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13 responses to “Climate clippings 79”

  1. John D

    In effect, the biofuel quotas imposed in the US, EU and elsewhere are contributing to starvation and damage to the environment in parts of the world. The biofuel quotas should be replaced by quotas for renewable, low impact fuels, including renewable low impact fuels that are not biofuels
    High impact biofuels such as those produced from grain and palm oil should be banned.

  2. Graham Bell


    Thanks for the Food Plan links …. a lot to digest there.

    Glad to see that some primary producers have done a 180-degree switch from their haughty neglect of Asian markets until only a few years ago …. too late …. the customers have already bought up some of the best farms ….

    John D

    Thanks for the link to your blog. Stick-in-the-mud economists and money-shufflers will whinge about the cost of renewable methanol-based fuel but the cost of not using this technology and of not developing it further is a heck of a lot higher. Besides, the Icelanders are not making this fuel for the Dutch out of charity.

  3. Helen

    High impact biofuels such as those produced from grain and palm oil

    Very concerned about the threat of biofuels produced from old-growth woodchip, which must gain some kind of award as the Worst Idea of All Time. Although I’m very sad to see Rod Oakeshott go, his support for this terrible idea was a real worry.

    The saving grace for SE Australia’s old growth forest was the collapse in the export price for woodchips for paper. Now that someone’s had the bright idea of burning them for energy, we’ll be trapped in the same old routine of the forest industries lying to us about “using the waste” where in fact the industry is woodchip driven.

  4. John D

    Helen: Yep, woodchips are another one unless they really are bio-waste. Ditto other bright ideas that either divert food producing land, divert bio-waste that is needed to maintain soil quality or fuels that depend on trashing natural vegetation from marginal land.
    Brian: VW is putting out a car next year that consumes less than one litre/100 km. The owner of one of these cars would have to pay over $15/litre before the fuel bill would reach that of someone currently driving a n10 litre/100km car.

    Having said that the current methanol price (about 40% the price of diesel in the EU) and
    ammonia price are competive or close to close to competitve with fossil fuels after allowing for the lower energy density of ammonia and methanol compared to diesel. These are prices for dirty ammonia and methanol produced using hydrogen from natural gas. Countries with cheap, clean hydro power have/are producing renewable ammonia and methanol using renewable hydrogen from electrolysis.

  5. Helen

    Ew, can’t wait to be stopped at the lights on my bike behind an ammonia-burning vehicle.

  6. BilB

    “High impact biofuels such as those produced from grain and palm oil should be banned”

    This is an over reaction, John. If starvation is being caused by land reassignment to fuels production then this is a political issue and usually related to extreme corruption by government officials (our example obeid being our example) and not a fault of the fuels, particularly palm oil. Robert Rapier has given a qualified thumbs up for palm oil, and that is not easy to get from him.

    Palm oil is a valuable contribution to the incomes of small mixed crop producers who plant out a portion of their land with these low maintenance trees for both shade and a marketable crop with a stable return.

    Palm trees in Arnheim land grow amoungst gum trees and other vegetation already. Palm oil production does not demand land clearing and monocrop production techniques. It is a very suitable cash crop for that part of the Australia which would of necessity have to be compatible with Aboriginal culture, as it is very much their land.

  7. wilful

    Woodchip fuelled electricity is only ever going to be a niche application, relevant in Orbost and maybe Eden, nowhere else. The transport costs are far too high. Pretty much the same deal for crop residues. Maybe, just maybe, some crops specially grown for their calorific value to feed custom burners would make sense, where the grid requires a boost/backup, in distant regional areas, but mostly no, it’s not going to fly. Conversion to transport fuels would require effective lignin digestion, a technique that has been theoretically good for a long time, but has proven very hard to commercialise. Also of course, soil depletion is a real (though potentially manageable) issue.

    As for palm oil, it is possible to have sustainable production, though that isn’t the route that most producing countries have gone (quelle surprise). It will certainly have a role in future energy production.

    I just read an interesting article about sea level rises and Miami, Florida: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620

  8. John D

    Helen: The combustion products of ammonia are water and nitrogen. One of the reason’s for being interested in using liquid ammonia. It can also be used in fuel cells either directly or as a source of hydrogen.
    Palm oil: Its production uses up land that could be used for fuel production or remain as part of the wild environment. I don’t see it as part of the solution for a world moving towards 9 billion people with a growing middle class. We also need to be looking for transportable fuel options to cover long distance air and sea travel as well as travel in places like our outback where more direct use of clean power is not going to be very practical.
    Brian: May be the next climate clippings could deal with Obama’s climate action plan There is a lot of good stuff there – most of which I haven’t read yet.

    [Redacted by request – Brian]

  9. Graham Bell

    Palm Oil got a very bad name because of the bulldozer-&-plantation method of producing it in some places. However, it is still a terrific crop in a non-destructive, village system. Permaculture, anyone?

    Timber-mill offcuts would make a good local raw-material for locally produced and used fuel so long as there are by-products/waste-products that can be put back in the local environment. A niche raw-material? Yes but if it works and does minimal harm, why not? Of course, you could simply tell the authorities to take a running jump and just use mill offcuts as solid fuel in vehicles converted to 21st century steam engines; steam technology has come a very long way since the Stanley Steamer and its kind.

  10. John D

    Brian: Would be good if you removed the last part of what I said at 8. Not sure how it got there.

    John D

  11. John D

    Bilb @6: Ban might be a bit too strong but high impact fuels should be phased out. Clean fuel quotas should be changed to include renewable, low impact fuels whether bio or not and exclude high impact fuels also bio or not.
    Not sure how to handle fuels that are made using not so clean power. My feeling at the moment is that we put most of our short term effort effort into cleaning electricity and rejig clean fuel quotas down to the point where we have the capacity to satisfy the demand without high impact renewables.
    It is the EU and US bio-fuel quotas in particular that are driving the damage at the moment. Corruption and unfair land ownership is merely responding to the quotas.

  12. Graham Bell

    Perhaps too much effort has been put into thinking about the Supply side of electricity and fuel but not enough into the Demand side. (I won’t be the first to have thought of that).

    Think of the drop in demand in such small matter as the changes from valve radios to transistor ones, from cathode ray tube TVs to LED flat screen ones, from tungsten-filament lightglobes to mini-fluorescent ones . Not huge amounts of electricity saved per individual household but such savings accumulated over the whole system. Of course, whatever was saved was soon blown again in other power-wasting toys-&-trinkets …. but don’t forget that the use of electricity was reduced, not increased, by a small amount with these three changes alone: there are possibilities of greater improvements if we set our minds to the tasks.

    It’s the way to go.