Biofuels = bad


#1

More evidence that our push towards biofuels is not just expensive, it’s actually making things worse:

"The European Union’s Parliament has taken a step back on biofuels, revising its renewable energy goals to limit biofuel production to 6%, with a goal of 2.5%. This is a big reversal from previous goals, which had a much greater focus on biofuels.

The reason for the change is that more research has revealed that biofuel production is actually turning out to have a worse carbon footprint than conventional fossil fuels, as the farming releases more carbon into the atmosphere and the increased need for cropland is destroying forests, which scrub the air much better than agricultural crops."


#2

I agree. The direct use of alternative fuels, especially biofuels, is fraught with compromises and is layered with misinformation by those who would most profit by their use. The practicality of all such fuels lies in their restricted use in things like power generating plants and not in a gazillion internal combustion engines, each with it’s own set of circumstances. The basic power plants of today were designed for oil. Most everything else should be use in a restricted way to produce the ideal consumer energy, electricity.
Down with bio fuels !


#3

Most of the forests in Europe were destroyed hundreds of years ago…Most Bio-fuel is made from salvage vegetable oil not new production…Fracking and horizontal drilling is opening up vast new hydrocarbon fuel reserves and those producers don’t want any government-subsidized competition…


#4

“Most Bio-fuel is made from salvage vegetable oil not new production”

Not really, the VAST majority of biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) comes from new production: corn, wheat, and (worst of all) palm oil (where rainforests are plowed under to create palm oil plantations in the tropics).

Converting waste vegetable oil to biodiesel is the proverbial ‘drop in the bucket’.

And the folks responsible for this report have no ties to the oil industry.


#5

Oil is oil…When it’s priced at $106/barrel, it’s every man for himself…You are right Texases, what sounds good at first can turn into a nightmare…

http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/46405


#6

Wall street and the big banks are now manipulating the credits that oil companies and refiners need to buy as an offset for the ethanol blend requirements. The government mandated the amount of ethanol that needs to be blended and did a guesstimate on fuel usage in future years. Now refiners have to buy these credits because they are not making as much gas. We Americans are driving less and cars are more fuel efficient and of course the government did not take this into account. Consumers will have to pay for Wall Street making a huge profit off of speculation of these credits.
Ethanol is made from corn a food product. We have to pay higher prices for food products and meat products, cows and chickens eat corn. Then we have to pay higher gas prices. Ethanol costs more to produce than oil.
Then there is the cost to the environment. Planting, watering, fertilizing, harvesting transporting, refining, transporting again wastes a ton of fuel.and causes a ton of pollution.
Ethanol traps water in the fuel and kills older engine’s seals and fuel lines.


#7

Creating a crisis or a gimmick and cashing in has pretty much become the norm.


#8

Biofuels need to sink or swim on their own merits, in the open marketplace. Adam Smith, do your stuff!

And yes, I think you need to make a distinction between “diverted waste stream” biofuel and “burning food.”

I wish I could get my hands on cellulosic yeast: I do lawn maintenance, and it’d be a neat trick to run mowers on hooch brewed from their own grass clippings! (i’d have a differentiated product that I coukd hopefully charge a premium for.)


#9

@Caddyman Those biofuels made from recycled vegetable oil are biodiesel fuels, and those recycle oils make up a very small percentage of the total. Unfortunately they get a lot of publicity such as a guy running his VW diesel on Macdonald’s cooking oils.

As others mention, gasoline additives are almost wholly from freshly grown field crops, corn and others, and sugar cane in Brazil. At present 40% of the US corn crop ends up as alcohol (methanol) for gasoline engines.

Ask any Mexican tortilla maker what diverting corn farmland has done to the price of imported corn to make tortillas.

But it got George Bush a lot of Iowa votes.

The whole biofuels fiasco is a classic case of “untended consequences”, which wise people could foresee, but it did not bother the politicians and “environmentalists”.


#10

Not all bio-fuels are created equal. Ethanol uses more energy to create it than it saves and uses up corn crops that could be used as animal feed. Land is used that could grow food crops. Ethanol must be “distilled” using large amounts of energy.

Bio-diesel, however, is a cold process that squeezes the oil out of soybeans or rapeseed. Rapeseed is a rotation crop that refreshes the soil between edible crops like corn or soybeans and makes pretty good fuel. Bio-diesel can be used in higher concentrations (20% is approved in many big diesels)) without damage to fuel systems. THIS is the true “bio-fuel” alternative that we should pursue rather than ethanol along with, of course, natural gas.

CNG should replace much of the gasoline we currently use. (Chicken-meet-egg)


#11

While soybean or rapeseed biodiesel may make sense, the majority of biodiesel used in the EU come from palm oil plantations. Very bad.


#12

@texases I agree, very bad. At least the EU is taking bad-for-you-to-eat palm oil out of the foodstream. Some might like that. It is stupid to use it as a fuel.


#13

We need to address the real problem…Every year, 60,000,000 new motor vehicles are produced and sold worldwide…That a lot of gas-tanks demanding fuel…This demand will be met one way or another…


#14

In my limited experience, biofuel seem to share the same common problem…storage ! Biofuel wants to change “rapidly” into something unpleasant and problematic where processed oil products, at least give you a chance to breathe. I have no problem paying a little more for strictly petrol based products to save the " lives" of some of my very expensive internal combustion motors.

Legislator aren’t interested in practical fixes that work. They are interested more in political donations to reelection campaigns along with the follow up responsibilities they have to these donors. Sad, the average guy has but one vote each, not enough to counter the falsehoods dreamed up by the profit makers. Making fuels from natural resources that convert our precious nutrients in to noxious gases is bad enough when done over millenniums as is the case of oil. To do it rapidly and use nutrients that affect our food supply just to make these gases is wasteful, counter productive and expensive for the consumer.

Why not just breed more whales for the slaughter to feed our energy needs ? A least, we wouldn’t be so hypocritical about where we put our priorities and, we would then at least be obvious in our disrespect for life in the name of profit.


#15

E85 is a pointless endeavor. But recycling fryer oil, waste oil, etc. into new fuels is a good idea. You can’t lump all biofuels into the same category.


#16

You’re right, there are some good biofuels, but the huge majority we’re paying for (ethanol in particular) are a disaster. And the EPA is looking at E15, and forcing E30 through required engine design changes. It just keeps getting worse…


#17

I think farm subsidies and mandates for eth. should be phased out. Cellulosic ethanol has been “on the cusp” of marketability for too long now…nobody’s going to make the jump when they’re fat and happy on corn squeezin’s.

BUT, if somebody’s mega-still is in danger of being worthless in a few years…that’ll light a fire under the appropriate posteriors!


#18

Note that anything to do with alternative fuels or energy that involves taxpayers is always considered a “wise investment in our future”.
The rumblings around here is that Western Red Cedar is being considered for bio-fuel production and has already had the above statement applied to it.

Officials are talking 200 tons of cedar a day at the current price of 20 dollars per ton over a 20 year time frame. To be cost effective will require 100 dollars per ton and per the usual, they’re wanting the taxpayers to fund the difference; and that’s only one facility. Do the math on that one.
The fuel consumption of the trucks would be astronomical because they’re talking about ferrying those cedar trees over a 100 miles on a one-way trip.


#19

If we’re talking alternative fuels IMHO it’s logical that we’ll all eventually be driving electric cars of some sort. While batteries aren’t yet where they should be to support this, electricity is the most easily stored, easily available, near lossless “fuel” around. More electricity is turned into actual motive force than with any fuel, you can recoup some of it during braking, and it’s easy to transport. It will also be a more universal fuel than 15 different flavors of flammable liquid and compressed gas, and while distribution networks will need to be beefed up and charging systems refined, we all already use electricity. If diesel/coal/alcohol/whatever is burned to generate the electricity, you’ve eliminated most of the transportation costs by having the combustion occur in a central place: the power plant. And let’s not forget solar.

Gas and diesel engines will never truly go away (and as a gearhead, I hope not), but it just makes more sense to use electricity. If someone is actually considering using cedar to make alcohol, directly burning it to generate electricity is likely much more efficient than trying to convert it to something else. Save the alcohol for what it was intended for–destroying our livers.


#20

@oblivion: +1.

Biofuels are basically a means of turning sunight into fuel: plant seed, photosynthesis turns sunlight (plus a whole lot of ancillary inputs) into starch/lipids, which.are further refined into “go juice.”

Putting solar panels on a given acreage is just a better way of extracting sunlight: fewer co-inputs, and no requirement to use fertile land–just sq. footage.