16 March 2007

No More Global Warming???US Transportation Fuel Needs Can Be Met by New Biofuel Process

A new process of making renewable biofuel from plant and crop waste promises to displace fossil fuels from the gas tanks of trains, planes, and automobiles--and other forms of transportation.
The process, which would make possible the dawning of a "hydrogen-carbon economy," is detailed in a research paper appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper was written by Agrawal, chemical engineering doctoral student Navneet R. Singh, and chemical engineering professors Fabio H. Ribeiro and W. Nicholas Delgass.

...In the H2CAR concept, hydrogen would be harvested by splitting water molecules, possibly with a well-known method called electrolysis. Then the hydrogen would be added during the gasification step, making the process more efficient by suppressing the formation of carbon dioxide and converting all of the carbon atoms to fuel.

When conventional methods are used to convert biomass or coal to liquid fuels, 60 percent to 70 percent of the carbon atoms in the starting materials are lost in the process as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, whereas no carbon atoms would be lost using H2CAR, Agrawal said.

"This waste is due to the fact that you are using energy contained in the biomass to drive the entire process," he said. "I'm saying, treat biomass predominantly as a supplier of carbon atoms, not as an energy source."

Power for the electrolysis would be provided by carbon-free energy sources, such as solar, wind or nuclear power. And, unlike conventional methods of producing liquid fuels from plant matter and coal, H2CAR would not emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The planet Earth is indeed a large spaceship, with its own global life support system. It is time that humans learned to use renewable sources of fuel and chemical feedstock.

Although more informed persons understand that the "crisis" of CO2 driven global warming is vastly overblown, using readily available biowaste for fuel would be a strong move toward domestic renewable sources of energy. Sustainability in the form of renewable and recyclable resources makes sense above and beyond any concocted "scare stories" about a climate apocalypse.

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