Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'biofuels'.

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Categories

  • Announcement
  • Business & Politics
  • Cars & Transportation
  • Culture & Celebrity
  • Energy
  • Renewable Energy
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Food & Health
  • Global Warming
  • Green Action Tip
  • Design & Architecture
  • Green Blogging
  • Green Quote
  • Green Video
  • Green Web Hosting
  • Science & Technology
  • Nature & Travel
  • Agriculture
  • Bali 2007
  • Biodiversity
  • Biofuels
  • Go Live Give
  • Poland 2008
  • Copenhagen 2009
  • Quick Read
  • Photo Gallery
  • Politics
  • Nature & Wildlife
  • Activism
  • Science
  • Featured
  • Uncategorized
  • COP21

Forums

  • Site Forums
    • Members Lounge
    • Contributors Lounge
  • Environment Forums
    • Green Talk
    • Climate Change
    • Agriculture
    • Wildlife and Biodiversity
    • Sustainable Design
  • Green Living Forums
    • Living Green
    • Good Food
    • Gardening
    • Transportation
    • Activism
    • Green Products and Services
  • Energy Forums
    • Energy
    • Renewable Energy
    • Non-renewable Energy
    • Nuclear Energy
  • General Discussion Forums
    • General Talk
    • Politics and Current Events
    • Science and Technology
    • Entertainment
    • Religion and Philosophy

Blogs

There are no results to display.

Calendars

  • Community Calendar

Group


AIM


MSN


Website URL


ICQ


Yahoo


Jabber


Skype


Location


Interests


Political views


Religious views

Found 8 results

  1. Population growth, massive urbanization, and increasing consumer demands will cause major changes in future energy production methods. While there’s no question that the energy system must become more sustainable, Monsanto CMS maintains that it also needs to produce more energy to keep up with both technological advances and consumer expectations. Biofuels are a logical and cost-effective response to the sustainability question. They don’t emit as much carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, and they are much cheaper than traditional combustibles. Although still a controversial subject, biofuels -- together with other alternative energy sources -- can revolutionize the way we power up the world. Biofuels to Revolutionize Clean Energy Fermented ethanol is at the heart of producing first-generation biofuels. People have been taking carbon from plants such as corn and sugarcane, and converting it into fuels for thousands of years. Plant carbon was even used to power up the Model T, the car that established a mass market for automobiles. However, biofuels only account for less than 10% of the world’s energy supply. Why? Even though biofuels are a great alternative to fossil fuels, earlier versions had their downsides. Ethanol is extracted from plants that are rich in sugar or starches that are heavily used in the food industry or to feed livestock. A sudden increase in demand could cause food prices to skyrocket and availability to be diminished. Fortunately, scientists are looking for ways to fix the faults in biofuel production and create alternative energy sources that are clean and efficient. For instance, companies could produce biofuels without impacting the environment or the world’s population by using cellulosic biomass, instead of starch or corn, to produce ethanol. In other words, companies could use agricultural waste, algae, and non-food crops and convert them into plant sugars that can be used to fuel the world. Sure, this task is not without its challenges, but Shell -- one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world -- might have a solution. A Brazilian subsidiary of Shell started burning leftover sugarcanes to deliver power to its factories. The excess power was pumped into the national Brazilian grid. The electricity sourced by leftover canes supplied around 3% of Brazil’s demand. It’s estimated that this number will grow to 18% in the next three years. Brazil is one of the biggest pollution producers in the world. If they manage to implement the use of cellulosic biofuels effectively, they could set an example for the entire world to follow. Transforming Microbial Methane into Energy Cellulosic biofuels aren't the only clean energy alternative that could revolutionize the world’s power sources. Scientists at Stanford University are testing new ways of transforming microbial methane into energy. Researchers have set up colonies of microbes that produce methane gas and other compounds. Their goal is to create massive microbial factories that could convert carbon dioxide into renewable energy sources. The first step has already been taken. Scientists finally understand how methanogens -- microorganisms usually found in sediments that convert electricity and CO2 into methane -- work, And they proved that methanogens retrieve electrons from solid surfaces. This important discovery could help researchers and engineers design electrodes for microbial factories to produce sustainable methane gas. How Artificial Leaves Could Power Up the World It’s no longer a secret that plants can generate an outstanding amount of energy. Recent estimates have shown that plants can produce up to 130 terawatts of energy per year while consuming as little as 115 petagrams of carbon. Researchers have been working for years to develop a system that could mimic a plants capacity for producing energy in a more cost-effective way. Daniel Nocera and his team at MIT have discovered a way to develop extra-thin solar cells made from silicone and other catalytic materials. One of those materials is a less-expensive replacement for platinum. These solar cells don’t generate electricity directly. Instead, they act like electrodes in hydrogen cells; when they are placed in a water container in direct sunlight, they convert hydrogen into energy. Photosynthesis works pretty much the same way. In the near future, companies could create artificial leaves that capture sun’s energy to power the world with no CO2 emissions. The world is going to need an outstanding amount of energy for everyone to achieve reasonable living standards, but that doesn’t mean we should kill our planet in the process. These alternative solutions have the potential to revolutionize the way we power the world.
  2. The demand for energy grows as the population of our planet increases. By conserving, recycling, repurposing, and creating new sources of energy, we can get the same job done without depleting our natural resources and adding to pollution. Here are four modern problems surrounding energy issues and how they can be solved. Sustainable Communities People living in highly populated urban areas need energy resources in large amounts, creating high demand and large impacts on the environment. Developing energy solutions used in highly populated areas have a major impact. For example, making it easier for people to ride public transit, cycle, or walk for everyday trips conserves energy and reduces the use of fossil fuels. Developing green buildings, which emit less pollution, results in cleaner air and water as well. Biosolids The sewage generated from large populated areas was traditionally pumped into the waterways causing pollution. As sewage management progressed, the solids filtered from sewage were transported to landfills or incinerated. None of these methods are earth-friendly. The advent of biosolids, which turns sewage into agricultural materials by using industrial dryers, greatly reduces fuel consumption. Companies like Uzelac Industries use this self-sufficient system to recycle biosolids into useful agricultural materials. Recycling Food Waste Today, high volumes of food waste in the beef and poultry industry, as well as many other types of commercial food waste from manufacturing, is a concern for many environmentalists. As organic removal and recycling services grow, they help many food manufacturers reach recycling goals and reduce waste output. The waste collected is recycled into high-energy animal feed ingredients which reduces the amount of waste put into landfills, provides animal feed, and saves energy that would be used to transport and process the waste. Recycling makes a useful product out of material that would otherwise be an adverse issue. Substitutes for Fossil Fuels Finding alternatives in place of costly fossil fuels is a need in many industries. Many different types are still being experimented with and studied, like ethanol, biofuels, and hydrogen fuels. Urban waste water can be used as an inexpensive, carbon-neutral substitute for fossil fuels. Using drying systems, large metro areas take the huge levels of sludge a large population generates, and reduces the liquid. Then, this dried sludge can be used to produce energy that's sustainable, easily available and cheaper than fossil fuels. The levels of energy needed to sustain the population grow each day. Solutions that preserve the environment and conserve energy are important to the health of the planet. To meet that demand, it's important to look to adopting earth-friendly solutions that recycle and conserve energy while creating renewable sources.
  3. The number of people working in the renewable energy industry grew by 14 percent to 6.5 million people in 2013 with solar power leading the job growth. The promising numbers come from the annual review by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and shows that – despite the economic crisis – the renewable energy industry is growing and has become a key player on the job market. “With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. China is emerging as the top employer in the renewable energy industry, followed by Brazil, USA, India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh. The renewable energy sector which employs the most people is solar photovoltaic – employing 2.27 million people globally. Biofuels, the second largest renewable energy sector, trails far behind solar power with only 0.83 million jobs. Wind power, modern biomass and biogas follows. The job growth is being driven largely thanks to the rapid decrease in the price of solar photovoltaics in recent years. Between 2011 and 2013, the installations of solar photovoltaics in China alone increased five-fold. “Surging demand for solar PV in China and Japan has increased employment in the installation sector and eased some PV module over-supply concerns,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, heading the Knowledge, Policy and Finance division at IRENA and lead author of the report. “Consequently some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity.” The wind industry has seen positive growth in Canada as well as in China in recent years, the study notes. The growth of offshore wind power is mainly being concentrated in Europe – particularly the United Kingdom and Germany. The study notes that wind progress in the U.S. is lagging behind because of “political uncertainty”. But while the U.S. lags behind in wind power it remains the largest producer of biofuels, followed by Brazil which is also the world’s largest biofuel employer. Also read: Climate efforts not sufficient, huge increase in green energy required to avert climate disaster
  4. In 2007, food prices increased dramatically and the world quickly ushered in a global food crisis that lasted until late 2009. The global price increase mainly affected basic food commodities such as wheat, rice and corn, but not so much products such as coffee and cacao. The effects were felt fast and hard, especially in developing countries where much of the food was being imported and where people, who already spent half or more of their income on groceries, couldn't afford a doubling of food prices. Riots started to take place in many cities around the world by people who no longer could afford to buy enough food to themselves and their families. In the developing countries worst affected, the national governments tried to counter the food price crisis with various political and economic means. They reduced taxes on cereals and lowered the tariff on imports of food and/or introduced various food subsidizes for their citizens. Many developing countries, including China and India, also introduced export restrictions on their own agricultural and food products - sparking heavy criticism from the US and IMF. Looking back at the events it's easy to see that it was just a bubble and that food prices, almost as quickly as they had come, went back to their previous levels again. But back then, in the middle of it, many people claimed that the crisis was a sign of things to come, and that overpopulation was the main culprit. In a discussion on Nightwaves on BBC Radio 3, Susan Blackmore, a neuroscientist, and Professor John Gray, from the London School of Economics, discussed overpopulation and its link to the then ongoing food crisis. Both agreed that the "fundamental problem" is that there are just "too many people", with Blackmore adding that she hoped, "for the planet's sake", that a global disease, such as the bird flu, would come and "reduce the population". In a TV interview, Britain's Prince Phillip said that it was the demand for food from "too many people" that had caused the food price crisis. Number (in millions) of undernourished people between 1990 and 2012. Source: FAO Hunger Portal 2012. According to recent figures, around 870 million people were undernourished during 2010-2012. Those numbers equal 12.5 percent of the global population. The majority of these people live in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia and Northern Africa. As can be see in the figure above, this number is a reduction since early 1990's levels when around 19 percent of the global population was undernourished. So progress in food security has been made. But from the numbers one can also see that most of this progress was accomplished before the global food price crisis in 2007-2008. Since then, the reduction in undernourished people has slowed down and leveled off. Despite this, the actual increase in global hunger was less severe than previously expected. The FAO, WFP and IFAD concludes in their 2012 report on food insecurity that "it is clear" that the previous achievements in reducing hunger has "slowed considerably since 2007", and that it's doubtful that the Millennium Development Goals, as well as previously stated hunger targets and commitments in several regions around the world will be achieved in the near future. These failures in reducing undernourishment can be blamed on political instability due to wars and conflicts. But a lack of political will to prioritize hunger reductions, weak government structures and institutions such as the absence of proper transparency and food programs, both on a regional and global level, can also be blamed for the failure. The food price crisis, nor the halt in the reduction of global hunger, had nothing to do with overpopulation and inadequate food production - such as the scenario populationists are constantly warning about. In fact, both 2007-2008 were pretty normal years for farmers. Their yields varied no more than usual and the total world food production continued to grow by 1-2 percent per year - the same pace as it had done for the past decade. It's true that farmers had troublesome years during 2006-2007 in Australia due to drought, and that the EU and Ukraine produced much less wheat than estimated before 2007. But this reduction was offset by unusually good harvests in Russia, USA, Argentina and Kazakhstan. In fact, the total amount of wheat on the global market increased by around 5 percent which resulted in record yields in 2006-2007. Demands from large populous nations such as China and India had no effect on the rising food prices either as the two nations are both net exporters of cereals. Instead, rising oil prices and growing productions of biofuels were to blame for the food price crisis. Fossil energy in the form of oil is an important component in the modern agriculture industry, so it's not surprising that changes in oil price will have effects on the price of food for consumers worldwide. In this case it was the increasing costs involved in the highly energy intense production of nitrogen fertilizers for agriculture that in turn resulted in increased food prices. The second reason was the growing production of biofuels from agricultural commodities. To put things into perspective and to show just on what massive scale global biofuel production is on let's take the US as an example: About 25 percent of the US corn production is now used in producing ethanol - which is far more than the country's entire total corn export. Globally, biofuel production, which is based on agricultural commodities, has more than tripled 2000-2008. Today it accounts for more than two percent of the global consumption of transport fuels. Another example: In 2007-2008, roughly 10 percent of the total usage of coarse grains was used in the production of ethanol. Jean Ziegler, UN's independent expert on the right to food, has called the production of biofuels from food crops a "catastrophe for the hungry people" and a "crime against humanity". In light of the food price crisis the FAO convened a three-day meeting with experts in Rome, Italy, in June of 2009. They came to the conclusion that the food price crisis was a result of increases in energy prices, and that it shows how energy and agricultural markets are becoming more intertwined with each other. In their report they warn that a further rise in biofuels production would be "a real risk" for global food security. They therefore urge that policies that promote the use of agricultural commodities for biofuels production "should be reconsidered" so that the competition between food and fuels can be mitigated. These malnutrition numbers represents people who don't get their minimum energy intake, which FAO considers to be about 1900 calories per day/person, the exact amount of calories varies depending on region, age and gender. The human body needs a diet of enough variation between vitamins, fat, proteins and minerals. So just because one gets enough of calories doesn't mean one has a balanced and satisfactory diet. It's estimated that at least one billion people suffers from this "hidden hunger" which is characterized by various forms of nutrient shortages, which turns into deficiency diseases and often develops into chronic sickness. Here's the twist. We are currently experiencing a nutrition transition, characterized by overnutrition and obesity, which affects all societies around the world. As urbanization increases and people's incomes grow bigger, more people are gradually adopting a lifestyle which involves not just reduced physical activity but also a more energy-dense diet, which consists of semi-processed foods which are higher in saturated fats, sugars and cholesterol. Obesity has more than doubled since the 1980's and the majority of adult obesity can be found in developed countries, with the US being a prime example. As a result of this transition, the number of overweight people has reached more than 1.4 billion people worldwide. This surpasses the number of undernourished people in the world.
  5. At the time of the Arab oil export embargo in the 1970s, the importing countries were beginning to ask themselves if there were alternatives to oil. In a number of countries, particularly the United States, several in Europe, and Brazil, the idea of growing crops to produce fuel for cars was appealing. The modern biofuels industry was launched. This was the beginning of what would become one of the great tragedies of history. Brazil was able to create a thriving fuel ethanol program based on sugarcane, a tropical plant. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, however, in the United States the feedstock was corn. Between 1980 and 2005, the amount of grain used to produce fuel ethanol in the United States gradually expanded from 1 million to 41 million tons. Then came Hurricane Katrina, which disrupted Gulf-based oil refineries and gasoline supply lines in late August 2005. As gasoline prices in the United States quickly climbed to $3 a gallon, the conversion of a $2 bushel of corn, which can be distilled into 2.8 gallons of ethanol, became highly profitable. The result was a rush to raise capital and build distilleries. From November 2005 through June 2006, ground was broken for a new ethanol plant in the United States every nine days. From July through September, the construction pace accelerated to one every five days. And in October 2006, it was one every three days. Between 2005 and 2011, the grain used to produce fuel for cars climbed from 41 million to 127 million tons - nearly a third of the U.S. grain harvest. (See Figure 4-1.) The United States is trying to replace oil fields with corn fields to meet part of its automotive fuel needs. The massive diversion of grain to fuel cars has helped drive up food prices, leaving low-income consumers everywhere to suffer some of the most severe food price inflation in history. As of mid-2012, world wheat, corn, and soybean prices were roughly double their historical levels. The appetite for grain to fuel cars is seemingly insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon fuel tank of a sport utility vehicle with ethanol just once would feed one person for a whole year. The grain turned into ethanol in the United States in 2011 could have fed, at average world consumption levels, some 400 million people. But even if the entire U.S. grain harvest were turned into ethanol, it would only satisfy 18 percent of current gasoline demand. With its enormous growth in distilling capacity, the United States quickly overtook Brazil to become the new world leader in biofuels. In 2011, the United States produced 14 billion gallons of ethanol and Brazil produced under 6 billion gallons; together they accounted for 87 percent of world output. The 14 billion gallons of U.S. grain-based ethanol met roughly 6 percent of U.S. gasoline demand. Other countries producing ethanol from food crops, though in relatively small amounts, include China, Canada, France, and Germany. Most ethanol production growth has been concentrated in the last several years. In 1980, the world produced scarcely 1 billion gallons of fuel ethanol. By 2000, the figure was 4.5 billion gallons. It was still increasing, albeit slowly, expanding to 8.2 billion gallons in 2005. But between then and 2011, production jumped to 23 billion gallons. A number of countries, including the United States, are also producing biodiesel from oil-bearing crops. World biodiesel production grew from a mere 3 million gallons in 1991 to just under 1 billion gallons in 2005. During the next six years it jumped to nearly 6 billion gallons, increasing sixfold. Still, worldwide production of biodiesel is less than one fourth that of ethanol. The production of biodiesel is much more evenly distributed among countries than that of ethanol. The top five producers are the United States, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and France, with production ranging from 840 million gallons per year in the United States to 420 million gallons in France. A variety of crops can be used to produce biodiesel. In Europe, where sunflower seed oil, palm oil, and rapeseed oil are leading table oils, rapeseed is used most often for biodiesel. Similarly, in the United States the soybean is the leading table oil and biodiesel feedstock. Elsewhere, palm oil is widely used both for food and to produce biodiesel. Although production from oil palms is limited to tropical and subtropical regions, the crop yields much more biodiesel per acre than do temperate-zone oilseeds such as soybeans and rapeseed. However, one disturbing consequence of rising biofuel production is that new oil palm plantations are coming at the expense of tropical forests. And any land that is devoted to producing biofuel crops is not available to produce food. Not only are biofuels helping raise food prices, and thus increasing the number of hungry people, most make little sense from an energy efficiency perspective. Although ethanol can be produced from any plant, it is much more efficient and much less costly to use sugar- and starch-bearing crops. But even among these crops the efficiency varies widely. The ethanol yield per acre from sugarcane is nearly 600 gallons, a third higher than that from corn. This is partly because sugarcane is grown in tropical and subtropical regions and it grows year-round. Corn, in contrast, has a growing season of 120 days or so. In terms of energy efficiency, grain-based ethanol is a clear loser. For sugarcane, the energy yield - that is, the energy embodied in the ethanol - can be up to eight times the energy invested in producing the biofuel. In contrast, the energy return on energy invested in producing corn-based ethanol is only roughly 1.5 to 1, a dismal return. For biodiesel, oil palm is far and away the most energy-efficient crop, yielding roughly nine times as much energy as is invested in producing biodiesel from it. The energy return for biodiesel produced from soybeans and rapeseed is about 2.5 to 1. In terms of land productivity, an acre of oil palms can produce over 500 gallons of fuel per year - more than six times that produced from soybeans or rapeseed. Growing even the most productive fuel crops, however, still means either diverting land from other crops or clearing more land. The capacity to convert enormous volumes of grain into fuel means that the price of grain is now more closely tied to the price of oil than ever before. If the price of fuel from grain drops below that from oil, then investment in converting grain into fuel will increase. Thus, if the price of oil were to reach, say, $200 a barrel, there would likely be an enormous additional investment in ethanol distilleries to convert grain into fuel. If the price of corn rises high enough, however, as it may well do, distilling grain to produce fuel may no longer be profitable. One of the consequences of integrating the world food and fuel economies is that the owners of the world's 1 billion motor vehicles are pitted against the world's poorest people in competition for grain. The winner of this competition will depend heavily on income levels. Whereas the average motorist has an annual income over $30,000, the incomes of the 2 billion poorest people in the world are well under $2,000. Rising food prices can quickly translate into social unrest. As grain prices were doubling from 2007 to mid-2008, food protests and riots broke out in many countries. Economic stresses in the form of rising food prices are translating into political stresses, putting governments in some countries under unmanageable pressures. The U.S. State Department reports food unrest in some 60 countries between 2007 and 2009. Among these were Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti. International food assistance programs are also hit hard by rising grain prices. Since the budgets of food aid agencies are set well in advance, a rise in prices shrinks food assistance precisely when more help is needed. The U.N. World Food Programme, which supplies emergency food aid to more than 60 countries, has to cut shipments as prices soar. Meanwhile, over 7,000 children are dying each day from hunger and related illnesses. When governments subsidize food-based biofuel production, they are in effect spending taxpayers' money to raise costs at the supermarket checkout counter. In the United States, the production of fuel ethanol was encouraged by a tax credit granted to fuel blenders for each gallon of ethanol they blended with gasoline. This tax credit expired at the end of 2011. Still in place, however, is the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is seen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of a strategy to "help recharge the rural American economy." This mandate requires that biofuel use ramp up to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022. Of this total, 16 billion gallons are slated to come from cellulosic feedstocks, such as cornstalks, grass, or wood chips. Yet for the foreseeable future, production of those cellulose-based fuels has little chance of reaching such levels. Producing ethanol from sugars or starches like corn or sugarcane is a one-step process that converts the feedstock to ethanol. But producing ethanol from cellulosic materials is a two-step process: first the material must be broken down into sugar or starch, and then it is converted into ethanol. Furthermore, cellulosic feedstocks like corn stalks are much bulkier than feedstocks like corn kernels, so transporting them from distant fields to a distillery is much more costly. Removing agricultural residues such as corn stalks or wheat straw from the field to produce ethanol deprives the soil of needed organic matter. The unfortunate reality is that the road to this ambitious cellulosic biofuel goal is littered with bankrupt firms that tried and failed to develop a process that would produce an economically viable fuel. Despite having the advantage of not being directly part of the food supply, cellulosic ethanol has strong intrinsic characteristics that put it at a basic disadvantage compared with grain ethanol, so it may never become economically viable. The mandate from the European Union (EU) requiring that 10 percent of its transportation energy come from renewable sources, principally biofuels, by 2020 is similarly ambitious. Among international agribusiness firms, this is seen as a reason to acquire land, mostly in Africa, on which to produce fuel for export to Europe. Since Europe relies primarily on diesel fuel for its cars, the investors are looking at crops such as the oil palm and jatropha, a relatively low-yielding oil-bearing shrub, as a source of diesel fuel. There is growing opposition to this EU goal from environmental groups, the European Environment Agency, and many other stakeholders. They object to the deforestation and the displacement of the poor that often results from such "land grabbing." (See Chapter 10.) They are also concerned that, by and large, biofuels do not deliver the promised climate benefits. The biofuel industry and its proponents have argued that greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels are lower than those from gasoline, but this has been challenged by a number of scientific studies. Indeed, there is growing evidence that biofuel production may contribute to global warming rather than ameliorate it. A study led by Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany reports that the nitrogen fertilizers used to produce biofuel crops release "nitrous oxide emissions large enough to cause climate warming instead of cooling." A report from Rice University that carefully examined the greenhouse gas emissions question concluded that "it is uncertain whether existing biofuels production provides any beneficial improvement over traditional gasoline, after taking into account land use changes and emissions of nitrous oxide. Legislation giving biofuels preferences on the basis of greenhouse gas benefits should be avoided." The U.S. National Academy of Sciences also voiced concern about biofuel production's negative effects on soils, water, and the climate. There is some good news on the issue of food or fuel. An April 2012 industry report notes that "the world ethanol engine continues to sputter." U.S. ethanol production likely peaked in 2011 and is projected to drop 2 percent in 2012. An even greater decline in U.S. ethanol production is likely in 2013 as oil prices weaken and as heat and drought in the U.S. Midwest drive corn prices upward. For many distillers, the profit margin disappeared in 2012. In early July 2012, Valero Energy Corporation, an oil company and major ethanol producer, reported it was idling the second of its 10 ethanol distilleries. Numerous other distilleries are on the verge of shutting down. If the ethanol mandate were phased out, U.S. distillers would have even less confidence in the future marketability of ethanol. In a world of widely fluctuating oil and grain prices, ethanol production would not always be profitable. Beyond this, the use of automotive fuel in the United States, which peaked in 2007, fell 11 percent by 2012. Young people living in cities are simply not as car-oriented as their parents were. They are not part of the car culture. This helps explain why the size of the U.S. motor vehicle fleet, after climbing for a century, peaked at 250 million in 2008. It now appears that the fleet size will continue to shrink through this decade. In addition, the introduction of more stringent U.S. auto fuel-efficiency standards means that gasoline use by new cars sold in 2025 will be half that of new cars sold in 2010. As older, less efficient cars are retired and fuel use declines, the demand for grain-based ethanol for blending will also decline. Within the automobile sector, a major move to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars will further reduce the use of gasoline. If this shift is accompanied by investment in thousands of wind farms to feed cheap electricity into the grid, then cars could run largely on electricity for the equivalent cost of 80¢ per gallon of gasoline. There is also a growing public preference for walking, biking, and using public transportation wherever possible. This reduces not only the demand for cars and gasoline but also the paving of land for roads and parking lots. Whether viewed from an environmental or an economic vantage point, we would all benefit by shifting from liquid fuels to electrically driven vehicles. Using electricity from wind farms, solar cells, or geothermal power plants to power cars will dramatically reduce carbon emissions. We now have both the electricity-generating technologies and the automotive technologies to create a clean, carbon-free transportation system, one that does not rely on either the use of oil or the conversion of food crops into fuel. By Lester R. Brown. From Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester R. Brown (New York: W.W. Norton & Co.). Supporting data, video, and slideshows are available for free download at www.earth-policy.org/books/fpep.
  6. Jean Ziegler, UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, yesterday called for the suspension of biofuels production saying biofuels are a "crime against humanity." "Biofuels, with today's current production methods, are a crime against a great part of humanity. They're an intolerable crime, and I requested the United Nations General Assembly in New York in my last report to the Human Rights Council that a moratorium be imposed as a five-year ban against this transformation." The comment was made during an emergency summit in Switzerland where the UN discusses ways to tackle the global food crisis. Ziegler said later in an interview with Al Jazeera that "burning food today so as to serve the mobility of the rich countries is a crime against humanity". According to Jean Ziegler biofuels is a major cause for the food crisis that has thrown millions into poverty. And he is not alone in arguing this. The European Environment Agency's (EEA) Scientific Committee recently called for the suspension of EU's target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020. The committee wants a new and "comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels" before any targets should be set.
  7. The global food crisis

    We are already now starting to see riots and protests around the world that have been triggered by the lack of resources. And unfortunately this is a sight we will see more and more of in the future. People are protesting in Haiti, Argentina, Cambodia, Indonesia, Egypt, Bolivia, Senegal and Yemen because of rising food costs or because they can't even buy any food - cause there isn't any. The FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, warns that the crisis is much worse than previously thought. According to a new report released earlier this month 37 countries around the world are currently facing food crises. FAO urges "all donors and International Financing Institutions to increase their assistance or consider reprogramming part of their ongoing aid in countries negatively affected by high food prices". Sir John Holmes, undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and the UN's emergency relief coordinator, warns that the rising food price threatens global security and will undermine already weak governments. The food prices are rising due to many different things that are linked together like a huge global ecosystem. When our global population grows at record speeds the demand for food and other resources also grows. And when the oil reserves shrink the price on gas and oil rises and makes it harder to sustain our global trade system. Farmers must pay more for their gas to their tractors and equipments and shipping the food around also costs more due to the rising fuel costs. At the same time farmers face climate changes (that our addiction to oil have created) that reduces their harvests. Now we are even trying to satisfy our oil addiction and car-fetish by replacing the oil with different biofuels (that are overall worse than the oil). The European Environment Agency's (EEA) Scientific Committee recently called for the suspension of EU's target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020. The committee calls for a new, "comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels" before any targets should be set. The rising demand for meat is also a part of the problem. But no matter how much we try to stop our unsustainable food and resource system and move over to a more local and sustainable system the food crisis will still remain a big issue around the world, now and further ahead in the future. Now maybe the only thing that can save us is the rationing of greenhouse gas emissions as well as our provisions, especially the meat, worldwide. Image Credit: UN World Food Programme. Photo by Giuseppe Bizzarri.
  8. The European Environment Agency's (EEA) Scientific Committee yesterday called for the suspension of EU's target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020. The committee calls for a new, "comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels" before any targets should be set. The committees concerns are summarised below: The European Environment Agency's Scientific Committee consists of 20 independent scientists from 15 different EEA member countries. The committee helps the EEA Management Board and the Executive Director by "providing scientific advice and delivering professional opinions on any scientific matter" that the EEA might undertake. The EEA is located in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. EEA currently consists of 27 EU member states, 3 European Economic Area members (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), Switzerland and Turkey.