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The Problems of Biofuels

So, a few words about this subject that I expect to support with further articles.

The “surface cycle” that is the reason one might have limited use of biofuels existed in our human context right up to the industrial revolution. Then we broke it. There is only one country on earth Bhutan, over by Tibet, that is CO2 negative – absorbs more CO2 than it emits.

Soil that is not alive with worms and fungus and appropriate bacteria and masses of live roots will not sequester carbon, it will let it rot and dissipate. Industrial farming depends on fossil-fuel generated chemicals to make up for poisoning the soil with pesticides and herbicides.

The ocean is no longer a generator of the excess oxygen we want to breath. It's capture of CO2 is acidifying the water and harming all the life forms that didn't grow up on such an acid environment. The earth is not prepared to do Drawdown of CO2 without help we aren't providing enough of yet.

Of course, it is essential that we quickly learn how to do that and capture a huge amount of CO2. First target is to get back under 350ppm from our current over 410ppm position. But it will be well over a century before we will be able to claim a healthy surface cycle.

But Methane, you say.

Oh, and another point. There are a lot of situations where methane is generated. Cows burp it. Manure ponds generate it. Rice ponds generate it. Bogs generate it. If we are really unlucky, melting permafrost will kill us with it. It has been discovered in slow-moving lakes and reservoirs.

So, I know that “Natural Gas” industry wants to capture that as a substitute for mining it, and just keep on going like always because it is “biofuel”. In all the situations under human control we can prevent the generation of methane simply by bubbling air through the liquid generating the methane. Even for cattle, it turns out we can adjust their diets in inexpensive ways that (a) decrease the methane output significantly; and (b) make the cows healthier for it.

So, I don't see methane capture from those situations as doing the world a great favor. I think we are better off to require the aeration or amended diets. We also have great reason to decrease the land dedicated to cattle, as it is productive land that would feed people better if not producing meat. Some amount of meat might be reasonable, but we overdo it a lot.

October 18, 2016 - By Gwyn Morgan - Biofuels one of our greatest environmental blunders

problems_of_biofuels.txt · Last modified: 2018/06/11 22:57 by eda