Natural Gas
Global Warming

Once a Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be an Eco-Nightmare, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times (viewing may require login) [2007 January 31]

"... [L]ast year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this green fairy tale began to look more like an environmental nightmare. Rising demand for palm oil in Europe brought about the clearing of huge tracts of Southeast Asian rainforest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer there. Worse still, the scientists said, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peatland, which sent huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere."
Biomass to Bioenergy: California Policy and Action Martha Krebs, Deputy Director for R&D, California Energy Commission, Briefing for Swedish Delegation [2007 January 11]
"Current and Future Status of Bioenergy (biopower & biofuel) in California"
Lectures and Presentations, related to the sugar and ethanol industry in Brazil.
This list includes several interesting articles, including Energy and Sustainability: sugar cane ethanol – commodity of the 21st century: "The world energy base needs to reverse a trend that has been clear for 150 years, a period of constant, vigorous expansion of oil."

Read an overview of some important statistics for sugar cane production in Brazil.

The most destructive crop on earth is no solution to the energy crisis, by George Monbiot, The Guardian [2005 December 12]
"By promoting biodiesel as a substitute, we have missed the fact that it is worse than the fossil-fuel burning it replaces."
Alcohol fuels not so green, Ethanol production harms environment, researchers claim, by Mark Peplow in Nature [2005 July 1]
"Ethanol's reputation as an environmentally friendly fuel is overblown, say researchers who claim that large-scale farming of sugar cane or corn for alcohol is damaging the planet...

"... Burton Vaughan, a biologist at Washington State University, Richland, says that supporters may be ignoring ethanol's other environmental impacts. Vaughan and his colleagues, Marcelo Dias de Oliveira and Edward Rykiel, say that producing ethanol-rich fuels tends to reduce biodiversity and increase soil erosion because of the way that sugar cane is grown."

Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel Cycle, by Tad Patzek [2004]

"First, I demonstrate that more fossil energy is used to produce ethanol from corn than the ethanol’s calorific value. Analysis of the carbon cycle shows that all leftovers from ethanol production must be returned back to the fields to limit the irreversible mining of soil humus. Thus, production of ethanol from whole plants is unsustainable. In 2004, ethanol production from corn will generate 11 million tonnes of incremental CO2, over and above the amount of CO2 generated by burning gasoline with 115% of the calorific value of this ethanol.

Second, I calculate the cumulative exergy (available free energy) consumed in corn farming and ethanol production, and estimate the minimum amount of work necessary to restore the key non-renewable resources consumed by the industrial corn-ethanol cycle. This amount of work is compared with the maximum useful work obtained from the industrial corn-ethanol cycle. It appears that if the corn ethanol exergy is used to power a car engine, the minimum restoration work is about 7 times the maximum useful work from the cycle. This ratio drops down to 2.4, if an ideal (but nonexistent) fuel cell is used to process the ethanol.

Third, I estimate the U.S. taxpayer subsidies of the industrial corn-ethanol cycle at $3.3 billion in 2004. The parallel subsidies by the environment are estimated at $1.9 billion in 2004. The latter estimate will increase manifold when the restoration costs of aquifers, streams and rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico are also included.

Finally, I estimate that (per year and unit area) the inecient solar cells produce 100 times more electricity than corn ethanol. We need to rely more on sunlight, the only source of renewable energy on the earth."
(with appendices added August 14, 2005)

Bad Mileage: 98 tons of plants per gallon, Study shows vast amounts of 'buried sunshine' needed to fuel society, by Lee Siegel [2003 October 27]

"A staggering 98 tons of prehistoric, buried plant material – that's 196,000 pounds – is required to produce each gallon of gasoline we burn in our cars, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles, according to a study conducted at the University of Utah.

"Can you imagine loading 40 acres worth of wheat – stalks, roots and all – into the tank of your car or SUV every 20 miles?" asks ecologist Jeff Dukes, whose study will be published in the November issue of the journal Climatic Change..."

Anything into Oil [2003 May]

"Gory refuse, from a Butterball Turkey plant in Carthage, Missouri, will no longer go to waste. Each day 200 tons of turkey offal will be carted to the first industrial-scale thermal depolymerization plant, recently completed in an adjacent lot, and be transformed into various useful products, including 600 barrels of light oil.

"In an industrial park in Philadelphia sits a new machine that can change almost anything into oil."

Ethanol from Corn: Just How Unsustainable Is It?, by Tadeusz W. Patzek [2003 Spring]
A remarkable study done by a professor and his freshman students at UC Berkeley.
Last Frontier Forests: Ecosystems and economies on the edge, Dirk Bryant, Daniel Nielsen and Laura Tangley [1997]
Synopsis: Offers the first scientific assessment of the world's large, intact natural forests and graphically depicts the extent of human impacts on global forests

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