 12.57 pounds. If ethanol biofuel is used to travel a distance requiring 124,262 BTUs of energy, the same distance a gallon of gasoline would travel, it would require 1.64 gallons of ethanol biofuel, with 20.55 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted into the air. Thus, using ethanol biofuel instead of a gallon of gasoline will emit about a pound more of carbon dioxide into the air.

Replacing the US gasoline consumption of 138 billion gallons annually with ethanol biofuel — just as the government energy policy wants to do — would add about 138 billion pounds of carbon dioxide annually from renewable ethanol biofuel. This is an additional 69 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually. The government energy policy would increase rather than decrease carbon dioxide into the air, just the opposite of what the government climate policy wants to do.

Sir, it is your duty to the United States of America either to find a substantive scientific error in the above and call my attention to it or to make recommendations to correct this gross error in fossil fuel policy.

Seldon B. Graham, Jr.

Legion of Honor Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers

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