Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interesting biofuels research project.

Update : It's worth highlighting this :

Q. What is your assessment of the current national conversation on biofuels? Is public understanding of the topic more nuanced than, say, a few years ago?

A. Unfortunately the press is not very good at distinguishing between the many different kinds of biofuels. Currently "biofuels," in public discourse, means corn ethanol, sugar-cane ethanol, and rape seed or soybean diesel. We're not actually in favor of three of those four. We think that sugar-cane ethanol is environmentally positive; we don't think the other three are.

It would be real useful to make a change in the lingo. We'd like to find a way to distinguish what we're doing from what's currently considered "biofuels" — because we're actually not in favor of some of those things. We're specifically not in favor of biodiesel, or much of it. If you have some used cooking oil or tallow kicking around, putting it into biodiesel is environmentally attractive. But manufacturing if from rape seed or soybean — that's actually a bad use of land.

For a hectare (2.47 acres) of soybeans, for example, you can get, maximum, about 200 gallons of biodiesel. From a hectare of miscanthus you can get 2,000 gallons of ethanol. And that hectare of soybeans also requires a lot of inputs, and has erosion and runoff. With a hectare of miscanthus, on the other hand, there's no runoffs that we're aware of, no emissions. I think it's irresponsible to use soybean acres to produce tiny amounts of fuel, diverting land away from food production. For the energy crops that we're interested in, we envision they'll be growing on land that doesn't compete with food production.

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