Of course, it's not quite black and white. Of course, there are caveats. But what do you all think? Is biodiesel/biofuel a solid option for alternative energy sources? Or is it doing more harm than good?
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Debate of the Day 10: Biodiesel - good or bad?post #1 of 124/21/08 at 10:17amThread Starterpost #2 of 124/21/08 at 10:51am
Well I'm going to extend the question to biofuels as a whole, in which case, it depends on the type of biofuel.
For example, if you're using used vegetable oil to power a diesel engine, then there's no doubt it's good. The vegetable oil was already used and would have otherwise gone into the waste stream, and instead you're using it as fuel. That's good. On the other hand, studies have shown that corn-based ethanol does a lot more harm than good.
As for biodiesel, it probably depends what it's being made out of. If it's being made from crops that are speifically grown for making biodiesel, it's entirely possible that it's doing more harm than good due to the land use change in order to convert the land to grow the crop (as discussed in stins' link). So it's tricky.
On a small scale, particularly when utilizing materials that would have otherwise been wasted, biofuels can be a good thing. The problem is once you start producing them on a large scale, it requires large amounts of land to be used for growing the fuel crop, and land use changes are the #1 contributor to man-made global warming. So unfortunately biofuels would be difficult to make into a large-scale transportation fuel solution (except maybe from sources like algae).post #3 of 124/21/08 at 3:12pm
The other consideration that's tough when trying to make Apples to Apples comparisons of biodiesel vs. standard gasoline is the huge amount of scale already built in to the distribution of gas. Oil rigs, pipe lines, long haul trucking and delivery/filling fleets - it's going to be so hard for any other technology to catch up with this well oiled machine (pun sorta intended...)
Like Dana and the article point out, razing existing farmlands/forests to make room to grow biodiesel crops is basically just greenwashing.
So I'm in with Dana (as I often am) - on a small scale and with many caveats, it's a wonderful thing, but trying to scale it would be incredibly difficult. That's why I love the EV and PHEV model because we can seriously decrease our oil usage and leverage the existing grid infrastructure (cleaning that up is another debate.)post #4 of 124/21/08 at 3:21pmQuote:Originally Posted by Deej:
So I'm in with Dana (as I often am) - on a small scale and with many caveats, it's a wonderful thing, but trying to scale it would be incredibly difficult. That's why I love the EV and PHEV model because we can seriously decrease our oil usage and leverage the existing grid infrastructure (cleaning that up is another debate.)
Yeah man, EVs are where it's at! A lot of people tend to get distracted by hydrogen, but aside from the problem of finding an environmentally friendly source of hydrogen fuel, there's no infrastructure in place! On the other hand, EVs plug into the existing power grid, though there is the potential problem of increased demand on the grid requiring more power plants. However, that's not an insurmountable problem (i.e. charging overnight when power consumption is low). Plus even with the current power gid mix, EVs pollute much less than internal combustion engine cars, and the grid is only going to get greener.post #5 of 124/21/08 at 3:43pm
On that small scale, though, I think biodiesel is a fantastic way to divert waste oil from the landfills. I take it as pretty much a personal offense when people use biofuels to greenwash! Nobody should be using environmentally unfriendly tactics to produce a fuel that is supposed to be environmentally positive.
Also, I think we should keep in mind that this discussion is really rooted in the time it's taking place. We can't really talk about whether biodiesel is good or bad, whether biofuels are good or bad, or what the alternatives are, because the options are changing all the time. A few years ago, hydrogen fuel was barely an option; a few years before that, EVs were considered laughable by most consumers. Who knows what the scene will look like even by 2010?post #6 of 124/21/08 at 3:49pm
Oh yeah, and sidebar: whenever I consider EVs, I find myself wondering what is going to happen in 20 years or so when people start experiencing negative effects from all the extra electromagnetic fields. Or when EMF information simply becomes more widespread and people start freaking out about EVs. Thoughts?post #7 of 124/21/08 at 3:58pm
Yeah that's why I made the point that it depends where the biofuel is coming from. If you're using used vegetable oil as fuel, that's awesome. If you're making your own biodiesel or getting it from another source, then it depends where the fuel crop came from, whether it's causing land use change, etc.
And it's true that we could find a good source of large-scale biofuel in the future, like oil produced by algae, as I mentioned earlier. But since we're not living in the future, at the moment, biofuels can be good on a small scale (though not necessarily), but not on a large scale.post #8 of 124/21/08 at 4:01pmQuote:Originally Posted by oakling:
Oh yeah, and sidebar: whenever I consider EVs, I find myself wondering what is going to happen in 20 years or so when people start experiencing negative effects from all the extra electromagnetic fields. Or when EMF information simply becomes more widespread and people start freaking out about EVs. Thoughts?
Dude, our own dad researched that years ago (as have many others) and found that electric fields from power lines don't cause health problems. Someone wasn't paying attention to the convesations at dinnertime.post #9 of 124/21/08 at 4:19pm
I am a biodiesel using driver, i buy from a bio fuels station on the west side of Los Angeles, the reasons i use Biodiesel are:
1. it stops giving money to big oil
2. it encourages investment in biofuels, particularly biodiesel, which will refine the production processes over time, i.e.second generation fuels like algal biodiesel
3. it makes a (very small) political statement about where i want our leaders to move towards
4. internal combustion engines are going to be around for (probably) decades, and me doing this encourages efficiency in their manufacture
I think that the next 50 years will focus on serial hybrids for personal transportation with small auxilliary generators (and I mean small!, maybe 5-15kw, in lighter cars allowing perhaps 200-300 mpg)post #10 of 125/3/08 at 6:17pmpost #11 of 126/18/08 at 9:10am
Genetically engineered algae that can produce either hydrogen or ethanol are probably about ten years away. What is particularly interesting about these technologies is that they could (in theory) be implemented on a large, decentralized scale, meaning that each household could possibly have their own mini-algae farm to make energy. Now THAT would be disruptive.post #12 of 122/3/09 at 7:01pm
Biofuels do slightly reduce dependence on imported oil, and the ethanol boom has created rural jobs while enriching some farmers and agribusinesses. But the basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple, given that researchers have ignored it until now: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon.
Nearly any vehicle that runs on regular diesel fuel is a good candidate to use biodiesel. Changing over to biodiesel if you currently have a diesel car or truck with toyota auto parts is a good idea that can save you thousands of dollars in fuel costs every year.
** edited to remove link in violation of Commercial Use Policy
Edited by admin - Thu, 19 Feb 2009 01:52:20 GMT
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