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

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  •  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

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    •  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

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      •  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

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      •  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

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      •  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

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