DailyDirt: The Growing Pains Of Biofuels

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

So far, grabbing fossil fuels out of the ground has been an unbeatable way to get cheap energy. Since fossil fuels (presumably) come from decaying dinosaurs (and their contemporaries), it makes some sense that growing biofuels might be a way to generate a more renewable source of energy. Unfortunately, biofuel projects haven't quite demonstrated an obviously better way to replace fossil fuels. Here are just a few links to some biofuel info that could lead to more environmentally friendly fuels. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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  1. icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 5:04pm

    The green part of biofuels is when you regrow the plant since it absorbs the CO2 back from the air so it doesn't add to the net carbon in the atmosphere over time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anon, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 5:58pm

    cool planet.

    I happen to work for Cool Planet in Colorado. I hate to rain on your parade, but praising them is a little like praising intellectual ventures. Cool planet has no finished technology, and currently produces no products.

    Not so much as 1 drop of fuel has exited a Cool Planet project.

    Save the praise for when we actually accomplish something. First plant startup should be sometime in 2015.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    DB (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 6:27pm

    It's really easy to carbon with plants and biofuels.

    The growing plant captures carbon. Burning the plant or letting it rot releases exactly the same amount of carbon. No more, and no less.

    There is no magic. No 'carbon capture'. No disappearing carbon.

    Burning coal is taking solid carbon and releasing it as CO2. Burning oil and gas is taking hydrocarbons and releasing somewhat less CO2 for the same energy. Not tremendously less, just somewhat less. Both are taking carbon previously tucked safely away, and putting it into the atmosphere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 6:45pm

    I never understood the logic behind corn biofuel. We're taking our food supply and turning it into gasoline. That means we have less food to eat, which raises food prices.

    Growing corn also requires farmers to burn fuel in tractors, in order to plant and harvest corn crops. So all that burnt fuel needs to be subtracted from any net gains of using corn biofuel.

    All the while we have this huge unlimited energy source, called the Sun. I suppose it's hard to charge people for using sunlight, to power their lives. Which is probably why despite all our technological advancements, we can't seem to build efficient or affordable solar technology.

    Humanity's greed will be this world's downfall. We'll even take most species with us to the grave. If we gotta go, everything else is going with us. That's greed in it's purest form.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 6:48pm

    Not worth checking out that site. You can't even look at it without signing up. Given today's spying mentality, that's out. So to me that's a useless site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Bergman (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 1:51am

    I read about a prototype algae reactor that outperformed the same land area of corn by about 10-1 in every metric except initial startup costs.

    Higher yield, lower carbon footprint, multiple crops in a year, the algae produces biofuel rather than an additive, cheaper to run after you have the equipment, and the dry algae powder (after the fuel is pressed out) can be burned to power the whole thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Brazilian Guy, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 3:51am

    Yes, biofuels mostly contribute by not increasing the net amount of carbon at atmosphere. The biggest trouble they bring is that they innevitably take one resource (food) and turn it into another resource (fuel). Even the corn crops remain have an important role as a source either of nutrients for the ground or as usual, being used to feed cattle, whose dejects and other remains are then used in the ground fertilization. At least, we do in most of third world.

    The real gamechanger is the incoming new capacitors able to compete with the contemporary battery technologies. The greatest trouble of energy sources alternative to fossil fuels is the easiness of storage of fossil fuels. Now if artificial diamond or graphene production had a better energy ratio, we could end up burning then and removing CO2 from atmosphere without much trouble, just taking advantage of contemporary solar and wind energy technologies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 6:14am


    "Burning coal is taking solid carbon and releasing it as CO2"

    Not to mention the other forms of pollution from coal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 6:16am


    In addition, corn is not the most efficient raw material for use in making alcohol. But it does have way more lobbyists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 24th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Ethanol from sugarcane is also an issue. It doesn't really take carbon away since it uses tons of fossil fertilizers and it increases soil salinity (specially with potassium) due to fertirrigation with the liquid effluent from processing the plant. A total mess.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Hank Roberts, Apr 24th, 2014 @ 10:20am

    Nobody listens to Cassandra, but this bears repeating

    Castro tossed the mob out of Cuba and closed the casinos.
    The US banned sugar from Cuba; that boosted corn syrup.
    The corn industry grew big enough to lobby the government.
    The refineries repurposed MTBE, a toxic waste, as a smog-reducing gasoline additive; so MTBE got into the groundwater: oops!
    Ethanol replaced MTBE in gasoline to reduce smog.
    Corn ethanol refinery businesses got big enough to lobby the government.
    Corn turned out to be a bad feedstock for ethanol for many reasons.
    The refineries, wanting to keep refining, look for other plants to stew up to make ethanol: aha, switchgrass! poplar!

    What's wrong with this picture?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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