Monday, March 03, 2008


Norightturn gets all excited about bio-fuel from trees.

I’m not so eager about bio fuels since we have already been conned once.

1) how does one ensure that marginal land and not food producing land is used to grow trees for ethanol?

2) if we use marginal land won't that force up the cost? I.e. the same sort of reasons that make land marginal for food production (increasing the cost per kg of food produced) tend to increase the cost per kg of fuel.

Anyway assuming that by some miracle marginal land is not marginal for these super tree farmers...

from wikipedia

"In June 2006, a U.S. Senate hearing was told that the current cost of producing cellulosic ethanol is US $2.25 per US gallon (US $0.59/litre). This is primarily due to the current poor conversion efficiency.[citation needed] At that price it would cost about $120 to substitute a barrel of oil (42 gallons), taking into account the lower energy content of ethanol. However, the Department of Energy is optimistic and has requested a doubling of research funding. The same Senate hearing was told that the research target was to reduce the cost of production to US $1.07 per US gallon (US $0.28/litre) by 2012."

Verenium Corporation appears to use Steam Explosion to pre-treat cellulosic biomass followed by an enzyme reaction - I presume that the majority of the $2.25 is energy cost so the implication is, and I'm just guessing here, something like 1.50 dollars of energy to make 1.07 dollars of energy

Then we have the exciting effect where we start cutting down trees so that we can regrow them - think of a forest full of pine trees, its cheap as chips to own it as wild land - just don't do anything and it will suck up CO2. A subsidy of a few cents would make it worthwhile letting a few trees grow there - and anyone who doesn’t allow that should be slapped. So we should not compare growing trees with having bear earth - it should be compared to a tiny subsidy and lots of trees constantly growing.

I don't want to be totally negative but it is easy for an environmentalist to be conned into supporting something that actually does crippling damage to the environment (like corn bio-fuel) just because it isn't cool to be against any of these sorts of policies. By the time those people realise that it is bad for the environment they have helped to create a huge vested interest (eg american corn farmers) who will be next to impossible to stop.


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