Wednesday, December 07, 2005

millions of peaches, peaches for free

Monbiot wrote a Guardian story on what we all suspected: "Worse Than Fossil Fuel":

The last time I drew attention to the hazards of making diesel fuel from vegetable oils, I received as much abuse as I have ever been sent by the supporters of the Iraq war. The biodiesel missionaries, I discovered, are as vociferous in their denial as the executives of Exxon. I am now prepared to admit that my previous column was wrong. But they're not going to like it. I was wrong because I underestimated the fuel's destructive impact.

Before I go any further, I should make it clear that turning used chip fat into motor fuel is a good thing. The people slithering around all day in vats of filth are performing a service to society. But there is enough waste cooking oil in the UK to meet one 380th of our demand for road transport fuel(2). Beyond that, the trouble begins.

I often must bite my tongue to avoid criticising people who extoll the virtues of their Peanut Cars, some old rabbit which they load up with vegetable grease and anti-coagulants.

"It will soon be competitive with gasoline at these prices!" they say, and everyone clucks their tongue and nods. (I live in is Seattle. Not sure how this conversation would play out in the red states.)

Sadly, the goal of bio-diesel being competitive with gasoline will be just perpetually out of reach, like a carrot on a string. The actor yanking the carrot should be understood to be (fossil) energy prices; as Monbiot points out above:

But there is enough waste cooking oil in the UK to meet one 380th of our demand for road transport fuel(2). Beyond that, the trouble begins.

Trouble, indeed.


At 1:56 AM, December 08, 2005, Blogger James Moe said...

We've had this conversation before. What is the downside to turning waste vegetable oil into bio-diesel? To suggest that alternatives must completely replace all oil use in order to be beneficial is a little disingenuous.

At 1:27 PM, December 08, 2005, Blogger JMS said...

Maybe I was too negative in tone. I am not against using vegetable oil waste products, and Monbiot likewise mentions this in his article. Recycling is not bad.

I know people who actually drive these cars around, and they are a little bit insufferable; they act as if everyone should be driving these cars around, to save the environment, remove dependancy on foriegn oil, support your local farmer, etc,

and it is complete bunk. Everybody can't drive these cars around. That is why I bite my tongue.

For the record, I am for recycling anything in a usefull fashion rather than throwing it away.

At 1:19 AM, December 09, 2005, Blogger James Moe said...

If it's just a diesel engine, then everyone can drive these cars around. Bio-diesel is intermixable with oil diesel.

The problem in the States is a lack of market for diesel passenger vehicles. Very few of the many European diesel models are marketed and sold here.

At 8:08 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The United States cannot produce enough bio-fuel to replace gasoline and diesel in the amounts that we use them. If every acre of corn and soybeans in the U.S. was committed to Ethanol and biodiesel, we could produce about a 45-55 day supply every year. This is a best case scenario, it doesn't include the energy required to distill the ethanol or transport the raw materials. The problem I have with bio-fuels is that everyone assumes that we don't need to conserve because we'll just switch to bio-fuel. Not without major conservation. I'm afraid there will be alot of pressure to destroy what wilderness is left and turn it into cornfields rather than abandon the automobile addiction.


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