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Earth Power

Are Biofuels Still Economically Feasible? 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the Mr.-Fusion dept.
thefickler writes "With falling gas prices, and the end of capitalism as we know it (otherwise known as the credit crisis), the biofuels industry is not looking as viable as it once was. Indeed biofuel production has fallen well short of expectations, with biofuel companies closing down or reducing production capacity. It appears that the industry's only hope is government support."
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Are Biofuels Still Economically Feasible?

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  • They didn't push the fuel hard enough to get it standard
  • They never were (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The biofuels of which you speak have always produced more pollution through their manufacture than they have saved through reduced car emissions, so their future is largely political, not economical.

    Oh and holy crap what an inflammatory summary. Yes the banks are temporarily not lending at the lower interest rates, no this does not have any effect on capitalism.

    • by nofrak (889021)

      I'll thank you not to get your "facts" in our environmentalism!

    • Re:They never were (Score:5, Informative)

      by compro01 (777531) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:54AM (#26156269)

      Corn is not the only way to make ethanol. There are far better ways. Just look at how many different sources you can make drinking alcohol from. Ethanol is the same thing, just distilled to 200 proof.

      you got whiskey (corn), rum (sugar, and you can grow sugar beets just fine in most of the US), wine (grapes or practically any fruit or berry. France actually is doing this with a lot of their surplus wine.), sake (rice), vodka (grains, potatoes), etc. All of those are potential fuel ethanol sources.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @02:17AM (#26156419)

        You missed something in your list. That stuff in the back of my fridge. I'm not sure what it started out as, but I'm pretty sure it's got a decent ethanol content now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chandon Seldon (43083)

        Corn is not the only way to make ethanol.

        And ethanol isn't the only biofuel. Biodiesel generally has better numbers, and methanol (which you rarely hear about anymore) has a lot going for it too.

        • Re:They never were (Score:4, Informative)

          by compro01 (777531) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:23AM (#26156787)

          Good point. I also like diesels in general as they have better characteristics (inherently better efficiency, more torque, and the engines last practically forever due to the heavier construction) for most people. Sure, they can be problematic to start in the cold, but that's why Andrew Freeman invented the block heater.

          I'm not a fan of methanol though, as it's fantastically toxic (blindness, death, etc.), and can be absorbed via the skin, whereas ethanol is much less so. Also, methanol burns almost invisible.

          • by RingDev (879105)

            Most modern Diesels don't have heater blocks. Even with the cold weather package it wasn't an option on the last diesel I bought.

            Diesel engines have Glowplugs that help them start in the cold. Since there is no spark to ignite the fuel at the end of the compression stroke, Diesel engines rely on the heat generated by compressing the charge to ignite the fuel. If the head and block is too cold, the charge will not ignite and after sitting on the street over night in -20 degree weather, a little block heater

      • by Inominate (412637) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:19AM (#26156773)

        Ethanol in the US has nothing to do with alternative fuels, or replacing gasoline. It is primarily a subsidy to American corn farmers. Corn can never be a worthwhile source of ethanol.

        Fact is, gasoline is cheap. Arguing about nebulous unknown "costs" in the future doesn't change it's price today. In fact, gasoline isn't just cheap, it's rock bottom dirt fucking cheap. The economics are simple, as long as gasoline is cheaper than any sort of biofuel, people will continue to use it.

        This isn't the fault of the oil companies, who have been for years reshaping themselves into "energy" companies. The minute biofuel becomes competitive with gasoline, the oil companies will begin sinking their billions into controlling it. They already have the infrastructure, so it's logical for them to take it over.

        Until some new process is created which can demonstrate large volume production of biofuel at prices better than gasoline, we're stuck with gasoline. The moment such a process is created, auto makers, consumers, and the oil companies will all switch on their own.

        • Until some new process is created which can demonstrate large volume production of biofuel at prices better than gasoline, we're stuck with gasoline.

          That's pretty circular logic. You can't demonstrate large volume production until you've done research, done proof of concept, that sort of thing. If we want to be not stuck, we need to invest in other things.

          Fact is, gasoline is cheap. Arguing about nebulous unknown "costs" in the future doesn't change it's price today. In fact, gasoline isn't just cheap,

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        you got whiskey (corn), rum (sugar, and you can grow sugar beets just fine in most of the US), wine (grapes or practically any fruit or berry. France actually is doing this with a lot of their surplus wine.), sake (rice), vodka (grains, potatoes), etc. All of those are potential fuel ethanol sources.

        Not to be picky, but your list comprises various types of spirits for drinking, but the names refer more to flavors, spices, aging methods, and distilling methods rather than just the starting grain (though it naturally is a component). Whiskey is often made from any grain for example, not just corn. Wine isn't distilled (if it is then it becomes brandy instead). Vodka can be made from practically ANYTHING. It's mostly just a name for unaged, diluted ethanol. I have a bottle of Ciroc Vodka at home that

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        "Wet" ethanol works almost exactly as well as pure ethanol as a fuel.

        Stopping at ~196 proof saves a lot of processing energy (the energy required to increase the proof increases as the proof increases). Brazil ran 196 proof without much trouble.

        You can ignore all the author bias and still be left with enough data and technical issues to be an interesting read in _Alcohol Can Be A Gas_.

    • Re:They never were (Score:5, Informative)

      by tuxgeek (872962) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @02:19AM (#26156441)

      The biofuels of which you speak have always produced more pollution through their manufacture than they have saved through reduced car emissions, so their future is largely political, not economical.

      Typical AC, you are absolutely wrong.

      There are many companies existing right now that can turn landfill waste into bio-deisel. The process is completely self generating meaning they use energy from the process to run the system. Many designs are completely sealed systems meaning they do not vent anything into the environment.
      Google: "biodiesel from landfill" and see for yourself. Another: http://www.cleanenergyprojects.com/ [cleanenergyprojects.com]

  • Algae is the future (Score:5, Interesting)

    by russbutton (675993) <russ@russbutMONETton.com minus painter> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:38AM (#26156139) Homepage
    The future of biofuel and food production is algae. It's the most primitive plant form there is and is therefore the most efficient at converting solar energy into an energy store (oil) or edible substances. A lot of work is going to have to be done to develop methods of growing and harvesting algae, but that's just engineering. Better get used to the idea of algae steaks as an alternative to soy burgers... Yum!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Soylent green. The miracle food of high-energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Actually, why aren't we considering this ... making gasoline from dead human bodies? If I could squeeze a gallon of high-octane out of granny and grandpa, why not?

        Although, it might be a bit creepy, tanking up with your grandparents.

        Of course, this would kill the zombie film industry: "There ain't no dead bodies in the graveyard, I done burned them up in my nitro-burning funny car!"

        • Actually, why aren't we considering this ... making gasoline from dead human bodies?

          Sooo... Soylent Green Fuel then?

          It's PEOPLE! Soylent Green Fuel is PEOPLE!!!!! /Heston

  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:38AM (#26156141) Homepage
    Are Biofuels Still Economically Feasible?
    No

    Were they realistically feasible in the first place?
    Absolutely not. The quantity of land that would need to be re-purposed if a significant percentage of US oil usage was to be bio-fuels would be enormous.
    • You are correct if you assume that you're talking about food crops like corn, or even switchgrass as the biofuel source. They require traditional farming resources such as fertile land, good weather, water and fertilizer. But with algae, grown in carefully controlled environments like the Vertigro system, which is happier in the desert and consumes CO2 and inorganic materials, and is at least one or two orders of magnitude more efficient at producing oil and/or edible food stuffs, and the prospects change a great deal.
      • the Algae farmers did not comprise a big enough voting bloc for the US Congress to consider their viability in saving the current environment, of course by environment I mean keeping one's seat.

        Corn Ethanol/Switchgrass etc was more about who was who than what was what

      • by geekoid (135745)

        yes, algae, the miracle bio fuel no one has ever scaled to a large production, that will save us.

    • by OpenGLFan (56206) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:51AM (#26156237) Homepage

      Biofuels from macrocrops are generally infeasible, especially corn.

      Biofuels from algae are energy-positive, consume much smaller areas, and are currently our best hope of weaning ourselves from foreign oil. If we had invested in bioprocessing techniques for algae the way we invested in securing our oil supply halfway around the world, we would be an oil-producing country by now.

      • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:20AM (#26156779)

        >Biofuels from macrocrops are generally infeasible, especially corn.

        Right. That's what people generally refer to when they say biofuel because we actually produce biofuel in practice. If the government allocates money for biofuel... it is going to corn based biofuel.

        >Biofuels from algae are energy-positive...
        > nd are currently our best hope of weaning ourselves from foreign oil.

        Phht, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the hill.

        You can say it would save the day only because it has not been tried at scale, so we don't yet know what underlying challenges and costs it would present.

        This is a persistent problem with how people evaluate energy solutions. Originally, nuclear fission was supposed to solve all of our energy needs. It was supposed to be safe, and cheap enough that we wouldn't have to meter it. Then we tried it out, and there were problems. Now, everyone knows about those problems so there is little political will to pursue the nuclear power further. However at this point in time, nuclear power has actually become more practical and safer than when we originally were enthusiastic about it.

        I'm not arguing for nuclear power here. I'm pointing out the flaw in the underlying reasoning, which is that *any* new technology that hasn't been put into widespread production is going to always look sexier than a practical solution that exists today.

        . Any technology to replace fossil fuels is going to be incredibly costly to develop and make safe because of the scale we are talking about. We don't need to switch gears again for the Nth time and start from scratch on "magic energy technology X" that will solve all of our problems while costing us nothing.

        We need the fortitude to take one of the technologies, such as nuclear, which has been maturing for decades, and *scale it up* and *solve* the hard problems it presents. It won't be easy, but what people refuse to understand is there *is no easy way out* of the problem we are suffering.

        Remember, the whole reason we are in this mess is because we acted like short shighted morons. Doing the same thing over again and calling it "green" won't solve the problem.

    • by ndberry (1369409)
      I think they maybe still economically feasible in many regards because if there is one technology that the public and therefore the government is going to be willing to get behind its alternative fuel. The main question is are biofuels still environmentally viable? Currently the answer is no. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/08/science/earth/08wbiofuels.html [nytimes.com]
    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Were they realistically feasible in the first place?

      I would have to say, "Yes." They've kept my motor running for quite a few years now.

      • Sure it's economically feasible for a single person to do it.

        But there just simply isn't enough French fry grease to power the entire country, or even a small portion of the country.
        • by Shotgun (30919)

          My delivery needs work.

          They've kept "MY motor running"...as in me. We are talking about bio fuels, after all.

  • by Veovis (612685) * on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:39AM (#26156149)
    Perhaps support of bio fuels will at least reduce our dependence on foreign oil... hasn't this been a concern for quite awhile?
  • Wait until summer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Facetious (710885) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:41AM (#26156157) Journal
    Though I am enjoying relief from $4.00/gallon gasoline as much as the next guy, I would hold off on prognostications until summer arrives. I doubt oil will remain cheap for long. The current low is likely due to more factors than just demand destruction. Matt Simmons (author of Twilight in the Desert [no, not playing at a theater near you]) suggests the current lows have more to do with settling derivatives trades between oil companies more than anything else.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So we destroy a food source just to fuel a very inefficient vehicle .... sure that is the best solution ... for idiots.

    With biofuels you get:
    - 30% of the millage you get with the regular gas. This means you have to fill up the gas tank 3 times more than before. And bip-idiots call that efficient.
    - Increase in the cost of FOOD. Since biofuels are more profitable (specially if subsidized), more farmers will switch from food to fuel farms.
    - Higher pollution. Since the plants are no longer for food consumptio

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      That is just a few cons of biofuels .... I still can't figure out what is are the pros.

      They don't run out, and they aren't located underneath countries that don't like us much.

      • by FooAtWFU (699187)
        Well, assuming you're not abusing your aquifers, they don't run out.

        That's a mighty big assumption.

    • We only destroy a foodsource for biofuels because there's a subsidy in place on growing of said food source (corn)

      There are plenty of better sources.

  • It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:44AM (#26156173)

    It depends on what nations you are talking about. In the USA, bio-fuels might be a non starter but in poorer [tropical] nations, bio fuels are a "Godsend."

    These nations put in very little in bio fuel plants like the Jatropha, then get its seeds that can yield up to 40% oil by weight.

    The plant is also resistant to drought and needs very little maintenance. The trouble with the USA is that folks look to corn whenever the bio-fuels subject comes up and in many cases, this is not economic at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905)
      Biofuels aren't necessarily a godsend.

      It may be more profitable for the poor farmer to grow stuff to feed a rich american or western european's car than to feed the poor in his country.

      Compare how much a car driver is can pay per litre, and how much a poor person in Africa/India etc can afford to pay for the equivalent calories in food.

      Some areas don't support edible crops and so there won't be competition there. But in many cases land for food crops can be used for fuel crops.

      In theory in the long term the
    • Actually, folks did not look to corn. The republicans did to buy some votes. The farmers that I know switched to corn because of the money from W, but told me that this was a harebrain idea. They pointed out that 3 RR tankers of ethanol were sitting on the train track in Limon for 3 months. Apparently, the company had no buyer of the fuel. They also pointed out that the distillers were not finding buyers. IOW, folks knew, just not politicians.
  • Still? Were they ever economically feasible?

    Seems like once you start jacking up the price of everything on the dollar menu to $3 because all the corn is going to make fuel, what you thought was a great idea (ethanol) looks foolish.

    Palm oil = destruction of rain forest
    ethanol = drives up food prices

    I'm sure we can figure something out in the future, but right now this stuff has some pretty nasty side effects.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by konohitowa (220547)

      While I don't agree with some of your reasons, I do appreciate that someone asked the question "were they ever"?

      I'm not aware that biofuels had ever graduated from the direct subsidy phase. In fact, pretty much every issue that I receive of Biodiesel magazine and the ethanol & fuel reports talk about where the government money is now, where it's headed, and how to get it.

      I suppose this will start a whole rant by someone(s) regarding the invisible subsidies for oil (including the intangible subsidies of

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Duradin (1261418)

      Why does everyone assume that corn (and why is it always corn...) used for ethanol comes directly out of the human food stream allotment?

      Human consumption and ethanol production combined pale in comparison to the amount of corn used for animal feed. Also, more corn is grown each year. So the percentages may shift around giving a slightly larger slice to ethanol production but the human use slice, while slightly less percentage wise is out of a bigger pie. And frankly, the less corn shoved into animals the b

      • by alannon (54117)

        How does corn used for animal feed NOT count as being part of the 'human food stream', except perhaps that which is fed to pets or worker animals? This means meat becomes more expensive as well, unless a less expensive animal feed can be found. I absolutely agree that corn is a problematic animal feed to begin with. For example, almost all dried corn contains varying amount of a fungus that contains carcinogenic toxins, Aflatoxin and Fumonisin.

  • Yes, Duh! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by frovingslosh (582462)
    Many biofules are said to take more energy to produce them than they provide, so with dropping oil prices they are actually more feasible than they were when oil prices were high. Now if they can only pass laws mandating the use of these fuels then they will become extremely feasible.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:53AM (#26156261)

    Back during the 1970's there was a fuel shortage and the bio-fuels industry picked up. Then we saw $30 a barrel and lower oil that drove all the producers out of business. Some say it was a calculated move on the part of OPEC to make sure that no competition arises. I'm not sure I'd go that far as OPEC nearly destroyed itself due to cheating in that period...

    It's not much of a surprise that it's happened again. (Gee what happened to that $200 a barrel mark the media was predicting by the end of the year). Bio-fuels were another way for the agriculture lobby to get more money for corn. So with cheap oil, everyone will go back to worrying about other things and in 10 -15 years when there is another disrupution and the prices sky rocket, people will once again start up bio fuel projects.

    You'd think we'd learn, but to quote Mark Twain: History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      A leader whose primary agenda isn't 'get troops in oil producing nations' was elected, that's what happened.

  • by stevejsmith (614145) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @01:53AM (#26156263) Homepage
    Let's hope not. Biofuels based on corn and other food crops are bad for obvious reasons, but even non-food biofuels have their risks [blogspot.com] - among them degradation of the American/Canadian Great Plains, ecological degradation in the Third World, and the risk of invasive species (most of these non-food biofuels are fast-spreading grasses).

    The most ecological energy policy is to stop the government from subsidizing oil (by building suburbia with land use restricitons [blogspot.com]), subsidizing coal, and subsidizing water. There is no magic fuel out there that will allow us to consume infinite amounts of cheap energy - nature made extracting energy expensive for a reason, and the government needs to get out of the business of trying to make it easier.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Steven Chu has been involved in overseeing the most cutting edge research into biofuels, and I expect he is going to be promoting the next generation biofuels very strongly in the new administration.
    These fuels are very different than the kind of biofuels currently being produced, and will not have their shortcomings. They will not be made from corn.

  • I think makers of internal combustion engines and their fuel suppliers, need to look at this as a temporary reprieve from the Governor while their case is reviewed.

    Research into alternate energy sources for transportation must continue.

    To give up this research just because petroleum prices are low, would be a grave mistake.

    Heck, bump prices up a little and use the surplus to fund research instead of paying CEO salaries and shareholder dividends.

    • by zmollusc (763634)

      "bump prices up a little and use the surplus to fund research instead of paying CEO salaries and shareholder dividends"

      Hahahahahahahahaha! Good luck persuading the decisionmakers, ie CEOs and shareholders.

      Better to fund my start-up which reduces consumer demand while producing fuel from local sources. Send your cheques to The Soylent Diesel Company.

  • by Sooner Boomer (96864) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <rmoob.renoos>> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @03:32AM (#26156841) Journal
    Research into biofuels is still going full speed. I'm involved in a project using switchgrass to produce diesel (and other products) directly through pyrolysis and the Fisher Tropsch [wikipedia.org] process. Other projects [okbioenergycenter.org] are looking at using switchgrass as a feedstock for conversion to ethanol, or as a "lignocellulosic material" that can be co-fired with coal, reducing costs and pollutants.
  • It's a recession, and businesses are closing down or scaling back? Unheard of!

  • Vertical farms (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:19AM (#26157425)
    You may have noticed that there is growing interest in vertical farms - i.e. using the sides of tall buildings as farmland, based around hydroponics. Because vertical farms are enclosed, water management is easier. One obvious use is for growing transport-intensive crops like fruit, cutting the delivered cost by producing very close to point of consumption. But another would be to produce oil from algae. In either case, sun-receiving surfaces which currently have little function are being utilised effectively.

    A lot of people posting so far seem to confuse corn subsidy biofuel with biofuels in general. But there are other biofuels already which are not energy-negative such as alcohol made from sugar cane waste in Brazil, where the nonconvertible cellulose is burned to provide the heat input to the process. Here in the UK we have limited production of alcohol and charcoal from coppiced shrubs and timber processing waste; there are several other initiatives. Given that the price of oil is controlled more by speculation than demand, and given financial instability, we can expect it to change wildly over the next few years. Industries needing long term investment should be protected to some degree from the fluctuations. A working biofuel industry would help to stabilise the oil price, because it would introduce an element of competition into the fuels market. Speculators do not like competitive industries because it is harder to manipulate them.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      This is ridiculous. You can't stack plants on top of each other, no light will get through. So you're going to have to artificially light it. Where are you going to get all the energy to do that? You'd better not say solar, or I will whack you with my thermodynamics text.

      • You'll be telling me next you can't stack people on top of each other in tall buildings. Have you heard of "floors"?
        • by Hatta (162192)

          Floors block sunlight. So do the plants on them. You only get so much sunlight per square foot of land, nearly all of which will be used by the first layer of plants. If you're going to stack plants, you'll have to use artificial lighting. That takes a lot of energy. If you haven't noticed, energy is getting more expensive and will continue to do so. Unless you have a source of essentially free energy (tidal? maybe nuclear?) this is quite simply a non-starter.

          Rooftop greenhouses make sense. Stacking t

  • by Genda (560240) <[mariet] [at] [got.net]> on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:37AM (#26157823) Journal

    There are fundamental fallacies to our existing economy. They assume a workable environment in which to do business, and that the environment is infinite and free. If you look at the economic cost of global warming over the next hundred years, the global price rises to hundreds of trillions of dollars. A few of the costs include;
    A) Land lost by sea level rise
    B) Damage caused by increase flood and drought
    C) Loss of critical biostocks (crash in fish populations, ocean acidification, key land ocean and air species)
    D) Storm damage
    E) Increased spread of tropical diseases
    F) Wars caused by loss of water, food, and habitable land
    G) Loss of land for agriculture
    H) Failure of environmental systems supporting a minimum quality of life

    Algae based oil is an excellent fuel alternative. Another is bioengineering new fungii discovered to produce diesel fuel directly from cellulose. Both of these technologies are utterly plug and play in our current petroleum base infrastructure. Both sequester carbon from the atmosphere, so their burning adds no new carbon and using them for other purposes like petrochemical feed-stocks actually removes carbon from the atmosphere. Both create tremendous new economic opportunities, and if supported by the government and the current petroleum business point us to a workable gap stop solution until helium cooled pebble bed fission and fusion are perfected.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by will381796 (1219674)
      You're making two assumptions: 1) Global warming is man-made. 2) Humans have the ability to reverse the warming that we are seeing. I'd be interested to see any proof that supports both of those assumptions, because if either one of those assumptions is incorrect, then all we're doing is wasting money and energy solving a problem that doesn't exists or that we can't fix.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        1) Global warming is man-made.

        to think that global warming isn't impacted by man is to be just stupid at this point. Political mis interpetations of the facts in the media (including the blogosphere) not with standing it is happening.
        Yes global climate is effected by repeating cycles La Nina, pacific cascadal, etc.

        2) Yes, man could change it in either case, however I am not sure we should.

        as a FYI,. the amount of light that hits the ground has lessened measurable over the last 50 years. So there are two thi

    • There are fundamental fallacies to our existing economy. They assume a workable environment in which to do business, and that the environment is infinite and free.

      What justification do you have for making this statement? Who is "they"? Businessmen and politicians clearly do not feel this way, which is why industries have tons of environmental regulations that they have to follow.

  • If we had kept even moderately higher oil price levels after the scare of 73' then we would have a way less dependence on all the middle eastern oil. When the price went down after that it just killed the efficiency and alternate fuels industry that had sprung up, all the ideas(patents) to be bought out by oil companies. Now it could happen again, and in 20 years well wonder why we didn't ever do anything about our dependence on foreign oil.

    We blame this crisis fully on the mograge market but some blame is

    • by geekoid (135745)

      hey slick, you might want to check how much oil the US gets from the middle east before saying:
      "..way less dependence on all the middle eastern oil. "
      It's not that much.

      "all the ideas(patents) to be bought out by oil companies. "
      Myth - Based on people who do not understand what the oil companies are in business to do. Believe me, if they had a technology that they could sell, they would.
      IF they had a car that could run on water, they would go into the auto business and get a royalty from every one sold. It'

  • by bahwi (43111)

    Yes, they are. Or will be. I don't feel that they were "there" just yet, but that progress is being made. Early oil production would be disastrous and our cars would be ridiculously priced, but improvements in the technology allowed us to enjoy cheap gasoline.

    It will be that way for Biofuels too. The problem is we don't need 1 solution, we need several solutions combining to form a good solution. And hell, it may involve some old style oil/gasoline too, but at least we won't be dependent on one.

  • The current approach to biofuels is brain-dead anyway. Sugar beets grow easily in the right climate and have such a high energy density per production cost that it makes sense to convert them to ethanol. No US crop compares. The notion that we can do as well from low-density biomatter, like corn stalks, is just plain asinine.

    That doesn't mean biofuels are a bad idea altogether. I saw a carbon sequestration scheme a few years ago where algae was used to scrub carbon from coal plant emisions. After sufficient

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "..the algae could be harvested and converted to biofuel."
      thus putting the CO2 back into the air.
      Well done.

  • Simply put: do you want to eat or do you want to fill 'er up?
    Every area that goes into producing bio-fuels cannot produce food anymore.
    In addition to our current way of producing food not being sustainable without the availability of cheap oil, using agricultural areas to produce crop that isn't even eaten is insane.
    Does anybody actually have an idea how small the world's surplus on corn etc. actually is? Does anybody have an idea how much land would have to be wasted (literally) to produce enough crop to s

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