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Monbiot. Fuel for Nought

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  • Ted Trainer
    Just to confirm Monbiot s argument...very large scale production of fuel from biomass would have to involve very large areas, so the land would not be high
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 25, 2004
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      Just to confirm Monbiot's argument...very large scale production of
      fuel from biomass would have to involve very large areas, so the land
      would not be high quality. This means ethanol or methanol production
      from woody inputs.

      The following summary indicates how far short we would fall from
      meeting present demand.

      Ted Trainer
      Sydney.

      Biomass can't save us.

      Most people assume that renewable energy resources can be substituted
      for fossil fuels, enabling society to continue the pursuit of high
      levels of consumption, travel, trade, "living standards" and economic
      growth. Lovins and the tech fix people reassure us that all we need
      to do is crank up technical advance and we can have uninterrupted
      affluence and growth while cutting ecological and resource costs to
      manageable proportions. No radical change is needed, let alone
      scrapping consumer-capitalist society.

      It takes only a glance at some basic figures re the production of
      liquid fuels from biomass inputs to show that this vision is totally
      mistaken. (The detailed derivation is available at
      http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/D74.RENEWABLE-ENERGY.html)

      The best option is to produce methanol from woody biomass. The yield
      is likely to be methanol equivalent to about 150 litres of petrol
      from each tonne of input material, after the energy costs of
      production are subtracted.

      For very large biomass production a yield of 7 dry tonnes per ha is
      unlikely, but will be assumed here. Some plantations average c 14
      t/ha/y, and short rotation crops, such as willows, in favourable
      conditions can be around this yield. However world forest growth is
      only c 3 t/ha/y. Large scale biomass production would have to use
      hundreds of millions of ha, most of which would be well below the
      typical willow etc. yield.

      If we assume the equivalent of 150 litres of petrol produced per
      tonne and 7 tonnes per ha, methanol can be produced at the
      equivalent of 1050 litres of petrol per ha per year, or 34.7 GJ/ha.

      Australian per capita oil plus gas consumption is 128 GJ/y, which
      would require 3.7 ha., so total Australian consumption would require
      74 million ha to be cropped at 7 t/ha/y, continually. Australian
      crop land totals only c 22 million ha, and reasonable forest only c
      40 million ha. How likely is it that we can find another 74 million
      ha capable of 7 t/ha/y yield?

      Australia has far more useable land than any other rich country.
      Total crop, pasture and forest area is 4.9 ha/person. For the US the
      figure is 2.8, for Europe 1.6, Asia .5, and for the world as a whole
      it is 1.4 ha/person. World population will probably rise to more
      than 8 billion. Productive land per person then will be c .8
      ha/person, to meet all needs, include food, water, settlement,
      pollution absorption and energy.

      If we used all the present 1.4 ha of crop, pasture and forest land
      per person just for biomass energy production, it would yield 48.5 GJ
      per person, which is only 38% of the present Australian oil plus gas
      consumption, (and only 20% of our total energy consumption.)

      Let's take the most optimistic assumptions I have come across.
      Johansson assumed (In Renewable Energy, 1993) that we might find 890
      million ha in the world for biomass production. (As he said, most of
      this would be degraded land, so 7 t/ha is most unlikely.) By 2070
      that will be about .15 ha per person, and from above it would yield
      5.2 GJ per yearŠthat is, 4% of the amount of oil plus gas energy now
      consumed each year by each Australian.

      Let's put it another way; if 8 billion were to have Australian oil
      plus gas use via methanol 30 billion ha would have to be in
      plantations constantly yielding 7 t/ha. But there are only 13
      billion ha of land on the planet!

      By the way, energy use in Australian is growing at around 2.5% p.a,
      so it will be twice as great in about 30 years.

      So make whatever optimistic assumptions you choose re technical
      fixes, energy conservation, "factor four" reductions and Lovinsian
      hypercars and you have no chance whatsoever of showing how liquid
      fuels from biomass can supply all people with anything remotely like
      the present rich world rates of transport etc.

      If you think it can all be done by switching to hydrogen, see the
      detailed paper.

      Light green people heroically refuse to attend to this kind of
      analysis, preferring to reinforce the message everyone in consumer
      society wants to believe, ie., that with a bit more effort to recycle
      and more technical advance, and more use of the magic words
      "sustainable development", the environment and other problems can be
      solved without us having to think about reducing our
      over-consumption, or scrapping the growth economy.

      This is why I do not believe consumer-capitalist society can save
      itself. Not even its "intellectual" classes or green leadership give
      any sign that this society has the wit or the will to even think
      about the basic situation we are in. As the above figures make
      clear, the situation cannot be solved without huge reduction in the
      volume of production and consumption going on. This means radical
      and far reaching change in the direction of simpler ways, frugality,
      self-sufficiency, non-material pursuits and satisfactions,
      cooperative systems, locally self-sufficient and self-governing
      communities, and zero growth economies. (For the detail, see
      http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/12b-The-Alt-Sust-Soc-Lng.html)


      --
      Ted Trainer
      School of Social Work,
      University of New South Wales,
      Kensington. 2052. Australia.
      02.93851871
      Fax: 02 96628991
      Email: F.Trainer@...
      Website: http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/

      UNSW CRICOS provider code number 00098G

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • dairymandave2003
      Quote from below: ...This is why I do not believe consumer-capitalist society can save itself. Not even its intellectual classes or green leadership give any
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 26, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        Quote from below:
        ...This is why I do not believe consumer-capitalist society can save
        itself. Not even its "intellectual" classes or green leadership give
        any sign that this society has the wit or the will to even think
        about the basic situation we are in. As the above figures make
        clear, the situation cannot be solved without huge reduction in the
        volume of production and consumption going on. This means radical
        and far reaching change in the direction of simpler ways, frugality,
        self-sufficiency, non-material pursuits and satisfactions,
        cooperative systems, locally self-sufficient and self-governing
        communities, and zero growth economies....

        In short, the "Hoe and Sickle Economy", Plan C. Let's stop pretending
        we don't see it (The Lucifer Principle). China is doing us a favor by
        trading economies with us. Let them have the damned industrial
        economy. What good is it in the longer run? Let them have whatever
        oil under the Hubbert curve is left. Let's snap out of it.

        David McKenney, NY

        --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, Ted Trainer <F.Trainer@u...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Just to confirm Monbiot's argument...very large scale production of
        > fuel from biomass would have to involve very large areas, so the
        land
        > would not be high quality. This means ethanol or methanol
        production
        > from woody inputs.
        >
        > The following summary indicates how far short we would fall from
        > meeting present demand.
        >
        > Ted Trainer
        > Sydney.
        >
        > Biomass can't save us.
        >
        > Most people assume that renewable energy resources can be
        substituted
        > for fossil fuels, enabling society to continue the pursuit of high
        > levels of consumption, travel, trade, "living standards" and
        economic
        > growth. Lovins and the tech fix people reassure us that all we
        need
        > to do is crank up technical advance and we can have uninterrupted
        > affluence and growth while cutting ecological and resource costs to
        > manageable proportions. No radical change is needed, let alone
        > scrapping consumer-capitalist society.
        >
        > It takes only a glance at some basic figures re the production of
        > liquid fuels from biomass inputs to show that this vision is
        totally
        > mistaken. (The detailed derivation is available at
        > http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/D74.RENEWABLE-ENERGY.html)
        >
        > The best option is to produce methanol from woody biomass. The
        yield
        > is likely to be methanol equivalent to about 150 litres of petrol
        > from each tonne of input material, after the energy costs of
        > production are subtracted.
        >
        > For very large biomass production a yield of 7 dry tonnes per ha is
        > unlikely, but will be assumed here. Some plantations average c 14
        > t/ha/y, and short rotation crops, such as willows, in favourable
        > conditions can be around this yield. However world forest growth
        is
        > only c 3 t/ha/y. Large scale biomass production would have to use
        > hundreds of millions of ha, most of which would be well below the
        > typical willow etc. yield.
        >
        > If we assume the equivalent of 150 litres of petrol produced per
        > tonne and 7 tonnes per ha, methanol can be produced at the
        > equivalent of 1050 litres of petrol per ha per year, or 34.7 GJ/ha.
        >
        > Australian per capita oil plus gas consumption is 128 GJ/y, which
        > would require 3.7 ha., so total Australian consumption would
        require
        > 74 million ha to be cropped at 7 t/ha/y, continually. Australian
        > crop land totals only c 22 million ha, and reasonable forest only c
        > 40 million ha. How likely is it that we can find another 74
        million
        > ha capable of 7 t/ha/y yield?
        >
        > Australia has far more useable land than any other rich country.
        > Total crop, pasture and forest area is 4.9 ha/person. For the US
        the
        > figure is 2.8, for Europe 1.6, Asia .5, and for the world as a
        whole
        > it is 1.4 ha/person. World population will probably rise to more
        > than 8 billion. Productive land per person then will be c .8
        > ha/person, to meet all needs, include food, water, settlement,
        > pollution absorption and energy.
        >
        > If we used all the present 1.4 ha of crop, pasture and forest land
        > per person just for biomass energy production, it would yield 48.5
        GJ
        > per person, which is only 38% of the present Australian oil plus
        gas
        > consumption, (and only 20% of our total energy consumption.)
        >
        > Let's take the most optimistic assumptions I have come across.
        > Johansson assumed (In Renewable Energy, 1993) that we might find
        890
        > million ha in the world for biomass production. (As he said, most
        of
        > this would be degraded land, so 7 t/ha is most unlikely.) By 2070
        > that will be about .15 ha per person, and from above it would yield
        > 5.2 GJ per yearŠthat is, 4% of the amount of oil plus gas energy
        now
        > consumed each year by each Australian.
        >
        > Let's put it another way; if 8 billion were to have Australian oil
        > plus gas use via methanol 30 billion ha would have to be in
        > plantations constantly yielding 7 t/ha. But there are only 13
        > billion ha of land on the planet!
        >
        > By the way, energy use in Australian is growing at around 2.5% p.a,
        > so it will be twice as great in about 30 years.
        >
        > So make whatever optimistic assumptions you choose re technical
        > fixes, energy conservation, "factor four" reductions and Lovinsian
        > hypercars and you have no chance whatsoever of showing how liquid
        > fuels from biomass can supply all people with anything remotely
        like
        > the present rich world rates of transport etc.
        >
        > If you think it can all be done by switching to hydrogen, see the
        > detailed paper.
        >
        > Light green people heroically refuse to attend to this kind of
        > analysis, preferring to reinforce the message everyone in consumer
        > society wants to believe, ie., that with a bit more effort to
        recycle
        > and more technical advance, and more use of the magic words
        > "sustainable development", the environment and other problems can
        be
        > solved without us having to think about reducing our
        > over-consumption, or scrapping the growth economy.
        >
        > This is why I do not believe consumer-capitalist society can save
        > itself. Not even its "intellectual" classes or green leadership
        give
        > any sign that this society has the wit or the will to even think
        > about the basic situation we are in. As the above figures make
        > clear, the situation cannot be solved without huge reduction in the
        > volume of production and consumption going on. This means radical
        > and far reaching change in the direction of simpler ways,
        frugality,
        > self-sufficiency, non-material pursuits and satisfactions,
        > cooperative systems, locally self-sufficient and self-governing
        > communities, and zero growth economies. (For the detail, see
        > http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/12b-The-Alt-Sust-Soc-Lng.html)
        >
        >
        > --
        > Ted Trainer
        > School of Social Work,
        > University of New South Wales,
        > Kensington. 2052. Australia.
        > 02.93851871
        > Fax: 02 96628991
        > Email: F.Trainer@u...
        > Website: http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/
        >
        > UNSW CRICOS provider code number 00098G
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • mduffin3
        ... wrote: Ted, while your conclusion is right, once again your premise is wrong, in 2 ways. 1)there is no need for the world, or even Australia, to continue
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 26, 2004
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          --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, Ted Trainer <F.Trainer@u...>
          wrote:

          Ted, while your conclusion is right, once again your premise is
          wrong, in 2 ways.

          1)there is no need for the world, or even Australia, to continue to
          use anything like Australia's energy/head. Start by dividing that
          number by about 4, which would still yield a comfortable life style.

          2)We have seen people prove that PV can't do it all, and wind can't
          do it all, and now bio-mass can't do it all, all of which are quite
          correct. However efficiency plus some sensible conservation, plus a
          lot of recycling and waste reduction, plus wind, plus solar plus
          biomass, plus (and I hate to say it) nuclear, plus ocean energy,
          plus geothermal can do it all. There is no shortage of available
          energy.

          Having said that, I also doubt that the world can sustain 8 billion
          people, maybe not even 5 billion, and certainly not at the material
          gluttony level of the USA. Change to simpler and more satisfying
          life styles must come, but trying to force a one style fits all mold
          of your preference is at the most generous futile.

          Die-off may well occur, but it will be caused by shortages of food,
          or potable water, or depletion of some vital nutrient, but there is
          no reason for it to be because of energy.

          By the way, Lovins also pushes downsizing and the substitution of
          plentiful manual labor for automation. Try reading him carefully.

          Murray



          >
          > Just to confirm Monbiot's argument...very large scale production
          of
          > fuel from biomass would have to involve very large areas, so the
          land
          > would not be high quality. This means ethanol or methanol
          production
          > from woody inputs.
          >
          > The following summary indicates how far short we would fall from
          > meeting present demand.
          >
          > Ted Trainer
          > Sydney.
          >
          >
        • Jason Malfatto
          ... food, ... is ... In my estimation, shortages of food, or potable water, or depletion of some vital nutrient will, in some sense, always be because of
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 26, 2004
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            --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, "mduffin3" <murrayv@m...>
            wrote:

            > Die-off may well occur, but it will be caused by shortages of
            food,
            > or potable water, or depletion of some vital nutrient, but there
            is
            > no reason for it to be because of energy.

            In my estimation, "shortages of food, or potable water, or depletion
            of some vital nutrient" will, in some sense, always be "because of
            energy" — either because so much energy was made available though
            technological windfalls that some were able to harness newly
            available energy to the point of hitting even higher limits on other
            resources, or because the depletion of energy resources, relative to
            the latest social scale and complexity, suspend power to development
            projects which deliver food, clean water, medicine, etc.

            But, in the case of petroleum, it will also be "because of matter",
            since oil is such an essential input in so many modern-industrial
            products (e.g. plastics, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and clothing).
            Are we to expect biomass to pick up the slack in all these areas of
            the material economy, as well? (In this sense, I have always
            objected to the reductionist title of this group.)

            But these are only the physical or ecological limits. I suspect that
            we surpassed the social limits to growth decades ago and have been
            experiencing the corrosive effects of decline ever since. (See
            Hirsch's classic book on the topic.) For many people, the situation
            is already ugly, for the most part, and getting uglier. Ecological
            limits aggravate these problems.

            Jason
            Chatham, NY
          • Frith, Denis
            I view the holistic situation by analogy to the operation of a human. The physical (ecological) operation of the biosphere is akin to the operation of the
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 27, 2004
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              I view the holistic situation by analogy to the operation of a human. The physical (ecological) operation of the biosphere is akin to the operation of the body. The social operation is akin to the operation of the mind.

              Our hypothetical body is obese (too many people) and unhealthy with a range of symptoms, including climate change, oil supply problems, destruction of fertile soil, decimation of fisheries and lack of potable water. The exuberant use of nature’s benevolence of resources has corroded the natural defenses, the checks and balances that evolved over eons. The body is ill and declining.

              Our hypothetical mind does not have natural defenses. Hallucinations are endemic. The growth of the fiscal system away from intrinsic value is just one symptom of the malaise of this mind. Technofix is a delusionary medicine for the bodily ills.

              The sick body may well have greater impact than the sick mind. But either way the prognosis is not good. And the doctors are busy playing their mind games.

              Denis Frith

              Melbourne


              Jason Malfatto wrote:


              --- In energyresources@yahoogroups.com, "mduffin3"
              wrote:

              > Die-off may well occur, but it will be caused by shortages of
              food,
              > or potable water, or depletion of some vital nutrient, but there
              is
              > no reason for it to be because of energy.

              In my estimation, "shortages of food, or potable water, or depletion
              of some vital nutrient" will, in some sense, always be "because of
              energy" — either because so much energy was made available though
              technological windfalls that some were able to harness newly
              available energy to the point of hitting even higher limits on other
              resources, or because the depletion of energy resources, relative to
              the latest social scale and complexity, suspend power to development
              projects which deliver food, clean water, medicine, etc.

              But, in the case of petroleum, it will also be "because of matter",
              since oil is such an essential input in so many modern-industrial
              products (e.g. plastics, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and clothing).
              Are we to expect biomass to pick up the slack in all these areas of
              the material economy, as well? (In this sense, I have always
              objected to the reductionist title of this group.)

              But these are only the physical or ecological limits. I suspect that
              we surpassed the social limits to growth decades ago and have been
              experiencing the corrosive effects of decline ever since. (See
              Hirsch's classic book on the topic.) For many people, the situation
              is already ugly, for the most part, and getting uglier. Ecological
              limits aggravate these problems.

              Jason
              Chatham, NY








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