Thursday, April 24, 2008

BIO - Fuel or Food

The Age today reports that the U.S. has rationed sales of rice. The world price for rice rose about 68% last year.

In February, The Times reported that the world was only 10 weeks away from running out of wheat. The world price for wheat rose about 92% last year.

In January, The Finacial Post reported that U.S. corn exports will seize up in less than three years. The world price of corn rose about 60% last year.

Here's another one from April 24 that talks about the UN having to make "heartbreaking choices" with its emergency aid because it can no longer afford to buy food for starving nations.

So let's talk a little about the real costs and benefits of biofuels, if any can be said to exist. What are biofuels? Biofuels are those fuels like "biodeisel" or ethanol, that are produced mostly from food plants or disguarded by-products of food plants like used vegetable oil. For the most part we use grains like wheat, corn and rice to make ethanol with the very versatile (not to mention gentically modified) canola being used for oil, mostly.

Ethanol is an excellent energy carrier but produces just as much CO2 as regular unleaded fuel. Biodeisel, distilled from old or new vegetable oil doesn't work quite as well, so you'll need a Deisel engine to burn it properly. Even so, you'll still produce just as much CO2 as you would with deisel fuel, so in that regard at least, there's no real advantage to either of them as "environmentally friendly" fuels. They are however, renewable resources.

The European policy on biofuels dictates that there be 2% ethanol by volume in petrol, rising to 5.75% by 2010 in order to create a disired "crude oil saving". America is considering a similar policy, as is Australia and a myriad other countries around the world and the saving in crude oil is the only reason for it.

As we can see from all those articles though, there's already a serious food shortage brought on mostly by our current minimal insistance on biofuels. But as ethanol percentages rise in fuel, so will the demand for those food products. That means food becomes scarce, prices continue to rise, which of course drives yet more inlfation and the UN will have to choose who will die for lack of food.

Is this really the answer that we're looking for?

18 Comments:

Dikkii said...

Tim Flannery is not convinced by biofuels. I'm not either.

The thing that did it for me, is the speed with which the last federal government introduced legislation mandating ethanol content after the media did a mini blitz on independent petrol retailers who had introduced it into their product sneakily. My Dad did the maths and worked out that even with a cost saving of up to 4 cents per litre, it would still cost you more to drive 100 km.

But if anything is going to split the rural lobby in Australia - it's going to be this one. Growers like it. Graziers do not.

The media is currently talking up food shortages, with rice being the first major battle. While I'm not sure if this is just hysteria or not, expect corn, wheat or any other biofuel crop to be next.

phoenix said...

If you'd asked Henry Ford, he would have given you the simplest answer of all.

Grow hemp!

Before petroleum, hemp was used to produce biofuel. It grows quickly and in large volumes. It requires little or no pesticides, less water than the majority, is easy to harvest and produces a high quality oil.

And if a farmer produces more than they can sell for biofuel, there need be no wastage. All they have to do is sell it to produce something from the myriad of other possible products... rope products, paper, clothing, household furnishings, essential oils, make-up, deodorant, soap, shampoo, nappies, sanitary items, paint, construction materials, plastics, pet food... and yes, even food products.

Leave the rice, corn, wheat, etc for people to eat and it becomes affordable again.

But that's just hippy nonsense.

Plonka said...

Dikkii:

Yeah, Flannery, if memory serves correctly, was one of the first to complain, but it was only in the context of CO2 production. That's true enough, I'll grant him, but that UN story disturbed me greatly. Lives are much more important than any (minuscule) amount of CO2 we can produce and we're only doing this to try and make it cheaper, which I always had my doubts about.

Pheonix:

Indeed he would have. But then Henry was a contemporary of Richard Dupont, the man that killed hemp, and he didn't like him very much.

But then we run into the "per acre" problem. If for instance, we want to be able to fulfill our current commitments by 2010, the US, who produces about 54% of the worlds corn, will by that time need to be producing 200 bushels per acre as opposed to the current 30 bushels per acre, and current farming techniques simply do not allow for anything like that amount.

Conversely to produce the required amounts of biofuels using a non-food plant like hemp, we'll need to find acres to use because it's become obvious that we need the food. To do that, we'll have to take either food growing acres, or cut down more forest.

But no, it's not hippy nonsense. That was one of the reason Ford disliked Dupont so much. But that's a whole other post that I've been in the process of writing ever since I looked at Gryph's other blog...:)

phoenix said...

Ah, but Plonka... productivity per acre is generally much higher than most of those crops too, as the bushes themselves...
a) can grow in very close proximity to each other (around 4cm between plants).
b) are by nature a tall and leafy plant that produces extremely well (optimally, up to 23 tonnes of dry material per hectare).
c) a plant in which every part can be utilised (leaves, flowers, seeds, stems and even the roots).
d) grow to maturity quickly and all year round, therefore can produce more crops and in much less time (how does every 110 days sound?).

And hemp is also an excellent plant to use in 'mop crops' so could be quite helpful in providing us with a solution as to what to do with all that unsavoury treated effluent that people don't want to use on their own gardens. Or, for that matter, the contaminated ground water that runs out of landfill sites. What's wrong with utilising the land around water treatment plants, and rubbish dumps?

As for reclaiming forests or crop areas to grow hemp, that's unnecessary really. Hemp grows in many places that popular food crops won't. As I mentioned earlier, it requires less water and is more tolerant to pests.

With all of that in mind, it's not inconceivable to think that hemp may even be helpful in reclaiming and even improving the quality of land that is at present considered unusable. Conceivably, it could also enhance and/or replace the wood pulping industry, among other things.

By the way... how's the job hunt going? Maybe you should look into something in the hemp industry. After New South Wales' recent precedent, I do believe that this industry should and will go ahead in leaps and bounds. I'm even considering becoming a party plan consultant for a company that sells hemp clothing and beauty products. All I need now is a home base to consult from.

Plonka said...

how does every 110 days sound?

84 under lights...;)

hemp may even be helpful in reclaiming and even improving the quality of land

Yes well, Bangladesh springs to mind, but stay tuned, it's still a work in progress...

I don't know if I could work in the hemp industry Pheonix. I have a problem with hemp and can't help but burn every last bit I find...:O)

phoenix said...

So you like headaches, then? ;op

Which brings up the subject of what I think our main barrier to hemp production is at the moment. Most people have the understanding that 'hemp = marijuana'. But marijuana is a strain of hemp that has been specifically engineered by man to enhance the benefits of THC (which I could also get into... but won't). In reality, you could burn up that whole hectare of hemp and get nothing but a headache out of it. You might try it once, but I doubt you'd bother to go back for seconds.

So the hemp industry would be completely safe in your capable hands, I'm sure.

Plonka said...

Not if you run on nothing but water for at least the last 6 days. It's the forgotten step these days...;)

Marijuana was the name that native Americans (I think) used. Dupont made the word popular as a drug, disassociated with Hemp. He would never have been able to get it outlawed otherwise because hemp was a serious commodity on the world market at the time. It was a masterful piece of manipulation and a very, very effective scare campaign.

But there's a lot more to the story to be patient, it's coming...

So the hemp industry would be completely safe in your capable hands, I'm sure.

Don't they have a medical research department? Someone has to test it, I'm sure...

phoenix said...

Well, I KNEW that you would have known all the ins and outs... just thought I'd make the differential for all of those many uninformed readers that you have.

Now, patience is not one of my strengths really... but ok, I'll wait. Sounds interesting already.

Don't they have a medical research department? Someone has to test it, I'm sure...

Well, we have been looking but they're elusive buggers. If you have better luck than us, just remember... don't forget your old friends now, will you?

Indica Man said...

I have a *lot* of posts in the making at 'It's Medicine Jim', so stay tuned. My latest is the 'Gateway' myth if you're interested in checking it out. The next I'm hoping to get done is about historical medicinal compounds (that reminds me of a song) that contain cannabis. Eventually (if you're not doing it already Plonka), is an exposure of the commercial, racist and reasons/conspiracy behind Hemp prohibition.
Of course, I'd be more motivated to complete these reports if I could burn a heap of that evil weed, gram by gram in some sort of brass crucible.

Plonka said...

I'm working on the prohibition thing, but only really what got it started and how it was fueled...

david mabus said...

http://thomashawk.com/hello/209/1017/1024/Johnny%20Cash%20Finger.jpg

And PZ Myers, you self-deluded insignificant NUTCASE...

the ORIGINAL *KING OF TERROR* VIDEO.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGsOqPDkIZY

the *MODEL* of mental health:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=zBEbfiaZTfc

"Look at the ANGLE OF THE KEY....see that, see that...."

what an idiot this Randi is.....a REAL CRITICAL THINKER....

Visit:

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/3283/P0/

to see how we stopped the MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL challenge.....
watch carefully the consequences of Randi's *idea*.....

For over 40 years James Randi Zwigert (is this even a REAL NAME?) has had total control over who and how the testing was conducted, yet despite all this he has terminated the challenge.

The ONLY REASON why the challenge was stopped is because he lost and refused to pay.
Apparently, Randi likes to break the rules when it serves him:

"14. This prize will continue to be offered until it is awarded. Upon the death of James Randi, the administration of the prize will pass into other hands, and it is intended that it continue in force. "

Great force.....it's over......

where is my MILLION DOLLARS, you LITTLE *NO-NAME* FRAUD

PS: Almost Forgot: Love the IRONY of the *BULLSHIT* sign over Randi's ugly head....

Dikkii said...

Holy fuck, Plonka. Somehow that idiot David Mabus has ended up posting to your blog. May I recommend that you switch your comments moderation on for a little while...

Psychodiva said...

ah fuck- that idiot turned up on Raving Atheists not long back- again! kick him off!

phoenix said...

Hey you.

I just sent you a pm on bn 'cause I don't think you can do that here.

We're leaving here today and we wanted to say bye. Drop me a line and let me know what's going on in your part of the world.

Take care.

Dikkii said...

Hey Plonka. What gives with the silence?

Censorbugbear said...

You might be interested to know that New Zealand Airlines is developing a new fuel from INEDIBLE jatropha oil. Jatropha is a desert shrub which was developed by a German scientist as a means to create wind-breaks to protect the soil and the livestock of poor African farmers, i.a. The plant is inedible, livestock hates it, but the fruit is 60% oil, from which farmers make lamp oil, and a wonderful antibiotic soap, to earn extra cash at local markets. I have always felt that this bean would serve mankind very well one day. I was delighted when my friend wrote that their entire community in Tanzania has been roped in to plant more rows of Jatropha, the company buying up the oil for this new biofuel venture gives them the seeds - which of course also helps them 'green' the generally semi-desert soil in their area, while also not forcing them to remove their food crops. Suddenly this bean has become very important to them. They were paid very fair prices for their first batch.

Jatropha needs very little moisture to grow. I thus far only see advantages, as long as Air New Zealand's ongoing programme to manufacture this new biofuel keeps going, these poor African farmers are going to face a much better future than ever before. Hope springs eternal!

See story here http://censorbugbear-reports.blogspot.com/2008/12/airline-boeing-test-flight-on-jatropha.html

Anonymous said...

You have really great taste on catch article titles, even when you are not interested in this topic you push to read it

Anonymous said...

http://13dfgsdfg57.com/

© Blogger Templates | Tech Blog