Sunday, February 13, 2005

It's not easy being green

Bio-fuels of various stripes have been flogged as a green, renewable energy for years. They are neither. I have never seen "positive net energy" math for bio fuel - be it ethanol, bio-diesel, or an exotic alternative.

Resource Insights recently pointed out that some throwback ungenius believes we should use trees for fuel; Mobjectivist links to a quote that lays out the facts on corn-pone ethanol with clarity. Generating ethanol is a significant net loss of energy. Also noted on Mobjectivist is this topic is a prime wedge issue for us to interject some sanity into the American discourse.

"Ethanol subsidy discussions will work as a stealth issue to eventually corner the right-wing into admitting that we cannot contine as an one-trick-pony oiligarchy. "

The fundamental falsehood of bio-fuel is helping to obscure the reality that at present we have no way to "wean ourselves off of foreign oil."

I also understand that ethanol and the like spring from the sincere desire of people to have an alternative to grubby old petrol. I can only imagine the angst when one hops into a gas powered automobile to run to Wal-Mart for some cheesy poofs.

Bio-fuels aren't green, they are worse than oil.


At 9:44 PM, February 14, 2005, Blogger WHT said...

I thought that ethanol was the best example of a wedge issue, but take a look at how the immigration discussion is proceeding:
The Freepers Eat Their Own
Sounds like Soylent Green.

At 12:13 AM, February 15, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Bring on a house divided.

At 4:27 AM, February 16, 2005, Blogger Big Gav said...

I like the "Freepers Eat their Own" link :-)

But I think they'll fall into line eventually - brownshirts always behave like sheep in the end.

Hav you got any good statistics on the supposedly poor EROEI for biodiesel ? Or do object to it for another reason ?

While I believe Ethanol is a waste of time, money and energy, I'm not sure this is the case with biodiesel (George Monbiot's criticisms aside).

At 10:33 PM, February 16, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

BioDiesel is a catch all; a well designed Diesel can burn a lot of different fuels, of varying energy content.

Also, modern diesels are very efficient, and I expect the European diesels to make their way to America market. (you'll have to help me with the Australian market)

Some people have made a cottage industry around seattle recycling fryer goop and the like into BioDiesel; this is excellent but remember where in the energy chain this is. Products originally produced with petroleum means energy is lost when ultimately burned as a fuel, no matter how thrifty.

So we have seperate our present riches from a declining energy situation. BioDiesel is fine now but not sustainable post peak as an alternative.

You raise a good point though, and I'll come back to this in the future.

At 10:35 PM, February 16, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Check out this link for more on fryer goop. ;)

At 1:41 AM, February 18, 2005, Blogger Big Gav said...


I've been working on a biodiesel post for a while, including the australian angle (one of my earlier posts talked about the local GM and Ford subsidiaries planning to release some diesel versions of their mainstream car models here), but it hasn't finished gestating yet.

JourneyToForever has a good article on how to make Biodiesel in your bathtub if you're so inclined.

I believe Richard Heinberg drives around a biodiesel swilling Mercedes which smells like a chip fryer.

Reused vegetable oil isn't the primary source though - thats just for hobbyists - commercial production is possible and it looks much more promising than ethanol as it probably has a pretty positive EROEI. But more later when I've researched it properly.

At 1:38 AM, February 19, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

I look forward to it,



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