Thunderpig’s Mirror

Archive for February 2nd, 2007

The Problem with Alternative Fuels

Posted by Thunder Pig on February 2, 2007

Almost all schemes for converting our nation to alternative sources of energy have one thing in common: lack of Real Estate.

A Long Row To Hoe

Proposals for an alcohol-fueled end to dependence on foreign oil do not sit lightly on the American landscape. Can they fit within our borders at all?

State Of The Union speeches tend to cross using figures with speaking figuratively, and this hybrid rhetoric can bear strange fruit, like the switchgrass mania spreading up K Street like kudzu. Math has never been the Beltway’s strongest suit, and it will take a while for many in DC to realize that biofuel, like the solar and wind energy franchises already on offer, suffers from sheer lack of real estate.Huffnpuffes A recent WSJ Op-ed devoted a thousand words to singing the praises of cellulose fermentation , but neglected to divide its rosy bottom line projections by ethanol’s depressingly low energy content – a barrel of the stuff falls so far short of real gasoline– over two million BTU’s,that you’d need about ten gallons extra to equal a tankful. Japan’s last gasp in World War II was distilling biomass to get kamekaze fuel.

Solar ranching translates into paving areas the size of Massachusetts with silicon panels. But farming out the fuel supply means putting multiples of Texas under the plough. Even corn as tall as an elephant’s eye yields less than half a gallon of ethanol per acre per day. And biotech might, at best, wring another quart out of fertile farmland.

That’s just not enough…

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