Sunday, April 30, 2006

Turning to plants for fuel

Asia is turning to plants for fuel There is a growing surge of interest in Asia to develop crops and infrastructure to supply plant based oil to the biodiesel industry. This is potentially very good, as it turns oil from a fossil fuel to a renewable fuel. But, as I've covered before on this site, the picture isn't all rosy.

e.g. "One criticism of biofuels is that if you want to go from 2 percent to 20 percent, you would have to direct so much of that agriculture from food to fuel that there would be real competition between the two," By diverting cropland from growing food to growing oil, it threatens food supplies. Well, it will threaten food supplies "later" when the biofuel production becomes significant enough.

Some fuel options are hard to find discusses the biofuel of choice in the U.S. -- Ethanol. Ethanol is more compatible with the majority of vehicles in the U.S. since it's more like gasoline. Ethanol is also produced from the politically connected corn industry.


Thursday, April 6, 2006

Effective biodiesel farming

There's a worldwide push to develop biofuel resources, otherwise known as biodiesel.

In the U.S. this was given a big oomph when GW Bush announced we are addicted to oil, and proposed biofuel research using corn and switchgrass etc. But, consider for a moment, what is the most efficient or effective approach to using biofuels? It's going to be those biological materials which produce the most fuel from a given set of resources.

e.g. The most fuel derived from each acre of ground, or most fuel derived per pound of fertilizer, etc.

In Algae Biomass Already! discusses this and points to a Wikipedia entry on biodiesl that gives the rates of fuel extraction from different feedstocks.

  • Soybean: 40 to 50 US gal/acre (35 to 45,000 L/km²)
  • Rapeseed: 110 to 145 US gal/acre (100 to 130,000 L/km²)
  • Mustard: 140 US gal/acre (130,000 L/km²)
  • Jatropha: 175 US gal/acre (160,000 L/km²)
  • Palm oil: 650 US gal/acre (580,000 L/km²)
  • Algae: 10,000 to 20,000 US gal/acre (9,000,000 to 18,000,000 L/km²)

So, what's GW doing talking about switchgrass when it's going to be most effective to grow Algae?

In India we have Indian State to Plant 160 Million Jatropha Plants in Quest for Biofuel Self-Sufficiency showing that the people in India understand this point.