Posts Tagged ‘biofuel’

Credit: inhabitat.com


Another green dream has crumbled in the face of inconvenient reality, defeated by biology, as Yahoo News reports. Research shows it is neither commercially nor environmentally sustainable, unless the equivalent of three Belgiums and a mountain of fertilizer can be found.

Modern biofuels have been touted as a greener alternative to petrol and diesel since the early 1900s. It seems like a good idea on paper, and they do work – but their use and production doesn’t come without problems.

The first generation of biofuels – mainly ethanol made from plant crops – and second generation, derived from plant and animal waste streams, both had environmentalists and others concerned about the competition for land and nutrients between biofuels production and food production.

It was with a lot of hope, and hype, that production of the third generation of biofuels was started. Unlike their predecessors, these biofuels are derived from algae, and so in theory the food vs fuel dilemma of crop-based biofuels would be solved.

Fossil fuel oil and gas originated from ancient algae in large measure, so the concept here is to replicate the essence of the creation of fossil fuels, albeit accelerated and optimised with modern chemical engineering. It was claimed that using algae would be much more efficient than creating biofuels from terrestrial plants and that the technology would make use of poor quality land not able to grow other crops.

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Bret Stephens at The New York Times delves into the erroneous ‘climate-friendly’ image of biofuels, and questions the claimed success of renewables in general. Not new criticisms, but new for the NYT at least.

A few extracts from the piece:
“Converting biomass feedstocks to biofuels is an environmentally friendly process. So is using biofuels for transportation. When we use bioethanol instead of gasoline, we help reduce atmospheric CO2.”

These confident assurances come from “Biofuels: A Solution for Climate Change,” a paper published in 1999 by the Clinton administration’s Department of Energy. Feels a little dated in its scientific assumptions, doesn’t it?
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For how much longer? [image credit: thecostaricanews.com]

For how much longer?
[image credit: thecostaricanews.com]


Promoters of biofuel are running out of excuses for converting vast tracts of valuable farmland into fuel sources, as this Phys.org report shows. This non-solution to a debatable problem needs reviewing urgently.

A new study from University of Michigan researchers challenges the widely held assumption that biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are inherently carbon neutral.

Contrary to popular belief, the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when biofuels are burned is not fully balanced by the CO2 uptake that occurs as the plants grow, according to a study by research professor John DeCicco and co-authors at the U-M Energy Institute.

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One fraudster's toy

One fraudster’s toy


Reporter Marita Noon lifts the lid on various cases of biofuel fraud in the US.

America’s rush to renewables has invited corruption and fraud. Researcher Christine Lakatos and I, together, have produced the single largest body of work on green-energy crony-corruption.

Our years of collaboration have revealed that those with special access and influence have cashed in on the various green-energy programs and benefitted from the mandates, rules, and regulations that accompany the huge scheme.

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According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production [image credit: Say No To Palm Oil]

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production [image credit: Say No To Palm Oil]


Another so-called green policy is coming under increasing fire, as Yahoo News reports. EU ignores critics.

Paris (AFP) – Palm oil produced on tropical plantations that drive deforestation has become a major biofuel for vehicles in the European Union, industry figures released Tuesday by an environmental group revealed.

In 2014, nearly half of the palm oil used in Europe wound up in the gas tanks of cars and trucks, according to data compiled by the EU vegetable oil industry association Fediol, and obtained by Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment.

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From Nature:

biofuelThe European Union (EU) has spent the past 10 years nurturing a €15-billion (US$20-billion) industry that makes transport fuel from food crops such as soya beans and sugar cane in the hope of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Yet for more than half a decade, scientists have warned that many food-based fuels might actually be boosting emissions relative to fossil fuels.

The original accounting for biofuel emissions was all wrong, as Tim Searchinger, who studies environmental economics at Princeton University in New Jersey, noted in an influential 2008 article (T. Searchinger et al. Science 319, 1238–1240; 2008). He and his colleagues found that when agricultural land is used to plant biofuel crops, fresh land may be ploughed up to accommodate the existing crops that have been edged out. Ultimately, that may drive clearing of forests, peatlands and wetlands rich in sequestered carbon — causing large emissions of carbon dioxide. “It’s kind of obvious if you think about it,” says Searchinger.

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