Last week, I went to the most inspiring talk. None of this doom and gloom the world is ending stuff that you’d expect from any talk concerned with Peak Oil. Instead, David Blume described how we can take control of our fuel needs by growing it ourselves, or with the help of neighbours with Community Supported Ethanol.
David stresses that almost everything that can be made from oil can be made from plants. This stuff is pretty near and dear to the hearts and minds of the LovePlantLife team. We’ll be doing lots of follow-up on this one.
Notes on David’s talk on how Alcohol can be a gas, why biofuels don’t steal food from hungry mouths, how we can grow our own fuel and other additional benefits after the jump.
(Please note that I may have made errors in taking these notes. Not being of sound scientific mind there may be some things I may have got wrong ~ Anna)
Alcohol can be a gas! US Biofuels expert – David Blume
Friday 17th October – Wellington
Organised by Appropriate Technology for Living Association, Paul Bruce
Ethanol is liquid sunshine.
Gasoline didn’t take off in NZ until after WW2. Alcohol was the norm to run engines. Made from beets. Alcohol had been used for lighting before Rockefeller started using it in cars. From the late 1800s, every farm grew apples for apple whiskey that could be used for everything – as a solvent, heating, lighting, to fuel your car.
Any and all fuel injected cars (the predominant engine produced since 1980) can run on a 50% blend of alcohol and gas with no modification (and most newer cars will run on an 85 -100% alcohol with inexpensive modifications).
Alcohol and gas will mix perfectly in car engines. Brazil uses half and half. 85% of cars in Brazil now run on alcohol. Electric cars are not economic due to the amount of copper needed for the engines.
US has 70 million acres of corn = 5% of their farmland. Can provide 25% of the country’s fuel needs, which is abou8t the same as oil companies now provide.
– Corn provides 900 litres an acre
– Fodder beet provides 3700 litres an acre.
— half used to make table sugar, other half made into molasses to produce alcohol.
— can be stored in big heaps with straw over them.
– Sweet sorghum is higher than sugar beets. Can be an annual crop in cold climates. Was grown in the South Island at one time. Made into black strap molasses. Can be made into building products and has twice the feed value of corn for stock. Waxy oil can be used as a biodiesel alternative.
Food vs Fuel
Only 5 % of all US farmland is used for growing corn. Of US corn production – 1% fed to people, 5% high fructose corn sweetener, 3% modified fuel starch, 1% whiskey. 90% fed to animals including all exported corn.
Humans can get food starch out of corn. Cows can’t – they’re stomach pH is 2.0, about the same as distilled water. Cows were originally forest animals. 10 pounds of corn makes 1 pound of meat and 9 pounds of shit. To increase meat yield to 1.17 pounds, ferment the corn before feeding to the cow.
You don’t need to feed fish fishmeal, feed them corn.
In Sweden, condensers are put over bakers ovens to collect ethanol from baking bread – converted to use in vans.
NZ Raupo Typha spp. produces 30,000 litres per acre if used in constructed marshlands and grown in sewerage (a terrific answer to Taranki dairy effluent). The cellulose top can be used as fuel source to cook it up , the bottom part collected for biomass – what they do in Brazil with sugar cane. Shred it – boil it – add an enzyme – let it cool – add a second enzyme – cool – cook with yeast.
Laminaria is a long binding kelp. Norwegians make kelp whiskey. Currently being used off the coast of California. Produces 90,000 litres of ethanol per acre. Fertiliser made from the kelp produces 95% of what you need to grow anything else. The kelp takes the CO2 from the water which de-acidifies the ocean. Would be perfect to grow in the ‘dead zone’ of the Mississippi Basin. Added advantage of causing cold patches of water to dissipate hurricanes before hitting land.
Alcohol has 95% less carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons then other fuel.
Polyol ester lubricants – Ethanol substitutes can run 50,000 km a year on 1 change.
Polyethylene originally made from plants. It’s heavily uesd in consumer products esp plastic shopping bags. We can make just about everything we made in oil from plants.
Alcohol won’t start your car efficiently on a cold day – need cold starters in your car.
Biodiesal will cause the same amount of air pollution as diesal.
Community Supported Ethanol – Set up ethanol tanks on spare pieces of asphalt. Underground tanks are too expensive. Putting first one into Santa Cruz. Fonterra produces ethanol currently in NZ.