Ecology And Environment

Alternative Fuels

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One thing no-one seems to be covering are the negatives associated with alternative energy/fuel sources. Have you checked lately how much it costs us in energy to produce a kilowatt of energy by alternative fuels?

Ethanol/methanol, biodiesel: Think about this next time you say "hell yeah!" to adding ethanol to petrol - the base oil or plant matter has to come from something, and that something is usually plants. Bzzt! Those plants have to be placed in ploughed ground, i.e. ploughed by a tractor. There goes one lot of fuel, strike one.

Then you need to water them. Bzzt! Water is being used, strike two, and water has to be pumped using some form of energy, strike three.

Oh yeah since large crops of identical plants attract large colonies of parasites that take advantage of the concentrated food source, and to get rid of them you use pesticides. Bzzt! Make pesticides using rather a lot of energy. Strike four.

We haven't even gotten around to harvesting (Bzzt! Strike five!) and cartage to the factory (Bzzt!) and then the actual processing. (Which usually involves almost as much energy as the first six strikes combined.)

So with any fuel it's important to check ALL the way around, because there's no point if you're just shifting the pollution burden to the machines used to process the fuel.

I'm not advocating fossil fuels, not at all. However, I do advocate looking very carefully at every stage of the production of any alternative fuel or energy source. More in a forthcoming article.

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