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New Study Warns Biofuels May Be Worse for Climate Than Gas


#1

New Study Warns Biofuels May Be Worse for Climate Than Gas

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

A new study finds that biofuels—which are derived from plants like corn or soybeans and sometimes considered to be carbon-neutral—may actually be worse for the climate than gas.


#5

We must stop burning crap and pumping heat into the atmosphere.


#7

Where is the comparison proving carbon uptake of biofuels is worse carbon uptake of fossils fuels?

Oh, that's right, fossil fuels uptake zero carbon and have even higher carbon expenditures to the gas tank.

...nevermind.


#8

What about biofuels produced from waste products like wood waste?


#13

We at the hempest run our diesel van on used vegetable oil, which restaurants need to throw out anyway. Free clean fuel! Municipalities around the world could do the same with their diesel fleets.
Hemp is much better than soy or corn for fuel. Solar and wind will provide the bulk of energy needed for an electric fleet anyway. Vote Green


#15

They seriously use stories like that to convince themselves, and to convince us, that perhaps "We don't really need this Earth."

They also seriously consider that humans could all be "uploaded" into a computer "reality" that would be so much more fun and powerful than this limited Earth reality that so horribly restricts us...


#16

I keep wondering what happened to all the promising research on direct ethanol/methanol fuel cells, which seemed to me an effective approach to the issues some have with electric vehicles. Last I heard, they were at a comparable efficiency to the internal combustion engine, and we already have a distribution system in place.


#18

Meanwhile, Tesla's new S model's range is up to 335 miles per charge...


#19

Whether bio-fuels are worse, better, or no different than gas carbon-wise, they're still not good for climate stability.


#20

How is the electricity produced?


#21

Electricity could be produced by rooftop solar panels and possibly stored in batteries such as Elon Musk's power wall.


#22

In general, people researching or considering biofuels are asking the wrong question. That does not mean that we should not attend to biofuels, but only that we should do so very differently than most of us have, even those of us who have considered them at some length.

Of course biofuels hurt the climate. In a large sense, gas, coal, and petrol are biofuels: life forms are burnt in all instances. When one uses a biofuel, one avoids problems caused by mining but embraces, in ways and extents depending on method, problems caused by agriculture.

Again, the point is not that we do or do not use biofuels: wood for heating and cooking is a biofuel, and we can feed our large if perhaps awkward cerebral cortices because we cook, mostly. We are not getting away from that.

Further, any fuel that does not derive from the sun, whether from the convection currents of wind or water or the embodied solar energy of living or once-living organisms, becomes non-renewable or failing.

We have done many things that create problems with little benefit. Correcting those is a good idea. But this conception that what we need to do is to find another fuel so that we can go on living as we have, with the social forms that we have and the habits that we have developed, is false and dangerous.

Given the usual great and grand IF of moderately good behavior, we can live very well within our resources and means, but that means reorganizing almost everything so that we can use way way way less fuel. We have to and can develop greener resources, but sustainable systems using this involve way, way, way less energy use altogether.

One enormous immediate problem is that our rulers continue to escalate the waste of remaining resources in a fight to dominate that resource use. I do not only mean the energy wars, but also the propaganda and trade pacts and the accompanying nonsense all around. To the extent that it is allowed to continue, this will throw us into a sharper catastrophe, with more precipitous changes in climate and more critical dependence on resources that will come to have spotty and costly availability, and then none at all. The resulting desperation and violence will create more xenophobia and impede what solutions are available.

Solutions should be considered in the context of redesigning and re-orienting social systems, adapting what we have to the local production, distribution, and consumption of necessities. If your eggs come from the chickens out back and the greens are around the porch, if you stroll in to work several days a week, if comfort in your home is not dependent or little on energy input like heating and AC, then you burn very little, and a bit of management of how you handle cooking fuel can make you carbon positive.

But it might not satisfy people who are trying to turn profits in a capital system or corner energy markets militarily. For this reason, we need to keep disarming the large and violent organizations that wish to hinder us in this--mostly government and corporations. This is important: we do not contain these elements, their standard behavior is what we call genocide.

This involves broadening communications and the gestures and actions of solidarity: these are worth the investment and will be more critically in harder times.

An interesting shorthand for discussing options is David Holmgren's Future Scenarios, downloadable in PDF: http://www.caminosostenible.org/wp-content/uploads/BIBLIOTECA/Future%20Scenarios%20-%20Full%20Text.pdf


#24

I will be reading the study, I am wondering how algae would rate?
Oregon's lakes are unswimmable because of blue-green algae (cyano-bacteria) infestations.
Which

a.) Sequesters carbon, thereby stressing it, to produce; hydrogen and or oil!
B.) Produces 70 gallons of oil per acre, a day! During summer.
C.) Is a super food, 3 grams = 100% daily amino acid requirements.
Really! You can stick the tailpipe from a bio diesel generator into a pond, it likes it.


#26

It probably is, Red. I would be very surprised if the better courses of action do not each involve some biofuel, and the more local the better. There are many possibilities, of course, and decentralized local use might take advantage of many of them. Even if biofuels carry more damage calorie per calorie (an idea I have yet to see proven, btw), we are far more apt to be able to put them to moderate use because of the different social structures around them.

There are sort of two poles in the first post that I wanted to get across, depending on the conceptions of who might be reading. One is that we will have to reduce all energy use a lot to get by--an awful lot. The other, though, is that we are not at all ready to cut it off altogether ever, nor ready to nearly do so in the near future. On the one hand, we ought to be working at what we will need for transitions; on the other, we ought to accept that burning biofuels for transport is apt to most properly be a transitional state at first and, eventually, an exceptional state. It is not going to work to burn anything resembling the sort of energy that we burn now on that basis. It will probably be far more economical and useful eventually to burn fuels for electronic communications and for cooking and minimal heating--hopefully of passively heated and well insulated mostly small spaces.


#27

You're right. People are not ready for the kind of societal reorganization that it would take. The logistics of taking down the current grid and getting solar panels to everyone who might need power, for example, seems prohibitive to me, along with a great deal of needed agreement on what's best, where to begin, how to keep everyone warm, fed, and able to see a night until the changeover is complete.


#29

This study and supported article by the API absolutely voids the their whole process and has wasted all of our time period, paragraph.


#30

It's almost like if you increase the population, no matter what they use, it will eventually run out. My Fabulous Apocalypse


#31

You, know, the funny thing is that I do not think that I am ready myself. I want it. We need it. But this takes more than connecting wires.

This is a forcible mass migration to a culture that does not yet exist, that we can little foresee.

Humans have done this before: we undertook agriculture; we undertook manufacturing. But this is, similarly, scaled beyond what we may foresee, to be invented piecemeal from necessity.

We must continue without agreement but agree where and when we can. We are carried forward in all events. It is very convenient that the grid be up when those solar panels are distributed, and that ships and trains and trucks be functional. And it will be very convenient that those panels be up and operable and that there be wind and water turbines for a good while after they can no longer be manufactured or distributed.

It is in these contexts that I think that a limited, downscale use of biofuels may become useful, even crucial. Some are renewable--methane gas from compost, for example. Some are probably renewable if managed very well, like corn or rape-based biodeisel. Some we had might as well take advantage of because the mistake is already made, like that of the KFC owner I met who had been running his deisel Mercedes on the castoff grease from his business. Some are not renewable but possibly a good idea. Should I really abstain from buying a pick-mattock with a plastic handle in the context of a society that drives to work and flies to war? I don't know; maybe things are better instead of worse because resources that would have been burnt otherwise built a mattock.

But since I have indulged in the computer and the electricity, I hope the discourse is of some use to someone somewhere, finally, and not only my fizzling out in my corner out here. And since I do have that mattock, I had probably better go out and dig that swale.


#32

Maybe if they tried using hemp instead of corn and soy the footprint would be much smaller.
Hemp is a weed, grows faster, produces more per acre, and uses much less water and virtually no fertilizer.


#33

Our numbers are so huge that seven billion campfires ( a metaphor ) would heat up the planet. I agree that we need to stop thinking in old ways like burning stuff. Combustion equals carbon. There are better ways.