Slashdot: new oil substitute


Slashdot reports: “According to The Times Online, genetically modified microbes have been developed capable of turning surplus material such as wood chips, sugarcane, or others, not into ethanol, but into a substance which could substitute directly for crude oil. They claim it could be sold for about $50/bbl, and the production process would be carbon negative.”
(See discussion on Slashdot)

Yes, all these substitutes are coming along but my SERVICE checklist still stands. If wood chips and sugarcane and other biomass feedstocks are cooked up into fuel, is there any leftover pulp to act as fertiliser? All biomass schemes give me great cause for concern because they create a demand either on our food supply via displacing crops for food, or they could be the death of what forests remain. Basically, as David Attenborough said last night on “Elders” with Andrew Denton, we’ve taken the best farmland and built cities all over them. (Or as I keep saying, “Paved over, ploughed up and polluted the planet”.) So just where is all this biomass going to come from? What’s going to fertilise it? What volumes are sustainable? What do we do when we’ve exhausted the extractable reserves of Phosphorus and Potassium?

I’m not against ANY biofuels, and am actively supporting the Biochar movement which makes some fuel in an apparently sustainable synthesis between farming and energy production. I am just urging caution that we ask the hard questions before jumping up and down with excitement over some biofuel scheme.


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