Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No Such thing as a Sustainable Biofuel

"Apart from used chip fat, there is no such thing as a sustainable biofuel." This is one of the concluding remarks in a article that was printed in a UK paper the Guardian. The author, George Monbiot, writes a very interesting piece that describes why biofuels in any form are not the answer (although he does not address algae). The article discusses how forests are being cut down at an alarming rate, especially in the tropical peet forests. The solution to this is to only allow the biofuels to come from current farmland which is great but the problem is that now the forests are torn down to grow food while the biofuels come from current farmland. He then addresses the current thinking that we can use crop wastes and switchgrass for biofuels. The problem with this, Monbiot writes, is that using these takes nutrients from the soil and increases soil erosion 100 fold. "Our addiction to the car, in other words, could lead to peak soil as well as peak oil." His conclusion is that biofuels cannot be the answer and that the oil companies are hiding the fact that oil production is starting to decline and we will not be able to meet demand. The only solution to our problem is to reduce consumption. One last great quote -- "Global supplies of political courage appear, unfortunately, to have peaked some time ago."
Is this man right? Is political courage gone? Can Obama or Hillary not say to people to "Get out of your SUV and take the bus". Can McCain not say "Sorry gas prices are rising and they will never come down, get used to it and ride a train." Would these candidates not be electable if they said what needed to be said. I wish that George Bush would take these last few months in office and tell the American people what they need to hear. People need to stop driving their cars so much, take the bus, walk, amtrak, carpool. It may be inconvenient but if everyone does it we will see a huge change which alternative fuels will not be able to bring about for years. Bush does not care about opinion polls so tell us the truth. Oil production will not be able to meet future demands. Maybe he could propose raising the cost of gasoline on individual consumers to force people to take another form of transportation. Use that income to give subsidies to the public transportation industries to keep the fares of buses low and to implement the "15 year transportation goals" in 5 years. In Austin, we could use the money from the increased tax on gasoline to get the light rail down Mopac started and get the Amtrak to stop being so slow and unreliable and be more like up in the northeast. Stop trying to relieve traffic on roads and shift that money into public transportation in order to force people to take it. The less convenient driving is, the more likely people will be to try something else. But no politicians can afford to do this because they will lose the election. Anyone else feel this way?


brent stephens said...

I like it, Albert. Bush has nothing to lose - he should go down swinging, clawing, and biting. You can't commit political hara-kiri if you're already dead, right? Maybe a sign of realism from Bush would allow the candidates to stand behind the same-sized podium.

Cassandra said...

Yes. You should write him a letter. Tell him to say it in his farewell address. He could be like Eisenhower: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

To something like..

We must not place too much faith in one technology and solution, we must moderate ourselves and have a portfolio of options, including, most importantly, reducing consumption - the most powerful and immediate weapon we have in saving our future.