Episode-905- Listener Feedback for 5-21-12 — 21 Comments

  1. I just finished reading the article on the biodiesel from algae. According to the article, it doesn’t cost $3.00/gallon to produce. It’s costs three cents/gallon. Amazing.

    Quote from the article: “He estimates that his solar-powered process costs about 3 cents per gallon of biodiesel, compared with about $25 by the dry-and-press method.”

    • @David how did I screw that up? Did I? Let me check, (the sound of time passing) well, HELL! Yea it says 3 cents, retraction/correction coming tomorrow! I know what happened my mind simply didn’t want to accept it, it seemed to good to be true, wow. I am going to have to vet this a bit harder now but I do want that kid on my show.

      • Oh yeah would love to hear from that kid. Solve the fuel problem on his allowance! Seems to me he also has a heck of a budget mind too! Just like I always say there are no such things as problems just ideas that have not been thought of or implemented successfully.

      • Also it seems unlikely he included overhead costs…probably only measured that in terms of direct costs (e.g. cost of the chemical agents, algae food, etc).

        Which is fine. It’s hard to imagine the cost of the equipment (even solar panels to run the electric charge) would raise that very much /gal.

  2. You missed one another approach that the government can use to shut the algae genius down. With the tank and algae and such they’ll probably declare his garage as wetlands.

    • Don’t forget, the algae is Bolivian. The government could list it as an invasive species, demand that it all be destroyed, and impose a hefty fine.

  3. aww come on. let’s haul out our tin hats here… the oil companies and Hal’s-a-burp’n will show up and buy this kid’s idea and then lock it away. 😉
    the man will squash it like he did that “engine” that runs on water.

    OK. don’t blow up. I’m just being funny. funny in a dark “look at me in my tin hat” way.

    • @Patrick, this is why I think a lot of what is being done today is being done with open source protections. Something this big, if it vets out is really hard to do that with though. If it does work this kid could end up richer then Gates, Jobs and Buffett combined.

  4. Three CENTS per gallon biodiesel?! Jack said 3 dollars when reiteating, but the article says 3 cents. Wow.

    I go back and forth on this idea that youngsters can always innovate us into surplus when shortages arise. Seems like the stakes get bigger each go-round. Since we’ve still got oil to burn I just hope Josh Wolf doesn’t sell his billion-dollar idea for a couple million and his algae solution gets shelved for a decade.

  5. This kid should drop out of school immediately. Isn’t the point of going to school to get smart enough to do real world work? If he’s already doing real world work, there’s no more need for school.

    I love how people pretend like school is a big deal, in the face of real world accomplishment. What a joke.

    You’re already doing enough to make your own way. School will only try to hold you back, as you can see. Break free and change the world, kid.

    • It takes everything in me to not vomit when hear about people going back to school because they lost their job! Open your eyes, folks! Universities and colleges are glorified snake-oil salesmen, making promises they can’t deliver. If you can pay for it outright, fine, but the quality & quantity of knowledge you aqcuire is not worth the asking price (add in interest? Whoa, totally heinous).

  6. Great ideas on the kid’s bugout bags. At the risk of stating the obvious, it might make sense to have a duplicate BoB in the car and one for the house or wherever they go. That way it doesn’t have to be unloaded/reloaded each time.

  7. 2 things I thought about though on the bio-diesel: 1. He might be able to get his costs down further by using used anti-freeze from auto mechanic stores much like biodiesel oil can be obtained for free from fast food restaurants and 2. If this kid were to be convinced not to be in this for the money he could release the method for free or even on the cheap to the general public and just do good for humanity.

  8. Hey Jack not to be picky but to give credit where it is due. The newspaper is from Minnesota not Michigan.

    Thank you for such a great podcast. Wish I could keep caught up on them.

  9. I’m going to weigh in on the skeptical side of the biodiesel algae kid. It’s not new, and there are lots of companies researching it & doing it various ways. Could he have found some new innovative method? Sure, it’s possible. Since it’s a secret, I guess we won’t know. I’d like to see his process & his costs more fully vetted & duplicated before jumping on the bandwagon. It would be a good idea next time Steve Harris is on the show to ask him for his opinion on it. Anyway, I don’t mean to come down on the kid – all the kudos in the world for following his passion and taking action!

    With regards to the university wrecking him & that he should stay away, I just don’t know enough to agree with a statement like that. This kid is clearly scientifically talented, and a major in bio-engineering, bio-chemistry, or bio-physics is one of the dwindling areas where university training still does make practical & financial sense, assuming he picks a reasonably priced school with good professors and a curriculum that doesn’t waste a lot of his time teaching him art history & other liberal arts BS. With diligence, he could set himself up pretty well after school for a $100k+ engineering job easily in those fields – and those jobs you typically do not get an interview for without a degree. Could he do better staying an entrepreneur and doing it all himself? Maybe… but it’s really rare for somebody to be both a great engineer and a great entrepreneur – maybe he is – I just don’t know, and realistically it’s probably too early to tell.

  10. Anybody has an idea of the timeline of the meltdown of the Euro? How soon it will happen?

  11. I did a big more research on the algae kid, here’s a bit more information to clear up a couple things:

    1) He uses two D cell batteries as his power source. So it is probable that he’s using them in series and running 3volts through the water. Also nice to know that it is super lower power so could easily be converted to use solar.

    2) The 3 cents per gallon seems to be related to the cost of the batteries to get the oil out of the algae – basically the only consumable was the batteries so it is the only cost to the system. This is a bit miss leading as there is no accounting of the capital depreciation (which would be highly variable based on your tank design) or the cost of the water (which could be high in an open tank due to evaporation)

    3) the 3 cents per gallon is for raw oil, not converted biodiesel. To convert the oil to biodiesel you have to use methanol and lye, when purchase from laboratory / industrial supply warehouses in barrels you can get the cost down to $0.75 – $2 per gallon. The biodiesel processing also uses energy to heat the oil and water to wash the oil.

    4) Not all algae works well for this – generally you want a micro-algae that is free floating in the water so that it is easy to pump though your system. Obviously you also want to have a algae that has a high oil content. Josh uses Botorycoccus Braunii (BBii). However the oil produced is not a true vegetable oil so the biodiesel process has to be modified. Interestingly BBii’s oil is mostly located outside of the cell – 7% inside with the remainder located in the colony matrix. So presumably the low electric field stimulates the release of this loosely held oil as the cell walls of the algae tend to be rather thick due to generations of cell doubling.

    5) Josh is working on 3 main things 1- making biodiesel out of fryer grease to run school buses to build capital for his algae research. 2- Using LEDs of various colors at different times of the day to stimulate the growth of the algae – mostly blue and red during the day and green at night. 3- harvesting oil from the algae using his low voltage extraction.

    My opinion:
    I think that his method is probably real, but not quite as fantastic as it suggested it is. Josh has supposedly spoken with industry insiders and college professors that have encourages him to purse this technology. However, there is little real information about what he’s doing, and most of the interest on the web is from the ‘algae fuel fan boi’ base. I think that if this were truly a ground breaking method that a company from the big boys would have stepped up to either buy the technology, hire the kid or in other way position themselves as controller of the tech. I also think that there would be significant media suppression by one of the big boys until they had at minimum a provisional patent. I guess in summary if this tech was ‘THAT HUGE’ Josh wouldn’t be selling biodiesel to school buses to fund his research, guess I could be wrong and I hope that I am.