Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Carbohydrate-Based Synthesis To Replace Petroleum Derived Hydrocarbons?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the new-incentives-for-fixing-old-problems dept.

Biotech 166

someWebGeek writes "From PhysOrg's 'Taking biofuel from forest to highway,' University of British Columbia biofuel expert Jack Saddler says, 'we will become less dependent on fossil fuels and will become more dependent on fuels made from the sugars and chemicals found in plants.' Nothing too new there; the idea of biofuels eventually taking over from petroleum distillates has been around for ages. However, Saddler contends further that 'Similar to an oil refinery that processes crude oil to make thousands of supplementary products like plastics, dyes, paints, etc., the biorefinery would use leftover agricultural and forest material to make many of the same products, but from a sustainable and renewable resource.' I remember my organic chem instructor back in '81 telling us that eventually the textbooks would have to be rewritten. There would be no presumption of fractional distillation of thousands of basic compounds from petroleum, and the teaching emphasis would shift to synthesis from simple hydrocarbons. He noted that we'd all miss 'the good, ole days' when synthetic fibers, plastics, etc. were cheap... or even an economically viable option. I can live without rayon, but, dang, I'm gonna miss polyvinyl chloride!"

cancel ×

166 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Factor in one more thing though? (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104591)

While this is great and makes sense - I can't see this happening until much later in the peak oil scenario.

Fabricating all (most) of the stuff we make from oil now from plant matter will be a much less efficient operation and require much much more energy inserted during the production/refining process - which will of course make it much more expensive and inefficient to do. With that, I can't see it happening on any sort of serious scale until we have started running out of oil sands - let alone oil wells.

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104677)

Fabricating all (most) of the stuff we make from oil now from plant matter will be a much less efficient operation and require much much more energy inserted during the production/refining process - which will of course make it much more expensive and inefficient to do. With that, I can't see it happening on any sort of serious scale until we have started running out of oil sands - let alone oil wells.

Google for EROEI and maybe theoildrum.com re-evaluate. If you have to burn 10 barrels equivalent of crude oil to make 1 barrel equivalent of food grade veg oil, then what is the break even point? (And no, I very unfortunately do not have that backwards)

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39104729)

There are many companies out there making these sorts of things *today*. Very few are profitable. They quickly figure out it takes energy to make the sort of energy we use now. Pumping it out of the ground is *FAR* cheaper and nearly ready to rock. You have a huge curve to get over from nearly free.

Until pumping oil out of the ground becomes more expensive than making energy this will remain true.

Another couple of factors (4, Interesting)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104959)

Right now, I've read we're burning about 400 years worth of laid-down plant carbohydrate per year, in the form of fossil fuels.
That's right. To obtain the equivalent amount of energy from non-fossil biofuels as we're currently getting from fossil fuels, we'd have to increase the amount of plant material being grown on Earth by a factor of 400 times current production, and use all of that for biofuels. (Assuming various conversion factors work out roughly equivalently for the two processes.)

Second, people need food more than cars, and forests need trees (and the Earth ecosystem needs robust biodiversity as opposed to massive tracts of mono-culture biofuel tree-farms).

Re:Another couple of factors (5, Informative)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105933)

Right now, I've read we're burning about 400 years worth of laid-down plant carbohydrate per year, in the form of fossil fuels. That's right. To obtain the equivalent amount of energy from non-fossil biofuels as we're currently getting from fossil fuels, we'd have to increase the amount of plant material being grown on Earth by a factor of 400 times

No that is not what it means at all, in any way shape or form.
What it means is that we are using fossil fuel at an rate of 400 times of which new fossil fuel is produced by natural processes. Only a small percentage of biomass will ever become trapped in the correct anaerobic environment and then fossilized over millions of years. So there is lots of biomass available for use as fuel.

Re:Another couple of factors (3, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106029)

Your figure assumes that 100% of the plant matter per year is transformed into coal/oil/etc. This is not even close. Only about 0.0093% of the carbon in plant matter becomes fossil fuels. The remainder stays in the carbon cycle.

That comes to 3.72% of annual plant matter generation to supply the same energy. Though probably at least double that to account for efficiency.

Whether that amount is sustainable is left as an exercise for someone else.

http://plus.maths.org/content/burning-buried-sunshine [maths.org]

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39104855)

If crude oil costs $100/bbl and you had to burn 10 of them to make 1bbl of veg oil, veg oil would have to cost $1000/bbl, or $23/gal. Right now you can get veg oil for $5/gal as some place like Costco.

dom

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106105)

have no clue if you had a point??

at 42 gallons to the barrel though, that is $210 for your veg oil....

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (1)

evil_aaronm (671521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104893)

Google came up with something about "Old McDonald had a farm..." WTF...?

Oh - you said, "EROEI," not "EIEIO". My bad...

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105017)

EROEI is a very useful metric for energy sources. The less your product resembles energy generation, the less usefull it is. As far as I know, plastics don't resemble energy generation at all.

By the way, what would you use as the numerator when calculating the EROEI of a kilogram of PET?

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (5, Informative)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105467)

If you have to burn 10 barrels equivalent of crude oil to make 1 barrel equivalent of food grade veg oil

I have read and heard this so many time here on Slashdot now, and I am gonna call you on it.
If it takes a ratio of 10:1, crude to produce vegetable oil. Then how come a cheap vegetable oil can be found for a 3-4 bucks a gallon?
While the cost of 10 gallon of crude costs 30-40 dollars?
Are the producers just giving us all that crude for free out of the goodness of their hearts?
Seriously people use your brains, think for your selves.

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105781)

Are the producers just giving us all that crude for free out of the goodness of their hearts?

No it's the government subsidies. You see the government has to spend your taxes buying 9 out of 10 of those barrels of oil in a populist move to keep the price of cooking oil down. However since freedom demands getting rid of taxation the price of cooking oil would sky-rocket unless we adopted a gold based money system. Which is why Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who you can count on to safeguard your vegetable oil security.

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (1)

djlowe (41723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104797)

Fabricating all (most) of the stuff we make from oil now from plant matter will be a much less efficient operation and require much much more energy inserted during the production/refining process - which will of course make it much more expensive and inefficient to do.

While I don't have the background to refute this, it makes sense to me, but only when you consider the fuel production side of the equation.

It seems to me that there are other factors that might make up, in part or whole, for the lessened efficiency: Can the waste product(s) of using plant matter used to create biofuels be reclaimed and used elsewhere? To make paper, or perhaps clothing? Fertilizer? Feed?

Were that the case, it seems to me that overall efficiency would be improved for other industries, simply by using "waste" from one process as raw materials for another, and another.. and another, so far as possible/efficient/practical.

If there's anyone on Slashdot that has more knowledge than I about this, I'd love to read more about it from an expert point of view.

Regards,

dj

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105063)

Can the waste product(s) of using plant matter used to create biofuels be reclaimed and used elsewhere? To make paper, or perhaps clothing? Fertilizer? Feed?

Biofuels would not be likely. If they are trying to make oil replacements, then the majority of the energy contained in the plant matter would be going into oil replacement. The problem is that the very high energy density of oil/petroleum products are the exact thing that makes it appealing. Breaking the carbon chains in oil releases a very large amount of energy proportional to the amount of fuel. Granted, there are much more energy dense forms of fuel - but they are also very expensive. To make something that can store as much energy as oil from something like plants will always require that a lot of energy is inserted - so that later when the fuel is used it releases more. While it isn't impossible and is being improved all the time, it still basically requires the right fungus/bacteria/whatever to convert from low energy plant matter to something that is usable for us.

Sorry not to use a car analogy, but this one is much more fitting: Consider oil to be steak and plant matter to be plant matter. Currently we are able to drill for steak and eat it. It is a great source of energy for us. Sadly, our supplies of steak are starting to run a bit low. Now, someone comes along with a cow and says that they can convert normal grass into steak with this beast that wanders around eating grass and converting it into much higher energy dense food. The problem is that for this cow thing to make steak, it has to slowly wander around, eating huge amounts of grass and then very slowly over many years convert that plant matter into meat. This is the exact same scenario, but rather than having to wait years for a cow to make steak, oilfields are created over many, many thousands of years.

To make a high density fuel (basically something that we want and is useful) that energy had to be inserted at some point. If someone can work out how to make a cheap, clean energy source that doesn't require a vast investment of time waiting for it to mature - then there will be nobel prizes, presidential handshakes and all the gratitude of the world waiting for them.

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (1)

tirefire (724526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106543)

Currently we are able to drill for steak and eat it.

Quoted for truth.

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39106255)

not to mention it would be much more environmentally destructive to leave perfectly good oil (that has no other good purpose) just lying in the ground while we go out and rape the earth of flora and fauna for fuel.

Re:Factor in one more thing though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39106383)

also, consider this:
as we rely less on oil, the price of oil will drop (less demand). so, at best, the BioOilers will barely gain 10-yards, then the Oilers will get an interception and move the ball back 10 yards. then the BioOilers will get an interception and the game goes on like so until oil simply can't keep up with the demand (peak oil). at that point, there will be so many hungry mouths to feed on this over-populated planet that we better hope we can create biofuel from our own excrement, maybe even our dead.

it is a common phrase that modern civilization is addicted to oil. however, everyone seems to end the analogy and analysis at oil. we have to ask ourselves 'what is an addict?' and if you take a crack addict, substitute alcohol for crack, and the crack addict lives, he's still an addict. now he's an alcohol addict. so, to continue the 'addict' analogy...is the substance being abused the problem or is problem somewhere in the user? what causes the user to use these substances? what is he trying to cope with? is the substance abuse a means of minimizing pain or maximizing pleasure? can those motivations be managed without drugs?

Death Throes (1, Insightful)

Loughla (2531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104599)

One has to wonder just how hard the petroleum industry will fight these developments, though.

Re:Death Throes (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104655)

One has to wonder just how hard the petroleum industry will fight these developments, though.

Until we have a better means of producing the carbohydrates, I'm guessing you'll see more death throes from the people who are starving because of the food we'r'e not growing.

Re:Death Throes (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104813)

Except of course that there's tons of land that isn't suitable for growing food crops that we can use to grow crops for industrial material. There's quite a lot of contaminated land out there, for example.

Re:Death Throes (1)

chadenright (1344231) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105705)

And when we burn the fuel that was grown on contaminated land, it turns into contaminated air? Somehow I don't think that's going to be as popular as you expect. Not that the fuel we burn now doesn't emit contaminants, of course.

Re:Death Throes (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105883)

The plant material will be heavily physically and chemically processed before being used in much the same way that crude oil is now. A good deal of the contaminated land I'm talking about is contaminated with petrochemicals or even natural crude oil in the first place. Given that the source materials for most of our current plastics and fuels are contaminated by definition already, using plants grown in contaminated soil shouldn't really be a problem. The crops won't meet standards for human consumption any more than crude oil will, but the final product should be no dirtier.

Re:Death Throes (2)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104763)

They will fight it as long as it is more profitable for them to exploit their existing manufacturing base for crude oil.

Re:Death Throes (4, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104999)

If this is profitable, "the petroleum industry" will most likely not fight it, but adapt and probably become large investor and user of this technology (probably ruining many ecosystems in some poorer countries as a side effect). The oil processing multinationals (not the well owners, these are mostly state-owned in feudal countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia) have been considering the "peak oil" and what it means to them long before it became a fashionable topic on the internets. They realize that the less oil there is, the more vulnerable they are.

They got a taste of it after the oil rose significantly after certain events from 2003 onwards. Many oil-exporting countries started to re-evaluate their contracts with the big oil multinationals. Competition for the wells from companies from rising developing countries is increasing, and control of technology may not be a very viable option.

So, everyone in the field seems to have some alternative strategy. Some have invested heavily in shale oil, some in underwater extraction, some in biomass, some in totally unrelated stuff. You can fully expect that if this thing shows promise beyond an article on physorg.com many will look into it.

Re:Death Throes (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105323)

Very much so - but no points to mod you up I'm afraid. Some will adapt and survive, some will die, alternate strategies or not. And there will be some players in future we don't know of yet thriving too. We need to get used to this idea - no corp ever lasts forever, the most interesting question is who will live and who will die? Short term arguments about patents are trivial - who do we think is really going to be around in 100 years in anything like their current guise? Love to know

You won't miss polyvinyl chloride... (2)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104619)

It's not going anywhere. If bio-fuels do become economical the billions or trillions of barrels of petroleum that's left will be used for synthesis instead of for running cars and the like.

End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (3, Informative)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104653)

Oil isn't going away any time soon. The fact is that for a very long time after it no longer makes sense to burn oil for fuel that oil will be available and will still make economic sense to use as a precursor product for all of those complex compounds that currently can only be made from oil. Perhaps in the far, far future it will become necessary to reinvent processes to build these things out of other precursors, but not for a long time. There's still going to be plenty of that black gunk in the ground long after people stop being able to burn it to get from A to B.

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105043)

Why wait?

And yes, I know the answer is "money". But isn't waiting too much exactly what did put we in the situation we are now with energy? Let people research.

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105113)

Something that does not make economic sense, will never make sense. Oil is getting more expensive, so alternatives are becoming economically viable. Deeper, harder to exploit oil is also economically viable now.

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106115)

I'm not saying wait, just correcting the notion that the day oil becomes too expensive to put into your car will also mean that oil won't be available for anything else.

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (3, Interesting)

MetalOne (564360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105097)

"Oil isn't going away any time soon". You know I really hope you're right. However, according to wikipedia, the 17 largest reserves total 1.3 trillion barrels. If I divide that by world usage of 88 million barrels per day, I get 40 years. Plus population growth is still happening and the third world is becoming more advanced. Of course eventually this oil will become harder to get, driving up its price and possibly slowing consumption. I believe expensive oil is going to severly impact this world. So while there still might be oil, will it be cheap enough and plentiful enough to prevent the complete collapse of society within the next 100 years. I would really like it if somebody could point me to a decent resource that will alleviate my fears. Sure we might find more oil. Everytime I hear about a big new discovery though, I just divide it by 88 million barrels a day, and I quickly realize that it is a truly insignificant discovery. Sometimes I hear the Canada tar sands will save us, but those reserves are in the above wikipedia figure. Some of the reserve life figures on wikipedia have a longer life time, but that is because the production is low relative to the 88 million barrels per day. In the next 70 years we could have twice as many people on this planet. How much oil will we need then?

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105209)

Maybe coal liquefaction, methane hydrates, nuclear, renewables?

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105831)

The important thing to note about tar sands is reserves are only counted once they are "proven." For conventional oil this just means reserves have been found. But for oil sands, discovery is not enough to be considered "proven." Only until the site is actively under development will it count in worldwide oil reserves.

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106095)

I am assuming that at some point in time that we will replace a substantial part of our energy needs with alternative sources.

apply your gut check numbers to fresh water (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106167)

it's scarier

http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/water2/page/3209.aspx [grida.no]

"It is estimated that two out of every three people will live in water-stressed areas by the year 2025. In Africa alone, it is estimated that 25 countries will be experiencing water stress (below 1,700 m3 per capita per year) by 2025. Today, 450 million people in 29 countries suffer from water shortages."

that's in 13 years... not 70... and it's freaking WATER! (pop quiz, what do you require, oil or water to live?)

Re:End of oil for fuel != end of oil. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105301)

I guess it depends on what you mean by "plenty of time". I don't think that less than 50 years for the end of the "cheap petroleum era" is "plenty of time". And a decade or two before supply starts declining is even closer. A decline in supply of a couple of percent a year after the peak could be pretty economically painful.

How many barrels of oil does it take (1)

linatux (63153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104685)

to make one barrel of biofuel?

Re:How many barrels of oil does it take (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104733)

Recalling my thermodynamics class over two decades ago, I would say 1:1 if the biofuel is to be manufactured directly for use as fuel.

However if it is recaptured from what is currently considered waste, then it can be assumed to be close to zero.

Re:How many barrels of oil does it take (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104745)

I meant to say > 1:1. Oops!

Re:How many barrels of oil does it take (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105275)

Nope, it's far far worse than that, and that's even if you only think in terms of thermodynamics since the raw material processing takes energy at each stage.

Now from the articles I've seen on making bio-diesel that take into account the fuel used for farming a crop that's good for making bio-diesel you get only get about 3 units for every 2 units you expend with our current technologies. Ok, it is a net gain, but it's not what most of our industry would consider efficient, unless there were no other realistic choices. Now don't forget, you not only get the pollution from that one unit of bio-diesel you have to sell, but you also got if the other 2 you used to produce that one.

Ok, now onto the pollution aspect. On the old standards of petroleum based internal combustion engine pollution tests, bio-diesel rates lower. Of course, those tests were designed for a particular set of pollutants & fuel combination. Bio-diesel is not the same. If you expand the range of pollutants testing, you find that bio-diesel tends to pump out more pollutants, just different ones. Maybe that can be improved with research & testing.

Land use. The world food market is a messy place with problems involving distribution, inconsistent yields, and lots of other issues. We won't go into that mess, it's a whole argument on it's own. However, generating bio-diesel from crops is mostly using what would otherwise be food. You see, the portions of the crops we eat are the parts that are high in energy that can be easily converted to fuels for machines. It is possible to do this with the rest of the plants, but our current technologies totally suck at that, so it's a very low yield method and totally uneconomical at this time. There is a lot of research going on in attempts to change that, but they don't have an economically viable method to do so at this time. Until they do, your bio-diesel was food that somebody didn't get to eat.

I've heard people suggest that we employ some of the land that's only marginal (or worse) for farming to farm crops for bio-diesel. Do you see the obvious problem there? That land sucks for farming, so you can't farm enough food off of it to make bio-diesel worth doing. There's a reason people aren't farming it in the first place. Although it could be land more useful for something else, which is again, a situation where they won't be farming there. I've even heard someone mentioning farming in contaminated lands. Ok, that's a little better, but you risk spreading the contamination, it's probably going to need extra steps to remove it from the product before you can sell it (cyanide in the ground is bad enough, cars spitting out cyanide in their exhaust is much worse.), as well as the additional testing and the knee-jerk reactions that various groups will have that will try to block you, even if you can prove your processing removes the risk of contamination. One more thing about contaminated lands, it's not that uncommon for crops to not grow well there, though that is completely dependent on the contamination type and level.
One more thing to cover on land use, there would have to be a bugger-load-plus of land devoted to growing fuel if you intend to replace other sources. It takes a LOT of land to provide enough food to make enough bio-diesel to cover our current levels of fuel usage. I've seen estimates that place it at unavailable levels. (ie, needs more land for that purpose than is even available.) I don't remember what the numbers are, but you could look it, just like everything else I'm mentioning.

If you don't like what I've written, want more information, or want to verify, just go look it up. Try to stick to the science sites. There's a simple reason for that. You see, most sites on these subjects are politically motivated to try and backup their point. Scientists on the other hand, are motivated to be right, even if it makes them unpopular with some group or another. Sure, they're human, and occasionally they make mistakes, or are swayed by one reason or another, but they have a peer review system that really cuts down on that stuff, unlike just about everywhere else that wants to talk about this subject. (Or just about any subject for that matter.)

Right now, at our current technologies, bio-diesel is a no-go in my opinion. On the other hand, we should keep at the research and development, and someday we will have a viable alternative. Honestly I don't know what it will be, otherwise I'd be getting rich off of it, but it will happen, or else we'll probably go back to the steam-age.

Re:How many barrels of oil does it take (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39104765)

Aren't those the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song?

Re:How many barrels of oil does it take (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106679)

How many barrels of oil does it take to make one barrel of oil? All that drilling, pumping, transporting, and refining isn't free!

FROOOOOOSSSSSTTTTT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39104693)

Like a frost post cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star spangled rodeo
Like a frost post cowboy
Getting cards and letters from people I don't even know
And offers coming over my iPhone

Re:FROOOOOOSSSSSTTTTT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105383)

not even fucking close.

Eventually, but probably not too soon (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104725)

Yes, eventually dead dinosaur will become so expensive we will shift over to alternatives. But odds we will also figure out ways to either make the basic chemicals we use now at reasonable cost or find practical replacements so no, we won'r suddenly 'do without' synthetic fibers or plastics. Heck, we already have bio derived plastic, it just isn't quite as versatile or inexpensive but give it another decade.

The bigger limit when we run low on dead dinosaur is the big battle of growing food vs growing fuel. If population grows just feeding people on a petro economy will be tough, doing it while growing the fuel just for the agricultural and food distribution needs will be a bitch.

I laugh at these simpletons who think they can run straight line projections into the future and ignore the fact that when we really need something the profit motive usually inspires somebody to figure out a way to get rich. Just looking at the whole peak oil silliness should be enough to convince anyone. 'Hightly respected' experts have been telling is for fifty years we have been about twenty years away from 'peak oil.' It is pretty much the reverse of fusion, where we have been twenty years away from commercial fusion for the last fifty years. The future will be wierder than we can imagine and all predictions over a decade out are usually worthless.

Re:Eventually, but probably not too soon (2)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105205)

Oil production peaked in 2004 if I'm reading wikipedia correctly. Oil production per capita peaked in 1979. Peak Oil is a mathematical certainty if there are not an infinite amount of hydrocarbons on Earth. We can easily talk about Peak Oil in the past tense if we focus on the major oilfields; we've pretty much used up all of the oil that's easy to get to. Hubbert actually predicted the timing of the US's peak oil production pretty accurately. Additionally, demand for oil is far outpacing production; there's a lot of people on this planet. Thus, even if production continues apace, oil will continue to become more expensive.

But go ahead and keep thinking you're smarter than everyone else. Clearly all future predictions are worthless.

Re:Eventually, but probably not too soon (2)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105441)

Not saying the idea of 'peak oil' is totally bogus, only that every attempt to predict it has proven wrong. Since the first prediction the peak has been pushed back again and again by offshore drilling, discovering whole new oil fields, the discovery of shale oil, tar sands, fracking and probably a few more before we hit the real peak oil. If I had to make a prediction, admitting mine will probably be as wrong as everyone else's, I'd say we will only identify 'peak oil' in retrospect and not in a forward prediction. We keep doming up with ever more clever ways of getting at the stuff, especially as the price keeps going up. Extraction methods that would have been madness at $5/barrel are very profitable at $100/barrel. At $150 what new tricks will suddenly be commonplace?

I only wish we would get serious while there is plenty of dead dino for plastics and other uses and go all in on moving as much as possible to other things. CNG is something we have out the wazoo here in the US and we don't depend on insane tyrants for any of it. Nuke plants should be a no brainer but the mindless greens hate it and apparently have a veto on our survival.

Re:Eventually, but probably not too soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39106537)

You think that's bad? The global discovery rate peaked in the 1960s. Most of the supply comes from supergiant fields found many decades ago. We may not have reached peak production yet, but it's an undisputed fact that we're using oil faster than we are finding new deposits. That will mean oil supply will peak. Predicting when it will peak is difficult because it is controlled by both supply *and* demand, but reaching a peak and then a supply decline is inevitable. Any prediction I've ever seen places the peak in this century, usually the first half of this century.

As for biofuels, anyone who does the math will realize they can't even come close to replacing the amount of petroleum we currently consume. Biofuels might make a token dent in the consumption.

Straight line projections in the future, eh? Highly respected experts said in the 1960s and 1970s that the exponential increase in consumption would continue, and exceed supply pretty quickly. It hasn't done that because the price rose dramatically in the 1970s. That's stifled the growth in demand and stretched out the supply. If you collapse the global economy it does a *great* job of prolonging the supply. The supply could probably be prolonged for a century or two if we adopted, say, Cuba or North Korea's economic strategy. It's not exactly a desirable option, however. So, keep making fun of the projections, but if the only hope for prolonging the inevitable peak is economic recession, that's not much cause for optimism. Also, financial incentives can't defy the basic physics of pumping fluid out of a rock sponge: that what you pump out will rise for a while, peak, and then decline.

Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (4, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104773)

Who are you kidding? Wood for heating and charcoal for iron smelters was responsible for deforestation of large parts of Europe long before the industrial revolution. People turned to burning coal and lignite for lack of trees in the comparably sparsely populated countries of the 17/18th century. What exactly do you expect this around, with 8 times the size of population and much larger energy needs?

Re:Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105913)

Who said anything about trees? Any type of green plant produces carbohydrates, including those which are easily grown in abundance on already depleted/unused land. Once we get the ability to use carbohydrates for energy, what makes you think we won't we able to produce them using bacteria in a bio-reactor? What makes you think we can't do this now?

Re:Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105975)

Trees are about as effective in doing photosynthesis as any other plant. You can't get more energy out of a system than you're putting into it. Any bells ringing?

Re:Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (5, Informative)

bertok (226922) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106041)

Trees are about as effective in doing photosynthesis as any other plant.

That's not true, there's significant differences in efficiency between various species of plants. Most grasses for example are much more efficient than trees, which is why grassland can support huge herds of large animals, but a forest can't.

See: Photosynthetic Efficiency [wikipedia.org] , where it has a table of some typical efficiencies:

Plants, typical : 0.1%
Typical crop plants: 1-2%
Sugarcane: 7-8% peak

This is because more than one kind of photosynthesis has evolved, with somewhat different chemical processes. Look up C3 carbon fixation [wikipedia.org] and C4 carbon fixation [wikipedia.org] for the differences.

There is a significant research effort going on looking into ways of taking the genes for the more efficient types of photosynthesis and merging that into less efficient plants. This could be used to make fruit trees grow much faster, or to create algae that can be used to produce alcohol or oil at efficiencies approaching those of solar electric power.

Re:Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106217)

Strangely enough, people who aren't mixing up average and peak efficiencies get wildly different results. [jstor.org]

Are you selling something? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106367)

people who aren't mixing up average and peak efficiencies get wildly different results.

From the linked page: "Purchase this article from the publisher for $14.00 USD"

Re:Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (2)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106193)

While you have a good point, there are a few points to consider:
- The wood was not being used efficiently. A startling amount of the energy in the wood was going up the stack.
- The forests were not being managed in any real way. No replanting, clear cutting. Forestry in North America, for all its warts, is currently sustainable.
- We aren't limited to wood from trees - switchgrass gives you a bunch of cellulose and grows much faster than a tree.
- This discussion isn't about energy, but about raw materials.

Re:Wood wasn't enough to fuel the Middle Ages (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106293)

Erm, google: "medivial forest management" - you'll find out that sustainable forestry was invented in Europe and Japan independently (because it was unsustainable before). And both coincided with the introduction of coal as fuel. But don't worry, thanks to wood pellets being used as a replacement for heating oil, sustainability is just one of those quaint old concepts going the way of the wooly mammoth.

The diffuse nature of the energy collected... (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104781)

... argues against it. This is why I am perpetually skeptical of all solar, wind, and tidal energy schemes: they inevitably and always elide crucial details about the economic availability of storage, or of the energy/dollar cost (the latter reflecting the former) of buildout, frequently demanding subsidy to bring them to parity with fossil fuel systems. Biofuels have even worse things to contend with, including biologic sequestration from competing species (expensive containment), and corresponding reduction in productivity that strains capable of living in open ponds.

I have stopped reading his blog because it is too depressing, but Robert Rapier [consumerenergyreport.com] is a very good source for this kind of material, and a good counterweight to the all-too-rosy scenarios coming out of academia and elsewhere. While he does not agree with me on everything (he has been a proponent of solar where I think it makes no sense at all), his comments on biofuels come from an area of expertise and go a long way to skewer much of the unsubstantiated talk in this area.

Re:The diffuse nature of the energy collected... (0)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104935)

The problem with storage is that the "environmentalists" want the world to fix to a static state. Energy can very easily be stored by pumping water up hill. It doesn't even have to be drinkable water.

I am not an environmentalist (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105159)

Because that term is far too anthropocentric (it's all about me me me and MY environment, which surrounds and exists for me me me.)

But my sense of ethics (and my theory of wise action) does extend to eco-systems, and runs along the lines of:
It is almost certainly wise, and probably ethically sound and morally advanced, to allow a good number of the complex eco-systems on Earth of all scales to evolve in a context which is not dominated by human intervention.

And no, that view cannot be equated to the world being in a static state. It should however be in a complex nested homeostatic state, one which reaches many sustainable equilibria at many levels, due to the action of complex eco-systems.

Re:The diffuse nature of the energy collected... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106253)

Your idea of "very easy" is hilariously misguided.

Ridiculous idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39104793)

1. I think there isn't enough biomass to meet our fuel needs, and couldn't ever be
2. it will result in very large areas of the biosphere being destroyed to make way for plantations
3. it will result in valuable agricultural land being turned over to fuel production rather than food production
4. it will deplete the soils, deplete the fertilizer sources, and eventually lead us all to starvation

Is this not obvious to everyone?!?

Re:Ridiculous idea (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105397)

Not obvious - just one scenario amongst many.

Re:Ridiculous idea (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105549)

1. There's enough biomass, but we'll have to have one hell of a population receed to make it work.
2. Probably. Unless they go nuts about growing algae in the desert someplace. The energy costs will make this decentralised, of course. Economically, they won't have much choice.
3. Or, we can get into hydroponic greenhouse gardening in a big way. It'd be the only viable way to farm unfarmable land.
4. Most fertilizers today are made from petroleum. Without petroleum, no fertilizers, no massive production. See my Point 1.

We having fun yet? On the upside, populations tend to fall in developed countries as the birthrate declines. There's not as much pressure to pump out a dozen kids when 11 of them will survive to adulthood. The downside to it is, it takes a lot of technology and energy to efficiently feed all those people.

Lack of Political Will (1)

vaene (1981644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104821)

What's lacking, is not tech or economics. Alternatives such as Biobutanol can be used as a direct substitute for gasoline with minimal to no alteration on current vehicles, and they pack about 90% ~ 95% of the energy density as gasoline. If we took the $30-50billion we spend EVERY YEAR on subsidizing outlandishly profitable Oil companies like Exxon, and put even a fraction of that money towards developing Industrial scale economically viable biobutanol, biodiesel distilleries/refineries which could run off of agricultural waste, and other non food renewable resources. We could cut our fossil fuel use, cut pollution (biobutanol burns cleaner), and have a readily available bridge source of energy to power our transportation network until other, cleaner tech come on line. We can do this now, hell we could have done it a decade ago. But as long as politicians of both parties are bought off by the Energy Oligarchs, public funds will continue to subsidize fossil fuels instead of cheaper less destructive technologies.

Re:Lack of Political Will (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104913)

The USA is already burning a quarter of the world corn harvest for bioethanol and it doesn't make a dent in its energy budget. Even ignoring the amount of energy used in the process, it amounts to little more than 1% of the total energy use in the USA. Even if all the worlds grain harvest were to be turned into ethanol for the USA - starving the rest of the planet in the process, but we already see that the US couldn't care less about this detail - it would account for less than one third of the US energy consumption.

Shut up you monster.

Re:Lack of Political Will (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105251)

instead of cheaper less destructive technologies.

If there were actually cheaper less destructive technologies, that would be a huge opportunity for profit, and somebody would be stepping up to cash in on the gravy train. The only way any of these alternatives are "cheaper" is in the sense that the government uses money taken from taxpayers to subsidize them. At some point, you run out of other people's money.

The oil industry can do just fine without subsidies and I support taking them off the government teat. However, alternate energy sources require huge subsidies just to exist. They simply aren't mature enough yet because human knowledge and technology levels are not yet high enough. Replicators and transporters would be great too, but we haven't advanced that far there, either.

Once the technology is mature enough that someone can make money from it, no government subsidies will be needed. Even Germany, which President Obama recently praised for "green" energy initiatives, has just implemented massive cuts to such government initiatives, as they've seen by the results that it's throwing money down a rathole at this point in time.

Re:Lack of Political Will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105361)

I like how you conveniently stopped using numbers when you started talking about your proposal, as if you didn't have any. It's almost as if you've never done any research into the feasibility of your plan, or you did do research but were uncomfortable with how bleak everything you found was. I choose to believe the latter.

Not at current energy consumption (2)

fozzy1015 (264592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104877)

A paper by a professor named Jeff Dukes back in 1997 calculated that in that year we burned 400 years worth of biomass using fossil fuels.

http://plus.maths.org/content/burning-buried-sunshine

The idea we can consume the same amount of energy by growing biomass is a pipe dream. Many of the processes that produce liquid fuels via biological processes end requiring more input energy that can be extracted, usually because water has to be removed from the final product which requires heat. That is why so many companies have been able to succeed building pilot projects but can never scale up to anything sustainable.

Re:Not at current energy consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39104955)

Maybe modify gas tanks with two bladders one for petrol one for other, they each expand to fill the tank so little wasted space, and two delivery paths to the engine so no H2O contamination to the petrol. Yes it is extra cost and weight but would allow a much easier transition and eliminate the need for an expensive water free fuel.

Re:Not at current energy consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105121)

That does not in any way address his point.
The problem is that as the situation stands now, we do not seem to be able to harvest enough solar energy using biomass, regardless of delivery / consumption issues.
Either we need another energy source that isn't solar (oil, biomass, solar cells, ...), or one that can capture a lot more of the sun's energy (some calculations seem to show that we do get enough in principle), or we need to somehow increase the effective collection area.
This is an issue that can't be skipped by just having "gas tanks with two bladders".

Re:Not at current energy consumption (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106277)

Your "400 years" number has already been debunked in this thread.

The real number, in the US at least, is closer to 2 years per year. That's with something like cellulosic ethanol.

Re:Not at current energy consumption (1)

fozzy1015 (264592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106489)

I don't see where it's refuted by the same qualitative source as a published scientific paper. And cellulosic ethanol? That's been attempted for over 100 years and nobody has been able to scale it up to get a positive energy return on it for the reason I mentioned. It simply takes too much energy to remove the water.

Biofuel is evil! (well not evil but unwise) (1)

WhiteStarTech (2559381) | more than 2 years ago | (#39104919)

Biofuel is made from whate4ver is cheapest, unfortunately waist material is not cheap, corn is. So what do we get, people in third world countries who can make more money by selling to oil companies (as they will invest in biofuel as the money is there)than at the local market.
The result of this is starvation and an increase in food cost for those who can least afford it. I don’t like the reliance on oil but at this point it’s what we need to use while we work out the details of moving to another option.
Make the change to other options but don’t do it at the expense of people, spend the time to do it properly and ban bio fule made in a way that it hurts others (The ban on ‘Blood dimonds’ springs to mind)

Re:Biofuel is evil! (well not evil but unwise) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105067)

Good. world is way over populated and since people can't restrain themselves from breeding like rabbits something has to be done.

Rayon isn't synthetic (4, Informative)

Seraphim1982 (813899) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105105)

Out of all the examples you could pick you picked rayon? Rayon is produced using cellulose (wood), sodium hydroxide, carbon disulfide and sulfuric acid. It isn't a synthetic fiber, and there isn't any petroleum involved in the process. Rayon is just cellulose that has been dissolved and regenerated as a fiber.

Re:Rayon isn't synthetic (1)

someWebGeek (2566673) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106533)

"I can live without rayon (products manufactured from non-petroleum based bio-sources), but, dang, I'm gonna miss polyvinyl chloride (long-chain, synthetic polymer products that are tremendously more difficult and expensive to produce, when one has to start with relatively simple hydrocarbons derived from bio-sources instead of cracked and fractionated petroleum)!"

Interesting, Rayon and PVC (5, Interesting)

Maintenance Goof (1487053) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105111)

The OP said, "I can live without rayon, but, dang, I'm gonna miss polyvinyl chloride!" Rayon is made from wood. We make vinyl chloride from petrochemicals, but the original source was plant material and the majority of world production uses plant material. Acetate, is another one typically from plants. As is nitrocellulose. Casein, is a protein from milk. It is also the plastic that the buttons on your shirt are probably made of. So plastic without petroleum is not that hard to find.

Time transfer is the problem (1)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105133)

Both fossil fuel and biofuel are essentially vehicles for transfering the sun's energy to a tangible, packageable format. Biofuels are great, and we should continue to develop them, and deploy where economically viable. But biofuels cannot solve the basic problem of what fossil fuels provide: in addition to being incredibly convenient (dense portable energy from a hole in the ground), fossil fuels provide stored sun energy from accumulated years past. Millions of years.

Biofuel can deliver only one year's worth of sun energy per year, whereas mining fossil fuels gives you access to past millions of years' worth of sun energy. So yes, go for more biofuel, but don't expect biofuel to sustain energy consumption habits that depend on every year transfering a thousand past years' worth of ancient biofuel (oil/coal/NG) to this year.

Re:Time transfer is the problem (0)

fadethepolice (689344) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105411)

The amount of energy stored in fossil fuels per year and the amount of energy that falls on the earth do not have a one to one ratio. We can currently provide all of our energy needs by harnessing the amount of solar energy that falls on a very small part of the planet. The problem is that it is too expensive. As time goes on there is a 100 percent chance that renewable energy becomes less expensive than fossil fuels. http://www.solarfeeds.com/surface-area-required-to-power-the-world-with-solar/ [solarfeeds.com]

Ridiculous misunderstanding of scale (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105147)

"but from a sustainable and renewable resource"

Whale oil was also sustainable and renewable, but not at the rates of consumption that existed in the 19th century. They ran out of whales. Likewise if you tried to replace the quantity of oil used world-wide today with biofuels, you'd either have to starve the world of food or strip-mine the forests, or both. Yes, it's all renewable, but not in the quantities that you would need. You can't grow trees fast enough to replace them at those rates. We would consume them at a net loss, and eventually be stuck in a "biofuel crisis" in the same way that whale oil ran out in the 1800s. Something more fundamental has to change in order for biofuels to ever be anything more than a small fraction of energy supply.

I'm not saying biofuels are worthless, but this is kind of like saying that because you can grow a tomato patch in your back yard you can become entirely self-sufficient in food. It's irrational to think of it as a complete replacement. I suppose he does acknowledge this with the statement that we will become "less dependent on fossil fuels", implying that we are still dependent on them to an extent. But most people have a poor idea of what it will actually take for a significant replacement. Knocking a few percent off the problem of dwindling fossil fuel supply isn't going to solve it.

Re:Ridiculous misunderstanding of scale (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106295)

Whale oil was also sustainable and renewable, but not at the rates of consumption that existed in the 19th century. They ran out of whales.

This is an important point. Without sane government structures in place (such as protection of property rights and regulation of negative externalities) every renewable energy source will eventually suffer the exact same fate, as populations keep increasing and governments re-distribute wealth in order to support them.

What I'd like to see (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105177)

Is someone invent a process to convert air, water and sunlight into light sweet crude with decent efficiency.(Man, that'd be a game changer.)

Re:What I'd like to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105457)

How long should this process take? I can think of a few ways right now...

Re:What I'd like to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105825)

No problem! Got 3 million years to wait?

Jack Saddler, UBC Faculty of Forestry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105311)

Isn't a forestry guy slightly out of his elements musing about organic synthesis?

Re:Jack Saddler, UBC Faculty of Forestry (2)

Rostin (691447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105795)

Take a look at his research interests and recent publications [forestry.ubc.ca] . It appears he might know a thing or two about it.

These days, the traditional role played by a discipline (more accurately, the role that people who probably have no actual knowledge of a discipline assume that it has played) means very little. I don't know anything about Forestry, but I know enough about academia to say that if people or departments think they can carve out a new niche for themselves even in a seemingly unrelated area of research, they will. It means more money and even the survival of the discipline as a whole.

In my own area (chemical engineering), bio this and that has been hot for years. Now we're all going crazy for energy applications like fuel cells, solar cells, and photocatalysis. Only 10% or so of the faculty members in my department work on "traditional" chemical engineering topics.

Where do we get fertilizers? (2)

legont (2570191) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105317)

To make any significant amount of bio*, we need fertilizers in general and nitro in particular, which is produced directly from natural gas. Yes, we could use electrolysis, but it'd take much more energy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process [wikipedia.org]

BTW, we are, in a sense, made from gas. The process eventually generates half of our protein and feeds at least 1/3 of humanity. But without it there probably would be no WWI, Revolution, WWII... It was developed by the same guy who created Cyclon-B. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclon_B [wikipedia.org]

Re:Where do we get fertilizers? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106329)

You can get fertilizer through aquaponics [wikipedia.org] .

why not make oil instead? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105377)

I don't get why they keep fermenting it into alcohol when there exists many species that produce lots of oil and there are micros that will turn cellulose into oil. I don't get it.

Here's a wild and possibly half baked idea... I warned you... do we know of any insects that will eat just about anything and produce an oil? I don't know if that's a commercially viable process but if you gave big colonies of insects all our agro waste... maybe they could turn it into a fuel source?

I'm thinking something like termites or ants. Something that will gobble up any garbage we give them and output something useful. The chemical factories inside a colony are pretty impressive. I don't know how efficient the process is but you could use really low quality fuel to sustain it so it might not matter.

Possibly down the road with some genetic engineering.

Re:why not make oil instead? (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105877)

They're trying exactly this with species of algae. Unfortunately, they have problem with scale, and with separation, if I remember correctly. But it's a problem that's being actively worked on.

Re:why not make oil instead? (1)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106637)

It's because alcohol is an almost perfect replacement for gasoline and can be used to extend the current supply or replace it if needed.

Replacement fuels are only useful if they actually, you know, replace what we're already using. Or would you have the biofuel companies give everyone a free car that use their special fuel?

Chlorine sequestration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105531)

Polyvinyl chloride actually has a useful role in the after-peak-oil world. It is a good way of sequestering chlorine.

Why is that useful? Well, many of the approaches for scrubbing carbon out of the atmosphere rely on reacting it with a hydroxide. Hydroxides are produced by electrolysis of a saline solution, and this leaves you with a lot of leftover chlorine.

Wait, this is new? (4, Interesting)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105685)

It's called thermal depolymerization [wikipedia.org] and you can do it to just about anything organic. So unlike what some other posters are saying, you don't have to devote huge agricultural areas to producing stock just for this process, you can use preexisting waste for the job. There was a company running prototype plant in Carthage, Missouri. They situated themselves right next to a turkey processing plant with the hope they could "process about 200 tons of turkey waste into 500 barrels (79 m3) of oil per day". The plant ran for a number of years, and was supposedly able to produce oil for about 10% less than the price of crude ("supposedly" as in the oil was definitely produced, the question was exactly how much it cost them and how much of a profit they were making.) However they suffered from a number of lawsuits and eventually had to declare bankruptcy.

It seems like they jumped into the game a little too early, or just weren't able to find enough venture capital to perfect the system. Certainly as the price of oil continues to rise and the technology improves this is a process that could certainly be brought back. And note that since they're using organic waste the process is carbon neutral.

nutrient cycling (5, Interesting)

proclomeesius (2558685) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105783)

As an agricultural scientist, I always feel slightly uncomfortable when biofuel producers start talking about using 'agricultural waste'. Increasingly, this 'waste' is now used by farmers as an integral part in boosting soil carbon and increasing biological activity as it breaks down, improving soils and improving subsequent crop yields.

The value of this, though often difficult to measure is significant and very real. But I worry shortsighted farmers looking for a quick buck may lose these less tangible benefits, leading to further soil degradation and lower yields in the future.

Re:nutrient cycling (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 2 years ago | (#39106375)

In an ideal world, some mechanism (carbon taxes perhaps) would redirect clean, high-carbon sources for use as soil amendments, while allowing hydrogen-rich wastes to be removed to produce biofuels.

too valuable to burn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39105889)

Petroleum is much too valuable as a feedstock to burn as a fuel.

an older option (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39105929)

I saw a special on Discovery of 20/20 or 60 minutes or something several years ago (like 4+) that said if all the left over parts like feathers, skin, and organs from just chicken processing plants in just the US adopted a new hydrocarbon processing system they invented to turn it into biofuel, it would power all the cars in the entire US. It was a simplistic process but the end result was very similar to crude oil so it'd have to go to a refinery but it's not like we don't have giant gasoline refineries right now. I'd prefer this option to destroying trees. Plus, right now I believe the leftovers are either processed into animal food, burned, or eventually decompose which releases the mega-greenhouse gas, methane. So yeah, I'd drive a chicken-gas car. The question is, why did this technology apparently go nowhere?

Mmmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39106211)

Betcha there'll be some really wierd plants growing around that biorefinery.

Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39106231)

All of those carbohydrates will go straight to the electrical grid's thighs.

Fuck all this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39106305)

Solar Panel to Hydrogen Generator to pressurised storage to car.

No oil companies, No Nukes, No Smart Grid, No Carbon Tax, No UN, No Global Warming, No Agenda 21, No Global Bank, No Global Army, No Police State.

Making it depend on growing shit when motherfuckers are fucking with the weather is as retarded as staying with the current bullshit, possibly worse!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>