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Break your petroleum addiction and make your own biofuel

You can make your own fuel for as little as fifty cents a gallon using cheap or free materials in your garage or backyard. This fuel is called biodiesel, and the recipe is simpler than baking chocolate chip cookies.

This Tuesday at 6:30pm the GoBiodiesel Cooperative is giving a free seminar on making your own biodiesel.
You can make your own fuel for as little as fifty cents a gallon using cheap or free materials in your garage or backyard. This fuel is called biodiesel, and the recipe is simpler than baking chocolate chip cookies.

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil and runs in any diesel vehicle without modifications. Just pour it in your tank and free yourself from fossil fuelishness! You can buy a cheap used diesel VW or Mercedes and get 30 to 40 mpg with almost no greenhouse gases. This fuel is totally amazing and you need to know about it.

Join experienced biodieselers from the GoBiodiesel Cooperative in an informative 30 minute session on making your own biodiesel. We'll cover building your own low cost biodiesel processor, getting oil for free, safety, and how to make biodiesel.

After the seminar, stick around for the general session of the GoBiodiesel Cooperative if you'd like. After the meeting ends at 8:30, experienced biodiesel mixmasters will be available for Q&A.

Actions speak louder than words. If you are a person of action, you need to be at this seminar.

Tuesday July 22 6:30pm sharp Location: People's Food Co-op,  http://www.peoples.coop 3029 SE 21st Ave (1 Block North of Powell) Portland, OR 97202 Hosted by GoBiodiesel Cooperative,  http://www.gobiodiesel.org

Contact:  info@gobiodiesel.org



homepage:  http://www.gobiodiesel.org


add a comment on this article

Popping the biomass bubble, or facing reality 21.Jul.2003 12:03

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stephen Denbeste


One of the biggest advantages of coal and oil is that they are high-energy, but also extremely concentrated. A relatively small capital investment in a single area can harvest a great deal of useful end-product. A big open-pit coal mine can justify hundreds of millions of dollars spent on big shovels and huge dump trucks, because the shovel can dig more than a ton of coal on each bite, and each dump truck can carry several tons of coal out of the mine. The coal can be carried by rail point-to-point from the mine to a big power plant to be burned, or to a nearby harbor where it will be loaded on barges or ocean-going bulk carriers. All of this can be done big because huge amounts of coal come from one place, and go to a small number of destinations. Since petroleum is liquid, it is even easier to transport via pipelines or ships.

Coal would be a lot less valuable if it was found as a layer one centimeter thick spread over an area the size of the states of Iowa and Nebraska; the collection process would defeat the purpose. How difficult would it be to gather it all? How much equipment would be needed? Would it make sense economically to buy it all, given that each piece of equipment could only collect a relatively small amount of coal? Unfortunately, it wouldn't.

But that's exactly what the situation is when you're talking about any kind of biomass as a source of fuel; it grows on the ground, and though you may get a lot of it, it's spread over an immense area and you can't do anything until you pick it all up first and collect it.

Also, sugars and alcohols are already partly oxygenated, which means they don't yield as much energy in combustion per unit mass. Effectively, they're already partially burned. For example, methanol is methane which is one quarter burned. Each molecule of methanol weighs almost twice as much as a molecule of methane, but contains much less energy. In general the oxygen in biomass increases the weight and decreases the energy yield compared to hydrocarbons in oil or the almost-pure carbon of coal.

It takes two tons of dried biomass to yield as much energy as one ton of anthracite, but biomass isn't dry to begin with. There are huge amounts of water mixed into it, which isn't combustible but is exceedingly heavy and interferes with or outright prevents combustion. Drying the biomass takes a lot of energy in its own right, and even then all you're doing is reducing the quantity of water. Of course, you can dry it by leaving it out in the sun, which works fine as long as it doesn't rain. Or you can collect it while still full of water and bring it to some sort of drying facility, but that means you're expending a lot of energy hauling water around. But even if you leave it to dry in the sun, you'll still be hauling a lot of water (just not as much).

In one hour, one of the huge dumptrucks in an open pit coal mine hauls far more than its own weight in coal, and /all/ of that coal can be burnt. But that's because it only has to haul that coal maybe a mile or two, from inside the pit up to some sort of big conveyer belt or a rail facility. And that dumptruck keeps doing that, 24 hours per day over the entire year (stopping only for maintenance and repair). It only stops when the coal runs out, but the coal deposits are immense. (The majority of the world's coal is in North America.)

The equipment which would be used to collect and haul biomass would only be used for a couple of months per year, and would haul the biomass a much greater distance, with the biomass itself yielding far less energy per ton transported. The energy used for collection and transport becomes a significant percentage of the energy being harvested, and the capital investment isn't efficient because most of the equipment sits idle most of the year.

This analysis is based on the overall characteristics of biomass versus coal and oil, and please notice that I didn't even talk about how the biomass would be used. Details about how the energy present in biomass might be utilized don't change this big picture. A new catalyst for releasing hydrogen from cellulose doesn't change the fact that the cellulose can only be used with that catalyst after it's been picked up off of fields or collected from forests where logging has been going on and hauled to where the energy is required.

That reported metal catalyst is a breakthrough in conversion process. "Biodiesel" is a different kind of conversion process for biomass. So is ethanol as a fuel. But none of them alter the fundamental characteristics of the source material, which is not really acceptable for purposes of producing energy at the scale we need at a price we're willing to pay. (In fact, ethanol is a total loser: it costs more energy to produce it than it yields when burned as a fuel.) As a practical matter, some of these technologies end up being more useful as a way of helping specific factories and processing facilities turn what is now seen as waste into a useful product, and for that reason they're quite valuable, but only in specific places where the economic conditions are right. They make sense because the source material is already concentrated and because you used to have to pay to have it hauled away. But they don't scale up.

And in fact that is the problem with all of the other blue-sky alternatives that haters-of-hydrocarbons always toss around: they look really cool on paper in small, but make no sense in implementation at scale. (Which is why I wrote five articles on this subject last year going through the lot and showing what was wrong with them all: 1 2

3

4 5 . Before you feel the urge to send me mail about your favorite, go through those articles and see if I already talked about it.)

For any energy source to be a plausible alternative to hydrocarbons, it has to be huge (both in exajoules and in gigawatts), reliable, highly concentrated, able to be utilized efficiently, and it has to be possible to utilize it without an unreasonable capital investment and operational costs relative to the sustained energy yield. Hydro satisfies all five of those criteria but the US has already fully developed its hydropower resources. Nuclear could have satisfied them, but the current regulatory and insurance burden on nuclear plants makes them too expensive, and that's not susceptible to an engineering solution. Even if fusion ever works, the capital expense will make it unreasonable as a practical matter. All the other alternatives are even worse, being too limited or too unreliable or too diffuse or too inefficient or too expensive per unit energy yield, if not all of those.

There are no alternatives available to us for the forseeable future which satisfy all five of those requirements, which is why we won't stop depending primarily on coal and oil for energy for a very long time (decades). None of the alternatives are even remotely close to a tipping point where some small breakthrough will suddenly make them viable as a major overall source of energy which significantly displaces our usage of fossil fuels. You can make your own fuel for as little as fifty cents a gallon using cheap or free materials in your garage or backyard. This fuel is called biodiesel, and the recipe is simpler than baking chocolate chip cookies.

This Tuesday at 6:30pm the GoBiodiesel Cooperative is giving a free seminar on making your own biodiesel. You can make your own fuel for as little as fifty cents a gallon using cheap or free materials in your garage or backyard. This fuel is called biodiesel, and the recipe is simpler than baking chocolate chip cookies.

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil and runs in any diesel vehicle without modifications. Just pour it in your tank and free yourself from fossil fuelishness! You can buy a cheap used diesel VW or Mercedes and get 30 to 40 mpg with almost no greenhouse gases. This fuel is totally amazing and you need to know about it.

Join experienced biodieselers from the GoBiodiesel Cooperative in an informative 30 minute session on making your own biodiesel. We'll cover building your own low cost biodiesel processor, getting oil for free, safety, and how to make biodiesel.

After the seminar, stick around for the general session of the GoBiodiesel Cooperative if you'd like. After the meeting ends at 8:30, experienced biodiesel mixmasters will be available for Q&A.

Actions speak louder than words. If you are a person of action, you need to be at this seminar.

Tuesday July 22 6:30pm sharp Location: People's Food Co-op,  http://www.peoples.coop 3029 SE 21st Ave (1 Block North of Powell) Portland, OR 97202 Hosted by GoBiodiesel Cooperative,  http://www.gobiodiesel.org

Contact:  info@gobiodiesel.org



homepage:  http://www.gobiodiesel.org


add a comment on this article

Popping the biomass bubble, or facing reality 21.Jul.2003 12:03

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stephen Denbeste


One of the biggest advantages of coal and oil is that they are high-energy, but also extremely concentrated. A relatively small capital investment in a single area can harvest a great deal of useful end-product. A big open-pit coal mine can justify hundreds of millions of dollars spent on big shovels and huge dump trucks, because the shovel can dig more than a ton of coal on each bite, and each dump truck can carry several tons of coal out of the mine. The coal can be carried by rail point-to-point from the mine to a big power plant to be burned, or to a nearby harbor where it will be loaded on barges or ocean-going bulk carriers. All of this can be done big because huge amounts of coal come from one place, and go to a small number of destinations. Since petroleum is liquid, it is even easier to transport via pipelines or ships.

Coal would be a lot less valuable if it was found as a layer one centimeter thick spread over an area the size of the states of Iowa and Nebraska; the collection process would defeat the purpose. How difficult would it be to gather it all? How much equipment would be needed? Would it make sense economically to buy it all, given that each piece of equipment could only collect a relatively small amount of coal? Unfortunately, it wouldn't.

But that's exactly what the situation is when you're talking about any kind of biomass as a source of fuel; it grows on the ground, and though you may get a lot of it, it's spread over an immense area and you can't do anything until you pick it all up first and collect it.

Also, sugars and alcohols are already partly oxygenated, which means they don't yield as much energy in combustion per unit mass. Effectively, they're already partially burned. For example, methanol is methane which is one quarter burned. Each molecule of methanol weighs almost twice as much as a molecule of methane, but contains much less energy. In general the oxygen in biomass increases the weight and decreases the energy yield compared to hydrocarbons in oil or the almost-pure carbon of coal.

It takes two tons of dried biomass to yield as much energy as one ton of anthracite, but biomass isn't dry to begin with. There are huge amounts of water mixed into it, which isn't combustible but is exceedingly heavy and interferes with or outright prevents combustion. Drying the biomass takes a lot of energy in its own right, and even then all you're doing is reducing the quantity of water. Of course, you can dry it by leaving it out in the sun, which works fine as long as it doesn't rain. Or you can collect it while still full of water and bring it to some sort of drying facility, but that means you're expending a lot of energy hauling water around. But even if you leave it to dry in the sun, you'll still be hauling a lot of water (just not as much).

In one hour, one of the huge dumptrucks in an open pit coal mine hauls far more than its own weight in coal, and /all/ of that coal can be burnt. But that's because it only has to haul that coal maybe a mile or two, from inside the pit up to some sort of big conveyer belt or a rail facility. And that dumptruck keeps doing that, 24 hours per day over the entire year (stopping only for maintenance and repair). It only stops when the coal runs out, but the coal deposits are immense. (The majority of the world's coal is in North America.)

The equipment which would be used to collect and haul biomass would only be used for a couple of months per year, and would haul the biomass a much greater distance, with the biomass itself yielding far less energy per ton transported. The energy used for collection and transport becomes a significant percentage of the energy being harvested, and the capital investment isn't efficient because most of the equipment sits idle most of the year.

This analysis is based on the overall characteristics of biomass versus coal and oil, and please notice that I didn't even talk about how the biomass would be used. Details about how the energy present in biomass might be utilized don't change this big picture. A new catalyst for releasing hydrogen from cellulose doesn't change the fact that the cellulose can only be used with that catalyst after it's been picked up off of fields or collected from forests where logging has been going on and hauled to where the energy is required.

That reported metal catalyst is a breakthrough in conversion process. "Biodiesel" is a different kind of conversion process for biomass. So is ethanol as a fuel. But none of them alter the fundamental characteristics of the source material, which is not really acceptable for purposes of producing energy at the scale we need at a price we're willing to pay. (In fact, ethanol is a total loser: it costs more energy to produce it than it yields when burned as a fuel.) As a practical matter, some of these technologies end up being more useful as a way of helping specific factories and processing facilities turn what is now seen as waste into a useful product, and for that reason they're quite valuable, but only in specific places where the economic conditions are right. They make sense because the source material is already concentrated and because you used to have to pay to have it hauled away. But they don't scale up.

And in fact that is the problem with all of the other blue-sky alternatives that haters-of-hydrocarbons always toss around: they look really cool on paper in small, but make no sense in implementation at scale. (Which is why I wrote five articles on this subject last year going through the lot and showing what was wrong with them all: 1 2

3

4 5 . Before you feel the urge to send me mail about your favorite, go through those articles and see if I already talked about it.)

For any energy source to be a plausible alternative to hydrocarbons, it has to be huge (both in exajoules and in gigawatts), reliable, highly concentrated, able to be utilized efficiently, and it has to be possible to utilize it without an unreasonable capital investment and operational costs relative to the sustained energy yield. Hydro satisfies all five of those criteria but the US has already fully developed its hydropower resources. Nuclear could have satisfied them, but the current regulatory and insurance burden on nuclear plants makes them too expensive, and that's not susceptible to an engineering solution. Even if fusion ever works, the capital expense will make it unreasonable as a practical matter. All the other alternatives are even worse, being too limited or too unreliable or too diffuse or too inefficient or too expensive per unit energy yield, if not all of those.

There are no alternatives available to us for the forseeable future which satisfy all five of those requirements, which is why we won't stop depending primarily on coal and oil for energy for a very long time (decades). None of the alternatives are even remotely close to a tipping point where some small breakthrough will suddenly make them viable as a major overall source of energy which significantly displaces our usage of fossil fuels.

homepage: homepage: http://www.gobiodiesel.org


Popping the biomass bubble, or facing reality 21.Jul.2003 12:03

Stephen Denbeste

One of the biggest advantages of coal and oil is that they are
high-energy, but also extremely concentrated. A relatively small capital
investment in a single area can harvest a great deal of useful
end-product. A big open-pit coal mine can justify hundreds of millions
of dollars spent on big shovels and huge dump trucks, because the shovel
can dig more than a ton of coal on each bite, and each dump truck can
carry several tons of coal out of the mine. The coal can be carried by
rail point-to-point from the mine to a big power plant to be burned, or
to a nearby harbor where it will be loaded on barges or ocean-going bulk
carriers. All of this can be done big because huge amounts of coal come
from one place, and go to a small number of destinations. Since
petroleum is liquid, it is even easier to transport via pipelines or ships.

Coal would be a lot less valuable if it was found as a layer one
centimeter thick spread over an area the size of the states of Iowa and
Nebraska; the collection process would defeat the purpose. How difficult
would it be to gather it all? How much equipment would be needed? Would
it make sense economically to buy it all, given that each piece of
equipment could only collect a relatively small amount of coal?
Unfortunately, it wouldn't.

But that's exactly what the situation is when you're talking about any
kind of biomass as a source of fuel; it grows on the ground, and though
you may get a lot of it, it's spread over an immense area and you can't
do anything until you pick it all up first and collect it.

Also, sugars and alcohols are already partly oxygenated, which means
they don't yield as much energy in combustion per unit mass.
Effectively, they're already partially burned. For example, methanol is
methane which is one quarter burned. Each molecule of methanol weighs
almost twice as much as a molecule of methane, but contains much less
energy. In general the oxygen in biomass increases the weight and
decreases the energy yield compared to hydrocarbons in oil or the
almost-pure carbon of coal.

It takes two tons of dried biomass to yield as much energy as one ton of
anthracite, but biomass isn't dry to begin with. There are huge amounts
of water mixed into it, which isn't combustible but is exceedingly heavy
and interferes with or outright prevents combustion. Drying the biomass
takes a lot of energy in its own right, and even then all you're doing
is reducing the quantity of water. Of course, you can dry it by leaving
it out in the sun, which works fine as long as it doesn't rain. Or you
can collect it while still full of water and bring it to some sort of
drying facility, but that means you're expending a lot of energy hauling
water around. But even if you leave it to dry in the sun, you'll still
be hauling a lot of water (just not as much).

In one hour, one of the huge dumptrucks in an open pit coal mine hauls
far more than its own weight in coal, and /all/ of that coal can be
burnt. But that's because it only has to haul that coal maybe a mile or
two, from inside the pit up to some sort of big conveyer belt or a rail
facility. And that dumptruck keeps doing that, 24 hours per day over the
entire year (stopping only for maintenance and repair). It only stops
when the coal runs out, but the coal deposits are immense. (The majority
of the world's coal is in North America.)

The equipment which would be used to collect and haul biomass would only
be used for a couple of months per year, and would haul the biomass a
much greater distance, with the biomass itself yielding far less energy
per ton transported. The energy used for collection and transport
becomes a significant percentage of the energy being harvested, and the
capital investment isn't efficient because most of the equipment sits
idle most of the year.

This analysis is based on the overall characteristics of biomass versus
coal and oil, and please notice that I didn't even talk about how the
biomass would be used. Details about how the energy present in biomass
might be utilized don't change this big picture. A new catalyst for
releasing hydrogen from cellulose doesn't change the fact that the
cellulose can only be used with that catalyst after it's been picked up
off of fields or collected from forests where logging has been going on
and hauled to where the energy is required.

That reported metal catalyst is a breakthrough in conversion process.
"Biodiesel" is a different kind of conversion process for biomass. So is
ethanol as a fuel. But none of them alter the fundamental
characteristics of the source material, which is not really acceptable
for purposes of producing energy at the scale we need at a price we're
willing to pay. (In fact, ethanol is a total loser: it costs more energy
to produce it than it yields when burned as a fuel.) As a practical
matter, some of these technologies end up being more useful as a way of
helping specific factories and processing facilities turn what is now
seen as waste into a useful product, and for that reason they're quite
valuable, but only in specific places where the economic conditions are
right. They make sense because the source material is already
concentrated and because you used to have to pay to have it hauled away.
But they don't scale up.

And in fact that is the problem with all of the other blue-sky
alternatives that haters-of-hydrocarbons always toss around: they look
really cool on paper in small, but make no sense in implementation at
scale. (Which is why I wrote five articles on this subject last year
going through the lot and showing what was wrong with them all: 1
< http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/09/Energydependence.shtml> 2
< http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/09/Moreonenergydependence.shtml>
3
< http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/09/Morepracticalproblems.shtml>
4 < http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/09/Obscureenergysources.shtml>
5 < http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/09/Anotetothecrew.shtml>.
Before you feel the urge to send me mail about your favorite, go through
those articles and see if I already talked about it.)

For any energy source to be a plausible alternative to hydrocarbons, it
has to be huge (both in exajoules and in gigawatts), reliable, highly
concentrated, able to be utilized efficiently, and it has to be possible
to utilize it without an unreasonable capital investment and operational
costs relative to the sustained energy yield. Hydro satisfies all five
of those criteria but the US has already fully developed its hydropower
resources. Nuclear could have satisfied them, but the current regulatory
and insurance burden on nuclear plants makes them too expensive, and
that's not susceptible to an engineering solution. Even if fusion ever
works, the capital expense will make it unreasonable as a practical
matter. All the other alternatives are even worse, being too limited or
too unreliable or too diffuse or too inefficient or too expensive per
unit energy yield, if not all of those.

There are no alternatives available to us for the forseeable future
which satisfy all five of those requirements, which is why we won't stop
depending primarily on coal and oil for energy for a very long time
(decades). None of the alternatives are even remotely
close to a tipping point where some small breakthrough will suddenly
make them viable as a major overall source of energy which significantly
displaces our usage of fossil fuels.

ha! amazing... 21.Jul.2003 12:34

this thing here

this entire article smuggly fails to mention the fact that present rates of consumption of hydrocarbons are not sustainable. how anyone can cheer for hydrocarbons and totally avoid that issue is laughable.

Rational, good posting, Stephen 21.Jul.2003 12:45

Dr. Evil

Also, don't forget that burning any organic material produces carbon dioxide as a by-product of the combustion, and carbon dioxide is the primary "greenhouse" gas.

no difference. 21.Jul.2003 13:51

this thing here

>any organic material<

such as hydrocarbons...

Exactly my point 21.Jul.2003 13:54

Dr. Evil

My point is only that burning vegetable oil emits CO2 just like burning hydrocarbons . . . .

so... 21.Jul.2003 14:03

this thing here

... then why is "stephen's" posting rational? or am i not getting something...

rational ... sort of 21.Jul.2003 14:17

skate

Stephen's post is rational in that he's not trying to promote using fossil fuels. He's just trying to say that this alternative is not "free" ... it has it's dowside. The end product isn't as efficient a fuel source and it's more difficult to produce. It's a workable alternative that might be used to mitigate consumption of fossil fuels but is unlikely to replace them (so long as they remain available) because it's too inefficient and less useful as a source of energy.

the difference is 21.Jul.2003 14:20

xyz

the difference is that the co2 in vegtable oil IS ALREADY PART OF THE BASE VALUE OF CO2. it is part of an already existing ecosystem and cycle- so, yes, you are releasing co2 when you burn vegtable oil, but you're releasing co2 that WAS ALREADY CIRCULATING. you don't add much (although you do add SOME) to the net amount already in the atmosphere.

but, with any fossil fuels, the co2 you are releasing has been buried under the ground, not circulating....and therefore you are adding ADDITIONAL co2 into the atmostphere compared to how much was there before you went and dug it up.

i'm sorry that's not particularly well explained...i'm sure the gobiodesisel folks could make that clearer

xyz 21.Jul.2003 15:27

skate

You've lost me on that one.

By that argument it seems you could also say that it's harmless to burn fossil fuels because their pollutants are already part of the ecosystem.

I'd have thought the key concern was that, in burning vegetable oil (for example), you're putting CO2 into the atmosphere. It's not harmful when it's "in" the vegetable oil ... but, it is when put into the atmosphere. (All you chemists, please forgive me ... it's been a long time and I've long since lost the appropriate vocabulary.)

Of course this says nothing about the sheer volume required for this to be a useful alternative. Even if it could be processed and used cleanly, I doubt the average family produces enough "convertable waste" in a year to become independent of fossil fuels. I don't even get enough stuff to compost in any great quantity.

Why Not Post the Recipe? 21.Jul.2003 15:43

Paul Kotheimer, Urbana-Champaign IMC

Could someone who attended the workshop post what they learned?

If biodiesel fuel is easier than chocolate chip cookies to make, then it should be approximately that easy to EXPLAIN how to make it.

Please, if you can, post a recipe for our collective recipe book....

Thanks and solidarity from the Midwest.

By The Way, Who is Stephen DenBeste? 21.Jul.2003 16:26

Paul Kotheimer--Urbana-Champaign IMC

For the information of those reading Stephen DenBeste's lead comment to this posting:

At  http://tim.2wgroup.com/blog/archives/000205.html, Stephen DenBeste points out that "increased environmental friendliness" might have been the critical factor which killed the crew of the Columbia.

At  http://www.instapundit.com/archives/006909.php, DenBeste hypothesizes that France and Germany opposed the US attack and occupation of Iraq solely because those two nations were "afraid of what we'll find out about them once Iraqi records become available."

At  http://www.denbeste.nu/ DenBeste defends Bush's lies about Iraq's purported uranium purchase, characterizing the war as a cultural struggle between America and Islam.

You can find his bio at  http://denbeste.nu/common/biograph.shtml.

I wonder why Stephen DenBeste reads the IMC website.

biomassacre... 21.Jul.2003 17:49

1luckyshucker

"But that's exactly what the situation is when you're talking about any kind of biomass as a source of fuel; it grows on the ground, and though you may get a lot of it, it's spread over an immense area and you can't
do anything until you pick it all up first and collect it."

Say the same thing about corn, peas, beans, rice, and grains as sources of fuel for the human body and see how ridiculous it sounds. I might as well be hearing, "Bread? It'll never work. It's just not practical. Do you know how many grain stalks you have to shake to make a loaf of it?"

Don't fall out of the top bunk onto your head while debunking, Stephen.

CO2; biodiesel efficiency 21.Jul.2003 17:50

not even a driver

The difference between the CO2 impact of a bio-fuel and a fossil-fuel is the *net addition* of CO2 to the atmosphere. When plants grow, they draw down CO2 from the atmosphere during respiration. The carbon is used to build cell walls and a lot of it stays in the plant. If the plants die and are buried before they decompose, there is a net sink of carbon. The carbon is not returned until the material returns to the surface and is burned (or otherwise decomposed). If instead of burial, the biomass is consumed (in a fire, in a car, in your dinner, etc.) the carbon goes back to the atmosphere (as CO2 or CH4, depending on the nature of the decomposition...both are greenhouse gasses). The idea with bio-fuel is that the burning does not return long-sequestered carbon to the atmosphere. Instead, it cycles existing atmospheric CO2 in the same way that any aerobic plant decomposition process would (CH4 for anaerobic).

On the other topic, the energy content of biodiesel is about 10% lower than petrodiesel but you get most of that back because the better lubricity of the fuel. That is, the engine itself runs more efficiently with biodiesel than with petrdiesel.

And for the record, I don't drive, don't have a dirver's license, just care to suggest alternatives to those who do.

Veggie oil conversions 21.Jul.2003 17:57

No loss in power

This link will take you to information on how to burn strait veggie oil in your diesel vehicle. Seems easier than cooking all that bio-diesel.


 http://www.biofuels.ca/

the lucky shucker and others 21.Jul.2003 18:31

glaser

Other than the fact you can't eat coal or gasoline, there are plenty of other differences between fossil fuels and plant-based substitutes.

The basic unit of energy used to power a machine or a human being (which is, incidentally, a far more efficient machine than anything we've been able to build) is the calorie.

A gallon of gasoline contains approximately 31,000 calories, and weighs between 5.8 and 6.5 pounds. A 42-gallon barrel of crude oil will yield a little more than 19 gallons of gasoline.

Vegetable matter contains far fewer calories by weight. To get 31,000 calories from dry corn, you'd need 19.1 pounds of corn; to get 31,000 calories from rice, you'd need 20.7 pounds of dry rice.

Sorry I'm not linking the source, but I checked a few sites and got the same answers back, so I think these numbers are close.

I'll confess to knowing little about the efficiency of processing plants into fuel. I imagine the processing uses other parts of the plant beyond the rice or the corn, say, the stalks of each, but I'd have to hazzard a guess that those parts are less calorie-rich than the actual grains. But somehow I have to guess that a full biodiesel economy would require far more acres under cultivation than is currently the case, with all the runoff/pesticides/monoculture problems associated with farming.

You know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. But perhaps i'm wrong.

land under cultivation 21.Jul.2003 19:04

not even a driver

> have to guess that a full biodiesel economy would require far more acres under cultivation than is currently the case, with all the >runoff/pesticides/monoculture problems associated with farming

Farmland is being turned into sprawl at a rapid rate.
There are two good sources of oil for biodiesel, used oil from other industries, and oilseed crops. Within the world of seed crops, water and pesicide use vary widely, it's a matter of growing the right thing in the right place, and getting off of the agribusiness dependency. Some "weeds," like wild radish and mustard, turn out to be good oil producers. Hemp produces both oil and a very useful fiber with little water and great disease/pest resistance. Oil can be extracted from the waste kernels of stone fruits. Moving toward biodiesel (or biodiesel hybrid cars) will require creative thinking about the resources at hand. That's something we do far to infrequently these days.

Future Alternatives to Biodiesel 21.Jul.2003 22:55

free air, help yourself

This technology could stand to be expanded upon, but a compressed air engine can cruise at a top speed of 68mph. Good enough for city life.
Check it out:
[ http://www.zevcat.com/index.html]

Rebuttal toPopping the biomass bubble 26.Aug.2004 10:02

w. peitzke

The analysis on the disadvantage of bio-fuels due to their lack of geographic concentration was well done -- let me offer a few salient counterpoints thereto:

In an un-politicized energy environment in which one simply wanted to produce high amounts of concentrated distributable energy at low cost without the production of GHG's and barring breakthrough technology in thin film photovoltaics, and other areas; it would be foolish not to address the issue of constructing foolproof nuclear power plants. The energy concentration in the mass to energy conversion is about as high as it gets. Japan and France produce much of their grid power in this manner with a relatively good operational history.

There has never really been a movement in this country to "Demand foolproof nuclear energy" largely do the perverse relationship between the natural gas pipeline companies and their ecological sidekicks. The media has been groomed to detest nuclear energy. Say what you will, the truth is that the ecology movement in America has been hijacked by vested interests without their realization. In your state (Oregon) the effect of the Spotted Owl controversy was to double and in some cases tipple the board foot value of lumber -- on private property -- while greatly reducing public access to the renewable forestry process. The winners, obviously, were the private timber companies not the spotted owls for who nothing changed.

The nuclear industry only has itself to blame for this in their naivety that all they had to do was build a serviceable reactor design -- what they needed was a serviceable and foolproof reactor design (e.g one whose natural state without control input was to be non-critical) that had some significant component constructed in every senatorial district of the country.

Obviously this is not a good forum to advocate nuclear energy -- but I want to point out that it is clearly within the range of human potential to construct a terrorist proof underground nuclear power plant, with system redundancy in a manner that even in a worst case scenario in which absolutely everything went wrong -- it would simply end up self-entombed within its revetment with no release of radiation.

So that option is out -- and we want to reduce global warming, hmm.

The ideal option at that point may be to grow a biofuel and run it through a de carbonization process vitrifying the carbon into carbon black for sequestration while freeing the hydrogen for consumption -- this is currently still too expensive although there are many people looking into solar vitrification of biofuels.

When you run a biofuel through a zero carbon power plant -- you are effectively reducing atmospheric CO2 -- it is a process of air sequestration. At the point this technology matures one would tell all the soccer moms to "Please drive more to reduce global warming" ...and be sure to lay your old tires into the ocean to anchor new coral reefs.

But that was not the comment I had in mind -- my concern is that you look at the positive aspects of the un-concentrated nature of biofuels. Sure ethanol is a wash in Btu's In vs Out but if you go to ethanol from cellulose it is a three to one net gain in energy. Oil seeds may be genetically improved for biodiesel production -- new sources of plant material may be brought to bear such as hybrid poplar. So it is not hopeless -- and it has a very significant advantage you appear to be overlooking.

If you had an imaginary world in which energy were free -- didn't cost anything -- all you needed when you needed it -- and in that world you had roughly the same state of maturing information technology we have -- you would find that productivity would increase to the point where there was the potential to produce more goods than employment. Depending on how society dealt with this problem you would expect to either have shorter work weeks or more unemployment. Eventually self replicating machines could produce all this worlds needs and its inhabitants could go spend the rest of their lives reality surfing. So energy having a cost changes things in the evolving transitional infrastructure specifically it creates employment.

Bioenergy such as biodiesel is high in "Employment per Btu" it takes a lot of people to grow, harvest, collect, refine and distribute biodiesel, cellulose ethanol, switchgrass pellets, hyacinth gas etc -- but these employment processes pull CO2 from the air employ it to deliver us our hydrogen and do it over and over again while also increasing the carbon content of the soil they came from. It is rather like a huge beer industry -- and it creates a lot of domestic employment and not minimum wage jobs but employment in fabrication, marketing, research, transportation, you name it.

...a whole new tax base in the domestic economy.

So yes biofuels have a disadvantage -- they are labor intensive -- but their labor intensity is now cost competitive with $40/bbl oil -- and the capital from that labor expense recirculates back and fourth within all of our local communities where people consume energy -- it is employment that is immune from outsourcing and which has the legislative support of all the farm states -- particularly the midwest which has been so hard hit -- biofuels could return the Midwest economies to new heights.

So before we moan and groan about low Btu concentrations in biofuels -- lets consider their employment concentration -- in the long run I suspect we can make lemonade from lemons with this one.

WP