FOOD = ENERGY & ENERGY = FOOD!
If we have fancy boutique priced energy, we will have fancy boutique priced food!
by Christopher Calder
It is a mathematically provable fact that you cannot replace oil, coal, and natural gas with windmills, solar panels, and biofuels. Hobbits may be able to live poetically, generating energy from the wind, the sun, and the soil. Real human beings living in an industrialized civilization need highly concentrated nonrenewable energy sources to survive. Renewable energy schemes other than hydroelectric and geothermal power are resource hogs that take up huge amounts of space while providing very little usable energy in return. Contrary to popular belief, solar, wind, wave energy, and biofuel schemes are not "energy efficient," and their ultra-high cost is an accurate measurement of that inherent inefficiency. If they were efficient they would cost less than using fossil fuels, not dramatically more than using fossil fuels.
EXAMPLE: To satisfy
100% of New York City's electricity needs with wind
power would require impossible around-the-clock winds within a limited
speed range, and a wind farm the size of the entire state of
Connecticut. Solar photovoltaic cells are so inefficient that
it would take about 60 square miles of expensive solar panels to
generate just one gigawatt of electricity. [Statistical
source - Scientist
Jesse H. Ausubel, author of "Renewable and nuclear
heresies."] Fortunately, there are affordable, carbon free energy
solutions which are described in detail near the bottom of this web
page. First, let's analyze the energy solutions that don't
work, and which cause much more harm than good.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, global food prices rose an incredible 40% in 2007. The World Bank states that the cost of staple foods rose by 83% during the 3 year period from 2005 to 2008. The International Food Policy Research Institute states that biofuels are responsible for rapid grain price inflation, and a detailed analysis by Don Mitchell, an internationally respected economist at the World Bank, stated that biofuels have helped push global staple food prices up to record heights.
The United Nations states that its charity programs can no longer afford to feed the starving peoples of the world because of the high cost of staple foods. Mr. Jean Ziegler, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, repeatedly denounced biofuels as "a crime against humanity." The new UN food envoy, Mr. Olivier De Schuster, has called for United States and European Union biofuel targets to be abandoned, and said the world food crisis is "a silent tsunami affecting 100 million people." Oil price increases have not shrunk the human food supply, but biofuel production has. The more biofuels we produce, the less food we have to eat, because we grow biofuel crops using the same land, water, fertilizer, farm equipment, and labor we use to grow food.
Ten reasons to oppose biofuels
1) Starvation - Any force, such as worldwide biofuel production or oil price hikes, that significantly raises food prices also raises the number of human deaths due to malnutrition and related illness. It is difficult for us to control the price of oil, but it is easy for us to control our own biofuel production; we just stop doing it. The one-two punch of biofuels crowding out food production and high oil prices raising the cost of almost everything is a deadly blow to the poor on a planetary scale.
No one knows exactly how many millions of people biofuel production has killed through malnutrition and related illness, but we can make a reasonable comparison to Chairman Mao Tse-tung's infamous Great Leap Forward five year economic plan, which is estimated to have killed between 20 and 43 million Chinese over a short three year period. Mao had faddish, unscientific ideas about how to grow food, and he banned private farms in 1958 in his shift to communes and greater industrial output at the expense of agriculture. This led to a 15% drop in grain production in China in 1959 and another 10% reduction in 1960. The global biofuel disaster is a vastly larger event that has displaced food production in the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, and in many small island nations. Biofuels have been produced for many years, and the diversion of agricultural resources to feeding cars and trucks instead of people has been enormous and is ongoing. When you dramatically raise the price of fertilizer and farmland all over the world, higher food prices inevitably result. High food prices have the same net effect as outright food shortages. If you live on less than $2.00 per day and do not have enough money to buy sufficient food in the marketplace, the food will never reach your stomach.
My personal claim is that global biofuel production has killed more people worldwide during the 1993 to 2013 time frame than all wars and acts of terrorism combined over the same period. That means biofuels have killed more than approximately 1.76 million people through malnutrition and related illness, and will go on killing innocent people until biofuel production is brought to a halt by an awakened public. Biofuel deaths are a very hot, politically charged topic, and I am trying to get official ON THE RECORD numbers from experts I can quote rather than disseminate the many horrific "off the record" estimates I keep getting from publicity shy officials and food supply/world hunger specialists. It is certainly reasonable to estimate that global biofuel production has been a contributing factor (one of many factors) in at least 100 million human deaths since 1993. The number of deaths where biofuels were the predominant deciding life or death factor is much more difficult to ascertain. I do not trust large scale phenomena based statistics, but I am forced by circumstance to seek them out to put global biofuel production into an historical perspective.
Let's do a simple mind experiment to put things in perspective. The United Nations estimates that at least 56 million people died worldwide from malnutrition and related illness during the seven years from 2005 to 2012. That is a low estimate, with other organizations and experts coming up with numbers double that amount. I do not wish to argue the numbers, but keep in mind the bias of the entity issuing death statistics. Food charity organizations have a motive to inflate death numbers in order to attract more donations. Governments have a motive to underestimate death numbers to cover up their own misguided policies. The United Nation's largest financial contributor is the United States Government. United Nations officials who say things that American presidents don't want to hear tend to lose their jobs. That said, let's accept the low United Nations death numbers of about 8 million deaths per year times seven years, which gives us 56 million dead. Now let’s assign the blame for those deaths and declare that 90% of the deaths were caused by other factors, such as high oil prices, weather, poor regional economies, etc., and that the massive increase in food costs created by global biofuel production are only responsible for just 10% of those deaths. That gives us a seven year biofuel death toll of 5.6 million. My claim is that biofuels have killed more than war and terrorism combined over a 20 year time period, which equals approximately 1.76 million human deaths. So, my shocking claim is really only shocking in its conservative underestimation of the biggest crime of the 21st century.
The vast majority of the people who die of malnutrition die for the very same reason; they simply do not have enough money to buy sufficient food to survive. They are not anorexics, and war caused starvation deaths only add a small percentage to the global death numbers. High food prices kill people in mass numbers. That is a proven fact. Biofuel advocates were warned far in advance by respected scientists and economists that biofuel production would increase malnutrition deaths globally, but they did not care. Political ambition and greed won out, and millions of unimportant and nameless people (in our leaders' eyes) died. Now ask yourself who has a strong motive to either ignore or denounce those who try to bring the real biofuel story to light. That is why I keep my claim modest and mathematically bulletproof.
2) Higher cost - Without forced government mandates to use ethanol and biodiesel, there would be no significant free market demand for biofuels in the United States. Ethanol contains 33% less energy than gasoline, so it takes 15 gallons of pure ethanol to travel the same number of miles that could be traveled using just 10 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline. Our politicians have effectively mandated that we all get lower gas mileage at a time we are paying record high prices at the pump. Ethanol fuel always contains small amounts of water and absorbs even more water from the atmosphere unless stored in tightly sealed containers. This means ethanol cannot be pumped through existing gasoline pipelines due to rust and corrosion problems. Ethanol is destructive to the fuel systems of boats and corrodes fiberglass gas tanks. Both ethanol and biodiesel increase engine maintenance costs and lower engine reliability, a particularly significant issue for light aircraft owners.
William Jaeger, an Oregon State University agricultural economist, found that to achieve a given improvement in energy independence using ethanol from corn, biodiesel from rapeseed (canola oil), and ethanol from wood-based cellulose at maximum estimated scales of production in Oregon would lead to a net energy gain of just two-thirds of one percent of Oregon’s annual energy use. None of the biofuels were found to be marketable without forced government mandates, and the much hyped cellulosic ethanol was found to be the most expensive of all the biofuels to produce. [See Biofuel Potential in Oregon (PDF). Jaeger stated that "Given currently available technologies, it is difficult to see the net contribution of biofuels rising above 1% of our current fossil fuel energy consumption – for either Oregon or the U.S." - From Biofuels in Oregon from an Economic and Policy Perspective (PDF)
To calculate the true cost of biofuels, you must add together all of their negatives: the high direct cost of producing the fuel, increased cost of food worldwide, loss of water used for irrigation, mechanical damage done to vehicles that use biofuels, and damage done to the environment itself. Judged in total, biofuels are tremendously more expensive than using gasoline and diesel fuel made from oil. Global biofuel production has also raised the cost of farmland all over the world, which has increased pressure on food prices everywhere.
3) Environmental damage - When you try to grow both fuel and food at the same time, you greatly increase the rate of topsoil erosion, because disturbing the land by tilling and harvesting makes soils vulnerable to wind and rain. Globally, topsoil is being lost ten times faster than it is being replenished, and 30% of the world's arable land has become unproductive in the past 40 years due to erosion. The human race would quickly starve to death without topsoil, and the USA is in serious jeopardy of losing adequate food growing capacity within 100 years or less due to erosion. Biofuel production is helping clog the Mississippi and other rivers with topsoil from our prime growing areas. In 1850, Iowa prairie soils had about 12-16 inches of topsoil, but now have only about 6-8 inches. We are continuing to lose Iowa topsoil at a rate of approximately 30 tons of topsoil per hectare (10,000 square meters) per year. As it takes nature hundreds of years to replace just 1 inch of lost topsoil, ask biofuel advocates if helping to destroy the ability of future generations to grow food is a worthy environmental goal.
Biofuel production also harms the environment by encouraging the destruction of forests, which are needed to soak up excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that is blamed for global warming, and the two great sponges of carbon dioxide are the oceans and the forests. According to some scientists, the oceans may be losing their ability to absorb CO2 as they are becoming increasingly acidic due to pollution, so if we also destroy our forests greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere will increase. If the global warming theory is true, use of biofuels will dramatically speed up global warming because the entire biofuel production process, from beginning to end, releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while destroying native forests which naturally clean and rejuvenate the air we breathe.
Biofuel production transports carbon into the atmosphere that was previously sequestered (trapped) in soils and native vegetation. In gaseous form these carbon based molecules, such as carbon dioxide and methane, act as an automobile windshield and hold in heat gained from solar radiation. It has been reported that in 2009 Indonesia became the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, in large part due to deforestation caused by ever expanding biofuel farming. The journal SCIENCE published the Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land Use Change, which states that the production of biofuels from grains or switchgrass greatly increases the release of greenhouse gases and is far worse for the environment than using gasoline. The authors found that "Using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land use change, corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%."
Scientists point out that nitrogen fertilizers, which are made from natural gas, coal, and mined minerals, react with soil to unleash large amounts of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas estimated to be 296 times more effective at trapping the earth's heat than CO2. According to the study, N2O release from agro-biofuel production (274KB study PDF), rapeseed biodiesel and corn-ethanol production unleashes more greenhouse gas than using fossil fuels. "Biodiesel from rapeseed and bioethanol from corn, depending on N fertilizer uptake efficiency by the plants, can contribute as much or more to global warming by N2O emissions than cooling by fossil fuel savings." Dr. Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, used the findings to estimate that U.S. plans to expand corn-ethanol production through the year 2022 will increase greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by 6%, not including the large additional greenhouse gas release due to land use changes.
Biofuel advocates ignore the fact that when we pump up grain prices through biofuel production, we raise grain prices all over the world, which gives other countries a strong financial incentive to burn down more rainforests in order to plant more food. United States corn-ethanol production is a major driving force in the rapid destruction of the Amazon basin. [newspaper story with pictures] A Stanford University study confirms biofuel production speeds destruction of tropical forests. "We can't find a way that it makes greenhouse gas sense to grow ethanol in the United States," says Holly Gibbs of Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment. A 2008 study found that corn-ethanol biofuel production will cause a 10 to 34% increase in nitrogen pollution in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers due to fertilizer run-off, thus increasing the size of the DEAD ZONE in the Gulf of Mexico. [study abstract] Biofuels production also dramatically increases the use of fossil fuel derived insecticides, which are blamed for killing frogs and bees, and causing neurological damage in humans.
4) Water shortages - Biofuel crop production causes water shortages because irrigation water is taken away from our shrinking supplies of safe drinking and agricultural water. There is not enough salt free water in the world to grow biofuel crops and still provide essential utility water for our homes, and to grow sufficient food for humans to survive. It takes 9,000 gallons of water to produce just 1 gallon of biodiesel made from soybeans, so we need to save our very limited supplies of ground water to grow food, not fuel. Even without biofuel production we are turning vast areas of land into desert every year through loss of topsoil due to farming for essential food.
5) It's a lie - The Barack Obama "biofuel energy independence plan" is a scientific hoax and an economic fraud because current United States biofuel production methods use so much energy to create biofuels that they are simply not worth the effort. Biofuel advocates often distort energy efficiency calculations by leaving out essential energy inputs required to make fuel. The average American does not understand that when you pour nitrogen fertilizers on crops, you are literally pouring on fossil fuel energy. Nitrogen fertilizers are so full of chemical energy potential that they are used to make explosives, so when you grow biofuels only part of the plant's energy accumulation comes from sunlight, and the rest comes from the fossil fuel energy we feed them. Rather than use natural gas to make fertilizer to grow biofuel crops, it would be more efficient to alter our cars to run on the natural gas directly.
"The following are the major energy inputs to industrial corn farming: nitrogen fertilizer (all fossil energy), phosphate, potash and lime (mostly fossil energy), herbicides and insecticides (all fossil energy), fossil fuels used = diesel, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas, electricity (almost all fossil energy), transportation (all fossil energy), corn seeds and irrigation (mostly fossil energy), infrastructure (mostly fossil energy), labor (mostly fossil energy). Corn produced at a large expense of fossil energy is then transformed, with even more fossil energy, into pure ethanol." - Tad W. Patzek
Politicians hope that second generation biofuel crops will generate more energy at greater efficiency, but those schemes have yet to be proven in the real world. Professor David Pimentel states that "Cellulosic ethanol is touted as the replacement for corn ethanol. Unfortunately, cellulosic biomass contains less than 1/3rd the amount of starches and sugars in corn and requires major fossil energy inputs to release the tightly bound starches and sugars for ethanol conversion. About 170% more energy (oil and gas) is required to produce ethanol from cellulosic biomass than the ethanol produced."
Biofuel advocates falsely claim that ethanol is a "clean fuel" that will reduce air pollution. Ethanol blended fuels burn cleaner on a per gallon basis, but not on a miles traveled basis because ethanol contains 33% less energy than gasoline. Ethanol blended fuels actually emit more CO2 per miles driven than ordinary gasoline in addition to emitting more CO2 during their manufacture. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ethanol increases the production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 4 to 7% over gasoline, and emits acetaldehyde, a probable carcinogen.6) It's politics and greed, not science. The biofuel hoax was created by domestic American politics and corporate greed. Ambitious young biofuel entrepreneurs and giant agricultural corporations smelled the money to be made, and lobbied Congress in hopes of turning the farm belt into the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, even if the energy they supply comes at the cost of human starvation and accelerated environmental damage. Both the Democratic and Republican parties desire the farm vote, and farm belt politician Barack Obama was flown around the country during the 2008 presidential campaign on corporate jets owned by the giant corn-ethanol corporation, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama went on NBC’s "Meet the Press" and admitted to the late Tim Russert that biofuels were causing rapid food price inflation. Obama then stated that he would "rethink" his own energy policy. A week later Obama toured a biodiesel factory with Joe Biden and declared it a great success. Obama was repeatedly warned about the destructive nature of biofuels by his own advisers, yet he continued to promote a disastrous energy policy in order to win the Iowa Caucus and the general election. Obama won the 2008 presidential election by exploiting farm belt greed for his own personal political gain.
"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small."
"It's hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."
"The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices." "The competition with food prices is real.""One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."
7) The outlook for biofuels is dismal - All present and future biofuels have the same problems. Biofuel crops are all too low in energy, too light in weight, and thus too bulky and expensive to transport to be of any real value. Biofuels require too much land, water, and fertilizer resources to be beneficial. By contrast, dirty old coal, which we need to replace as an energy source, has been historically successful as a fuel because it is very heavy and compact, high in energy content, and thus makes energy sense to transport. Coal already exists in the ground so you don't have to plant it, water it, and fertilize it. All biofuel schemes, planned or imagined, will never amount to a hill of beans because of the basic limitations of their solar based production process. A requirement for vast amounts of sunlight will always equal a requirement for vast amounts of land area to collect that sunlight, thus solar power schemes can never replace the massive concentrated energy reservoir of fossil fuels.
Growing switchgrass to produce ethanol from lignocellulose has most of the same drawbacks as making ethanol from corn. We will use land, water, fertilizer, farm equipment, and labor to grow switchgrass that will be diverted from food production, with soaring food prices the result. If we grow switchgrass on land currently used to graze cattle, we will reduce beef and milk production. If we grow switchgrass on unused "marginal" prairie lands, we will soon turn those marginal lands into a new dust bowl due to the erosion of fragile dry soils.
Switchgrass and other biofuel weeds will be grown by ordinary, profit motive driven farmers, not by environmentally trained scientists. Farmers will grow switchgrass on land that could be used to grow corn, wheat, or soybeans, and farmers will want to maximize yield so they will use lots of fertilizer to increase output. The plans biofuel idealists are trying to sell the American public will never produce the kind of "green," food friendly energy resource they promise. The next great scandal will be how to get rid of all the millions of acres of invasive, deep rooted biofuel weeds once society inevitably realizes that even growing second generation biofuel crops is a tragic mistake.
In practical terms, there is not enough usable land area to grow a sufficient quantity of biofuel plants to meet the world's energy demands. According to professors James Jordan and James Powell, "Allowing a net positive energy output of 30,000 British thermal units (Btu) per gallon, it would still take four gallons of ethanol from corn to equal one gallon of gasoline. The United States has 73 million acres of corn cropland. At 350 gallons per acre, the entire U.S. corn crop would make 25.5 billion gallons, equivalent to about 6.3 billion gallons of gasoline. The United States consumes 170 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel annually. Thus the entire U.S. corn crop would supply only 3.7% of our auto and truck transport demands. Using the entire 300 million acres of U.S. cropland for corn-based ethanol production would meet about 15% of the demand." [See The False Hope of Biofuels]
Growing algae to make biodiesel is being touted as a cure-all for all our biofuel problems, but we are still stuck with the fact that algae need solar energy to turn carbon dioxide into fuel. To make biodiesel, algae are used as organic solar panels which output oil instead of electricity. Researchers brag that algae can produce 15 times more fuel per acre of land than growing corn for ethanol, but that still means we would need an impossibly large number of acres (about 133 million acres) of concrete lined open-air algae ponds to meet our highway energy demands. Those schemes that grow algae in closed reactor vessels, without sunlight, necessitate the algae being fed sugars or starches as a source of chemical energy. The sugars or starches must then be made from corn, wheat, beets, or other crop, so you are simply trading ethanol potential to make oil instead of vodka. If we construct genetically engineered super-algae that are capable of out-competing native algae strains that contaminate open air algae ponds, the new gene-modified algae will be immediately carried to lakes, reservoirs, and oceans all over the world in the feathers of birds, with unknown and possibly catastrophic results. If we try to guard algae from contamination by growing them in sealed containers under glass or in plastic tubes, the construction costs for building large enough areas to collect sufficient sunlight would be prohibitive. The current cost of biodiesel made from algae is about $14.00 a gallon.
No genetically engineered algae or bacteria designed for biofuel production can ever be isolated from our biosphere because of the inevitability of leaks and accidents, which will occur very quickly in an endeavor of such gigantic physical proportions. That means any monster organism you create will be free to travel around the world at will. One well known genetics entrepreneur in Southern California is now trying to create a genetically engineered super-bacteria that turns carbon dioxide into methane gas in order to manufacture biofuels. If that bacteria escapes his laboratory it could transform Earth's atmosphere into a methane filled hell that could kill off the human race. Some scientists now speculate that 252 million years ago our biosphere was decimated by a killer microbe that spewed methane gas into Earth's atmosphere, triggering a global catastrophe that wiped out more than 90% of marine species and about 70% of all land vertebrates. [see news story]
Using "agricultural waste" to make biofuels has its own problems. [See soil report] Removing unused portions of plants that are normally plowed under increases the need for nitrogen fertilizers, which release the most potent greenhouse gas of all, nitrous oxide. Residual post-harvest crop biomass must be returned to the soil to maintain topsoil integrity, otherwise the rate of topsoil erosion increases dramatically. If we mine our topsoil for energy we will end up committing slow agricultural suicide like the Mayan Empire. [See Food Versus Biofuels: Environmental and Economic Costs, by Professor David Pimentel]
Using wood chips to make ethanol or biodiesel sounds like a good idea until you remember that we currently use wood chips to make fuel pellets for stoves, paper, particle board, and a thousand and one building products. The idea of sending teams of manual laborers into forests to salvage underbrush for fuel would be prohibitively expensive. Our forests are already stressed just producing lumber without tasking them with producing liquid biofuels for automobiles. Such schemes would inevitably drive up the price of everything made from wood, creating yet another resource crisis. Wood burning power plants also emit more air pollution per megawatt than coal power plants. Making fuel from true garbage, such as used cooking oil and winery waste, is environmentally harmless, but is it really worth the large infrastructure and vehicle maintenance costs required to sell ethanol and biodiesel as fuels? Our usable true waste resources are very limited in quantity, and not a major energy solution for a nation that uses over 8 billion barrels of crude oil every year.
On biofuel advocates: “You have money and media access, and now everybody believes that two plus two equals twenty-two.” — Tad W. Patzek, professor of geoengineering at the University of Texas in Austin, and formerly of UC Berkeley
"Every day more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes -- one child every five seconds. The situation will only get worse. It would be morally wrong to divert cropland needed for human food supply to powering automobiles. It would also deplete soil fertility and the long-term capability to maintain food production. We would destroy the farmland that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will need to live." — Professors James Jordan and James Powell, Maglev Research Center at Polytechnic University of New York
9) It's a strategic national security disaster - In the years before biofuel production, the United States had large food reserves kept in storage due to the excess bounty created by modern agricultural technology. Those days are long gone, and global food reserves are now at historic lows. In earth's history there have always been great natural disasters that periodically cause poor crop harvests, such as crop diseases, insect plagues, droughts, floods, impacts of asteroids and comets, and volcanic eruptions that throw up so much dust and noxious gas into the atmosphere that sunlight is reduced for a year or longer. The eruption of the island of Krakatau in 1883 produced a 1.2 degree Celsius global temperature decline that did not return to normal until 1888, and caused poor crop harvests all over the world.
There are mammoth volcanoes all over the world, from Iceland, to Asia, to South America, to Yellowstone Park, which are capable of having devastating effects on our atmosphere and thus our food production. By using agriculture to produce energy for both transportation and human caloric intake, we have eliminated our strategic cushion of food reserves. When global disaster inevitably strikes again, starvation will set in quickly because of government biofuel mandates. If we use nonagricultural energy sources for producing fuel for transportation, specifically the new low cost and nontoxic nuclear energy technologies (LENR and simplified hot fusion - see below), we will not suffer the double systemic insult of food and fuel shortages. Large scale biofuel production, which depends on normal climactic conditions to grow crops, is a severe threat to our national security.
10) It's a mathematical impossibility - It has been estimated that every year the human race burns the fossilized remnants of approximately 400 years worth of total planetary vegetation in the condensed form of fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas, etc. "The fossil fuels burned in 1997 were created from organic matter containing 44 × 1018 g C, which is >400 times the net primary productivity (NPP) of the planet’s current biota." This quote comes from Burning Buried Sunshine: Human Consumption of Ancient Solar Energy, by Professor Jeffrey S. Dukes of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University. His figures makes sense if you remember that the earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old, and you consider the rapid rate at which human beings are burning up fossil fuels. Dukes estimated that it would take approximately 22% of all current above ground plant growth on land to replace fossil fuels for the year 1997 in terms of raw energy potential, a number that is now out of date due to increased fossil fuel use. The old 22% estimate also does not account for the tremendous energy expenditures required to transform food derived and cellulose derived biomass into usable liquid fuel. As the United States uses a disproportionately large percentage of the world's fossil fuels every year, the amount of U.S. land biomass we would need to convert to ethanol would be impossibly high. No park or backyard would be safe from the biofuel harvesters.
It "takes a huge amount of land to produce a modest amount of energy." Even if we used "every piece of wood on the planet, every piece of grass eaten by livestock, and all food crops, that much biomass could only provide about 30 percent of the world’s total energy needs." — Dr. Timothy Searchinger, Princeton University
"All sources of renewable liquid energy are inadequate when set against the net energy density that is achieved from extracting oil from wells, which we estimate as being the equivalent of capturing all 10,000 parts in 10,000 of insolation (incident solar radiation), or even from producing synthetic gasoline from coal — equivalent to capturing 2200 parts in 10,000 of insolation. 3 parts per 10,000 is a pale shadow of the fossil fuel net energy densities which have been the sine qua non of the 4400 million population growth in the last century." - Andrew R.B. Ferguson, editor Optimum Population Trust Journal [see article]
Please support and promote The National Food Security Act, which is needed to protect the affordability and long term survivability of the human food supply.
See Lawrence-Berkeley Laboratory scientist David Fridley's video, Biofuel & Ethanol: The Real Story.
NEWS! See Germany's Green Energy Disaster.
Economist Michael J. Trebilcock studied wind power and found that Wind power is a complete disaster. He points out that the United States Government subsidizes wind power at a rate of $23.34 per MWh compared to just $.25 for natural gas, $.44 for coal, $.67 for hydroelectric power, and $1.59 for nuclear power (2008 EIA statistics). Trebilcock discovered that Denmark has over 6,000 wind turbines that supplement its energy grid, but has not been able to close even a single fossil fuel power plant as a result, because extra fossil energy is needed when the wind stops blowing. In 2006 carbon dioxide emissions in Denmark rose by a whopping 36%, showing that large scale wind power projects do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in real-world situations. Because of wind power, Denmark now has the highest electricity rates in Europe. A study of Spain's energy program found that for every job created by state funded wind power schemes, 2.2 jobs were lost due to higher energy costs, and each new wind power job cost almost $2,000,000. in government subsidies. To meet 100% of United States electricity demand with wind power would require impossible weather conditions and a wind farm covering an area larger than Texas and Louisiana combined.
Because of their extremely low power to weight ratio, windmills require the use of huge amounts of steel and other materials in their construction. Wind turbines are being sold to the public as a carbon neutral product, but manufacturing windmill components is not a carbon neutral process. Windmills are mainly made from power generated by burning coal and other fossil fuels. Because of the enormous amount of resources required for windmill construction, and their intermittent and unreliable performance, windmills will not reduce CO2 emissions. Building wind turbine farms covering vast areas of land will kill large numbers of birds and bats, and torture animals and humans living nearby with audible sounds as well as infrasound. Infrasounds are very low frequencies below 20Hz that travel long distances and can cause headaches, insomnia, and other serious negative health effects.
NEWS! T. Boone Pickens says "I've lost my ass in wind power." - "The jobs are in the oil and gas industry" - Pickens went on to say that "He (Obama) needs to explain to his people, ‘Hey, we can get on everything green. We can get on everything renewable. Then the cost of power will go up ten times.' So be careful when you start fooling with it.” According to "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL," "The states with (wind power/renewable energy) mandates paid 31.9% more for electricity than states without them.”
1) You don't get any solar energy at night; you get less on cloudy days, less in the morning, and less in the late afternoon. That makes large scale solar power schemes horribly inefficient no matter how high we can pump up the theoretical peak output of solar panels. The cost of energy storage systems, batteries and other complex systems on top of high panel costs makes solar impossibly expensive for large scale use. We need synthetic liquid fuels to run farm equipment, cars, trucks, ships, airplanes, etc., and to make synthetic fertilizers. We can manufacture these fuels with solar power, but at many times the cost of using new, low cost nuclear power technology or natural gas. You have to run synthetic fuel plants 24 hours a day to be economically viable. If you must use fossil fuel or nuclear energy backup power at night to keep a synthetic fuel plant running, then why bother to have solar power at all? Duplication of energy resources is a needless expense. Any power plant must output power 24-7 to be economically valuable for large scale use.
2) Solar power advocates have suggested that we could satisfy 69% of United States electricity needs for the year 2050 by covering 34,000 square miles of our Southwestern desert with solar panels. The project would require building long transmission lines and storing excess daytime energy overnight as compressed gas. The cost per kilowatt hour would be orbital, not just stratospheric, and necessitate massive government subsidies. When used for large scale energy production, solar power schemes have an extremely large ecological footprint. [See story in Scientific American]
3) Solar panels will always be exposed to the weather, and their lifespan is short, about 25 years. Unlike other power systems, solar panels cannot be repaired and upgraded to extend their usefulness beyond their very limited lifespan. This fact dramatically increases their cost per kilowatt hour compared to other more affordable alternatives. Who will guard solar panel installations covering millions of acres? Solar panel theft is a big problem in California right now. Giant solar ovens using mirrors are less likely to be targets of theft and are less expensive on a BTU/watts collected basis, but the land area required to produce significant amounts of energy makes them a bad joke. Solar power is great for running pocket calculators, remote vacation cabins, and other small scale HIGH COST per watt uses, but solar power is inherently the wrong choice for large scale power grid use.
4) As William Tucker points out in Food Riots Made in the USA, solar power is an extraterrestrial nuclear power system where the nuclear reactor is located 93 million miles away from us in outer space,...the sun. We need terrestrial nuclear reactors right here on earth so we can affordably capture their HIGHLY CONCENTRATED energy without taking up huge amounts of land space. Our extraterrestrial nuclear power source is great for growing crops, but its output is far too diffuse and intermittent for practical large scale electricity production.
Other energy sources
To lower energy costs in the short term, the United States should tap its large oil and natural gas deposits in the Alaska ANWR oil reserve. We should open up ANWR's entire 19.6 million acres to oil and gas exploration, because drilling on dry land is extremely safe and has none of the major ecological risks associated with drilling for oil at the bottom of oceans. The Bakken Oil Formation holds billions of barrels of recoverable oil which we can use without driving up the cost of food.
Traditional hydroelectric power plants are useful for large scale energy production because they turn the concentrated kinetic energy of moving water into huge amounts of reliable, continuous electricity. The amazing Hoover Dam, which spans the Colorado River, has an average annual net electricity generation of 4.2 billion kilowatt hours, which is produced at a cost of about .03 cents per kilowatt hour. Opportunities to build new hydroelectric projects, such as the Auburn Dam in California, should not be overlooked.
NEWS! Please see the thoughtful 44 minute long documentary film, Global Warming: Doomsday Called Off, now on YouTube. Also see the shocking news story, World's top climate scientists told to 'cover up' the fact that the Earth's temperature hasn't risen for the last 15 years. My own views on Climate Change theory are contained in the essay, Moderating Climate Change Hysteria.
The appeal of solar, wind, wave energy, and biofuels is largely about poetry and symbolism, sending a love letter to mother nature saying that we care. Poetry is fine, but we need huge amounts of energy to support the earth's approximately 7.3 billion human inhabitants, and billions will starve to death if governments try to use poetically correct energy sources as a replacement for fossil fuels. It takes so much energy to plant, fertilize, harvest, process, and transport crops that any increase in the cost of energy will always result in increased food prices. We cannot eat symbolism and good intentions.
Please support and promote The National Food Security Act, which is needed to protect the affordability and long term survivability of the human food supply.
Christopher Calder email = archive100 AT inbox DOT com