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Note: In my next biofuels post I'm going to talk about ancient forest management. For thosuands of years humans learned to manage forests to produce fuel reliably in the same piece of land for centuries.

Obviously our energy needs are greater now. But biofuels can contribute a renweable portion of our energy needs.

I've been delving into the world of biofuels, specifically wood. And I've found a pretty cool thing I had no idea existed. The wood gas generator. A wood powered engine. Put wood into a barrel, and drive around for a while. The wood powers an internal combustion engine. As it turns out, it's a very old technology using a process called gasification.

It's pretty neat.

Here's a wood powered tractor

woodtractor

Now...one of the most interesting things about wood as fuel, in addition to it being renewable, is it's carbon negative.

No, really. Instead of burning fossil fuels like coal and releasing CO2 buried for millions of years, burning wood releases CO2 that would have otherwise been released through the tree's natural biodegrading process. But! Some of the carbon is locked up in charcoal and ash that won't decompose for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Burning wood removes carbon from the system.

Pretty slick.

But there's always a fly in the ointment.

Some would argue it's not REALLY carbon negative because of the energy required to transport the huge and heavy wood...the gigantic trucks required to haul the wood across the landscape and the machinery used to process it.

Once you add in the transportation, you've easily removed any of the carbon neutral or carbon negative benefits.

But let's say we started using the wood itself as fuel for the trucks hauling the wood, and the machinery processing the wood.

Ever hear of a wood gas generator?

I hadn't heard of them until last week.

As it turns out FEMA offers a free blueprint to create a wood gas generator in its report "Construction of a Simplified Wood Gas Generator for Fueling Internal Combustion Engines in a Petroleum Emergency."

If you think that report looks a little hoaxy, you can also check out an article on How Stuff Works about wood gas / gassification generators.

The energy is created through a process called Gassification.

Better Gas(ification) Mileage
Believe it or not, one of the main uses of wood gasification has been to power internal combustion engines. Before 1940, gasification-powered cars were occasionally seen, especially in Europe. Then, during World War II, petroleum shortages forced people to think about alternatives. The transportation industries of Western Europe relied on wood gasification to power vehicles and ensure that food and other important materials made it to consumers. After the war, as gas and oil became widely available, gasification was largely forgotten. A future petroleum shortage, however, may revitalize our interest in this old technology. The car driver of the future may ask to "fill 'er up" with a few sticks of wood instead of a few gallons of gas.

Here's another source from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Coal, wood and charcoal gasifiers have been used for operation of internal combustion engines in various applications since the beginning of this century. The utilization peaked during the Second World War when almost a million gasifiers were used all over the world, mainly vehicles operating on domestic solid fuels instead of gasoline.  

One of the big advantages of this vs. steam is that it's MUCH cleaner. Particulates and tarry stuff is captured in a filter and the burned material is mostly hydrogen. With a steam engine, you're blasting a lot of particulate and smoke into the air (though I am NOW told by terryhallinan that this is not true, that steam totally kicks gassification's butt on all fronts).

Yep.

You can make a wood powered car. A wood powered tractor. Or a wood powered truck, used specifically to haul....

...wood, which makes the use of wood as a carbon neutral fuel for heating or electricity actually Carbon Neutral or Carbon Negative. If they need more fuel, well, they're haling it.

Here's a video of people with a functioning wood gasification stove

As a final note, thanks to Zenbassoon

We'd also be helping to cut down the largest source of methane, a powerful greehouse gas, in the world...

...TERMITE FLATULANCE.

Termites are of insect Order Isoptera, appeared during Cretaceous time, and are distant relatives of cockroaches. Symbionic bacteria in their gut assist in the digestion of fiberous plants, yielding methane (CH3) as a byproduct. In aggregate, the flatulent termites are the largest source of methane gas on Earth, and a major contributor to green-house gases. The large bubbles often found adjacent and attached to the termites in amber is bacteria-produced methane.

-- Source

Originally posted to Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:23 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  How about methane? (10+ / 0-)

    If we could just find a way to tap the gas emitted from all the bullshit the GOP has been shoveling we could power America for decades.

  •  i would love to ride around in a (6+ / 0-)

    wood powered tractor!

    this stuff is mad cool.
    thanks m/c :-)

    "When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." ~H.G. Wells

    by ridemybike on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:28:29 PM PST

  •  The flaw I see is that (8+ / 0-)

    you need wood.  And that's not that renewable.  Plus, the more wood is cut down. the less CO2 gets photosynthesized, etc etc etc

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:29:06 PM PST

    •  My next biofuel post I'm going to talk about (7+ / 0-)

      ancient forest management. For thosuands of years humans learned to manage forests to produce fuel reliably in the same piece of land for centuries.

      Obviously our energy needs are greater now. But biofuels can contribute a renweable portion of our energy needs.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:32:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh for the day when we have to worry that we (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      satanicpanic, earicicle

      don't have ENOUGH CO2!

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:37:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Modern timber (6+ / 0-)

      The modern timber industry is basically just farming.  You plant trees (loblolly pine in the Southeast, spruce in the Northeast, and Douglass-fir in the West.)  Then, you wait for a few decades and harvest and replant.  This process actually produces much, much less run-off than agricultural farming.  In the US, there is not very much felling of virgin forest anymore (a good thing,) because these farming techniques are put into place.  It would probably be more efficient than stuff like switchgrass in the long run, because trees are more productive in terms of making tissue.

      All that said, this biofuel approach won't be all that useful.  It just has way, way too many inefficiencies.  The only places I can really see it working are those where you are making fuel from some sort of waste product.  Even then, it wouldn't supply enough for everyone.  It would just be another input.

      •  The primary reason (5+ / 0-)

        the timber companies are not cutting down very much virgin forest these days is because they've been pretty effective in cutting just about all of it down by now.  There just is very, very little left.

        That said, it's true that managed forests - tree plantations - can indeed produce a lot of timber.

      •  Hey there are what I call Weed-Trees that (4+ / 0-)

        grow like crazy,I had a couple grow by the fence that got 20 feet high and had 8 inch trunks when I cut them down and it only took them about 5-6 years to get that big,they had pretty little white blooms and a lot of sprawling limbs with oval half-dollar sized leafs but they were weak limbs and the wood had a lot of water in it and I never have found out what kind of tree it is but they seem to be all over the place and there are other kinds of species of trees like that also.

        •  "Weed trees" (3+ / 0-)

          There are a lot of species of trees that grow quickly but have, as foresters put it, "poor form."  They would make a lousy saw-log.  They tend to have poor wood qualities, too.  In the US, there is a lot of work on several species that could potentially be superior sources of raw biomass.  Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) are species that I'm aware of.  I wouldn't be surprised to see boxelders (Acer negundo) and the various Celtis species added to the list.

        •  "Tree of Heaven" or Privet.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nanoboy, defluxion10

          Imported from China in the 19th century....Goddam things will destroy walls and foundations, grow like friggen weeds.  Since they've been pointed out to me a few years ago, I have been travelling around the country and I'm amazed how widely they range in the US, I learned about them in California, and I've seen them in FL GA SC NC VA NJ PA WV TN....

          There's another 19th centry import that lines watercourses and has been slowly changing the environment along the Grand/Green/Colorado river complex, screwing up the sand bars along the edges...

          I learned about the Privet in Cal from some dedicated loony anti-invasive species activist who literally went around stirring people up to go on Privet-Destruction Missions...("I HATE those things" he sez....)

          "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

          by leftykook on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 06:09:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Wood itself.... (8+ / 0-)

      ...is actually very renewable.

      When people talk about wood and forests not being renewable, they're not entirely correct.  Ancient (old growth) forests take centuries to grow, sure.  Just the wood itself?  If you're farming and don't care about a full ecosystem?  Not so much.  Varieties like poplar grow very quickly, and if the technology doesn't require wood specifically even faster growing plants such as bamboo or kudzu could be used.  (I know, I know.  Kudzu needs to be eradicated wherever it's found, idiots keep trying to introduce it into the Cascades up here, but in the south at least, cat's out of the bag on that score....)

    •  As I keep saying (6+ / 0-)

      (often in these kinds of diaries) - it's not that simple.

      Under some (not unusual) conditions, you can actually increase a forest's carbon sequestration by cutting wood and other tree-competing wood shrubs and brush. You can have 200 or 300 starving trees per acre, or 50 or 60 healthy trees. The smaller number of healthy trees will accumulate more wood in total than the 200 or 300 over-crowded trees.

      Part of forestry and forest ecosystems is getting the density (trees per acre) in the right ballpark, and historically in North America (and many other places) that's been accomplished by human intervention, even pre-Columbus.

      Bitte sag mir wer das Märchen vom Erwachsen sein erfand

      by badger on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:49:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Germany in the last stages of WWll (6+ / 0-)

    saw many vehicles outfitted with such engines-  gas or even kerosene was nearly impossible to find.  I've got some photos of early VWs thus equipped around here somewhere.

    We demand that you set up a delicious buffet.

    by Dan Gallo on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:31:23 PM PST

  •  There aren't enough trees (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    defluxion10, Muskegon Critic

    They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

    by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:32:18 PM PST

    •  My next biofuel post I'm going to talk about (5+ / 0-)

      ancient forest management. For thosuands of years humans learned to manage forests to produce fuel reliably in the same piece of land for centuries.

      Obviously our energy needs are greater now. But biofuels can contribute a renweable portion of our energy needs.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:34:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm also wondering (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Muskegon Critic

        Why not just make a steam engine and burn the wood.  I don't know much about gasification.  I browsed your first link and sounds like this idea is a way to keep your existing tractors running in case gasoline is not available.

        They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

        by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:39:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's actually quite a bit cleaner (2+ / 0-)

          for the air. Watch that vid if you haven't yet.

          The "gunk" gets trapped in a filter and the stuff being burned is clean clean clean, mostly hydrogen.

          Vs. steam power you're just blasting that particulate out into the air.

          Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

          by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:46:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually a modern steam engine is cleaner (2+ / 0-)

            and more adaptable than wood-burning internal combustion engines.

            Best,  Terry

            •  LIES! (0+ / 0-)

              Really?  Okay, I'm going to need a source for that cleaner bit.

              Though I don't have a source for mine.

              Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

              by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:54:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's a playful "LIES" by the way. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                terryhallinan

                Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

                by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:57:09 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  You don't trust me? :-) (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                earicicle, Muskegon Critic

                I have been having some bizarre computer problem that wouldn't allow a copy but it would allow a link.

                For the record we did a report on the venerable Burlington, VT, wood-burning power plant that uses gasification.  Claims are that newer fluidized bed technology is cleaner.  FWIW only.

                That has nothing particularly to do with the external combustion engine but I will try to get a link.

                Be back after I try to resolve whatever is the problem.

                Best,  Terry

              •  The Fuel Truth (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                yet another liberal

                Perhaps when considering the now greatly added costs to the gasoline and Diesel engines of adding so much computer controlled fuel systems and pollution control additions, one must again look most carefully at the external combustion engine. The external combustion engine is not fuel sensitive and can cleanly burn any light liquid fuel that is pumped to the burner with NO added pollution control equipment.

                The external combustion Cyclone engine burns it’s fuel at very low pressures, inches of water and not pounds per square inch, and the long residence time of any fuel particle in the burner means complete and clean combustion. It does not produce any unburned hydrocarbons or CO, and when using pure bio-fuel, there is minimum CO2 produced.

                The Cyclone engine creates almost no CO or NoX as it burns at temperatures below 2300 degrees Ferinheight [sic] at atmospheric pressure. The internal combustion engine will burn incompletely at 3000 degrees under extremely high pressures; during which time the toxic fumes are created.

                And on and on and on in promotional material by the outfit that sold DARPA on the power source for DARPA's hordes of corpse-eating robots that so horrified the gentle folk at FauxNews. :-)

                Understand this is promotional material but the boiler is separate from the engine.  The engine is powered entirely by steam from the boiler.  If chicken fat, orange peelings or other fuels suggested are still too polluting, one need only use a different fuel.

                Mark Twain thought mummies were quite suitable.

                Best,  Terry

        •  The biggest problems with Steam is the Plumbing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Muskegon Critic

          it starts with the Boiler and and ends with the Condenser and since Cars and Trucks are short of space when it comes to the power plants that can be put in them then the Boilers has to be small and small Steam Boilers just don't work to well.

    •  Dead Trees Courtesy Of People That Believe Such (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Muskegon Critic

      are quite plentiful.

      Beetle-killed trees are largely blamed on global warming.  One might throw in some percentage of hurricane-killed trees.

      Some here would even rather forests burn with all the animals and birds rather than remove the brush and debris for power plants.

      Nobody wants to burn trees but rather waste.

      Best,  Terry

      •  Somebody has to add up (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greengemini

        Just how much energy would be available in the burning of those trees.

        There might be enough to run the farm, but I doubt there is enough to run the cities.

        They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

        by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:51:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's a lot (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee, greengemini

          The figure I heard from a government forester for just WA State wood waste was (IIRC) millions of tons. I believe that was just dead and down timber, but could be wrong about that.

          When I thinned my woods I probably took out 5 or 6 tons per acre (some of it as firewood, a lot of brush just burned) and my woods wasn't very dense and I wasn't real aggressive. Some thinning programs have gone as high 15 tons per acre removed, which is probably excessive in most cases IMO. That's not just dead stuff, but it isn't reducing the number of trees per acre below historical levels either.

          A ton of wood is the fuel equivalent of about a ton-and-a-half of coal, but no mercury or radon or other toxics, and a lot easier to mine.

          Bitte sag mir wer das Märchen vom Erwachsen sein erfand

          by badger on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:10:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really, there's more energy in wood than coal? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            parryander

            That's surprising.

            They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

            by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:12:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ack! (3+ / 0-)

              did it backwards.

              1 ton of wood = 2/3 ton of coal (more or less - depends on moisture content mostly).

              Thanks for catching it.

              Bitte sag mir wer das Märchen vom Erwachsen sein erfand

              by badger on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:19:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  A Pound of Feathers Weighs The Same As A Pound of (0+ / 0-)

              coal. :-)

              Really, there's more energy in wood than coal?

              The Minnesota Alfalfa Growers Co-Op fought for years to build a sizable power plant burning the residue of alfalfa after the edible parts were pelletized.

              The never-say-die farmers finally abandoned the power plant in frustration and now have been trying for a decade to get a permit to densify and pelletize the alfalfa inedibles  The war is about over but it was some struggle.

              The pellets are a quite suitable substitute for coal and I would make a wild guess might even be more dense because of their compactness.

              While wood pellets are co-fired with coal, wood chips seem to univerally power plants when used alone.  Certainly wood generally is lighter than coal though there is a rare wood that will sink in water and is quite heavy [lignum vitae].

              Burlington, VT, a wonderful environmental enclave, has been burning waste wood for about 20 years.  Willows are grown for a tiny percentage of fuel but are not needed.  The plant could burn natural gas if wood ran short.

              When we visited Burlington to look at the plant, a fenced space to receive yard waste from residents asked that painted and treated wood not be mixed with other woody materials.  Today's technology would allow even construction debris to be burned cleanly.

              Dust is the one complaint from residents that live in close proximity as well as an adjoining civic garden of monumental proportions.  The dust wasn't evident but this is Burlington.

              Is there enough beetle-killed wood to power a city?

              Surely you jest.

              Numerous outfits are hungrily eyeing the vast stretches of beetle-killed pine in British Columbia with submissions of plans for sizable power plants.  As is its wont, BC regulators are leisurely studying on things while burning lots of fossil fuel.

              My favorite alternate fuel is municipal sludge.  Be assured there is no shortage of that.

              Best,  Terry

        •  yet another liberal (0+ / 0-)

          Somebody has to add up Just how much energy would be available in the burning of those trees.

          Nobody wants to burn trees except those folks that think it is better to have forest fires than remove brush and debris.

          There are willows grown for burning but only in very limited quantities.  Perhaps poplars are too.  Poplars are grown for paper.  Both are very fast growing trees.

          But nearly 100% if fuel for wood-burning plants is waste, debris and brush with some thinning of small trees in a well-managed forest.

          There are indeed audits of waste wood that are made for the purpose of ascertaining how much wood is available for a plant and I suggest to you not one is worth whatever price is paid as against a reasonably knowledgeable estimate.

          There are many charges that burning wood will cause our forests to be destroyed.  Plumb silly in my view. Only a lunatic would log a healthy stand of trees for burning.

          Much of this is like the westerns with the wars between cattlemen and sheepmen.  Sheep do indeed crop the glass closer to the ground but pasture can be destroyed by either.

          How do I know?

          My father raised both sheep and cattle.  He would typically have the sheep grazing after the cattle were done.  He thought the sheep were the more valuable because their grazing provided a more bountiful crop of grass afterwards.

          Mother Nature is a grand old lady but you need to learn and respect her ways, not just leave her be.  Only city folk think that she cannot be cherished and treated well.

          Forests can provide bounty or be destroyed.  We are set on a course for the latter.  I prefer the former.

          Best,  Terry

          •  We are definitely set on a course for the latter (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terryhallinan

            I see forests being replaced by pavement all around me, all the time.  I've seen all sorts of clearcuts, not for burning, but for timber and easy profits by the people who were handed the land.

            We have increasing numbers of people to support and there's only so much capacity the earth has.

            There isn't space for everybody to have a pasture and live in a more natural way.  We are already crowding out all sorts of wildlife.

            I wish there was enough trees and land to go around.  It's not because I'm a city person (I am these days, but I grew up much more rural), it's just that there's too many of us.

            Plus, nature is not all it's cracked up to be.  :-)  How much more suffering was there before antibiotics and modern dental care?  :-)

            They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

            by yet another liberal on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 01:18:09 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  One Answer Is Urban Farming (2+ / 0-)

              Interesting development is this from TreeHugger.

              In fact the vegetables and herbs apparently no longer grow on the vertical panels shown that were originally designed for growing algae.

              The setup looks more like a garden shop from the pictures.

              The whole concept is still in development but the promos have huge production with a minimum of space and water.  There is no need for pesticides or herbicides and nutrients are recycled.

              In any case we are in a brave new world, for better or worse.

              Take care. friend.

              Best,  Terry

  •  Wood Gasification Is Quite Venerable But (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Corwin Weber, Muskegon Critic

    the external combustion engine that is far older may be even more salubrious:

    See here.

    Best,  Terry

    •  That's sweet! (0+ / 0-)

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:40:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't know about.... (2+ / 0-)

      ...the Rankin engine they're talking about, but most external combustion engines just don't work for cars.  Stirling's for example just take too long to come to full power.

      They're great for stationary generators, (and we should be using them for that a lot more than we actually do...) but the start and stop nature of a car.... not so much.

      •  Until a car or other vehicle is built with a (0+ / 0-)

        modern steam engine, all is speculation.  

        You are hardly alone in your doubts, as I am sure you must know, but a test is in planning stages for a car to set a new steam engine land speed record.

        An engine has been delivered to DARPA for their EATR I think:

         title=

        Might be awhile before we hear anything about this guy though.  I was posting on DARPA's Arpanet years before Al Gore invented the internet. :-)

        Best,  Terry

  •  They oughta figure out... (8+ / 0-)

    ... a way to make fuel out of kudzu.  Kill two birds with one stone - so to speak...

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:40:02 PM PST

  •  Coal powered engine (3+ / 0-)

    The Lane Auto Museum in Nashville Tennessee has a coal-powered car, made in Germany during the 30s.  Very very cool machine!

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:55:27 PM PST

  •  How is potential energy of any source measured? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leo in NJ, Muskegon Critic

    For example, a gallon of gasoline?  How much energy is in it?

    And I wonder, how many trees and how much time went into making that gallon of gasoline?

    They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

    by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:03:32 PM PST

    •  I'm assuming you mean "gallon" of "gasoline" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yet another liberal

      since it's not technically either...it's being vaporized and the useful gasses being filtered...but...geeze somewhere I read how many joules are in a ton of tree...lemme see if I can find that.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:06:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I read a theory once (3+ / 0-)

        That said the industrial revolution of the past several centuries was spurred on by a tree shortage in Europe.  That, they had chopped them down pretty well, and needed to start making coal burning machines.

        I just read that.  I have no idea if it's true.  It sounds good.  :-)

        They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

        by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:10:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Under British rule, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yet another liberal

          much of Eastern Canada was practically clear cut, and shipped back to Europe.  I don't have the figures in front of me, but I suspect it was more profitable than the fur trade.

          Mark Twain -Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

          by Kingsmeg on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:54:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  AHA...here we go (4+ / 0-)

      wikipedia!

      A common hardwood, red oak, has an energy content of 14.89 megajoules per kilogram (6,388 BTU per pound), and 10.423 megajoules recoverable if burned at 70% efficiency.[2]

      Vs. about 35 Megajoules per kilogram for coal.

      So wood is a little less than half as energy dense as coal.

      The energy density of ethanol is 26.8 megajoules per kilogram

      Gasoline is 32 megajoules per kilogram

      So...assuming there's comparable efficiency between the different fuels, which there probably isn't, you're probably looking at two or three gallon sized blocks of wood to get you as far as 1 gallon sized gallon of gasoline.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:12:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Bomb" calorimiters (0+ / 0-)

      A large and strong combustion chamber into which you introduce a measured quantity of fuel and the required amount of oxygen, which you then ignite (electrically, I presume). The combustion chamber is surrounded with a known quantity of water; the change in temperature lets you calculate how much heat is generated.

  •  and there are some great forests in south America (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    that have lots of wood we can burn!

    Never walk into a public restroom while breathing through your mouth.

    by quityurkidding on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:11:39 PM PST

    •  Hehe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Muskegon Critic

      And that's part of the problem too.  If we go burn up everything we can get our hands on, what happens to the soils?

      They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

      by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:12:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well...you know...we (6+ / 0-)

        don't do THAT.

        I think when people hear "use trees for fuel" they think of chopping down live trees and hacking them to pieces. But that's not it at all. Or shouldn't be.

        I'm talking about using the the deadfall. And there's buttloads of it. It's absurd. Trees are constantly dropping limbs and stuff. I think states with scientifically based biofeul laws like Minnesota limit deadfall removal to 30% of the deadfall...or maybe you have to LEAVE 30% of the deadfall...

        ...**cough**...I'm not sure which...

        but the POINT is, they limit the use of deadfall so it can rot and replenish the soil.

        But trees are crazy big producers of wood. It's absurd. You think you've cleaned up a wooded lot and the next year trees drop branches and wind topples the beech tree down. It never ends.

        In Michigan you can get a $20 license to harvest up to 5 cords of deadfall from state land. It's illegal to chop down living trees. But there plenty of dead trees.

        Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

        by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:37:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think we would, if it was the prime source of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Muskegon Critic

          energy.  Right now, it's just supplemental.  I still think biofeuls are a great way to run the farm, but there's just too many people and too many machines to supply that much energy.  Not without a lot of destruction of forests (and we already have quite a bit of that).

          I moved to Washington state about 20 years ago, and even since then, I keep watching (2nd growth) forests being replaced with houses and stripmalls.

          I cringe at the idea of chopping down even more for vehicles.

          They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

          by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:43:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think it could ever become the (4+ / 0-)

            prime source of fuel.

            Mostly I'm advocating using it for heat. And to remove the carbon footprint of heating with wood, haul the wood with special wood-hauling cars that run on wood.

            Muskegon County has enough acerage and woodland to heat the whole city with wood...

            ...without cutting down a single tree.

            Now...

            ...there IS a problem with timber ruslters and timber thieves. And that problem is growing. Even though there are some stiff penalties for timber theft.

            Some folks will go into a forest a clear cut the center of a property that the land owner (who lives somewhere in the city) won't see from the road. And they'll haul the trees away before the owner is any the wiser. Then the land owner comes to his land and finds that half of the trees are GONE.

            That's a problem.

            We'd need to up the penalties for timber theft AND

            AND

            I think there would be a pretty simple solution to this if the Fed or the State acted as a timber broker. They're the only legal source from which to buy or sell wood of any significant quantity.

            If you want to sell wood, you go to your local city and they give you a license to sell wood, and based on your property size you're only authorized to sell X amount of wood to the Federal timber broker per year.

            Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

            by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:58:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Decades ago I had a job (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Muskegon Critic

              cutting deadwood to provide winter heat for a summer camp in Barry County, MI.  It worked pretty well for us, but we only had about twenty year-round residents and 284 wooded acres to draw from.

              Now that I think about it, most of those acres were in pine and we were mostly burning oak and maple.  We probably had about 80 acres of hardwood forest.

              I like the wood gasification idea, though I don't know if it could ever be economical on a large scale.  And I really like your points about greenhouse gases.  It had never occurred to me before, but I bet you're right about that.

              Richard "The Dick" Cheney: screwing America since 1969

              by litho on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 04:11:07 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  "There's not enough" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Muskegon Critic

            You've commented several times that there isn't enuf of whatever the particular commenter suggested or described to answer our energy needs.  That's actually the sort of argument used for any suggestion of what to do about the status quo, which is unsustainable.  The argument seems to say that any source of power that can't replace petroleum entirely is not viable.
            There seems to be a whole bunch of energy sources and technologies to use them, but none of them can handle all of our needs, clearly we need a diversified set of sources for power.

            "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

            by leftykook on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 06:32:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think there's also a concern for the (0+ / 0-)

              continued existence of wild spaces. Which makes sense.

              I argue, as you are, that there's enough wood to sustainably produce at least a small percentage of our energy needs through wood without clearing trees.

              One thing that will need to be adressed, though, is timber thievery and unregulated harvesting, which is on the rise as demand for biofuel rises.

              Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

              by Muskegon Critic on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 07:18:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Or even just scavenging (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Muskegon Critic

          There's just only so much to go around.

          And also, trees reach deep into the ground and bring up nutrients for smaller plants.

          If we drag too much off, we deplete the soils.

          I know that's what you're saying.  It's just the scale if we tried to address our energy needs in this way is a problem, I think.

          They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

          by yet another liberal on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:46:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  The Mother Earth News also has plans available (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Muskegon Critic

          for converting cars to run on wood gas. Has had for thirty years, I know a guy who converted his Chevy van. Thanks for bringing this to people's attention. For those who live where they have a woodlot or deadfall available and the inclination to fiddle with the plans and convert an old vehicle it's a fun project that can do some good.

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 06:33:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Brazil will be the new Saudi Arabia! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:13:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Darnit...now I need to go back and find (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      defluxion10, greengemini

      sources for this info...

      ...I went crazy finding information about wood fuel when I started heating with wood.

      But about 1 to 5 acres of woodland can reliably produce a cord of deadfall, renewably every year.  If the forest is well managed, 1 acre can produce a cord of deadfall every year.

      A cord being 128 cubic feet of wood or almost three tons of wood.

      Michigan has something like 40 million acres of woodland.

      So...theoretically, well managed forest could produce 120 million tons of wood per year. Forever. Theoretically. Probably less than half that in practice.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:23:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Trees are CONSTANTLY shedding (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        litho, defluxion10, Fabian

        stuff. It's amazing. I try to keep the wooded lot by my parents house clean of brush, and I haul literaly tons of wood out of that two acre plat every year, and every year new trees fall from storms, trees are dropping limbs, it's constant.

        Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

        by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:26:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  appreciate your responses. However, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian, KenBee, Muskegon Critic

          in the old days, the Chumash indians called the Los Angeles basin, 'the valley of smoke' because of all the campfires.  Think of what it would be like today with the hundreds of thousands of people burning wood, just in this one place.
          While I love a wood fire and all things associated with that, other renewable sources are available and much more eco-friendly.  But it is a source to be considered, perhaps as a temporary backup in certain situations.  Let's keep working on it.

          Never walk into a public restroom while breathing through your mouth.

          by quityurkidding on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 11:00:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That was before EPA (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            litho, jennifree2bme, DrFood

            certified airtight wood burning fireplace inserts!

            Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

            by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 11:05:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Open wood fires produce a lot of ash (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DrFood, Muskegon Critic

            and particulate smoke.  But modern wood stoves are remarkably clean.  If Muskegon Critic is right about the minimal greenhouse gas impact of wood smoke, and I suspect he is, then I doubt there is a cleaner source of combustible fuel available in nature.   Coal, natural gas, and petroleum all add carbon to the atmosphere and nuclear... well, let's not even go there.

            Renewability is an issue with wood, but careful management and aggressive use of solar and wind could make wood a viable part of the future energy mix as we wean ourselves from fossil fuels.

            Richard "The Dick" Cheney: screwing America since 1969

            by litho on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 04:15:48 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Brush is good (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Muskegon Critic

          in wet regions.  If you want instant habitat, just make a brush pile.  Stack up anything larger as if you'll burn it - and if you don't, that's fine too!
           
          In arid, fire prone regions this obviously is a Very Bad Idea.

          Show me the POLICY!

          by Fabian on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 04:02:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  This old birdwatcher (4+ / 0-)

        is aghast at the notion that people might go and remove every single dead or dying tree part from a forest.  Birds eat bugs that eat dead wood, and birds nest in those same dead trees.  That's besides the shelter needs of all sorts of other animals that live in forests.

        I value the dead trees on my property more than the living ones!

        Mark Twain -Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.

        by Kingsmeg on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:50:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Deadfall is not your best firewood. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Muskegon Critic

        For heating, you cut live trees and stack and dry the wood. By the time a tree is dead and dry enough to fall on it's own, much of the energy is gone. Deadfall burns really fast, too. It is OK for a campfire, but nothing else.

        "Well, you've got to understand, they're Republicans. They're just doing what comes natural." -John Dingell

        by happy camper on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 05:56:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's common also to use tops. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Muskegon Critic

          The leftovers from timber cutting--treetops and limbs too small for lumber--are plenty large enough for heating wood. A friend had some timber removed from his 80 acre woodlot three years ago, after having a forester designate which trees should be harvested and which left alone. He's still burning tops to heat his home. Plus he made a tidy sum of cash. And you really can't tell much cutting was done.

          "Well, you've got to understand, they're Republicans. They're just doing what comes natural." -John Dingell

          by happy camper on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 06:03:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Usually where I get my wood is after storms (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happy camper

          when the wind has torn off limbs and branches or toppled whole trees. Every spring and fall there's a smorgasbord of wood around town. And there's a beech tree I've been working on for **cough** a couple years now. Fell in 2007. Dang that sucker is hard to cut up.

          Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

          by Muskegon Critic on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 07:10:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I love the fact it uses wood chips and also (4+ / 0-)

    it seems that Bamboo and weeds and grass could also be used.Wow neat video.

  •  Fascinating! And I NEVER would have guesses (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    about termites!  Thanks!

    Gitcher' red hot Obama Bahama llamas right here! Available in three flavors. On sale for a limited time only!

    by Aaa T Tudeattack on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 10:34:23 PM PST

  •  EROEI = (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    ...Energy Returned On Energy Invested.

    If you have to invest more coal, oil, etc than you will displace by use of the wood as a fuel source, it is completely worthless as a fuel supply. If it takes 1.2 barrels of oil equivalent to create a 'barrel' of tree power, you might as well just use the oil to begin with.

    I'm not saying this is the case; I have no idea about the energy economics of wood power. I'm just saying this is the prime consideration.

    •  I'd only suggest using these special vehicles (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee

      for hauling wood. Not for personal use.

      Muskegon County has enough acerage of woodland to provide every household with enough wood to heat for the winter, renewably and reliably every year, forever...reducing the carbon footprint of heating...but for the carbon output of hauling it. If that can be addressed through tree powered vehicles, then there's a carbon neutral way of heating a whole county with local resources.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 11:00:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Another thing to keep in mind is, harvesting (0+ / 0-)

      fuel wood is astonishingly simple and accessible.

      I can, right now, go outside and harvest a barrel of wood in the space of an hour with my bare hands. Millions of Americans can. It takes very little energy. With my own hands, a maul and a wedge, I've harvested enough wood to heat my house for the winter.

      Can you do that with oil? Coal?

      Not really.

      There's energy laying on the ground all over America. We can use some of it.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 07:07:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I had a friend (now deceased) who (5+ / 0-)

    drove a wood burner ambulance in Berlin during WWII. She was Jewish and was able to hide her identity and working as an ambulance driver was the only way she could earn money to feed and clothe her family. She talked about making sure she had enough wood when she went out on her runs. Her husband died of an infection during the war. After the war she married an American and came over here. She never revealed to the Americans that she was Jewish because she thought they wouldn't let her come to America with her husband. She said that she only acknowledged it after she got her citizenship.

  •  I wonder how hard it would be to make this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    into something that could help heat a home by having it outside but maybe burning the gas inside in some kind of stove or burning the gas outside and sending the heat inside by the use of heat exchangers and/or HeatPipes http://en.wikipedia.org/...

  •  I remember seeing wood gas burners.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    .. in an old WW II movie about the Philippines.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 11:25:12 PM PST

  •  Found this one it seems interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, Muskegon Critic

  •  Another interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    bio-fuel I have researched is ethyl alcohol.Minor adjustments to the air intake and any gasoline engine can burn it.Using solar stills to produce it at home from fermentables makes it even more attractive.

  •  If all our gasoline engines were (0+ / 0-)

    converted to wood engines overnight, how long would it take to denude our forests? Hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, forever? I think years is the answer.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning.

    by hestal on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 04:25:51 AM PST

    •  In my next biofuels post I'm going to talk about (0+ / 0-)

      ancient forest management. For thosuands of years humans learned to manage forests to produce fuel reliably in the same piece of land for centuries.

      Obviously our energy needs are greater now. But biofuels can contribute a renweable portion of our energy needs.

      States with good forest management laws restrict use to deadfall and only a percentage of it.

      Times, hard. People, starving. Foodbanks, empty. Bring them food, or donate now. (I'm on Twitter now)

      by Muskegon Critic on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 07:03:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We have lots of wood stoves for heating here. (2+ / 0-)

    On my route to work, I pass several hardware type stores that sell modern stoves that burn wood and other organic matter like corn, etc.

    The solution to environmental degradation will not be one single thing.  Get two percent to heat homes or drive a car based on wood pellets.  Get ten percent to do the same with solar panels.  Get twenty percent more to run their lives on nuclear power.

    Eventually, you have an overarching solution to the problem.

    http://twitter.com/mikeingels

    by DingellDem on Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 06:39:01 AM PST

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