The ongoing backlash against biofuels continues to gather pace, with news out of Brussels that the European Union may postpone or even drop plans for biosource quotas in motor fuel. The Guardian reported this weekend that officials in the European Commission are getting ready to backtrack on plans for ten per cent biofuel to be …
Way to go... next steps...
Ban coal burning...
Drop farmining subsidies so that farmers actually start doing farming things and become competitive...(you know like new zealand did ages ago)
"intensively farmed crops draw carbon from artificial fertilisers,"
Incorrect. Fertilisers are sources of, primarily, Nitrogen and Phosphates. Never Carbon. Plants fix Carbon from Carbob Dioxide. Any Carbon entering the plant via the roots, from the soil, is negligible.
I agree that Biofuels are taking food out of the food chain but this argument, if it is not being misquoted, doesn't hold water.
Someone's finally realised that using foodstuff to make fuel may *just possibly* have an impact on how much food is left to eat.
Considering that the average car gets through a heck of a lot more mass in fuel than the average person does in food, 10% ethanol probably equates to much more than 10% of the grain crop...
Mine's the one with the corn circle diagram on the back.
Would be a necessary pre-requisite for making bio fuels affordable. At the moment, unless biofuels are getting more dosh for the farmer than they get in subsidy from the EU CAP for leaving it fallow, they will not produce the crops. So the CAP puts a minimum cost of biofuel.
Eureka! Common sense at last...
Thank god that someone is finally questioning the hype around biofuels and examining the TOTAL carbon footprint of biofuel production and use, rather than just looking at car emissions.
Now, when will the same level of scrutiny be applied to the overall carbon footprint of producing and finally disposing of hybrid cars, with all the heavy metals in their batteries? Exhaust emissions are only a tiny proportion of the overall cost of a vehicle during its lifetime, manufacture and disposal are much more polluting!
carbon/artificial fertiliser @davcefai
Carbon delivered to crops by fertiliser >= 0 yes.
C02 used in producing said fertilisers, transporting them and spreading them on the fields - by no means insubstantial...
You might want to look at how the fertilisers are made though:-
Hydrogen from methane and nitrogen split from the air using large amounts of power..
The issue is NOT the chemical composition of the Fertiliser but the considerable amount of energy needed to make it. Which is partly why fertilisers are a popular bomb ingredient!
Read up on how fertiliser is made. In some cases the carbon footprint of biofuel could be worse than doing nothing!
The fuel transporting ingredients to factory
Fuel / power to make Fertiliser
Fertiliser to farm
Machinery on Farm
Transporting crop to factory
Processing crop in factory..
Only using waste organic matter (banana plant, maize stalks, wheat straw etc) to make fuel makes sense (no impact on food production or fertiliser carbon cost). Sadly no-one can do that at commercial scale or cheaper than the most expensive oil, even with free biomass.
I took that sentence to mean the production of chemical fertilizers is itself carbon intensive and therefore needs to count against the car emissions.
This of course is another huge problem with figuring out your "carbon footprint": where do you start the count and where do you stop it. Is it sufficient to count only to the fertilizer plant, or do you need to count back further yet, to the manufacture of the trucks that transport the raw materials to the manufacturer? or...
Heard of peak oil?
It will all be irrelevant when oil runs out. What are you going to do then? We're approaching peak oil now.
Second generation biofuels are starting to be made out of waste products rather than specifically grown crops. If the processing plants are run off something like hydro power (like all mills used to be) also I suspect the carbon footprint will be lower again.
Also one reason America is pushing so strongly towards biofuels has nothing to do with environmental reasons, it's too lessen their reliance on places like Iraq and Saudi Arabia for oil.
If anyone had thought to do a study of the impact this (biofuels) would have on the human population (as in 'food costs') rather than just the technical aspects then we wouldn't have seen any of this nonsense about using food to fuel cars etc.
Is the biofuels issue evidence that we should add environmental techies to the list of the dim-witted tunnel-vision crowd right up there with politicians?
Can we have a geek-with-horns icon?
ANY alternative source of energy, we've jumped in feet first and discovered that the waters are, in fact, shark infested!
You CANNOT use arible land that's currently/should be being used for food production to produce fuel. It's a no-brainer.
IF, and I say IF we CAN grow fuel viably and sustainably, it has to be done where no food will grow. I'm thinking algae farming, either in the desert regions, in pipes; or a similar arrangement, floating on the ocean.
There will, however, as with all things, be consequences for the 'natural habitat' sacrificed for these algae farms, but you can either kill a few (more) snakes & scorpions or forget about biofuel.
Or have YOU got a better idea? Anyone?
@Heard of peak oil?
All this kerfuffle about climate change is really a smokescreen. Governments don’t really give a toss about that as most of the effects are downwind of their terms. The real question is security of supplies in an energy crunch, but that is a looming disaster that they have no answers for, so they can’t admit there’s a problem in public anyway (well the only answers they probably have are along the lines of: “I’m all right Jack”).
So they fiddle around under the guise of climate change and we all sail merrily closer to a brick wall.
Alternative and readily available fuel source.....
Hmmm....a readily available source biological waste....
The ASBO-powered car - kills two problems with one go.
Bio-diesel and bio-petrol are, as I understand it, made from different ingredients. I also understand that the US insists on using corn whereas most of the rest of the world uses sugar. I've also been told that using corn is very inefficient compared to sugar.
Unfortunately I've never read a report that seems to understand and compare the different approaches and the different fuels. Instead they just say bio-fuel is good/bad.
I've heard by word of mouth that bio-diesel from things like rape seed is acutally quite effective.
Anyone read a good report on this?
Is that the same dim witted tunnel vision that sees us trying to get the absolute maximum number of people on the planet as is physically possible even if it means us all starving to death when the oil finally runs out?
The dim witted tunnel vision that families already living on aid supplies yet think it's sensible to have another 15 kids have?
The bottom line here is that there actually is already more people on the planet than the planet can sustain, there's only one way down from here.
>where no food will grow. I'm thinking algae farming,
>either in the desert regions, in pipes; or a similar arrangement,
If we could do that, then we could grow food there.
>floating on the ocean.
Food grows in ocean.
@BoldMan - recycling batteries
The NiMH batteries used in the Prius are designed to be recycled, not built from scratch. In the US, dealers are paid $200 to recycle Prius batteries. Also, the problem of toxic metals is still the case with the lead acid batteries in normal cars - a very high proportion of which are recycled (Lead being one of the most commonly recycled metals besides copper and aluminium).
However, I've heard that the energy consumption of the American food industry went from about 1 calorie of petro-energy to produce 2600 calories of food energy to 1 calorie of petro-energy to produce 1 calorie of fuel energy.
So we could save billions of barrels of oil by NOT using fertilisers, NOT transporting food hundreds of miles for processing, NOT sending food refrigerated so it can be sent further or even overseas.
EU Farms not lobbying for ethanol!
Please note that it is the processing industries, e.g. sugar, who have lobbied for ethanol quotas NOT farmers!
And don't blame farmers for the high prices, we're fined if we crop all our land! because of the EU's mad Common Agricultural Policy (madCAP tm)
The sooner politicians get out of detailed agricultural policy the better!
An arable farmer
@if the whole transport industry could switch to using nothing but ethanol ...
...when the moon is made of green cheese and the cow jumped over it !!
@dervheid - Yes, stop idiots driving 100 yards in a Chelsea tractor to fetch the papers !! Or slap a massive ( and I mean a REALLY MASSIVE) tax on Chelsea tractors within any urban areas !!
@Alternative and readily available fuel source..... Unfortunately the pollutants inherent in the ASBO supply are even worse that of fossil fuel. Consider, if you will, the junk food consumed in the production of that supply !! OTOH bring back chariots !! A six ASBOpower chariot will do nicely for urban areas !! Acceleration and course can be controlled by the proximity of a dangled Big Mac !! Pearl handled whips are optional extras !!
@Heard of peak oil?
Heard of the massive new strike off the coast of Brazil? Third largest field in the world, I hear, and that's just the start. There are predicted oil reserves off most of south america and under the south atlantic that have yet to be tested because the technology to drill that deep under water was only recently perfected. New technologies are also allowing previously ignored 'less than idea' fields to be re-assessed for production.
The high price of crude is partly due to Chavez and other oil producers being tits and - mainly - increased demand from India, China and other emerging economies. If peak oil were the sole cause of rising prices we wouldn't see the current massive, demand-driven rise in primary commodities like cobalt, aluminium, iron and copper, caused by the same growing economies.
Sure, we'll run out of oil one day, but not *just* yet.
<-- not angry, just flaring off excess gas... :)
@Heard of peak oil?
Yes. It has estimated recoverable reserves of 10, 000 million barrels of oil, and probably won't be into commercial production for another 10 years.
Which at our current rate of consumption of some 80m per day, will last 125 days. So even if the total reserve of 30bn barrels is sucked dry, it'll last just about a year.
And the high price of oil is being sustained by tiny facts like the production of the Mexican Canterell field dropping by 10% per year.
Mexican Canterell field dropping by 10%
North Sea is back to '79 levels as well.
Not enough food...
... due to using crops as fuel?
Well there are +6.5 billion people on the planet:
Soylent Green may now be a viable alternative to corn.
> The high price of crude is partly due to...
+1 for being up to date. -2 for the neoCon Chavez line. Heard of futures and options?
Biodiesel from tropical forests
What really incenses me - after a lifetime of never buying tropical hardwoods - is that the biodiesel now running 1/40th of my car is quite likely sourced from palm oil grown on devasted Indonesian rainforest.
I'm all for local, sustainable biomass, but this whole biofuel malarky is an attempted (and royally failed) attempt to look like Government is doing something while assiduously avoiding fixing the real problem, which is the appalling inefficiency of vehicles and our transport systems in general.
Paris because she has about as strong a gasp of market economics and unintended consequences as the Powers That Be.
What? Peak Oil? Is that oil is that comes from the top of a mountain? Because certainly you can't be talking about there not being enough oil to supply demand.
The idea (myth) that we are running out of oil is almost as old as the idea (myth) that we are running out of coal. In the 1800's everyone was afraid of running out of coal (Jules Verne even writes about it in several of his stories), but guess what, they found more coal and created new technologies to use previously unusable coal and we're still doing fine.
While I guess I'm a bit of a greenie myself it is important to note that I'm also fairly pragmatic. We have plenty of oil and will continue to have oil for a long time. Don't be afraid and don't use (buy into) scare tactics to get people to change their habits. Everyone is much better off coming with the facts, and the truth - not emotional vomit.
carbon footprint studies for bio-diesels?
A commercial bio-diesel plant just opened near family and so its caught my attention. They use the waste from the neighboring pork processing plant to produce bio-diesel and glycerin as the major byproduct which is used as a food supplement for the pigs. The community seems to love it due to the huge reduction in solid waste coming out of the pork plant. Ive been unable to locate any studies regarding the carbon cost of producing such a fuel or emissions when burned, though and was wondering if anyone has seen any study results for this.
Well I don't know what you would call taking one of the most productive and efficient oil companies in South America and running it into the ground if not "being a tit"...
Futures are based on a lot of factors, not least being predicted future productivity. When a producer suddenly starts to drive its productivity down, as Venezuela is doing right now, it will cause the futures market to react by putting up the price of oil, expecting scarcity in the future.
Biofuel does not take away from the food supply. Not when they have to destroy millions of tons of tomatos, potatos ,milk and more to keep the prices up...
There is more then enough stuff being produced but only part of it is actually sold.... stop subsidizing agriculture. have them work a bit ...
Everyone forgets that peak oil is actually a function of oil price - the more oil costs, the more fields become economic to extract oil from. Most of the reserves out there never get more than 30-40% of their oil pumped out since at some point it will cost more to take the stuff out than it's worth.
But oil companies don't forget where those 60% full reservoirs are, and people do make the technology to get significantly more oil out of the ground.
Part of the problem with the whole situation is that big oil companies are buisnesses, and to get people to invest, they need assets. The singular important asset for an oil company is oil in the ground - once they sell it they're down in assets. So oil companies are highly motivated not to sell anyone oil.
And yes, there have been scares about oil running out since forever ago. In the 70's everyone thought that there would be no more oil by this century... and they were wrong. I suspect that the current predictions are getting more attention because they help the whole 'green' movement PR.
Also keep in mind that most fertilizer comes from natrual gas, so if that were to run out, our bio fuels would be done for. Hows about some fusion, eh?
@ Commenters on my comment
My comment meant precisely what it said and and was about precisely what I quoted.
We're talking about Science and therefore precision counts. We already have an emotional, totally screwed up situation with Global Warming (or is it cooling, or possibly isothermia?) because a lot of people and politicians have embraced the concept without knowing - or caring about - the science thereof.
In the case of Biofuels we have a chance for rational debate now that the politicians and the "fuzzy feelers" have been (temporarily?) derailed.
In fact we have a chance for rational debate about energy in general, and I include battery power in this. maybe those people driving Priuses will understand that they are polluting a hell of a lot more that the marketing bods have misled them into thinking.
The fire icon 'cos I feel strongly about this,
Small carbon footprint?
Do your patriotic duty, go and by a carbon debit at http://www.carboncreditkillers.com
"Is that the same dim witted tunnel vision that sees us trying to get the absolute maximum number of people on the planet as is physically possible even if..." blah blah blah.
Those people are here now and it would be nice for them to be able to buy food.
Stick to the point rather than ranting about a different problem. Or are you in fact staying on topic and saying we may as well divert food production to fuel production and let them starve (or at least struggle a bit more) because you disapprove of, well, humans in general, and poor third world folks with lots of children in particular, as I suspect is the case?
You might want to look into the reasons poor third world families tend to have more children than families in affluent countries.
Problems are always presented as impending doom scenarios. It's the way affluent westerners give themselves an emotional thrill ride.
Poor JonB. Those with no faith in human inventiveness will always see a dark future... and, well, it is so much more emotionally intense isn't it? How are you going to feel significant if you're just one more person getting on with the job?
@Ishkandar - ASBO powered chariot
Stunning idea! Have to pass on the whip option (no doubt for much improved acceleration) though - would get too many dodgy questions about the over developed right arm....
All the carbon in a pig comes from whatever it ate. Chances are this was mainly plants or short-lived animals, so that carbon was almost certainly in CO2 in the atmosphere within the last three years. Of course you have to add in the CO2 emitted in the course of raising the pig and greenhouse gas emissions due to the pig's digestive system.
Fuel made out of pork derivatives is an interesting one ..... pigs are cuter, cuddlier and died much more recently than dinosaurs, so I can't really see the animal rights people being keen on this. Nor the religious funda-mental-ist types whose holy books regard pigs as unclean.
Also, what parts of a pig are there that you can render into fuel but you can't eat? Whatever the sausage-maker leaves behind, the paté-maker will gladly accept!
The elephant in this room
is that growing hemp for oil and turning it into fuel would be MUCH more efficient: no fertilizer, insecticide or herbicide needed, several crops a year, grows anywhere - it's a weed after all - and as a byproduct we would get fibers for fabrics and paper.
But we could never have that, 'cos god forbid, someone might get high.
Nuclar Powered Cars!
Ok so that may mean some hi-tec capacitor / battery combo with extra juice from say hydrogen a bit like a hybrid of those three technologies. I don't really care as long as its produced from a secure source like nuclear power or something which is better than ruskie gas or middle eastern oil. Oh yeah save the environment as well yada, green yada.
Use it or lose it..
Look as any good right wing fundamentalist knows, Armageddon and The Rapture are fast approaching, so all this talking about climate change wiping us off the planet is hocus pocus nonsense.
Use it or lose it is the order of the day and we'll start with oil.
There, I've just summed up the current Administration's environmental and global warming policies in two sentences.
Thing is, some of you think I'm joking. Are you suitably scared yet? Because they actually do believe this stuff, along with the notion that Heaven is really the ultimate good ol' boys club. Only the suitably rich will gain admittance, your staff may be allowed in through the service entrance, but not if they do shoddy work or belong to a union.
Flames because the world will soon be engulfed in them, one way or another. ;)
Rob Newman's History Of Oil...
just google it. It's on You Tube. Better still, buy it from his site.
Let your mission statement be 'Bringing democracy to the Middle East'.
I smell a rasniolation
"anyway it probably could no longer be met"
looks to me as is somboady is thinking "o dam we will not be able to do what we said we could do lets pull out for a diffrent reasion"
Lets not kill a new industry, biofuel vs food too simple.
The biofuel vs shortage of food is an over simplification. If we kill the industry now we risk losing a future source of fuel. Lots of research and increased efficiencies, alternative sources will be lost. To stop biofuel production is an extreme reaction, need a comprimise and some pragmatism. Some biologival sources are better sources of biofuel than others, do not criticise them all, see summary.
US - uses corn: Not good, which is a food.
UK - uses sugarbeat, good for fuel/ethanol, not a direct food.
Sweden - uses, wood chisp, good for ethanol/diesel production.
Brazil - uses sugarcane, good for ethanol not a direct food.
So we cannot paint every producer with the same brush, I like the UK and Swedish sources of biodfuel, then Brazil and lastly the US source.
Lots of land is set aside, it is the EU CAP that distorts all agriculture in Europe. We have never been able to solve the Common Agricultural Policy problems in Europe.
As Jeremy explains above "A commercial bio-diesel plant just opened near family and so its caught my attention. They use the waste from the neighboring pork processing plant to produce bio-diesel and glycerin as the major byproduct which is used as a food supplement for the pigs. The community seems to love it due to the huge reduction in solid waste coming out of the pork plant. Ive been unable to locate any studies regarding the carbon cost of producing such a fuel or emissions when burned, though and was wondering if anyone has seen any study results for this."
We should use waste products and non foodstuffs to make fuels, look at Sweden and the UK. There may be other good examples that I have missed.
>Those people are here now and it would be nice for them to be able to buy food.
Yes, but we should also consider that there'll be twice as many of them in a few years and maybe we should also do something about that.
It would be nice to get them healthcare (I know, I know, even US'ers don't get that).
Clean water, an education in fact all the things in the UN Human Rights thingy. It would be a lot easier if there were a lot less of them.
>Divert food production to fuel production and let them starve
a) It will improve agriculture production in those countries that are well suited to agriculture creating wealth there.
b) They'll starve anyway when the population grows to an unsustainable point and periodic drought hits, war in the middle east will push fuel to truly massive heights or global warming will actually happen and the whole place becomes a dust bowl.
>poor third world folks
Nope, no problem, you're the one who wants them trapped in eternal poverty.
>folks with lots of children
Yes, because there's too many people and it's time you stopped breeding.
>You might want to look into the reasons poor third world families tend to have
> more children than families in affluent countries.
As a social services net, but that would be easier to provide if there weren't so many of them.
>Problems are always presented as impending doom scenarios. It's the
>way affluent westerners give themselves an emotional thrill ride.
Yes, and they can pretend that by dumping food aid on the third world that they're making everything better over there and feel good about themselves.
>Those with no faith in human inventiveness will always see a dark future...
"Is the biofuels issue evidence that we should add environmental techies to the list of the dim-witted tunnel-vision crowd right up there with politicians?"
You were saying?
BTW The actual strain on food resources is because (most) Indians and Chinese no longer qualify as 3rd world, they're more like 2.5 and in some cases a definite 1st. The increase in wealth has meant they no longer have to live on the bread line or on your hand outs and so they buy more food because they want it, pushing up prices. It's capitalism that's lifted their standard of living not a command economy (Yes, especially China).
Price hikes not linked to biofuels.
I have not seen a single scientific study showing any link between the growth in biofules and the rise in food prices. The food price rises in the thrid world seem to be due to a number of economic drivers, but the biofuel just isn't one of them. Not enough palm oil plantations have been planted in the Far East to even cause a dent in local production, and the Brazillian sugarcane crop has not grown massively either (it's been growing slowly at the same rate for years). So, this is just more smoke being blown by people upset that the Big Bad Oil Industry (tm) hasn't curled up and died yet.
As for Evo Morales, well-known friend of Chaves and Ahmenijahd, I wonder what his motives could be for bleating against biofuels over good old oil, especially when Bolivia has roughly ZERO biofuel crop production....
Here's a neat idea - make all the EU biofuel from the massive (we're talking hundreds of millions) of tons of excess cereals production in the EU (we could even use the winelakes too!), then we actually get something back for all the CAP waste AND will not effect third world crops! Do any of the current crop of EU politicians have the cahones, though?
Non CO2/Energy fertiliser
A lot of fertiliser is generated with no CO2 or energy input. This is by the traditional use of crop rotation with legumes which have nodules that generate Nitrogen via bacteria in root nodules (rhizobia and their ilk)
My missus is in the business of breeding better bugs to make nitrogen fixation more efficient over a wider range of soil types and harvesting cycles. At present this is by use of legumes, but the research is to make this happen directly on the 'money crops' without needing a legume crop intermediary.
In practical terms today, unless the farmers have totally abandoned crop rotation, a lot of fertiliser will be generated by legume crops without CO2 or energy input.
@JonB - 'Evil Techie' Still Stands
So basically your idea is that they are probably going to starve anyway so let them get on with it? Great thought, JonB, very innovative. Somewhat like crumpling and pitching a piece of paper on which you've written down an idea which hasn't worked out. Trouble is, people aren't bits of paper.
"The increase in wealth has meant they no longer have to live on the bread line or on your hand outs and so they buy more food because they want it, pushing up prices. It's capitalism that's lifted their standard of living not a command economy (Yes, especially China)."
You noticed that, did you? Strange that you can't imagine it happening anywhere else other than where it has already happened.
I repeat: "Those with no faith in human inventiveness will always see a dark future..." and I'd say your visionary slaughterhouse approach qualifies ("They'll starve anyway when the population grows to an unsustainable point and periodic drought hits, war in the middle east will push fuel to truly massive heights or global warming will actually happen and the whole place becomes a dust bowl.)
Strange that when you suggest to someone that they lack faith in human inventiveness they reply by listing the most trite of the doom-laden futurist's views.
Really, Jon, have some faith in your fellow human beings. Progress is often a slow process but slow isn't a synonym for impossible.
And we are an inventive bunch and that is what progress is, isn't it? The application of inventiveness?
We really don't have the option of starting over - that's what all the back-to-nature and/or reduce-the-surplus-population is all about. We have to work with what we have. Fanfare of trumpets here and breeze blowing through the hair that I used to have as I gaze into the future: I believe we are inventive enough that we can expect a better future. - for everyone.
The bumps along the way come from the application of solutions without regard for their wider effects or even attempting to envision those effects -the (unintentionally evil) techie approach. Perhaps we need an 'evil techie' award along the lines of the Darwin awards. Think of it as a feedback mechanism to try to minimise the bumps.
That is all... now carry on... Rah! Rah! Rah! Ah I love the feel of that breeze blowing through the memory of my hair.
@Peak Oil/Solomon Grundy
O dear oh dear. Merely shouting 'myth' doesn't make it so. And because thigs were so in the past does not mean that things will remain so in the future.
No, we are not going to run out of oil in my lifetime. But the rate of discovery of new reserves versus the rate of consumption is well documented. Better men than me (and I suspect you) have pored over these trajectories and have estimated a peaking of production (that is the peak in peak oil, not the taps running dry) within the next 20 years.
Yes there will be new discoveries, but the oil industry itself has concluded that all major discoveries have been made. As was pointed out above, the new Brazilian find will not come onstream for around 10 years.
Other deep water finds will also be made, but their output is even further in the future.
And while you can always hope the some new technology will save us, what do we do if the most economical alternative to motorised transport is the horse and cart?
>So basically your idea is that they are probably going to starve
>anyway so let them get on with it?
Better now than when there are twice as many. The problem isn't biofuel though, by saying "oh look no-one can afford food because of the biofuel", isn't going to fix it because biofuel isn't the big new consumer of food that these articles portray it as.
Whilst I like your call for a kind of super focus group to double check every single invention for side effects, you might find there are more pressing needs.
>that's what all the back-to-nature and/or reduce-the-surplus-population is all about
No, not back to nature at all. Religions and governments have been pushing larger and larger populations for centuries, all in a kind of strength in numbers power struggle. It's time some effort was made to reduce the population (not by starvation if we can help it) to levels where we can give everyone a good standard of living.
In your vision billions of people scrabble in the dirt struggling to live at all, in mine millions live well, educated, healthy and comfortable... There's no back to nature there.
BTW We could probably do something for world hunger by doing some large scale farming in Zimbabwe again, instead of whining about whatever crazy government they've got.