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Oil Companies Patent Trolling Biofuel Production

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the if-that-doesn't-work-we'll-have-to-invade dept.

Patents 183

Whatsmynickname writes "Thought oil companies were done patent trolling to try to shut down any efforts to wean us off of crude oil (e.g. Chevron and NiMH batteries)? Think again. BP and DuPont (Butamax) have taken an advanced biofuel company to court over infringement of newly awarded patents for developing biobutanol. When an oil company advertises it is looking for alternative fuels, it's not necessarily because they want to be socially responsible..."

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183 comments

This is silly. (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254178)

Did you expect them to just donate the relevant patents for the betterment of humanity? I mean, in the nation's current intellectual property regime? You've got to be kidding.

Fight the disease, not the symptom.

Re:This is silly. (1)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254300)

OK then, let's revisit this conversation 5-10 years from now and see exactly how far Butamax has gone in delivering biobutanol to the public for consumption. Bet you it won't be any further than me driving an electric car with large scale NiMH batteries.

Re:This is silly. (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254356)

I would be willing to bet Real Cash Money that within ten years (and probably much sooner), BP will be selling biobutanol gasoline blends at their gas stations. That's the whole point - it's a replacement for ethanol, which is already widely used in gasoline blends.

Re:This is silly. (5, Informative)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254684)

Butanol isn't a replacement for Ethanol, it's a replacement for gasoline!

Butanol [wikipedia.org] may be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine. Because its longer hydrocarbon chain causes it to be fairly non-polar, it is more similar to gasoline than it is to ethanol. Butanol has been demonstrated to work in vehicles designed for use with gasoline without modification.[1] It can be produced from biomass (as "biobutanol")[2] as well as fossil fuels (as "petrobutanol"); but biobutanol and petrobutanol have the same chemical properties.

Historically Butanol and acetone has been produced by fermentation of starches and sugars by Clostridium acetobutylicum [wikipedia.org] what the Butamax patent [uspto.gov] claims is a method of spicing the genes from C. acetobutylicum that make butanol into other organisms. The patent is very specific about which gene sequences do what and are inserted into the host cell, rather than the typical overly broad patent from typical patent trolls.

Re:This is silly. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254798)

Pathetically I can't seem to view the TIFFs of the patent referenced from Wikipedia. Hmm, actually, I can probably do it from this machine, but has anyone else already had a chance to compare that patent (1315585) to the patent referenced in TFA?

Re:This is silly. (4, Insightful)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255530)

Why is BP going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new butanol infrastructure when they have perfectly working oil refineries already making tons of cash? BP's stockholders would slap these executives upside the head and ask "WTF is wrong with you"... Heck if I owned BP stock, I would do that. Oil companies producing butanol would only make sense when crude was expensive enough and people quit buying straight gas. There's no reason for oil companies to develop alternative fuels until it is economically feasible to do so. Until then, it's better for them to just sit on the technology from a profit standpoint.

Re:This is silly. (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254426)

OK then, let's revisit this conversation 5-10 years from now and see exactly how far Butamax has gone in delivering biobutanol to the public for consumption. Bet you it won't be any further than me driving an electric car with large scale NiMH batteries.

No... because the patent trolls arrested development now.

In 5 or 10 years, they will have the patents to a next critical step.... required to actually produce/use that Butamax.

Alternative energy is dependant on more than just one specific technology.

There are lots of technologies required to actually produce biofuels or to utilize them for the production of energy. And if you are artificially prevented by a patent from getting past any one critical step, the alternative technology won't be practical. There are and will be lots of places they can stop you from making/using Butamax.

Due to the patents, there will be very few R&D attempts by others. Translation: less competition, less innovation, lower chance the technology develops, and with fewer people working on it -- it will be easy for the Oil companies to make sure they do any "development" / "invention" needed to get more patents FIRST. Their patent lasts 20 years from the date of issue (usually 5 or so years after the date of application), so for all intents and purposes, they have a lock on that one patented thing for 30 - 35 years.

Oh right... each patent is just one small invention required to produce and use the biofuel.

Plenty of time to figure out the 'next things' companies developing the technology need, and get patents for those before the patent they have expires.

If they just make sure to get a new patent locking down a "next step" once every 10 years, then nobody will ever come up with the technology.

That is, unless their competitor somehow works somehow in complete secret at a very fast pace, even somehow managing to avoid Oil company spies/corporate espionage, and then still comes out with completed technology and patents that.

Still, it takes 5+ years or so for such R and D anyways

Re:This is silly. (1, Interesting)

DRJlaw (946416) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255344)

No... because the patent trolls arrested development now.

They've obtained patent rights in every country in the world? They have the omniscience necessary to detect infringement in every laboratory in every industrialized country before it even happens?

In 5 or 10 years, they will have the patents to a next critical step.... required to actually produce/use that Butamax.

Only them. Nobody else could possibly conduct research due to the aforementioned universal scope and power of their mighty patent.

Alternative energy is dependant on more than just one specific technology.

Then it's a good thing that they have a patent on one specific technology. That way, they can leap right into alternative energy when economical oil runs out. The accused infringer couldn't possibly have developed anything that they might need.

Due to the patents, there will be very few R&D attempts by others. Translation: less competition, less innovation, lower chance the technology develops, and with fewer people working on it

Scared that accused infringer right off, didn't it?What's better than being the first guy who invents a basic process? Being the second guy who invents the commercially relevant improvement to that process. Being the third guy who invents an alternative to that process. Why? Because the first guy's patents are going to expire the second's, because the third guy is an alternate source. Time to cross-license or compete.

[I]t will be easy for the Oil companies to make sure they do any "development" / "invention" needed to get more patents FIRST.

The fact that you can write it does not make it so. Prove it. I insist. There's been a patent law in this country for more than 225 years, and competitors leapfrogging each other has become so routine that modern complaints about the patent system focus on "patent thickets" rather than individual blocking patents. Nevermind that "the Oil companies" are not a monolothic entity.

Their patent lasts 20 years from the date of issue (usually 5 or so years after the date of application), so for all intents and purposes, they have a lock on that one patented thing for 30 - 35 years.

20 years from date of filing, or according to your example, for only 15 years. And the patent application is published after 18 months. So... 42 months where the invention is published and not protected by a patent -- yet you claim derivative research is impossible.

Plenty of time to figure out the 'next things' companies developing the technology need, and get patents for those before the patent they have expires.

So... you don't need to be developing the technology yourself in order to identify and solve the next technology need? And those patentable solutions just fall into your lap?

They just make sure to get a new patent locking down a "next step" once every 10 years, then nobody will ever come up with the technology.

It's inevitable. After all, thanks to Intel's patents on the integrated circuit, that technology stopped dead in its tracks.

That is, unless their competitor somehow works somehow in complete secret at a very fast pace, even somehow managing to avoid Oil company spies/corporate espionage, and then still comes out with completed technology and patents that.

Like those uber-secretive Google guys! After conducting their R&D in a secret mountain cave, defeating Yahoo's ninja infiltration squad, and finally winning the hearts of those muisgidedly stuck up sorority-loving comp sci twins, Sergey and Larry battled their way to the USPTO (a la "16 Blocks") and filed their patent application for the Google search engine exactly the way it is right now, thus saving the universe from the clutches of the evil Yahoo hegemony. YAYYYYYYY!

Still, it takes 5+ years or so for such R and D anyways

So the patent troll invested 5+ years of R&D developing and very publicly publishing the details of this technology for the sole and feindish purpose of obtaining a patent to prevent others from developing it? And the patent troll is going to keep investing more and more years of R&D in order to obtain more patents to keep others from developing it, but never switch to this obviously superior technology despite conducting enough R&D to stymie the obviously superior competition because they cunningly plan to consciously avoid exploiting their intellectual property (as opposed to their workers, the market, the environment, etc.) for the greatest possible profit? Really?!

Re:This is silly. (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254304)

How about we declare "eminent domain" over their IP, since it's a "critical" need for national security?

Re:This is silly. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254336)

Or have the patents dismissed as overly broad.

Re:This is silly. (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255192)

Oh! that reminds me I've got to go and patent "matter in liquid form" before anybody else does!

Re:This is silly. (2)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254450)

How about we declare "eminent domain" over their IP, since it's a "critical" need for national security?

The federal government CAN do that; they actually have the legal authority to do so under the constitution.

Actually -- patents are government issued, and they are not a contract between the government and the patent holder; they are grants by the government, so one piece of legislation could declare specific patents invalid.

However, there is a requirement in the constitution that the owner must be fairly compensated for private property taken for public use. If you read this as the government seizing the patent, then that means the gov't has to pay the company the fair market value for their patent, which could be a tough question to answer....

Re:This is silly. (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254574)

Clearly, when a patent is being used to kill an industry, the value of the industry is thus zero. Giving nothing to the patent troll sounds like market value compensation to me...

Re:This is silly. (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254756)

Clearly, when a patent is being used to kill an industry, the value of the industry is thus zero. Giving nothing to the patent troll sounds like market value compensation to me...

But it may generate profit for the patent holder in another industry, which taking the patent away would result in them losing money, and thus ... they would need to be compensated for that loss instead.

Its really not hard to understand and is absolutely silly that you look at it as if such a simplistic view of the problem would actually fly in the face of any sane person.

Re:This is silly. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255330)

Actually, they don't have to fairly compensate the owner, and often times they don't. If a project requires some land, typically they'll condemn the portion they need then pay pennies on the dollar for it. Additionally, sometimes they decide that something is necessary for national security purposes and pay a fraction of what it's worth.

I'd personally rather they paid something resembling a fair price, because I have no way of knowing when such a provision might strike me, but that's how it ends up being done so as not to require the tax payers to pay the full cost.

Re:This is silly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254564)

How about we declare "eminent domain" over their IP, since it's a "critical" need for national security?

I take it you've never read Atlas Shrugged ...

Re:This is silly. (0)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254664)

I take it you've read it, but never comprehended it.

In the story you mention, patents are seized and fair market value is not payed. The patents in the book were being used to make a product, in fact Reardon was making as much as he could sell. In this situation no one is making it, and most likely any eminent domain take over of patents would be compensated. Shit in the business run government we have it would A) Never happen and B) If it did happen the company would probably make some a lot of good money on it.

Your analogy is seriously flawed.

Re:This is silly. (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254364)

They own the patents in the first place for the purpose of trolling.

It's not a question of them donating them or not, they spent money buying up and getting patents to obstruct alternative energy in as many ways as possible, to protect their business of selling fossil fuels, which are more profitable for them to sell than to sell alternatives, let alone spending all that money actually developing any of the technologies they got the patents to.

Re:This is silly. (5, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254472)

Did you expect them to just donate the relevant patents for the betterment of humanity? I mean, in the nation's current intellectual property regime? You've got to be kidding.

Personally I think they shouldn't even be allowed to patent such things. As the matter stands, the current, modern society can't stand without a proper fuel-source, our nations and basic functionality depends on it. If we do not find a proper alternative to crude oil before we run out of reserves our society will collapse. Thus it kind of is a real necessity for us to come up with a good, generally-acceptable alternative fuel-source that can fulfill all the different kinds of purposes for which we use crude oil-fuels. Thus being able to patent important research in the area only serves to hinder our progress and endanger our future, only because of temporary monetary benefit for limited parties.

Fight the disease, not the symptom.

Sometimes you cannot avoid fighting the symptoms first or else you'll run out of time.

Re:This is silly. (1)

Crashmarik (635988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254524)

Wha ??? Did you think anyone is going to spend millions to billions doing the research for a pat on the head and a thanks well done ?

Re:This is silly. (4, Interesting)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254606)

Wha ??? Did you think anyone is going to spend millions to billions doing the research for a pat on the head and a thanks well done ?

Even if they couldn't patent it they could still produce the biofuel and continue profiting from it. Hell, if they were doing the research they'd be the experts in the area and thus could sell services to other companies. And if they were the experts in the area that'd also mean they'd most likely still be the first one to start actually monetizing their research.

You know, they didn't patent regular gasoline either and well, it DOES indeed look like they've been profiting from it for years even without patents so even that angle is well covered.

So yeah.. sorry for tearing your argument to shreds.

Re:This is silly. (1, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254776)

Wha ??? Did you think anyone is going to spend millions to billions doing the research for a pat on the head and a thanks well done ?

Even if they couldn't patent it they could still produce the biofuel and continue profiting from it. Hell, if they were doing the research they'd be the experts in the area and thus could sell services to other companies. And if they were the experts in the area that'd also mean they'd most likely still be the first one to start actually monetizing their research.

You know, they didn't patent regular gasoline either and well, it DOES indeed look like they've been profiting from it for years even without patents so even that angle is well covered.

So yeah.. sorry for tearing your argument to shreds.

Being an expert in the area means jack shit when one guy can take all that knowledge out the door with him to your competition, and your competition is more than willing to pay handsomely for that person to do so.

Define 'patent gasoline' ... actually, their probably was at one point, and there are beyond any doubt patents on what you burn in your car today. There are process patents, patents on the chemical additives, patents on the deep water extraction technics, patents on the transport pipelines that get it from the fields to the refineries ... So while their may not be a patent on 'gasoline', thats not what comes out of the pump either so it really doesn't matter.

Re:This is silly. (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255156)

Even if they couldn't patent it they could still produce the biofuel and continue profiting from it. Hell, if they were doing the research they'd be the experts in the area and thus could sell services to other companies. And if they were the experts in the area that'd also mean they'd most likely still be the first one to start actually monetizing their research.

Yes, and if you waited till someone else did the research, you could still do all that. And it would save you the cost of the research.

And if everyone sits around waiting for someone else to do the research, we're still using gasoline in ten years.

You know, they didn't patent regular gasoline

It should be noted that gasoline wasn't developed as a fuel, but as a cleaning agent. Its use as a nearly universal fuel came well after any patent would have expired in any case.

Re:This is silly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255436)

It worked for Jonas Salk.
Or would you rather have polio?

Re:This is silly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254842)

Society as a whole will not fall. The US will simply fall further behind everyone else, while the Chinese develops the necessary methods for providing power.

Re:This is silly. (1)

makubesu (1910402) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255000)

Then we'll just steal the technology from China. Bring on the free cookie legislation!

Re:This is silly. (1)

naich (781425) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254742)

So BP and DuPont aren't a bunch of bastards? It's not their fault they were led astray by the possibility of screwing over the planet to make a few bucks? Are they the real victims here, maybe? Maligned, just for taking advantage of an opportunity to act like bastards. Poor things.

You know you found an evil meme (1, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254192)

when getting money now matters more than the survival of the humanity in the long term.

Re:You know you found an evil meme (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255308)

when getting money now matters more than the survival of the humanity in the long term.

The ultimate end goal of capitalism....

Submission is bigger troll than oil company (2, Insightful)

dentin (2175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254196)

Oil companies look for alternative fuels because they want to make money, and because there's a lot of money to be had in alternative fuels. Yes, there's a patent dispute here, and yes, patents are lame; but to imply that the only reason for the dispute is because the oil company wants to shut down alternative fuel production is absurd.

BP and DuPont have a lot invested in this field, probably more than the entire opposing company is worth. I can totally understand their view that an upstart is attempting to profit from from their hard work.

No kidding (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254264)

Every oil company I've seen seems to acknowledge oil is finite. Their estimates of when production will peak differ from environmentalists, but other than OPEC (who says it will never peak) they all seem to understand the concept.

So, that being the case, what do you think they are going to do? Just wait until oil becomes extremely expensive and difficult to get, humans transition to a new power source, and then go out of business because they have to product to sell? Or do you think maybe they'll look in to other energy sources they can sell, be it biofuels, thorium, solar, whatever.

Remember that companies aren't evil, they are just amoral. They don't really care one way or the other, they just want to make money. So no, oil companies aren't interested in the damage they cause, except to the extent the law requires them to be and to the extent the public cares. However that doesn't mean they just want to destroy the world to be evil. Likewise they'll happily sell a limited resource for tons of money today, but that doesn't mean they aren't thinking about what to sell tomorrow.

The higher the price of traditional fuels, the more interest there'll be in biofuels. After all if I invent a process that can deliver a BioOil(tm) at $150/barrel with the potential to scale to $100/barrel in 10 years there is no interest when oil was back down in the $30/barrel range. Now that it is up in the $80 range, it is maybe something to look at, though it is still cheaper just to extract oil. If it went up to $200/barrel, there'd be tons of interest as it'd be cheaper right now.

Re:No kidding (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254420)

They don't really care one way or the other, they just want to make money.

They apparently fund the bulk of photovoltaic research too, for that matter. They're like Microsoft or Google in a way ... they have a core competency, and will milk it to the very last drop. That doesn't mean they aren't casting about for something, anything, that can be used to maintain their hegemony when their current money maker is gone.

Re:No kidding (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254806)

The higher the price of traditional fuels, the more interest there'll be in biofuels.

Lets also not forget that fuel is not what most oil gets used for. Oil, its products AND its byproducts are used in more or less everything in the modern world.

Forget fuel. Plastics use far more of the oil pulled out of the ground than all of the fuels combined.

Completely replace oil as a fuel with something completely renewable and easy to get, and oil STILL is in demand ... that is as long as you want about 99% of the things in your life to stay as they are.

Fuel is really the least of our concerns for oil, we've already got alternatives, they just aren't as cheap right now, we don't really have viable alternatives for many of the other uses of oil.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254282)

big oil companies have the knowledge of how to build and run huge chemical production plants and the infrastructure to widely distribute fuels, I'd expect them to
be big in alternative fuels too once it get to a level where it is viable and can make a profit

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (4, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254368)

The one thing we know for certain is that the cost will not go down. When all the oil goes away, its replacement will cost more, and the oil companies want to be the ones collecting that money.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254560)

When all the oil goes away, its replacement will cost more, and the oil companies want to be the ones collecting that money.

Competition should hinder that a bit, though I must admit that my belief in the market is by far weaker now than a few years ago.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254758)

Didn't you read the summary? The competition is all getting patent trolled right out of the market.

Unless you think having just Big Oil in the market is "competition". These assholes have been price fixing for decades, it won't be any different if they ever do start producing alternative fuels.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254378)

They may have done that, but it may also mean that they did it just to make sure that there is no competition coming up until they have milked the last drop of oil from the crust of the earth. In this case they may not even need to be the most efficient player, and what they really fear is a player that's going to be competitive at the current prices of gasoline.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254394)

Patents only last for 20 years.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254444)

Patents only last for 20 years.

It used to be seventeen, now it's twenty ... and don't forget that travesty that is copyright. If big money can by effectively infinite copyright, it can do the same with patents. It will be harder, but given that Congress has been exhibiting an unprecedented degree of naked corruption in recent years, I wouldn't say it's impossible.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (2)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254502)

There's also lots of big money that wants to use patents that are currently exclusive.

(The copyright analogy is easy to make, but the copyright on Mickey Mouse didn't make it that much harder for Shrek to come into existence, where on the other side, if Henry Ford's patent portfolio were still in force, Tesla Motors probably wouldn't be in business)

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255250)

Electric cars?

I think that was that guy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254478)

Sure, except that the "upstart" probably wasn't even aware of BP's patents. BP can be upset all they want about this, but it doesn't make suing them into a smoking cinder beneficial to society. The purpose of patents is to promote science and the useful arts. This is the opposite. It's too bad that's not one of the tests that any patent has to survive when challenged in court.

Re:Submission is bigger troll than oil company (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254852)

Intellectual property [gevo.com]

Gevo has a well developed patent estate consisting of over 250 patents and patent applications. These patents and patent applications cover isobutanol biocatalysts, alcohol recovery, alcohol conversion and use areas.

Doesn't sound like Gevo is an ignorant upstart in the patent game so we're probably not talking about a mouse getting beat-up by an elephant but rather a Woolly mammoth [wikipedia.org] and a Woolly rhinoceros [wikipedia.org] having a go at each other.

Oil companies not always the bad guy... (2)

munitor (1632747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254200)

Energy is a hugely capital intensive sector, and investors rightly expect return on investment. Exxon and Shell spent more money developing natural gas reserves on Sakhalin island than the US spent developing the space shuttle. If BP is expected to pump billions into developing advanced biofuels, I would expect them to protect their patents. Don't forget that BP was the oil company that helped support the radical new solar cells announced last year at CalTech. Protecting a properly granted patent is not technology suppression. And no, I don't work for BP.

Re:Oil companies not always the bad guy... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254456)

Protecting a properly granted patent is not technology suppression.

Nonsense. You've obviously not been following what Congress and the USPTO have done and are doing with the patent system in the United States. The unfortunate truth is that quantity is far more important that quality nowadays, and the current position of the Patent Office is that patents should be granted without much examination and that it is up to the courts to decided if a patent is valid.

That's just wrong, on so many levels, but it makes IP lawyers billions of dollars. And that's the point.

This... (0)

rastilin (752802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254218)

This is such BS. In the next few decades, this kind of technology will be critical to maintaining the old infrastructure as the known to be over-stated Middle-Eastern oil reserves begin to dry up. These guys are messing with the long term survival of their countries and we should absolutely drive our feet up their ass.

Re:This... (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254454)

This is such BS. In the next few decades

...the patents will expire, and the technology will become available for anyone to use.

They are energy companies (2, Insightful)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254230)

Perhaps BP et al got patents on producing biobutanol because THEY want to produce biobutanol.

You'll be buying BP biobutanol at some point.

So what?

These companies are investing ridiculous amounts of money into alternative fuel research and those wacky conspiracy theorists think it's just to prevent alternative fuels from hitting the market.

Do you really think these *energy* companies care whether they get your money through BP oil or BP biobutanol? All they care is that BP is on the label and they're fueling your vehicle one way or another.

Re:They are energy companies (2)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254406)

They are not *energy* companies.

They are *extraction* companies.

Re:They are energy companies (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254520)

They are not *energy* companies. They are *extraction* companies.

Nope, they are vertically integrated energy companies. They do exploration, extraction, refinement, distribution, retailing, power generation, research, etc.

Re:They are energy companies (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254424)

"I don't have BP here you insensitive clod!"

And patent cases like these is why the the US is lagging more and more behind in development. Great ideas are stranding or shot down due to patent litigations and injunctions.

The IP property protection may be a lot weaker in China (and other Asian countries) but the bandwagon is rolling on there because in many cases it's not worth the effort to bring an IP infringement to court unless you also bribe the judge and a large part of the legal system at the same time.

Re:They are energy companies (2)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254530)

These companies are investing ridiculous amounts of money into alternative fuel research

Citation?

Chevron is investing about $300 million/yr in alternative entergy research. (http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/oil-companies-promote-alternative-energy/).

Meanwhile, it posted 4th quarter 2010 profits of $5.3 billion, or about $19 billion for the 2010 year (http://www.pennenergy.com/index/petroleum/display/3120811156/articles/pennenergy/petroleum/finance/2011/01/chevron-profits_skyrocket.html).

This amounts to 1.5% of PROFITS (not total revenue) is being funneled off for research.

Exxon (2010 profits of over $30 billion) reportedly spends less the 0.5% of their profits on alternative energy research. It "claims" to be spending $1 billion/yr on R&D, but won't say how much is going to "alternative energy" research, leaving the impression that most of it is going toward petroleum directed R&D.

I wouldn't exactly call these a "ridiculous amount of money" given the "ridiculous" profits being generated and the acknowledged looming peak oil crisis.

No Free Market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254670)

They will not be releasing ANYTHING related to biobutanol until after they cannot meet demand with regular fuel. It is about maximizing profit, not about selling anything. By controlling biobutanol, they basically start to control the supply and thus the price. Very nice position to be in - well, if you are a supplier not the consumer.

And with patents, you get 100% monopoly. How can it be bad when there is no free market??

Re:They are energy companies (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254936)

When I was growing up it was 200MPG carburetors that the "Big Oil" companies was suppressing by buying up the patents. Of course now that the patents have expired, and the carburetors are commercially available we see that they don't get anything even close to 200MPG, are too temperamental for normal road car use, have no advantage over computerized fuel injection system we have now, but are actually pretty good for race cars that Joe Average races on weekends for fun.

Biofuels are bad mmmkay (1)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254246)

Considering the insane amount of land and resources biofuels would require to replace fossil fuels I'd say these oil companies are being (unintentionally) socially responsible by patent trolling biofuel production.

Biofuel is nothing more than an absurdly inefficient kind of solar power.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (1)

munitor (1632747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254286)

No, biofuels can be the most efficient around if it goes straight from solar to chemical, such as algae in a space efficient layout. Classic silicon solar panels are the most inefficient around.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (4, Informative)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254436)

I guess it's possible, but still, that's a million miles away from the plant based technologies "biofuels" of today and even theoretical algae biofuel technology is still likely to be less efficient land-wise than other solar powered derived electric vehicle techniques.

http://fatknowledge.blogspot.com/2008/06/algae-biodiesel-vs-solar-panels.html [blogspot.com]

Provides a comparison of required land use of algae biodiesel production to a PV solar-energy powered electric car. The PV -> electric car method requires around 1/5 the land use. The real efficiency killer is simply the internal combustion engine. Also, that's based on theoretical algae biodiesel production, commercial-scale production would probably be less efficient. Meanwhile, both solar-power and electric car technologies are getting more efficient all the time.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254446)

Correct, because plants are more efficient than solar cells due to cholrophyll, so less sun power is wasted. First there is inefficiency in turning all plant material into fuil. the major problem is the burning of fuel is itself inefficient source of energy, electricity has much higher.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (1)

the_povinator (936048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255246)

>> Correct, because plants are more efficient than solar cells due to cholrophyll, so less sun power is wasted.

Er, I think you're wrong about this. The numbers I recall are about a 2% max efficiency from plants, and 10%-15% from solar cells. So solar cells are actually much more efficient. [The downside is that they do not automatically replicate themselves the way plants do.]

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254442)

Biofuel is nothing more than an absurdly inefficient kind of solar power.

You are pretty ignorant. The inefficiency is exactly why there is so much research in the area to try to make it less inefficient.

Besides, it actually is very common that new technologies are quite inefficient in the beginning and get better with time. A really good example and relevant in regards to the audience here would be logic gates in computers: at first they were these really huge vacuum tubes, wasting insane amounts of energy due to converting so much of it into heat and took lots of space. With time their size decreased and their efficiency went up due to not generating so much excess heat, and eventually they led to the invention of transistors.

Similarly, biobutanol might not be the best choice for biofuel, but research into it is still valuable. Perhaps with time we will get to the "vacuum tube stage" where it is good enough for general use and thus fulfills its purpose -- that is, to replace crude oil - based fuels -- and lead from there to even better alternatives.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (2)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254532)

Wrong answer...

Much of what you're hearing about biofuels are from things like Ethanol or the current diesel production from things like oil-feedstock crops like corn, etc.

What happens when you place a bunch of the left-overs from the crop, stuff you can't feed to the livestock, into first a high pressure (600psi) steam environment at 482 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes followed by flash boiling and thermal cracking at about 932 degrees Fahrenheit for about a couple of hours? You end up with a barrel of API 40+ crude oil and a batch of stuff that can be used like coal or for activated charcoal. This process is at about the level of energy that it takes to pull what we're pulling out of the ground already- and doesn't require all the "land and resources" you refer to. More to the point you can do this same sort of conversion process with Oil Algae and you don't even need the waste products to do it with... Better yet, you can feed things that're generally not all that recyclable in the way of plastic or rubber tires and get similar or better results.

Oh, and by the way...you've got it QUITE backwards. Plants are actually vastly more efficient than any solar process we've got right now for collecting solar energy- the trick is in unlocking the stored energy efficiently. We just haven't figured out until recently how to do that.

In truth, we've got several processes that will leverage what we've got in hand (biowaste from the agriculture and other industries, coal (yes...doing what we're doing with it is inefficient...), and the like...) that will pretty efficiently extract the energy locked up in them in a manner can be carbon neutral or less damaging overall- and enable plastics production, fuel production, etc. We've just not been doing it because it was cheaper, up-front, to do the things we're currently doing.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254692)

Plants are actually vastly more efficient than any solar process we've got right now for collecting solar energy

This is not true. The best plants can do less than 9% solar-to-sugar conversion. A 9% efficiency for a solar cell is laughable.

There is nowhere near enough left-overs from crops to fuel current cars, and then you have all the other things we use oil for.

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255710)

Did DuPont & BP really manage to patent something that has been done commercially since 1916? Weismanns organism (Clostridium acetobutylicum) is used to produce acetone with a 2:1 waste product of butanol. I can see Dupont's involvement since acetone is needed to make cordite, but patenting a process that naturally evolved in a bacterium??? WTF

Re:Biofuels are bad mmmkay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255558)

BULLSHIT!
Methanol can be produced from waste. (agricultural and end consumer garbage)

It ain't called wood-grain alcohol for nothin.

The process has been around since the 1600's. (and earlier, the ancient ancient Egyptians made it for embalming)
Industrial scale production capabilities have been around since the 1800's
It's the same process that used to make city gas,(see Gas Works Park in Seattle) with the addition of a chromium and manganese oxide or copper catalyst to convert the carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide/hydrogen mix to CH3OH.
Methanol can be dehydrated to make a suitable diesel replacement.

Article is a troll (1, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254250)

The company suing is a JV funded by BP and DuPont in order to commercialize the technology described in the Patent. How is that an effort to shut down efforts to wean us off crude oil?

http://www.butamax.com/_assets/pdf/butamax_advanced_biofuels_llc_fact_sheet.pdf [butamax.com]

BP is actually the largest alternative energy company in the world with investments in solar, wind, hydrogen, and a variety of biofuels.

http://www.bp.com/modularhome.do?categoryId=7040&contentId=7051376 [bp.com]

Slashdot for the lose..

Re:Article is a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254358)

Also, fuel can be produced elsewhere (where these patents aren't valid) and imported. Although they could try to court the import too.
However they can sell it elsewhere.

Re:Article is a troll (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254400)

The article seems fine. The submitter is just trolling in the summary.

Re:Article is a troll (2)

GeordieMac (1010817) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254994)

Posting propaganda from the websites of the companies in question is not a great way to further an argument on Slashdot. I don't disagree with you statement that TFA is trollish, however BPs token investment in renewable energy is minuscule in comparison to it enormous revenue stream. a ratio of about 4:1000 or 0.4% To call BP an "alternative energy company" is disingenuous and really just green-washing; which is especially irritating given BPs history of environmental transgressions (illegal dumping on Alaska's North Slope, Prudhoe Bay oil leak, Texas City chemical spill, and the recent deep water horizon catastrophe)

so they're what? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254260)

doing research on alternate fuels, just so they can patent them and then bury the technology?

This has got to be the WORST way possible to abuse the patent system, whose core tenant is to encourage innovation. I've heard of companies buying and then burying things, but to actually R&D them and THEN bury them? wow.

Re:so they're what? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254890)

doing research on alternate fuels, just so they can patent them and then bury the technology?

This has got to be the WORST way possible to abuse the patent system, whose core tenant is to encourage innovation. I've heard of companies buying and then burying things, but to actually R&D them and THEN bury them? wow.

Yea, its like someone made it up its so unbelievable ...

Oh wait ... if you read the article ... you'll find out that it too unbelievable to be true and is in fact just a lie in the summary.

The actual article shows that the company that is suing 'the little guy' is a company setup in order to actually utilize the patent to make fuel ... not sit on it and kill it so no one else can use it ... and that the company suing is far further along in the process and much closer to market.

Summary is misleading (3, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254268)

So, Dupont and BP have a joint venture that is developing biofuels. Said joint venture has patented a method of producing butanol using fermentation. This jont venture is suing another company for using a technique similar to the one they patented. How is this trying to "shut down efforts to wean us off of crude oil"? This looks like an attempt to profit from weaning us off of crude oil. There is certainly an argument to be made that the fact that the current patent system allows them to do this is contrary to the public interest. This is not Ford buying up the Los Angeles public transport company in order to shut it down and increase the demand for cars.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254302)

There is certainly an argument to be made that the fact that the current patent system allows them to do this is contrary to the public interest.

The government would appear to disagree with that argument, because environmentally-beneficial inventions are one of the few kinds of inventions where patent applicants can request for free that their application be made "special" [uspto.gov] and therefore get examined sooner.

Re:Summary is misleading (1, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254458)

I am curious where you got the idea that all government action is that which they think are in the public interest? My experience is that while occasionally a government agent will take an action because they believe it is in the public interest, usually they take actions that serve their own interests in a way that can be presented as being in the public interest, but acting in the public interest receives little or no consideration in their decision making process.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254462)

There is certainly an argument to be made that the fact that the current patent system allows them to do this is contrary to the public interest.

The government would appear to disagree with that argument, because environmentally-beneficial inventions are one of the few kinds of inventions where patent applicants can request for free that their application be made "special" [uspto.gov] and therefore get examined sooner.

The government may disagree, but Congress and the United States Patent Office do not, and they're the ones that count. The problems with the patent system in the United States are very real.

Re:Summary is misleading (4, Interesting)

catchblue22 (1004569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254486)

This is not Ford buying up the Los Angeles public transport company in order to shut it down and increase the demand for cars.

What the "greed is good" crowd seem to be missing here is that these energy companies are big. Really really big. And as a sector, the oil energy sector dwarfs all other economic sectors. If large players in that sector start to amass patents on technologies that could displace their core business, then will become increasingly able to stifle competition in this field. In other words, they will be increasingly able to decide to sit on those patents if it serves their immediate economic self interest. And the forces that are supposed to guarantee that the self interest of companies overlaps with the common interest of society, namely competitive forces, are made irrelevant by the huge size of these companies. They will become increasingly able to squash/buy-out smaller entrants to the market who might displace them. This is made even worse by the fact that many of these private interests seem to have captured the regulatory and governing systems, the very systems that are suppose to guarantee that the private activity of corporations overlaps with the public interest.

So please don't cry that the poor companies are only doing what they are supposed to do, namely making money, because you are sidestepping the arguments made by many of us who are skeptical of the overlap of the activities of companies like BP and the public interest. You statements sound less like arguments and more like advertising slogans.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254578)

I don't think BP particularly cares about the public interest, but I am fairly confident that growing fuels in vats will eventually be cheaper than extracting it from the ground.

If it is obvious from lab scale stuff that a technology would be cheaper than the extraction cost of oil and would be capable of scaling to enormous volume, I have little doubt that a company like BP would dive in with 2 feet. The "if it is obvious" leaves lots to worry about, but biofuel technology is improving all the time and the costs of extracting petroleum are going up all the time.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254702)

I don't think BP particularly cares about the public interest...

Nor do I. But the free market competitive system is supposed to ensure that companies like BP do act in the public interest. My point is that companies like BP are simply too large to experience anything like the theorized competition put forward by theorists from Adam Smith onwards. BP's caring about the public interest is irrelevant.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254796)

Are you saying that BP does not experience competition? If so, what exactly are Shell, Exxon and Lukoil?

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254820)

If that were true, BP would be setting the price for oil and oil derivatives, as would the other producers. I suppose they can do things to try to influence the price, but over medium term periods of time, they can't control it. That's all the competition that matters.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254716)

What the "greed is good" crowd seem to be missing here is that these energy companies are big. Really really big. And as a sector, the oil energy sector dwarfs all other economic sectors.

Nonsense.

Manufacturing, Heath Care, Finance, Construction, Retail are all larger than Energy.

Re:Summary is misleading (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254784)

BP isn't worried about alternative energy displacing their current core business. If alternative energy sources become economically viable, BP will be perfectly happy to supply them to the market. BP would live to be able to generate profit without having to do business in unstable regions of the world.
As for "systems that are suppose to guarantee that the private activity of corporations overlaps with the public interest", there is only one system that does that. It is called the free market. The thing that is making these large corporations increasingly able to squash/buy-out smaller entrants into the market is government regulation.
For the record, I do not believe that greed is good. I believe that greed is evil. On the other hand, any economic system that does not account for greed will be a complete failure. Greed is. Capitalism is the only system that attempts to harness that fact to promote the public good. All other economic systems fail to account for greed, or they allow those with power to exercise their greed with no negative consequences.

Re:Summary is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35255596)

What a load of shit.

Tell you what, if you think big companies are all evil and are just there to shit all over any effort that's for the good of the people then why don't you become pro-active? Stop buying anything oil based, including the computer you wrote this from. Next, go buy some of their stock and try to sway the stock holders to a new market. Oh, while you're doing this also try to make these markets more profitable then the existing model. I think we're coming right on the crest of this hill from where biofuels are more costly to produce. Who knows, you might just catch the wave in time to make it big and become the next Rockefeller.

If you aren't willing to ante up don't blame those with balls who are willing to go out in the world and make their mark. A bunch of little bitches crying that making money is evil because the public doesn't want to spend more for more environmentally friendly fuels is a fucking cop out and you know it. Aside from that being against corporations simply because they're large is also just a cop out too. If you have a problem with how the government handles corporations blame the fucking government. Society needs entities that are free to explorer the confines of government dickering to try to find a better way to make a buck. This is how progress works but many people don't see it that way because they've never done anything that resembles progress.

Own up or shut the fuck up, cunt.

Re:Summary is misleading (1, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255164)

This is not Ford buying up the Los Angeles public transport company in order to shut it down and increase the demand for cars.

"Roger Rabbit" is fantasy.

The suburban electric line was in deep financial trouble before WWI.

The operating cost of the Ford Model T was about a penny a mile. Portal-to-Portal for passengers and freight. It scarcely needed a road and could be re-purposed to do almost anything:

The Model T was (intentionally) almost as much a tractor and stationary engine as it was an automobile, that is, a vehicle dedicated solely to road use. It has always been well regarded for its all-terrain abilities and ruggedness. It could drive down a rocky, muddy farm lane, ford a shallow stream, climb a steep hill, and be parked on the other side to have one of its wheels removed and a pulley fastened to the hub for a flat belt to drive a bucksaw, thresher, silo blower, conveyor for filling corn cribs or haylofts, baler, water pump, electrical generator, and countless other applications.

Ford Model T [wikipedia.org]

BP Solar (2)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254292)

BP has been buying up solar patents for years.

Re:BP Solar (2)

shbazjinkens (776313) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254700)

BP has been buying up solar patents for years.

So what? They sell solar panels. I install them all the time.

To all the troll accusations... (2)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254330)

Seriously, isn't this the wrong time, for multiple reasons, for the U.S. to put all our research eggs in one big corporate basket?

DuPont is not BP (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254382)

DuPont is not an oil company. They are a chemical company. They have lots of patents and lots of lawyers, but DuPont has always been good at making money by advancing science and technology, not suppressing it.

Re:DuPont is not BP (2)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254476)

DuPont is not an oil company. They are a chemical company. They have lots of patents and lots of lawyers, but DuPont has always been good at making money by advancing science and technology, not suppressing it.

Oh, there's no question that a large corporation, with the resources of a Du Pont or a British Petroleum, can do both. Matter of fact, it's the companies that have large R&D investments that are most into the "suppression" business. Why do you think they file for so many patents? It's to suppress anyone and anything that might want to compete with them. Now, the patent system is intended to permit just that, but because the patent system is so broken, and because it permits so much patent abuse, more and more companies are using overbroad patents to suppress legitimate competition.

Re:DuPont is not BP (2)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255212)

DuPont is not an oil company. They are a chemical company. They have lots of patents and lots of lawyers, but DuPont has always been good at making money by advancing science and technology, not suppressing it.

Oh, there's no question that a large corporation, with the resources of a Du Pont or a British Petroleum, can do both. Matter of fact, it's the companies that have large R&D investments that are most into the "suppression" business.

I see. This explains why we are still using DuPont black powder in our muskets.

I can already predict what BP will say in 2 years (5, Insightful)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254384)

"We've looked into biobutanol, but it wasn't economically feasible to produce". Wanna bet? Know why? They are in the business of pumping oil from the ground and delivering it to your car. The infrastructure is already bought and paid for. All these alternative energy sources will NEVER be economically feasible to the big oil companies for this reason. That's precisely why you cannot leave ALL biofuel research to the oil companies.

Re:I can already predict what BP will say in 2 yea (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254402)

They are in the business of pumping oil from the ground and delivering it to your car.

What if that refined gas has 11.5% butanol in it? Then BP gets to be environmentally responsible and sell people gasoline at the same time.

Re:I can already predict what BP will say in 2 yea (2)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254546)

This depends if the margins are right or the PR gain offsets the losses in the margins. If neither is in place, I can heartily assure you that BP won't be doing it.

BP Butamax Chevron are not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35254418)

The patent system is fucked up.

Oil companies aren't suppressing anything (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35254984)

They just want to make money and don't care how it happens. If we found out tomorrow that we could get electricity by plugging 13 ampere taps into the butts of angels, Shell would simply proceed to purchase the catholic church. Biofuels look potentially profitable? Buy the patents for a trivial sum and perhaps on day, skim the profits of those companies and individuals who do the actual work of development.

Corporate feudalism is alive and well.

Not really a troll (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255466)

A patent troll is someone who owns patents and sues for infringement, but doesn't develop or market their own products.
BP and Dupont do make and sell biofuels.

BP most certainly don't want to hinder biofuel technology, it is their vested interest to promote them, as they require much of the same infrastructure that selling fossil fuels does.

Biofuels (1)

BrokenBrick (1071336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255578)

Long story short, there is not enough arable land on earth to feed 10 billion people and 10 billion internal combustion engines that run on biomass fuels. We need a radically different alternative; one I am sure big energy companies would try to squash as well

silly leftist conspiracy theories (2)

cartman (18204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255594)

The article just repeats a bunch of silly leftist conspiracy theories. These theories crop up over and over again, and tbey're refuted over and over again, but they never seem to die.

First, with regard to NIMH batteries. GM did not kill the electric car, nor did they buy nimh patents in order to bury them. GM discovered that electric cars costed $40k for a subcompact which was uncompetitive when gas costed $2 per gal.

Second, companies never buy or develop patents in order to bury them. The reason some patents never show up in products is because most patents turn out to be non-viable or difficult to commercialize at current prices. Thus the company drops the patent. Just ebcause a patent languishes doesn't mean it's a conspiracy! Any company which had monopoly rights (through patent) to some revolutionary energy source would MARKET IT. Burying the patent would be throwing away something worth hundreds of billions to them. They could ALWAYS make more from the revolutionary patent than they could from selling gasoline because they don't have a monopoly on gasoline. Of course, genuine revolutionary breakthroughs in energy are VERY RARE, which is why we still use gasoline (not conspiracy!).

With regard to the "patent trolling" allegation. The linked article says that this is the first patent lawsuit over biofuels from big oil EVER. That is not patent trolling. Also, the patent appears to be very narrow, precise, and un-obvious. Maybe it's a valid patent that was a product of their research. The orig poster provided no evidence for his claim that it was trolling.

Won't be big oil. (1)

OFnow (1098151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35255676)

It is unlikely that any big oil company will produce a good alternative fuel. So using patents like this will likely have exactly the effect of suppressing change. In all likelihood.

Aside from the rather meager investments by big oil, the real problem is exposed in the famous book "The Innovator's Dilemma": workers for big oil necessarily are neither hungry enough nor focused enough to overcome all the obstacles in a reasonable timeframe.

Only an independent small focused company whose people desperately need to succeed will get the job done. And big oil will necessarily try to protect big oil's efforts and suppress independents. No need to attribute actions to the NIMH effect here, it is just normal corporate CYA behavior. Unfortunately the results of CYA (such as patent suits) hurt all of us.

Arguably the company finding a good solution is probably going to need the help of big oil or someone really big to get to the necessary scale. So the oil companies should arrange to get out of the way for now and then help grow the resulting business.

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