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View Diary: Vegetables of Mass Destruction - Biofuels (230 comments)

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  •  SUV Drivers.... (28+ / 0-)

    I love it when I am at work and I listen to people carp and whine about the price of gas as if we have a constitutional right to have lower gas prices. When I tell them they can opt to drive a smaller vehicle that is more gas efficient they look at me as if I have declared myself the local communist party candidate. Many Americans confuse consumer options with actual rights. I drive a diesel vehicle which while not entirely sin free at least uses less of our narcotic of choice.

    •  And you can always use (14+ / 0-)

      bildiesel if you have the resources to set up a micro operation.  Many people have done that.

      Live Free or Die-words to live by

      by ForFreedom on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 07:47:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wouldn't rule out ethanol so quickly.. (7+ / 0-)

        While the assertions may be true from a chemical perspective the newer technologies are based on biological enzymes converting the raws into complex sugars. The fewer carbon molecules in ethanol are offset by higher octane which translates to slower burning (more complete)thus more efficient and cleaner. The other main point to consider is that thinking in terms of "A" alternative energy source is a non-starter. It's the impact of many energy strategies when taken together that will make the difference, ethanol should only be one part. Even oil has a place, liquified carbon monoxide captured from coal burning can be injected into older oil fields recovering otherwise abandoned oil. The newly sequestered carbon renders the new oil almost carbon neutral when combined with the clean electricity from the initial coal burning. Don't confuse this with current coal burning which is horrible. New plants are necessary. Also consider that a 20% increase in auto milage translates to allowing 20% more drivers without increasing emmissions. Diverse plant and native prairie ecosystems are also tremendous carbon sinks (the oceans also). These need to be encouraged and protected.

        "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self." --Aristotle

        by java4every1 on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:02:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thank you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OrangeClouds115, java4every1

          and one other thing - the diarist mentioned that ethanol doesn't help reduce carbon emissions because

          if your car requires so many carbons to go so many miles, then won't you produce the same amount of CO2 no matter what?

          this is true but misleading.  CO2 produced by burning ethanol (manufactured from switchgrass, for example) causes much less climate change because it's 'renewable' - the carbon emitted into the air will mostly be canceled out by the next year's crop of switchgrass performing photosynthesis, which will be used to make fuel, etc.  the huge, disproportionate imbalance between the carbon we emit every year and the carbon naturally sequestered every year by photosynthesis is caused by our insistence on burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil, whiose carbon atoms take millions of years to settle out of the atmosphere back into coal and oil.

          •  Ethanol has lots of fossil inputs, is no answer (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wader, OrangeClouds115, Sharon in MD

            Our current ethanol production produces only a smidge less carbon than the gasoline it replaces, because of all the fossil inputs in fertilizers, chemicals, cultivation and distillation.  Even if you could fix all that, you couldn't harvest enough biomass to replace our petroleum supplies with ethanol.

            This problem comes right down to the pathetic efficiency of the end-use systems; we're lucky to get 20% average out of a gasoline-type drivetrain, which means that a flex-fuel vehicle running on cellulosic ethanol is running well below 10% field-to-wheels efficiency.  We can't go on harvesting 10 BTU of biomass to get less than 1 BTU as work; we have to do a LOT better.

            One way to do better is to eliminate the energy conversions and use a different engine.  I just finished an analysis of the use of carbonization (instead of hydrolysis) and a combination of SOFC's and DCFC's to convert biomass into work; the exhaust gas from the SOFC's would feed a process like Greenfuel's to re-fix some of the carbon and produce biofuels as a secondary product stream.  The answer I got:

            1. We can replace petroleum-fuelled ICV's with biomass-powered PHEV's.
            2. The charcoal product can produce enough electricity via DCFC's to eliminate all coal and natural gas used for electric generation.
            3. The system could be used to sequester carbon in at least two different ways.

            Here it is.

            Work the cold equations; some answers will make you feel warm.

            by Engineer Poet on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 02:21:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Ethanol is not (6+ / 0-)

          the only biofuel.  If you check out Buanol you'll find out it's a 4-carbon alcohol which  has nearly the energy content of gasoline, versus about 60% for ethanol.  In fact, high compression engines can run on pure butanol and get better mileage than with gasoline.  The problems, so far, are with production.  There can be a strong odor asscoiated with fermentaion and the traditional bacteria used in fermentation die at low concentrations.

           However, recently, progress has been made in a two-step process, the patent owners of which, claim greater production of butanol that ethanol from a bushel of corn.  Obviously, there is room for much research.  The other main byproduct of fermentation is hydrogen.

          As a fuel, butanol can be used with existing pumps and fuel distribution systems, unlike ethanol, which absorbs too much water.  I believe cellulosic fermentation of corn husks, switch grass, waste paper, sugar cane, etc. could yield a superior fuel while generating he hydrogen needed to fuel the process.  In one manner, I disagree with OrangeCloud's father.  Certainly, local raw materials should be used and the fifty mile radius sounds about right.  However, another way to look at the process of creating a new and hopefully temporary infrastructure, until a true hydrogen/fuel cell transportation can be built, is that it can provide quality employment across the counry.  

          Government support is indeed critical.  Let's take it from mature industries like oil, coal, petroleum and especially, nuclear.  Building and maintaining thousands of smaller plants is a hell of a good way to return manufacturing jobs to areas where they're criticaly needed.  I'm tired of arguments of economies of scale.  There are far more considerations involvolved in social planning that the botom line for a company.  Let's stop thinking inside the coporate, big box and take a wholistic view.  Society as a whole, will benefit

          •  Agree 100% (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            OrangeClouds115, Sharon in MD

            The same arguments about harming the economy every time environmental regulations are mentioned are becoming really boring as well as total BS. The facts are that all the prior regs made the industries affected more efficient and profitable not to mention the boom in engineering and tech jobs created, giving additional boosts to the economy. Generally, cleaner means more energy recovery which at todays energy prices translates into dollars saved.

            "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self." --Aristotle

            by java4every1 on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 01:08:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not ruling it out (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I'm a big Ethanol fan, have been since the early 80's, got really excited about it in the 90's.

          Now I also like biodiesel as part of the energy solution spectrum.

          But the commenter has a diesel car, so I was suggesting that that individual was already set to use biodiesel.  I myself would use Ethanol in my gasoline engine car.

          Live Free or Die-words to live by

          by ForFreedom on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 06:07:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The problem is..... (12+ / 0-)

      back in the day you could throw a bunch of kids in the back seat or in the back of a station wagon no problem.  But now you have to have saftey seats for each child under a certain weight.  That means you need to have a vehicle that can accomodate all the safety seats you require to transport your kids and perhaps a friend's or relative's kids. More kids means you need a bigger vehicle that can carry all those safety seats.

      So I sympathize with those families that require a bigger vehicle to transport their families.  Now of course there are plenty of people who drive SUV's that don't need them, but we can't forget there are those that do require the space an SUV offers.  In fairness, what needs to happen is that auto makers need to make more fuel efficient vehicles for those people with big families who do not want to waste gas/oil.

      And for those that don't need big SUVs, they need to realize that they don't need such a big vehicle and would better serve the environment by driving something smaller........

      •  I own a bottom-of-the-line Dodge Caravan It has (22+ / 0-)

        4 cylinders and a 2.5 liter engine. My three large kids (ages 22, 20, and 14) fit in it, and it is quite fuel efficient. No one needs a Hummer.

      •  Hate to say this.. (6+ / 0-)

        You are right there are entirely legitimate reasons why people drive SUVs.
        It was higher gas prices combined with Japanese competition that forced US automakers to even attempt producing more fuel efficient vehicles in the late 70's early 80's. I am tempted to wish for consistently high gas prices in order to force the debate. However, I hate to make working class and middle class Americans suffer even more in order for that to occur. What we need is a Dem Presidential candidate who will offer a comprehensive national alternative energy plan that sounds appealing. It should be treated the same way putting a man on the moon was.
        I fear most Americans are too busy and over worked, or in too much denial to consider that we will just "run out" one day. I suspect most people do realize it but hope it happens to another generation.

        •  I think they'll be more receptive now (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wader, OrangeClouds115, A Siegel

          I think people are more receptive to a national energy policy now than they were during Carter's term, when Reagan ran on a platform of dismantling the Department of Energy.

          Between rising gas prices (and they'll go up again now that the election's over) and the Iraq War (which most people are starting to believe is over oil) and global warming, I think people are ready.

          Incidentally, I thought this was interesting. According to Zogby, Global Warming was a sleeper issue in the midterms.

          •  Reception is chilly (7+ / 0-)

            A lady at my gym had a hard time selling her hummer.  She liked driving it but got sick of people giving her the finger, sneering and shaking their heads as they drove by her.  I must admit I am guilty of shaking my head with disgust as I pass a hummer in my area. It is particularly offensive when they take up two car spaces in the parking deck.  My area is semi-urban and parking is always a problem.

            Arlington, Virginia

            by ScienceMom on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 10:07:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why "guilty" ... (3+ / 0-)

              That you feel guilty or that you do it?

              One of the ways to know that we've truly passed the 'tipping point' when it comes to energy in the United States is when it is as socially unacceptable for some to use a 10 mpg SUV for a 100 mile round trip commute driving alone as it is for someone to light up a cigarette in a nursery school.  (How many mothers would scream at the person to stop smoking ... when 40 years ago that cigarette would have been basically ignored ...)

              My better half is discomfitted by it, but I do stick my nose and try to get friends/acquaintances to realize how they could be more energy efficient (without hurting their lifestyles) but I have a hard time sticking my nose into neighbors' lives or strangers ... the people who live lights on 24/7, don't have CFLs, etc ... That I, who is somewhat of an energy nut, is discomfitted at doing this is an indication that we have not reached a real tipping point in terms of American culture and energy efficiency/Global Warming.  

              Energy Consensus: Learn - Connect - Share - Participate: For a new dialogue on Energy issues.

              by A Siegel on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:36:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  yes, some do need more space in vehicles (10+ / 0-)

        but there is definitely a shortage of spacious vehicles for sale which are not SUVs, and that shortage needs to be remedied.  Even a large passenger car tends to get better mileage than an SUV with comparably-sized interior.  But there are few for sale.  When I was car-shopping several years ago, the options seemed to be only Subaru Legacy and Ford Taurus, unless you had a lot of $ and could afford to go to a VW or Volvo.  So this is why something like 30% of our local vehicle shopping takes place at our Subaru dealership (I was told by the Ford salesman!).

        Very few people would need to drive an SUV given more appropriate options.  The automakers need to give us those options.

        •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          We need a fuel-efficient safe (and reasonably priced) vehicle that can carry some cargo, and can also carry extra people when needed. Currently, we drive one of these:

          Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

          It barely has a one-body trunk, and isn't made for passengers, let me tell you! Getting into that back seat is tough, unless you're 10!

          -8.00, -7.08

          November 7, 2006 - A New Beginning

          by emeraldmaiden on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 09:41:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  ZX2 (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wader, OrangeClouds115, emeraldmaiden

            I am a former Ford salesperson. I am very sorry about your ZX2 purchase. When I was selling Fords I would try to steer customers who came in to buy a 'bargain' ZX2 into buying the much nicer Focus (or a used Toyota Corolla.) [I got a fee per vehicle--not a percentage commission so, other than getting a repeat customer or a referral, it made no financial difference to me which car I sold.] The ZX2 has significant reliability issues, is fairly unsafe in a collision, and depreciates like Confederate currency. The Focus, after some initial teething problems in early production, is a much nicer vehicle--it is roomier, safer, handles better, and gets similar gas mileage. For the above reasons, I would recommend divesting yourself of your ZX2 if you are able--mainly because of the safety issues.

            •  Focus is one of the vehicles we're looking at (4+ / 0-)

              as a replacement. However, we'll be looking for a wagon, for the cargo capability.

              The ZX2 isn't driven much; my husband carpools to work, and I only take it to my mom's, my sister's, and grocery shopping, and we pick up some of our vacuums for resale in it. Ours is a 2001 and has just a bit over 36,000 miles on it.

              We likely won't be replacing this car for about a year. So far, it has been reliable, but that may be due to the low mileage. The only service it has had has been the battery & a corroded cable, oil changes, and tires.

              -8.00, -7.08

              November 7, 2006 - A New Beginning

              by emeraldmaiden on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 02:29:35 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  We love Subarus (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wader, OrangeClouds115

          Especially since we encounter lots of dirt or gravel roads, occasionally covered with gloppy snow. The oatmeal-like snow here in the Sierras is very very different than Eastern dry snow and you can't drive a 2WD car in it without some kind of chains or cables or something. But a Subaru gets through almost anything with no chains. Can't put 'em on the low-profile tires anyway.

          There's no place like home... (click) There's no place like home... (click) There's no place like home... (click)

          by willers on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 04:39:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  We have two Subarus (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          to support our four-person family, and they do everything we need, fortunately.  Commuting, shopping, trips, etc.

          Unexpectedly, I noticed that it's actually easier for me to place and secure 4x8' sheetrock on the Outback's roof than on our (earlier) Ford Explorer.

          So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way.

          by wader on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 05:50:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Car seats are a PITA (11+ / 0-)
        and are a major reason that families buy larger vehicles.

        However, the auto industry has also been focusing on building cars with more power rather than more fuel efficiency. It is possible to make vehicles with nice big doors that still get better mileage.

        Even among the vehicles available today, mid-size station wagons and sedans have plenty of room for car seats and can get nearly 30 MPG.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 08:14:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That sounds like a minivan (4+ / 0-)

        I'm pretty sure those are more fuel-efficient than SUV's. SUV's have the same number of seats as cars, so nobody "needs" one of those (except to haul a boat, but  you don't need one of those, either).

        "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

        by Alice in Florida on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 09:58:39 AM PST

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        •  Canoe!! (4+ / 0-)

          We found one at a yard sale this fall. I'm so happy!

          All my peeves are my pets.

          by yinn on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 11:35:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Large numbers of people (3+ / 0-)

          Another ethical reason to buy an SUV (or full-sized van) is if you routinely transport a large number of adults, or adult-weight children. Minivans, while having up to eight seats, will not carry eight adults (or even five 200 pounders) without breaking. There are two numbers to look at on the little metal panel located around the drivers-side front door of every passenger vehicle sold in the US: The Empty weight and the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating.) The difference between the EW (Curb Weight) and the GVWR is the vehicles cargo capacity (minus the weight of the fuel.) Most minivans, which are based on car chassis, are rated between 450-1000 pounds. Most full-sized SUVs and all full sized vans are based on light-truck platforms, so that most have a significantly greater cargo capacity. Mileage per passenger for a full sized van with six passengers is going to be (more than) competitive with the mileage per passenger of a Prius with one.

      •  Overall ...minivans get better millage (5+ / 0-)

        younger parents just have to suck up the uncool factor...or watch Get Shorty and see how cool a minivan really is !
        I agree with you that car seats take up a shitload of room and for parents with young kids the options are not that great.  Anyway...once the car seat stage has passed the options increase greatly. My civic fits three kids on a regular basis.  

        Arlington, Virginia

        by ScienceMom on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 09:59:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My daughter and husband (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OrangeClouds115, ScienceMom

          Own a small to mid size car and a large SUV. They use the smaller car for trips to the store, ect. There is room in the back for the kids and car seats. They use the SUV when they want to take the dogs, they need that extra room and since they live about half a mile from the Wasatch Mt. range, they need a four wheel drive for the winters. That's the trouble with most minis, they are terrible on snow. We had one for camping and there was no way we would take it out on snowy roads. They are getting better at making them better for snow, tho.

          Shut it down is so yesterday. Now it's time to FIRE IT UP!

          by high uintas on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 03:19:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  If only large families drove SUVs (6+ / 0-)

        ...we wouldn't have enough on the road to worry about.  The largest SUV family I know personally is a family of four.  I know a good number of SUV drivers that don't have any kids at all.

        On the other hand, there are no doubt millions of households with three or more kids who don't drive SUVs and somehow manage to get by.  The poorer a family is, the more likely it is to have more than two kids, and the less likely it is to have an SUV.  I would bet that, if you eliminate people with 0 kids from the equation, you would find there is an inverse correlation between family size and SUV ownership.

        The people who drive SUVs don't drive them because they have to for any reason whatsoever; they drive them because they want to...and, most of all, because they can afford to.

      •  I get livid (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        when I hear from SUV drivers that they need them for all their kids. It's percisely because of their kids that they should not be driving the damn carbon spewing, planet destroying cars.  The time is long past for these parents not to get it, I don't buy that excuse.  It's morally corrupt for these jackasses to continue as if they are not committing generational genocide upon their own offspring.

        •  Not breeding is a good solution (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OrangeClouds115, willers, Picot verde

          My parents had one child and I am childless. I fit (pre-adolescence) just fine in the backseat of my parents' Beetle. I think that the one couple-one child policy is a good one for the environment. The safety wussies would have apoplexy seeing me as a child in the tiny "belt-free" backseat of the VW.

          •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            exsimo2, OrangeClouds115

            my husband and I have decided not to have a child at all, I can't justify bringing a child into this world. People have no idea how bad it's going to get.  If we want a family we'll adopt.  By the way, I spent many a road trips in the back seat of my Dad's Beetle, along with my brother and our family dog, hmmm, the time I was usually  wishing I had the whole tiny back all to myself.

          •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            exsimo2, wader

            We have one child and will not have any more. Might adopt some day, but we won't be breeding any more.

            And I got thrown from the rear seat of our 1965 Mustang 3 times that I can remember... the seats have no latches on them and just hinge forward freely, throwing anyone in them into the pointy dashboard, or throwing a kid in the back seat with no seatbelt into the same pointy dash. Bit i grw up jis fyne n hav no lastg damg....

            There's no place like home... (click) There's no place like home... (click) There's no place like home... (click)

            by willers on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 04:44:29 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  i'm with ya (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Picot verde

            I won't breed. The planet has enough people and I don't like kids. If I was crazy about kids I might have 1, or two at most. But I feel that a good start is for only people who want kids to have them.

            Recipe For America - A people-powered movement to take back our food system

            by OrangeClouds115 on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 08:38:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Not necessarily SUV ... but ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OrangeClouds115, Sharon in MD

        Currently, I have a Honda Accord ... I looked at getting a Prius ... but that roughly 5 inches of narrowing made it impossible to have infant seat, booster seat, and young child (without seat) in the back ... which is a 'just fit' with the Accord.

        Now, my kids should be out of the car seats in time for the plug-in hybrids that I expect to be on the market in the 2009 model year.

        PS:  And, rather than borrowing money for a new car, the investments have been made in the home to make it (FAR) more energy efficient -- from DIY leak filling/insulation, to a high-efficiency fossil fuel heat/cooling system, to a high-efficiency fireplace insert, to solar hot water, LED lighting, and new refrigerator ... solar electric envisioned as a future investment ...

        Energy Consensus: Learn - Connect - Share - Participate: For a new dialogue on Energy issues.

        by A Siegel on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:20:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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