so much for biofuels....

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by Honeychrome, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. Honeychrome

    Honeychrome Junior Member

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  2. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Bio-fuel and elephant poo

    I have been told that ethanol from Oz sugar cane is a better deal than subsidised corn from the USA
    There is a bit on biofuels here (mostly anti?)
    https://forums.hypography.com/general-sc ... post175936
    But this article is about a huge digester they are making in Germany.
    It would be unlike the Germans to do something stupid.
    You would think they would have researched it to the nines before investing this much money in it

    They are already the world leaders in Solar-panel production

    German friends say even right-wing Germans now vote for the Green Party as they are so upset by the pollution and industrial degradation of the German countryside.

    More here
    https://www.spiegel.de/international/wor ... 22,00.html

    I read a funny foot-note to this the other day. A cellulose digesting bacteria has been found. This is a break-though as cellulose is hard to turn into alcohol
    Guess where they found the bacteria?
    Elephant Poo.
    I chuckled, reminds me of the hero in "The Gods Must be Crazy " film.(in my Top 10 of all time funniest movies)
    So there are people out there actually poking Elephant poo. Thank God.
    So are elephants happy beacuause the are p inebriated?
    We better check koala poo if that is the case.! :lol:
     
  3. christopher

    christopher Junior Member

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    Brazil makes a lot of "gasoline" from sugar cane, and it gives a much better return than corn, which is a subsidized welfare check for farmers in the US, who all love "bio fuels".
     
  4. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Chevron and Texas A&M create alliance to develop cellulo

    A good thing?
    A bad thing?
    What do you reckon?

    A lot of Big Oil Companies getting into bed with each other these days.
     
  5. ejanea

    ejanea Junior Member

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    I still think that we have to use less of all kinds of energy, whatever the source.
    Reduce, conserve and adapt otherwise we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as they say.
     
  6. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    the deck chairs on the Titanic,

    After reading Tim Flannery's "The Weather Makers", maybe I should just buy some more chairs to play with? (And hire a few musicians to play?)
     
  7. spritegal

    spritegal Junior Member

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    what worries me is the amount of landclearing needed to mass plant these biofuel supplies.

    Sugar cane for example won't grow in most of Australia owing to its water needs. Nine tenths of Australia is arid or semi arid. I can't realistically see how Australia can turn to water hungry biofuels as a viable option. Other countries might be in a better position but they are more likely to be in equatorial areas, and these are the areas under greatest ecological pressure due to landclearing at the moment - its critical that the remaining forests in equatorial areas are preserved as their tree species serve as the greatest carbon sinks on the planet (the ones in other latitudes are slower growing). One tropical tree equates to many eucalypts.
     
  8. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Agreed about the land clearing;especially in tropical areas.
    Recent Chinese research has suggested that temperate forests might be bigger carbon sinks than first thought.
    The Uni of Western Sydney has a research project going on this now.

    Maybe we need to be more creative about plant selection for arid areas.
    Saltbush, for example can also be use to help revive salty soil and is a good insurance plant for stock for bad years. ABC Radio had a programme on it recently.
    Also things like gopher weed might also be grown.

    Big agriculture is not buying up farms in Oz for nothing.
    They know the future is in farming.
    Meanwhile a farmer in Oz takes his life every four days.

    See also this thread
    https://forums.hypography.com/terra-pret ... +bio+fuels
     
  9. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    Basically, it depends on how much fuel we consume. This varies a lot according to lifestyle. The USA consumes 24 barrels of oil per person annually, Australia 15, and Cuba 3. About 2 of those Cubans' 3 barrels goes to electricity production, if they were to switch to solar, wind and other forms, it'd be just 1 barrel of oil they'd have to find for each person annually.

    Could we produce enough biofuel for the equivalent of a barrel each annually? Well, a barrel is 110lt, more or less, which takes 300kg of grain, or 110kg of sugar. World grain production per person is,
    * wheat, 90kg per person per year
    * milled rice, 63kg per person per year
    * corn, 106kg per person per year
    * coarse grains (barley, oats, etc), 148kg per person per year

    World sugar production is about 23kg per person annually.

    Of course there are potatoes and carrots and other things which everyone eats, but those are all pretty small in world production compared to the grains, being some few kg per person a year each. So if we're looking at turning fruit and vegetable and grains into ethanol, basically the grains - that 407kg of all types together - are it.

    As an aside, we can take the current world grain production as basically a maximum. The current level is achieved with huge amounts of artificial fertiliser, pesticides and so on - that is, with oil. As the oil runs short, that artificial stuff will run short, too, and so grain production will drop. Also across the world water tables are dropping, and climate change means that wet areas are getting wetter, and dry areas drier. So basically we're at peak grain right now. We might by strenuous efforts boost it a bit, but we're not likely to double or triple it. In any case, a prudent public policy is one which plans on what we have right now, not what we might have with some untested technology in the future.

    Okay, so the wheat, rice and corn together make up 259kg of grains - distributed evenly around the world) which together would give each person 2,500 kcal and 70g of protein a day; an adult doing manual labour requires 2,000 kcal and about 35g of protein a day; a relatively sedentary one working in a service industry, 1,500kcal and 25g of protein daily. So, speaking purely theoretically, we could divert the coarse grains, or their equivalent in regular grains, to fuel production, and get the equivalent of half a barrel of oil per person annually.

    Already we feed 1/3 the wheat and 2/3 the corn to livestock, and then consume livestock's meat, milk and eggs, leaving us with 158kg of grains per person, So for example in Australia we consume about 110kg of meat per person annually; whereas in some place like Ghana it's more like 4kg. Still, even with this diversion of grains to livestock, there's 1,500kcal and 50g of protein per person per day. That's enough for everyone.

    So if we decided that (say) 50 or 10kg a year of meat was enough, then we could take some of that livestock-diverted grain and put it in biofuel processors, and with a bit of a supplement from some other sources, push it up to just over a barrel of oil equivalent, per person annually.

    A single barrel of fuel for each human being on the planet, a year. Enough?

    Looking at these things, what we get is that there are three basic things for humans in the world: grains, meat/dairy and fuel. If we run short or out of oil, the grains basically produce for us the second two. If we want fuel, we have to give up some meat, and if we want meat, we have to give up some fuel. If we manage to balance the two well, then we can live like Cubans. If we fuck it up, we live like Ghanans. If we go to war to make sure of our oil supply, we can keep living like Americans or Australians for another couple of generations; if we start turning coal into oil, or using the last of our clean water to turn tar sands into oil we'll get another generation or two just like we've got now, then we face the same balancing act again after that.

    So, biofuels are very much a viable alternative, but only if we greatly reduce our consumption of fuels. We'll never produce enough biofuels to have an American-style 24 a year, or an Australian-style 15 a year. But we can probably manage a Cuban-style single barrel a year of fuel going into transport.
     
  10. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    I have gone through and done some calculations and some discussion about ethanol production, on my blog here. It reinforces what I said above - the best we're likely to do is a barrel of oil equivalent each annually; this compares with the current consumption of 25 for the USA, 16 for Australia, 7 for Cuba and so on.

    Ethanol can be part of the solution, but not all of it. We'l be reducing our energy consumption quite a bit... Not to disastrous, starvation-freezing levels, but it's gong to be quite a change. But then, so was the Industrial Revolution.
     
  11. Honeychrome

    Honeychrome Junior Member

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    Ah, but JimBob, you are forgetting about 'human ingenuity' and the 'technological innovations and advancements' that are SURE to solve the problem- when it gets expensive enough the magic of the free market will fix everything! Oh ye of little faith!

    I'm kidding, of course. Your last couple of posts lays it out quite well.
     
  12. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    I think it would be lovely if some brilliant new technology appeared. But those who say the market will cause the invention of new things don't understand how the market works.

    The market - "demand" - encourages improvements to existing technology, it does not encourage new technology.

    So for example, when horse riding was invented, people invented saddles and stirrups as a result of the demand for horse-riding. When the locomotive was invented, people invented double and triple expansion engines to use the steam more efficiently and get more movement out of the thing. But people did not invent steam engines because they were running out of horses. They invented steam engines, and then looked for things they could use them on.

    Likewise, we may find ways to use our current energy sources - whether fossil fuel or ethanol - more efficiently, but it's not certain we'll invent new energy sources. Of course we should hope that we will, but we should not plan on the basis of our hopes. A man does not jump off the side of a building in the expectation that by the time he hits the ground he'll have invented how to fly. First he invents a flying machine, and only then does he jump. While flying it, he figures out how to fly it well.

    What those with faith in Science! often forget is that the world has physical limits. You cannot get more than 1lt of ethanol from 3kg of grain, simply because the grain only has so many carbohydrates in it. It's like trying to tie both shoes with one shoelace. You can't do it.

    Likewise, with mining uranium and such. Below a certain richness of ore, it'll use more energy to get it out of the ground, refine and process it, than you'll ever get out of it in a nuclear reactor. That's just a law of nature - you can't get out more than you put in.

    In any case, it's silly to go for energy from finite sources when we have energy coming from infinite sources. It'd be like, say, building a desalination plant here in Victoria to make seawater into fresh water when we already have fresh water falling from the sky, we just have to collect it in rainwater tanks.

    Oh wait, we're doing that, too... :(
     
  13. bovine_blue

    bovine_blue Junior Member

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    Not to mention that the market is reactive rather than proactive. The market won't do anything until it's too late.
     
  14. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Re: so much for biofuels....

    Rainforest Fungus Naturally Synthesizes Diesel
    [​IMG]
    https://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008 ... -fung.html
     

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