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Thread: Biofuels

  1. #1
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    Default Biofuels

    I've written a few papers on the topic of biofuels and have taken a few classes relating to them. The problem is that I can come up for good arguments for promoting them and with arguments for why they are a bad idea

    Good Idea:

    - They tend to burn more cleanly than carbon based fuels.
    - By promoting biofuels you will be raising the prices for grain to the point where agricultural subsidies will no longer be necissary and we can quit dumping our excess grain on third world countries and ruining thier agricultural sector.
    - They would lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
    - It's an easier "clean" fuel to obtain and produce than most other types on the market.
    - Many types of biofuel production use waste products that would otherwise just decompose, releasing carbon in it's own.

    Bad Idea:

    - Inefficiency of producing most types of biofuels (with the exception of biofuels produced from sugar rich materials such as sugar cane and sugar beets)- many types are so inefficient to produce that outside sources of power are needed to produce the ethanol, defeating the purpose somewhat by using "unclean" power to produce "clean" power.
    - Increase in food costs due to the fact that a large amount of food products being used in the production of fuel.
    - Ethanol is less efficient for running a vehicle than carbon based fuels are.
    - Having to change over vehicle types to be able to use ethanol at all.

    I can come up with more arguments on either side as well, but I wish to keep this more brief (which I'm failing miserably at).

    I wanted to know what you guys think about this. I'm hoping that there is some information out there that may actually push me in one way or another on this issue! Thanks!
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  2. #2
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Mouse may not be much help.... first thing to mind...

    Bad Idea:

    - Inefficiency of producing most types of biofuels (with the exception of biofuels produced from sugar rich materials such as sugar cane and sugar beets)- many types are so inefficient to produce that outside sources of power are needed to produce the ethanol, defeating the purpose somewhat by using "unclean" power to produce "clean" power.
    energy input vs enrgy output. So long as output >> input. That should not be a factor. Nuclear reactors... It's not easy starting it up...

    - Increase in food costs due to the fact that a large amount of food products being used in the production of fuel.
    I don't believe that's an issue... we have grain fed chicken and cattle. They don't need to be fed with grain... In fact much of the grain produced goes to feed livestocks... *shakes head* Also what cost more? The cost of growing and harvesting crops... or the cost of fuel for shipping the harvest? My bet is that they'll balance out.

    - Having to change over vehicle types to be able to use ethanol at all.
    This will be the major sticking point... people must have fast cars... powerful engines... The amount of horsepower of even consumer cars is still increasing despite that the additional power is not necessary. Nowadays people think a "decent car" must have at least 250HP. :rolli: To replace that with the "wimpy" ethanol ran engines... North americans, especially americans (hate to stereotype, but it's true...), aren't going to buy that idea. I suppose you'll have better luck in Europe.

    I'm not good with pushing the argument in one direction because I'm far too back and forth. Good luck with it though.

  3. #3
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    - Ethanol is less efficient for running a vehicle than carbon based fuels are.
    Small nit here: you mean "hydrocarbon-based" rather than "carbon-based".


    Some extra bits:

    advantages
    -Some biofuels (biodiesels) can supply their own lubrication.
    -Future "fuel crops (or other fuel producers) may be growable in sewage or other waste, making them useful for cleanup as well.

    Disadvantages
    -large amounts of land needed for current biofuels, and possibly future ones as well.(corn-to-ethanol, for example, would not be able to produce enough fuel for the world even if all farmland was used ot grow corn for it, at least from what I've heard). More efficient fuels usable today still need large amounts of land to produce fuel, which either means less food gets grown or means forest clearing, swamp clearing, irrigation, etc. would be needed, which each cause their own issues.

  4. #4

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    How does algae fuel factor into this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    How does algae fuel factor into this?
    Stuff that may work, but hasn't been developed yet.

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    DoubleplusUngoodNonperson
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    - Increase in food costs due to the fact that a large amount of food products being used in the production of fuel.

    This should not be understated. The good Dr. Greenspan recently mentioned that for ethanol and biofuels to adequately replace "fossil" fuels, production would have to increase 9-fold. That's feesible, but what's not considered there is the resources consumed to grow and process those biofuels (this offsets it's efficiency) as well as the impact of having food competing with fuel and what this would do to those living in poverty.

  7. #7
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    Yeah- I read recently that they say that 1/6 of the world's cropland would be necissary to use for biofuel production if we were to make enough ethanol to have any real impact on global warming!

    If the cropland is used for biofuel production- it can't be used for pasture or animal feed. The cost of any foods made from any agricultural product would go up as well- meaning everything from bread to salad

    I was thinking "carbon based life forms" for some odd reason and I guess it accidentally transfered over to here
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    Per Ardua Metamorphosis's Avatar
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    Not to mention that there are far more powerful lobbying groups in favor of maintaing the current system than adopting a new one.

    and ethanol would be far cheaper if we got the crop from Brazil but the government protects U.S. business from the consumer
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    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Don't quote me on this, but I believe scientists are finding that they can make great bio-fuel out of a kind of algae that grows on dung.
    (it's something I heard )
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Don't quote me on this, but I believe scientists are finding that they can make great bio-fuel out of a kind of algae that grows on dung.
    (it's something I heard )
    From the Wikipedia article linked above:

    The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (38,849 square kilometers), which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland, or 1.3 Belgiums. [8] This is less than 1/7th the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.[9]

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