PEAK SOIL16 Jun 2007
I have been reading this interesting article which argues against biomass “waste” fuel production. It’s pretty interesting, but first I just want to say that they have the ultimate tagline: PEAK SOIL. This pretty much puts them at an advantage already.
Biomass fuel (e.g. ethanol) sounds like a great idea if you phrase it right: We’re already making an assload of corn, right? But we only use/eat part of it. We just waste all this organic matter in the harvest – why not use it to make ethanol and thus eliminate the threat of our dependence on foreign-oil. It’s, like, a win-win scenario, man! The arguments against this line of thinking go something like this:
- The giant, heavily-subsidized agricorp production of food from our country’s land is already pushing the environment to its limit by focusing on continuous-crop growing (no rotation) and tilled row farming that is contributing to massive soil erosion.
- The current “wasted” organic mass is actually critical for soil health (topsoil is a giant ecosystem, doncha know) and for stemming the tide of erosion.
- Fossil fuels are non-renewable because the immense work of condensing solar energy into a usable form has already been done over millions of years by nature. The process of growing, harvesting and refining usable energy from crops is intensely inefficient by comparison.
- Because of this, ironically, switching to biomass fuels will probably do little to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. As we further damage the top soil, more and more fertilizer will be necessary. Where do we get fertilizer? That’s right, fossil fuels. Producing 1 ton of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer requires 33,500 cubic feet of natural gas.
There’s more.. check it out, it’s pretty interesting.