- Oct 28, 2007Jym Dyer <jym@...> wrote:
> =v= The "shouldn't count" argument is routinely advanced toRegarding biofuels, some may find this blog post of mine relevant:
> support the use of biofuels to run cars. The notion is that all
> we need to do is swap a fuel source and society can continue to
> run the same fleet of cars the same distances they're run now.
> Nobody bothers to tally up all the "shouldn't count" variables,
> so they delude themselves that they're doing something that's
> better for the environment.
Setting aside environmental and health and social concerns, I look
just at how much biofuel we could reasonably produce given current
technology, and ignoring all energy inputs; ie I take the most wildly
optimistic view of it.
I assume that we put the entire world on minimum rations of grain, and
consume no grainfed meat, or fruit or vegetables, and maintain current
high levels of food production, putting it all into biofuels: we ought
to be able to produce 118lt of ethanol per person; putting half our
vegetable and plant oils to biofuel gives us another 30lt, so that we
get almost a barrel of biofuel each.
Current average fuel consumption for transport, world: 3.2 barrels of
Efficient "green" countries (eg Denmark): 4-10bbl
Developing countries (eg China): 2-4bbl
Impoverished countries (eg Ghana): 0-2bbl
Available biofuels: 1bbl
The country most famous for producing ethanol, Brazil, in 2004 made
3,989 million gallons, or 94Mbbl of ethanol, for a population of 188
million - or 0.5bbl per person - and _still_ used another 4bbl of oil
per person - or 3bbl for transoprt. This tells us something about how
easy it is for a country to rely only on ethanol - even when it's the
world's single largest producer of the stuff, in a tropical country
where they can grow the efficient feedstock sugar cane, and have low
If the biofuels were used only for mass transit and freight, then I
think that single barrel of biofuel per person annually, in
combination with electric-powered stuff, might be enough. But it'll
never be enough for us all to be zooming around in our own cars.
Alternately, the masses could have no transport at all aside from
their feet, while the elites could still have biofuel-powered cars.
Obviously I prefer the mass transit option... :)
The biofuel picture looks less rosy when you consider energy inputs
(eg, the farm tractor requires fuel, as do the distillery plants and
fuel trucks) and the fact that the world is _not_ going to go onto a
minimum-grain vegetarian diet just so that people can keep zooming
around in convertibles, or that soil degradation and climate change is
likely to make our crop yields drop significantly, etc. But the point
is that even with the most unrealistically optimistic assessment, the
biofuels _won't be enough_ for us to all be driving cars.
I mean, it's 21,000 million barrels of oil annually just to have 1,000
million people driving or being passengers in cars. And biofuels are
supposed to let all 6,600 million people drive? I don't think so.
Biofuels today are the process by which poor people go hungry so that
rich people can keep driving.
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