• Guest, The rules for the P & N subforum have been updated to prohibit "ad hominem" or personal attacks against other posters. See the full details in the post "Politics and News Rules & Guidelines."

Biofuels: Worse for Earth Than Oil?

blackangst1

Lifer
Feb 23, 2005
20,464
719
126
Well...people are always so quick to jump on the green bandwagon and bash oil. But Ive always said fossil fuel is the most efficient we have right now. I saw this on Discovery last month and ran across it on the website. Another interesting thing is Google the phrase "Biofuels Worse for Earth Than Oil "

Raises some questions to say the least.


Feb. 8, 2008 -- Clearing raw land to produce biofuels actually contributes to global warming by emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, researchers have warned.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new croplands carved into rainforests, savannas, wetlands or grasslands would easily surpass the overall amount of CO2 emissions reduced through the use of biofuels, according to a report in the Feb. 8 edition of Science.

"If you're trying to mitigate global warming, it simply does not make sense to convert land for biofuels production," said Joe Fargione, a founder of private environment protection agency the Nature Conservancy and co-author of the study.

"All the biofuels we use now cause habitat destruction, either directly or indirectly," he said.

"Global agriculture is already producing food for six billion people. Producing food-based biofuel, too, will require that still more land be converted to agriculture."

Converting land to grow corn, sugar cane or soy beans -- crops used in the production of biofuels -- creates a "biofuel carbon debt" by releasing 17 to 420 times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas reductions which the biofuels provide by displacing fossil fuels.

Carbon is stored in dead trees and plants as well as in the soil, and naturally seeps into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. Converting native habitats to cropland increases the release of CO2 into the air, the report said.

It would take years, and in some cases centuries, before biofuels derived from crops on converted land would lead to a net reduction of greenhouse gases, according to the report.

The researchers calculated that in Indonesia, where wetlands are being converted to grow palm oil to produce biofuels, it will take 423 years before biofuel CO2 emission savings would repay the carbon debt caused by the land conversion.

"We don't have proper incentives in place because landowners are rewarded for producing palm oil and other products but not rewarded for carbon management," said report co-author Stephen Polasky, an applied economics professor at University of Minnesota.

"This creates incentives for excessive land clearing and can result in large increases in carbon emissions."

An incentive for carbon sequestration or a penalty for carbon emissions is needed in order to slow CO2 emissions and environmental destruction, Polasky said.

The researchers noted that strong growth in the demand for corn-based ethanol in the United States has led to the increasing destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

To address the ethanol demand, US farmers have stopped rotating corn crops with soy, leaving their Brazilian counterparts to produce more soybeans to meet rising global demand, resulting in further Amazon deforestation, they said.

The report stresses that certain biofuels do not contribute to global warming because they leave the natural ecosystem intact, and that obtaining biofuels from biomass waste or forestry products such as wood chips causes less harm to the environment and is the aim of several scientists.

 

jpeyton

Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
Moderator
Aug 23, 2003
25,387
140
116
Agreed, current biofuel production is a rotten business. Converting food crops (such as corn) to fuel uses too much energy, creates too much waste/pollution, produces a fuel that costs 15% cheaper than gas but gets 20-30% less MPG than gas, and increases food prices across the board (corn, chicken, beef, milk, etc.).

It might be viable in the future when we've discovered ways to use bacteria to produce fuel, or to convert waste to fuel. But I see something incredibly wrong with destroying a basic staple crop like corn and converting it into fuel for our cars.
 

Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,086
493
126
Corn ethanol is a perfect example of what happens when govt dictates to a market. Is it any surprise the govt keeps pushing the worst of the ethanol sources on it when Archer Daniels and Cargill have a lot to gain? If the free market had a say in this, Corn would be out. It is completely unrealistic to expect corn ethanol can be anything but a cash cow for big farming. They know it cant supply us with the required supply. But they will suck as much public funds as possible until the show is over.
 

Socio

Golden Member
May 19, 2002
1,726
2
81
Bio fuels are a disaster in the making, it will make a gold rush of sorts, farmers all over will stop farming for food and farm for bio fuel instead, creating skyrocketing food prices. It will also give a huge incentive for those in Central and South America to plow down more of their jungles to make farm land for bio fuel.

We would be much better off seeking Fusion energy, developing hydrogen fuels cells, and refining wind and solar energy gathering techniques, make them more viable for powering high rises, commercial building, malls, and homes from sides of buildings, roof tops, yards etc?
 

Bitek

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2001
9,173
3,165
136
The real breakthru is cellulosic ethanol. Converting food to gas for trucks is foolish, but money to do the needed research into biomass conversion should be supported. We could become the Saudi Arabia of ethanol if we could work this process out (and own the patents) using a energy source that is otherwise wasted.

Also this would provide 2ndary revenue streams for farmers to incentivize farmland preservation (to reduce sale to developers to build sprawling mc mansion communities and use farmland to grow kentucky bluegrass.) Also could help farmers reduce dependence of subsidies for food crops. Like any new tech, its needs lots of investment in research before it matures, but is well worth it in the long run.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
56,275
4,690
126
We discuss this pretty regularly in my Environmental Conservation class in college. If the government would make the change to switchgrass instead of corn, it would require something along the lines of 5-10% of the acreage to get the same amount of energy we currently get from growing corn for ethanol, and use less energy doing it...BUT, the big ag players are heavily invested in corn production, and making the change would cut them out of a significant piece of the pie...PLUS, corn does have the secondary advantage of still being available as a food crop if the demand for ethanol dropped.

It's all about money. "Being Green" has almost nothing to do with the companies' decisions to produce for ethanol plants...it's all about profit...and as usual, profit as the American taxpayer's expense...
 

CADsortaGUY

Lifer
Oct 19, 2001
25,162
1
76
www.ShawCAD.com
Originally posted by: BoomerD
We discuss this pretty regularly in my Environmental Conservation class in college. If the government would make the change to switchgrass instead of corn, it would require something along the lines of 5-10% of the acreage to get the same amount of energy we currently get from growing corn for ethanol, and use less energy doing it...BUT, the big ag players are heavily invested in corn production, and making the change would cut them out of a significant piece of the pie...PLUS, corn does have the secondary advantage of still being available as a food crop if the demand for ethanol dropped.

It's all about money. "Being Green" has almost nothing to do with the companies' decisions to produce for ethanol plants...it's all about profit...and as usual, profit as the American taxpayer's expense...
Or it has to do with the tech not being ready to make that switch quite yet. ;)

Oh, and "big ag" will make the switch - they are watching very carefully - trust me...
 

Drift3r

Guest
Jun 3, 2003
3,572
0
0
Originally posted by: jpeyton
Agreed, current biofuel production is a rotten business. Converting food crops (such as corn) to fuel uses too much energy, creates too much waste/pollution, produces a fuel that costs 15% cheaper than gas but gets 20-30% less MPG than gas, and increases food prices across the board (corn, chicken, beef, milk, etc.).

It might be viable in the future when we've discovered ways to use bacteria to produce fuel, or to convert waste to fuel. But I see something incredibly wrong with destroying a basic staple crop like corn and converting it into fuel for our cars.
We grow way to much corn then we know what to do with in this country. No one makes a big deal about "destroying" corn when it is being feed to live stock. Hell the only reason corn feed is around is because of our glut of corn. US farmers would rather make a profit then give it away free.
 

Drift3r

Guest
Jun 3, 2003
3,572
0
0
Originally posted by: Socio
Bio fuels are a disaster in the making, it will make a gold rush of sorts, farmers all over will stop farming for food and farm for bio fuel instead, creating skyrocketing food prices. It will also give a huge incentive for those in Central and South America to plow down more of their jungles to make farm land for bio fuel.

We would be much better off seeking Fusion energy, developing hydrogen fuels cells, and refining wind and solar energy gathering techniques, make them more viable for powering high rises, commercial building, malls, and homes from sides of buildings, roof tops, yards etc?
Farmers in the US are subsidized by our government to not grow to much food! It is just plain being paranoid and delusional to think that somehow farmers won't grow crops for food just because of biomass fuels taking off. Do you even realize how much goes to waste in this country in terms of crops that cannot be sold at a profit on the open market because there is a glut?

Hell if anything it would give the average non-corporate farmers in Central and South America more of a reason to ditch the growing of drug crops and hop back onto legitimate food crops. As for people plowing down jungles to make more farm land available in Central and South America well it's already happening irregardless of our own needs or desires for various reasons out of our control.
 

nullzero

Senior member
Jan 15, 2005
683
0
0
Biofuels bandwagon is stupid... Why arent we using high capacity high power batteries to power all our cars already? Using 100% electric cars with rapid charging batteries it would fix all our problems. Just plug into the grid that is powered by solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear.
 

ebaycj

Diamond Member
Mar 9, 2002
5,419
0
0
Originally posted by: Hafen
The real breakthru is cellulosic ethanol. Converting food to gas for trucks is foolish, but money to do the needed research into biomass conversion should be supported. We could become the Saudi Arabia of ethanol if we could work this process out (and own the patents) using a energy source that is otherwise wasted.

Also this would provide 2ndary revenue streams for farmers to incentivize farmland preservation (to reduce sale to developers to build sprawling mc mansion communities and use farmland to grow kentucky bluegrass.) Also could help farmers reduce dependence of subsidies for food crops. Like any new tech, its needs lots of investment in research before it matures, but is well worth it in the long run.
No the real breakthrough would be cellulosic butanol. Energy density much closer to gasoline, produced in much the same way as cellulosic ethanol. Side benefit is that the fermentation process also produces Hydrogen.

http://www.lightparty.com/Energy/Butanol.html
 

seemingly random

Diamond Member
Oct 10, 2007
5,281
0
0
Ethanol is just another boondoggle foisted on consumers - bad in so many ways as previously stated. ArcherDanielsMidland, et.al. have been trying to force gov't regulation for 20 years after normal supply/demand methods failed.

One of the ironic things about this 'new' technology is that it's postponing/diverting r&d on the next fuel source which I believe will not look like anything we've seen or imagined to date.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY