27 April 2008

Don't Be Stuck on Stupid! Stop Blaming Biofuels

Biomass to liquid fuels (BTL) is a promising approach to weaning modern societies off of petroleum. As we learn to make transportation fuels from biomass and other non-food feedstocks, it is important not to kill the infant market while it is still in the cradle. Don't be stuck on stupid. 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels and biomass offers one way out of our petroleum trap.
Biofuels already make up about 50 per cent of the extra fuel coming to the market from sources outside the Opec’s oil cartel this year. This explains why fears of a retreat from biofuels this week helped drive oil prices to record levels.

William Ramsey, deputy executive director at the IEA, said: “If we didn’t have those barrels, I am not sure where we would be getting those half a million barrels [from],” adding that Opec has said it would not raise supply.

The warning comes as the backlash from rocketing food prices has increased pressure on the European Union and the US to review their support of fuel made from crops.

The views of the IEA carry significant weight in Europe and the US and policymakers have warned that the debate about biofuels should take into account its implications for energy markets and climate change. The issue has been put on the agenda for the next G8 summit in July. __FT
Advanced biofuels are the nearest term solution to ever higher energy prices. If you kill that chance, you have doomed yourself foolishly well.

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3 Comments:

Blogger CarlBrannen said...

The bad press from the right wing didn't surprise me, it was the left wing that confused. I eventually realized that what's going on is that the government's "Conservation Reserve Program", where farmers are paid to not use their land. Enrollments are down 20% for 2007.

It's basically about 40 million acres. Suppose it's planted in corn every other year alternating with soybean. At maybe 160 gallons of fuel per acre per year, that's around 6.4 billion gallons per year; around 20 gallons per person in the country per year.

Or to put it in the context of starving multitudes, and guessing 100 bushels 5500 pounds = 2.5 tons production per year, 40 million acres makes 110 million tons, which is enough to feed about 110 million people for a year, or give the whole world's population food for a week.

Sunday, 27 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting.

The unplanted 40 million acres is just a small portion of the land in North America that could be farmed if needed.

Eventually, though, corn to ethanol is not going to be viable, economically. The competition from other, cheaper feedstocks will easily undercut prices for corn ethanol within 5 years or so.

Imagine if the algae people actually could get 100,000 gallons of oil per acre? Take that 40 million acres and use it for algal oil, you get 4 trillion gallons of oil. I wonder if that would make a dent in the oil market?

Monday, 28 April, 2008  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

I agree, ethanol from corn is doomed, but so is all modern technology. We're planning on switching to cellulosic.

What I'd really like to see would be a genetically modified yeast that would make the enzyme that splits cellulose into sugar. That would be a complete solution to the cellulosic problem (as the alcohol produced by the yeast will suppress other bugs), but I don't know if it is chemically possible. Maybe the enzyme requires an environment without ethanol.

Monday, 28 April, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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