Monthly Archives: Agosto 2007

Bom dia escravos!

A Grécia arde e as inundações deste Verão deixam pesadas facturas à China, ao Reino Unido, à Coreia do Norte e ao Minnesota. Em Portugal, safou-nos de pior desgraça a chuva inesperada que tem caído e as súbitas quedas de temperatura. Mas o tempo de nos pormos a par do que está para vir chegou. Aqui ficam algumas referências para depois das férias.

  • Peak Soil
    There are many serious problems with biofuels, especially on a massive scale, and it appears from this report that they cannot be surmounted. So let the truth of Alice Friedemann’s meticulous and incisive diligence wash over you and rid you of any confusion or false hopes. The absurdity and destructiveness of large scale biofuels are a chance for people to eventually even reject the internal combustion engine and energy waste in general. One can also hazard from this report that bioplastics, as well, cannot make it in a big way.Ethanol is an agribusiness get-rich-quick scheme that will bankrupt our topsoil.Nineteenth century western farmers converted their corn into whiskey to make a profit (Rorabaugh 1979). Archer Daniels Midland, a large grain processor, came up with the same scheme in the 20th century. But ethanol was a product in search of a market, so ADM spent three decades relentlessly lobbying for ethanol to be used in gasoline. Today ADM makes record profits from ethanol sales and government subsidies (Barrionuevo 2006).

    The Department of Energy hopes to have biomass supply 5% of the nation’s power, 20% of transportation fuels, and 25% of chemicals by 2030. These combined goals are 30% of the current petroleum consumption (DOE Biomass Plan, DOE Feedstock Roadmap).

    Fuels made from biomass are a lot like the nuclear powered airplanes the Air Force tried to build from 1946 to 1961, for billions of dollars. They never got off the ground. The idea was interesting — atomic jets could fly for months without refueling. But the lead shielding to protect the crew and several months of food and water was too heavy for the plane to take off. The weight problem, the ease of shooting this behemoth down, and the consequences of a crash landing were so obvious, it’s amazing the project was ever funded, let alone kept going for 15 years.

    Biomass fuels have equally obvious and predictable reasons for failure. Odum says that time explains why renewable energy provides such low energy yields compared to non-renewable fossil fuels. The more work left to nature, the higher the energy yield, but the longer the time required. Although coal and oil took millions of years to form into dense, concentrated solar power, all we had to do was extract and transport them (Odum 1996)

    With every step required to transform a fuel into energy, there is less and less energy yield. For example, to make ethanol from corn grain, which is how all U.S. ethanol is made now, corn is first grown to develop hybrid seeds, which next season are planted, harvested, delivered, stored, and preprocessed to remove dirt. Dry-mill ethanol is milled, liquefied, heated, saccharified, fermented, evaporated, centrifuged, distilled, scrubbed, dried, stored, and transported to customers (McAloon 2000). Fertile soil will be destroyed if crops and other “wastes” are removed to make cellulosic ethanol. “We stand, in most places on earth, only six inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the topsoil layer upon which the entire life of the planet depends” (Sampson 1981). Loss of topsoil has been a major factor in the fall of civilizations (Sundquist 2005 Chapter 3, Lowdermilk 1953, Perlin 1991, Ponting 1993). You end up with a country like Iraq, formerly Mesopotamia, where 75% of the farm land became a salty desert. Fuels from biomass are not sustainable, are ecologically destructive, have a net energy loss, and there isn’t enough biomass in America to make significant amounts of energy because essential inputs like water, land, fossil fuels, and phosphate ores are limited.

  • Post Carbon Cities Guide Book
    “Post Carbon Cities is an exceptionally clear and comprehensive call-to-action to those who actually work in the trenches of city governance. We don’t have any more time to waste getting ready for an energy-scarcer future, and for those who remain dazed and confused, this book is an excellent place to start.” —-James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere.
  • Singing the nation electric, By Jon Rynn
    • Part 1: Fuels and Electrical Use
      Let’s assume that we will eventually live in a world without fossil fuels, that is, without petroleum, coal, or natural gas. Will we all starve to death or devolve into roving bands of barbarians? If business as usual continues indefinitely, those outcomes are definitely possible, but let us further assume that reason will prevail and we all agree to restructure society so that it could get along without fossil fuels. What would we need to do?
    • Part 2: post-oil democracy
      Before fossil fuels and industrial machinery transformed the way goods and services were produced, all societies had an energy problem. Some wind power and hydropower was used, but the main energy sources were humans and animals. For the powers-that-were, slavery and serfdom were convenient ways to ensure an adequate supply of human-sourced energy. What will happen when fossil fuels are no longer available; will the global elite be in a position to reimpose serfdom and slavery?