Biofuels - a con right now, but the war for supremacy will only gather momentum,

Matthew W. 471°

Biofuels is big business - there's simply no debating that. What we need to do is think how to address the infrastructure/transport/genetic issues surrounding production, rather than screaming 'they're no good'! But we need to get this sorted soon, as methods for production will be too entrenched to change if we wait any longer.

3 replies

Nick Lewis 2448°

Using natural algae works but 'farmed' bio-fuel makes no sense if the energy required to grow and process the plant material exceeds the energy content of the resulting fuel!

Written in June 2008

C Robb W. 444°

Burning food in our cars is unethical in a world of food scarcity and unaffordable basic foodstuffs. Perhaps fuel from algae will one day provide significant fuel but not yet. There are much more simple solutions, we must stop driving and flying so much. This is the low hanging fruit. We need economies that are not dependent upon vast amounts of transport, local economies that encourage self sufficiency. Check out the transition town movement. A gradual shift to electric cars charged by renewables for those few times when driving is really necessary would be next on my list. The technology is there, it's just a matter of will.

Written in June 2008

Charles M. 110°

I fully agree that biofuels should come from non-food sources where possible.

However, I'd like to point out that blaming biofuels for the current grain shortages is a bit of a stretch. Vast quantities of grain go into feedlot raised animals for meat and milk. This is a hugely wasteful method of food production (and wasteful use of oil too).

Algal farming need not require huge inputs if done properly in a system that is designed to be efficient. While we're at it, algae could also be used as a feed source for cattle (freeing up some of the grain that they are eating).

Land use needs to improve:
* Land that can produce food efficiently (minimal irrigation and other inputs) should primarily produce food.
* Land that cannot prouce food efficiently but can produce grasses, sugar cane etc. could be pressed into biofuel production.
* Hills and marginal land can be grazed.
* Marshy land can produce algae for biofuels and feedlots.

We don't have any real shortages. We just have very inefficient ways of doing things. Subsidies are a huge problem here because they pay farmers to grow inappropriate crops.

Written in June 2008

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