Bio Madness

Some years ago I reported on a study by the University of Berkeley which found that ethanol from corn created more environmental damage in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than excavating for oil. The study was largely ignored as the power of the vested interests lobbied for ethanol from corn and matters have reached a stage where more than half of American corn is grown for biofuel production, damaging the environment and sending the prices of the staple higher than they should be. Continue reading

Biofuels – a bad day for the environment

It is a sad day for the environment. The United Kingdom has decided that burning biofuels should happen in the United Kingdom’s power stations. Not only are biofuels – things like wood and palm oil- going to be burned to provide electricity for our televisions and luxuries, but these biofuels are going to be heavily subsidised. Continue reading

Growing Fuel is Not a Happy Prospect

The United States is still the world’s most powerful nation. In per capita terms it consumes the most and in per capita terms is probably directly and indirectly responsible for more environmental degradation than any other nation. Under the law of the United States of America 40% of food grown has to be used for biofuels. The theory behind this law is that growing your own fuel is better, for America, than importing fuel from places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and other places with which the Americans do not see eye to eye. Continue reading

Certification of biofuels and biomass

I have written a number of times about the problems with biofuels and biomass. Most governments seem to accept that these are “renewable” fuels and because of that associate them with low carbon fuels. They fail to understand that not all the carbon dioxide is taken up with new growth and in some cases, like ethanol made from corn, the net carbon dioxide emissions are higher than those created by burning oil. For that reason I have classified biofuels and biomass as “dirty” renewables.

The message is beginning to sink in. The European Union is now encouraging (but not mandating) member states to set up certification programs for biofuels, including wood and wood chip. I do not know yet how the certification system would work – no one does – but we can only hope that the standards would be stringent and genuinely address the problems that certain biofuels create, by banning them, or at least withdrawing all energy subsidies for them. Continue reading

Biofuels in Brazil and the environmental cost of them

In Brazil people are talking about biofuels.  Biofuels were hailed as the solution to fossil fuel carbon emissions, rather like biomass is in the United Kingdom today. Brazil produces large quantities of biofuel, mainly from sugar cane, which is turned into ethanol. This is pumped from what used to be petrol pumps and propels transport all over Brazil. 

Of course there is no free lunch in energy, and the complexities of life on earth means that the biofuel panacea turned into a biofuel poison. Continue reading

Biofuels, carbon trading and a free lunch

I wrote, in “the Energy Age” that as far as energy and climate change is concerned there is no free lunch; you cannot grasp at a single solution, or even two or three solutions. The nature of the problem is such that you need to use every possible weapon in your armory, every technique available to you because there is no silver bullet.

Of course whatever I and others may say will not stop politicians looking for easy and cheap solutions. Instead of a mass program of microgeneration installations of solar panels and turbines we have has a series of these easy cheap solutions offered up; biofuels, biomass and of course carbon trading. Continue reading