6/12/2005Worse Than Fossil FuelBiodiesel enthusiasts have accidentally invented the most carbon-intensive fuel on earth
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 6th December 2005
Over the past two years I have made an uncomfortable discovery. Like most environmentalists, I have been as blind to the constraints affecting our energy supply as my opponents have been to climate change. I now realise that I have entertained a belief in magic.
In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter “containing 44×10 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet’s current biota.”(1) In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries’ worth of plants and animals.
[snip]The last time I drew attention to the hazards of making diesel fuel from vegetable oils, I received as much abuse as I have ever been sent by the supporters of the Iraq war. The biodiesel missionaries, I discovered, are as vociferous in their denial as the executives of Exxon. I am now prepared to admit that my previous column was wrong. But they’re not going to like it. I was wrong because I underestimated the fuel’s destructive impact....
Interesting article, and fully referenced.
In short, vegetable oil for biodiesel is mainly coming from oil palms. Large areas of rainforest are being cut down to make way for this new cash crop that cannot be eaten. The plants cut down must be burned and contain far more carbon than the palm oil. Thus, larger amounts of carbon are going to be released into the atmosphere than if we stuck with petroleum. Not to mention the people being displaced to make way for the palm growers.
Looks like we are back to using nuclear power - clean, less "pollution" byproducts per kilowatt, and far more efficient. The new pebble bed reactors look real promising - no (as in zero) chance for a meltdown.
Make all the cars electric. Lithium-sulpher batteries look like a good technology. Rebuild the US train system. Why are we looking to make cars more efficient instead of improving mass transit?