November 13, 2005


Ethanol Fuelling The Future For Public Transport: Experts (AFP, Nov 10, 2005)

Cities choking in petrol and diesel fumes should follow Sweden's example and look to ethanol to fuel their buses, experts at a conference in Stockholm on environmentally-friendly vehicles and fuels said on Thursday.

"Ethanol today clearly has the biggest potential for clean buses," said Jonas Stroemberg of Stockholm Transport, SL, which runs public transportation throughout the county of Stockholm.

Speaking on the last day of the three-day "Clean Vehicles and Fuels" conference, which has focused on global warming and efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, Stroemberg raved about Sweden's experiences with ethanol-run buses.

"It's not difficult at all (to switch to ethanol). You just have to start doing it", he insisted.

Imagine telling a person from any prior period in human history that you live in a time of such plenty that you burn food.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2005 7:29 PM

As demonstrated in other posts, there isn't enough acrage on the planet to replace the BTUs we burn in oil.

Of course, if global warming ups the output of the tundra and we clear cut every forest...

Posted by: Bruno at November 13, 2005 7:48 PM

Actually, modern agriculture just converts petroleum to food.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 13, 2005 10:11 PM

This must be one of those non-antiquated energy sources OJ likes because it takes more fuel to make than it gives.

Posted by: Perry at November 13, 2005 11:40 PM

"Imagine telling a person from any prior period in human history that you live in a time of such plenty that you burn food."

Our children will revile us as morons as well, as Perry notes, it takes more than a gallon of petroleum to produce a gallon of ethanol. Its stupid beyond fathoming.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 14, 2005 12:30 AM

And the gallon of ethanol has less energy than the gallon of petroleum.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 14, 2005 4:20 AM

Actually in the tropics (Brazil etc), the numbers seem to indicate you can produce more than a gallon of ethanol for a gallon of gasoline. (something about more than one crop of sugar cane per year) Still the above posters are correct regarding the Earth as a whole.

Posted by: h-man at November 14, 2005 5:17 AM

This post isn't suggesting that petroleum be replaced everywhere by alcohol, simply that mass transit in polluted urban areas would be less-polluting if run on alcohol.

In any case, h-man is correct, ethanol can be produced with a net gain in BTUs.

Everyone else is (more or less) right about the larger point, that we'd be in a pickle if we had to replace all petro-based fuels with alcohol.

Fortunately, there isn't now, and will never be, such a need.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 14, 2005 5:37 AM

While we're kidding around about burning food, people are starving less than a half day's plane ride away. I know we can't take on the whole world, but we certainly can and should take out African dictators deliberately starving their people.

Posted by: erp at November 14, 2005 6:01 AM

Michael: Perhaps it can be, although I'm still skeptical that that is an all-in calculation (otherwise we'd be better off using all of our petroleum to create ethanol), but certainly it won't be.

As for urban buslines, I have no problem if they want to run their buses on ethanol, but it will just increase the subsidy necessary to keep them in business.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 14, 2005 8:15 AM

Hey, what about using wheat to make kitty-litter? It's being done.

Biomass fuels make sense when you have more than one use for the product, ie, making oil from turkey guts. Just as Michael is fond of saying that new technologies will allow us to exploit inaccessible deposits of oil, I believe that new technologies and techniques will enable us to exploit biomass in a cost-efficient manner on a large scale.

You need to select the right crops - corn was bred for human consumption, not energy conversion. If you can find or bioengineer crops that will grow on marginal soil under a wide range of climactic conditions so that you don't have to put much energy or cost into fertilizers, herbicides or irrigation, and is easily harvested and converted to ethanol, then you can improve the overall energy yield. The current effort is more a subsisy scheme for corn farmers. If you were to design an agricultural method for biomass energy production, you wouldn't start with corn.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 14, 2005 6:08 PM

I know we can't take on the whole world, but we certainly can and should take out African dictators deliberately starving their people.

I'm with you, sister.

All it takes is the will.
Simple, but NOT easy.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 15, 2005 3:06 AM
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