Stop biofuel lunacy

  1. wolram

    wolram 3,769
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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/apr/05/food.biofuels

    If governments do not act soon to stop bio fuel production taking up valuable farm land millions could die directly or indirectly from starvation.

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/699...doggle-good-news-for-agriculture?source=yahoo

    As of December, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls
    For many, it's a disaster. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it's facing a $500 million shortfall in funding this year to feed 89 million needy people. On Monday, it appealed to donor countries to step up contributions, saying its efforts otherwise have to be scaled back.
    In Egypt, where bread is up 35 percent and cooking oil 26 percent, the government recently proposed ending food subsidies and replacing them with cash payouts to the needy. But the plan was put on hold after it sparked public uproar.
    In China, the price hikes are both a burden and a boon. Per capita meat consumption has increased 150 percent since 1980, so Zhou Jian decided six months ago to switch from selling auto parts to pork. The price of pork has jumped 58 percent in the past year, yet every morning housewives and domestics still crowd his Shanghai shop, and more customers order choice cuts. (Americans, this is your new global competition for resources ... like food) And it's not just pork. Beef is becoming a weekly indulgence.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2008
  2. jcsd
    Earth sciences news on Phys.org
  3. There's big big money involved in biofuels, not going to stop it for something piddly like people starving in other counties. Rural states in the US are pushing hard for more biofuel subsidies, not because it is the answer to fuel problems in the US, but because it brings in revenue that has been lost when manufacturing jobs went oversees.

    There have been several pieces in the news lately about the biofuel fallacy, I think it was Time magazine's cover story (or one like Time, I can't remember). I've seen a couple of articles in Sciam too. From what I've read, they are not really that much cleaner than gasoline, and there is some evidence to suggest that the exhaust is actually more toxic than fossil fuel emissions. In this country, the color green certainly rules, but only in regards to greenbacks and not green thinking.
     
  4. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    The farm lobby in the US is powerful and they love this. Not only is the government paying some farmers to not grow crops, it is buying corn from others to make alcohol, driving the price up (so why do we "need" subsidies again...?). It's criminal.
     
  5. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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  6. The problem seems to be, how to discourage crop biofuels while promoting algae fuels
     
  7. wolram

    wolram 3,769
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    I fully endorse algae fuels as long as good farming land is not flooded to produce it.
     
  8. Sure, but that's not how economy works. If palm oil is cheaper then we'll loose the rainforests.
     
  9. wolram

    wolram 3,769
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    Short term we could put oil cost to one side, governments have to make the life or death decisions, it is the actual cost of food that is sky rocketing because of shortages, long term we have to find a way to not have to support so many people.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2008
  10. The cost of corn rizing is more of a boon to farmers than just those who raise corn. With corn prices so high, many ranchers have started using grain with more wheat in it for their animals. This has significantly raised the price of wheat. Bread follows. This raises the price of hay since less hay is produced and more corn and wheat planted. Not a great thing for consumers.

    Then we look at the usefulness of methanol and diesel substitutes and we see that diesel substitutes cause added water in fuel that the normal water units don't remove. It also reduces the miles per gallon of the fuel. Methanol is similar and is fuel costly to make. These are not great boons.
     
  11. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    ASTM D 2709 is used to measure the total amount of water and sediment in a diesel fuel sample. Until recently, biodiesel was produced by an unregulated cottage industry, as a result the fuel quality was often very poor, but biodiesel is now specified as a fuel option with rigorous standards.
    http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/fuelfactsheets/BDSpec.PDF
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2008
  12. Moonbear

    Moonbear 12,265
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    I see this as the biggest challenge, especially now that so many people equate the term "biofuel" exclusively with ethanol produced from corn rather than recognizing that it is a whole class of fuels.
     
  13. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    I think it will all depend on the bottom line. If algae can meet expectations, it should quickly displace the competition because it will provide oils at a lower cost per unit than is paid now for crops oils and ethanol. On the other hand, if we find that commercial algae fuels can only compete at $5 per gallon, then I would expect the market price for fuels to rise until algal fuel is finally competitive. Algae based fuels will be competitive at some price, but we don't know with certainty what that price will be in large-scale applications.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2008
  14. vanesch

    vanesch 6,236
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    Biofuels are crazy. http://www.enn.com/pollution/article/31038

    Most "alternative" energies are nothing more than this: sand in the eyes, and not a solution to a real problem. It's part of the new religion, unfortunately. The same religion forbids real solutions.

    The funny quote is this:
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2008
  15. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,535
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    Again, this speaks only to seed crops.
     
  16. Biofuel Madness

    Lets look at the logic for biofuel.

    1. Global warming will cause loss of land/crops to feed people resulting in starvation in about
    50 years time.

    2. The solution, make fuel from biocrops, which means converting agricultural land to biofuel
    production resulting in exorbatent food prices which will mean starvation for many third world
    countries and a large %age of the worlds population.

    3. These effects are taking place now. Many people cannot afford to feed themselves, and biofuel production has not even got into 'full swing' yet. In a few years time half the worlds
    population will be starving.

    4. The 'solution' is worse than the problem. The sooner this insanity stops the better.

    5. It seems the USA (in particular) is intent on starving half the world to death so its citizen can fill up their SUV's for their summer driving vacation.

    6. There seem to be a lot of 'red herrings' as to why basic food prices are rising, Chineese
    middle classes etc... but these are all lies. That is a gradual process but the change has been sudden and dramatic.

    7. Are developed nations really going to push through with these insane policies?
     
  17. Nabeshin

    Nabeshin 2,200
    Science Advisor

    I don't consider myself an expert on the topic, but here's my two cents. Food is somewhat of a renewable resource in that we continuously produce more and more of it. Moreover, techniques for producing food are improving rapidly as we genetically engineer our food to grow in more desolate climates and produce bigger yields. Fossil fuels, however, are not renewable on human timescales. Once it's gone, it's gone. Therefore, biofuels can help to ease the transition and make what is still here last until we are able to move completely onto a different type of fuel.

    In regards to starvation, food prices have increased. Most people who are comfortably middle class are not going to begin starving, however. Likely, they are being hurt much more overall from the soaring gas prices. As for the lower class, a lot of people in this catagory live on what they grow for themselves, so they are likely to benefit as food prices increase and they can, perhaps, sell their crops for a profit. Those who do not grow their own food, I admit, do get the short end of the stick here. Hopefully, current welfare systems (food stamps etc.) will compensate for the rise in food prices.
     
  18. wolram

    wolram 3,769
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  19. I have a problem with with the first statement that global warming would reduce the amount of land available for food production. an increase in temperature would move the "growth line further north and south. while the middle would of course suffer, the major food producing areas of the world would now be extended. Canada for instance is now producing grain further north than in the past. Is there a source you could site varifying your statement?
    Of course there has been no "global" warming in nearly a decade. the slight rise in temperature reported (if it is true) in the Northern Hemisphere has been more than off set by the steady decline of the Southern Hemisphere.

    The far more dangerous possibility is that we are actually entering a global cooling period. As a atmospheric chemist I work with has said.....CO2 is not a cause of warming and never has been. CO2 increases have always followed temperature, by as much as hundreds of years, CO2 is not chemical able to raise the temperature by more than a fraction of the natural forcing we have. And of course when the highest concentrations know of this benificial gas occured we were in the depth of an ice age.

    When we quite the foolish thinking of CO2 forced climate we will once again observe that the Sun is what controls the climate, and it has shown all the signs of a impending minimum. With solar activity at a 200 year low (similar to the little ice age) we need to put our limited resources toward preparing for an extended cool period.
    All that said I agree 100% with your point that bio-fuel will create a worse situation than the problem it attempts to solve. It is a case of the pols saying we have to do do something to appease the people, and as usuall they are doing the wrong thing.

    Another point I must make is that it is too simplistic to blame the U.S. and SUV's for starvation. Who sets the prices for oil? certainly not the United States. And insofar as starving the world, the United States has for many years been the greatest supplier of food aid to other countries, in fact many years supplying more free food and technology than the rest of the world combined. As I said it is the simplistic knee jerk reaction to blame the U.S. When much more obvious reasons abound.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2008
  20. So you happy to steal the bread from a poor famillies table to stuff in your SUV?
    Whilist you may be 'comfortable middle class' there are many people who are not.

    whilst you may think the currenct food riots are a long way away, it won't be long before
    they are on your doorstep.
     
  21. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    As you said in your original post, these effects are taking place now, and biofuels arebaely getting started. In fact, biofuel production is less than a drop in the ocean (far less than the incrase in the Chinese middel class), and cannot possibly be the cause of any sudden of the "sudden and dramatic" changes you mention. There must be a cause, but biofuels are not it.

    I would suggest tha the term "food shortage" is missleading. There exists plenty of food to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is that many people simply cannot afford it, and a lot of the food is not where the people are.
     
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