ANO konference Indonēzijā, problēmas, kas saistītas ar bioetanola ražošanu

"The United Nations Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia, wrapped up on December 14. During the conference, debate intensified over whether to include in any climate change agreement greenhouse gas emission targets for developed countries. While most alternative sources of energy are not economically viable at this point, environmentalists and policymakers are hopeful for technological breakthroughs that would provide a cost-effective, plentiful source of energy that protects biodiversity.
Like many experts and economists, conference participants showed little enthusiasm for first-generation biofuels produced from agriculture--primarily from corn-based ethanol. Biofuels are hitting consumers at the pump, at the grocery store, and even at tax time. Without a doubt, the extremely high cost of biofuel production outweighs its supposed environmental benefits; biofuel production may actually harm the environment more than it helps.
Unfortunately, Washington has yet to get the message. The Senate energy bill includes a mandate to increase the nation's ethanol supply. The House will soon have a chance to avoid that mistake when it returns to working on its version of the bill. Mandates for both first-generation and second-generation biofuels would come at a steep price and would not solve the nation's long-term energy and transportation problems. Congress should remove biofuel mandates from the energy bill and let the market discover the best energy solutions.
First-Generation Biofuels
The 2005 energy bill mandated that 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel be included in the gasoline supply in 2006; the mandate is set to increase to 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 and 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. A proposal in the latest energy bill would increase the mandate to 36 billion gallons by 2022. As a result of the ethanol mandate, production increased to 5 billion gallons in 2006--up 1 billion gallons from the year before--and is expected to top 10 billion gallons by 2009.
Congress and the Administration are overlooking the following problems with ethanol:
  • High Food Costs. Despite the increased production, the corn producers are directing their supply of corn away from other industries, particularly food. At the supermarket, consumers have noticed skyrocketing prices for beef, poultry, and dairy products. Prices have also increased for soda and many other products containing corn syrup. As a result of the mandate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that the upward pressure on the food prices will continue for years to come. The current proposal to expand the ethanol mandate would severely exacerbate this problem.
  • Dubious Effects on the Environment. The claim that ethanol production is good for the environment is misleading for a number of reasons. First, transporting ethanol is costlier and requires more energy than transporting other fuels. Ethanol must be transported by petroleum-using trucks, barges, and railroads, because any moisture in the pipelines will contaminate the ethanol and make it virtually useless. Second, planting corn requires farmers to use a number of pesticides and fertilizers that harm the environment. 1995 Nobel Laureate P.J. Crutzen concluded that the nitrous oxide emitted from biofuel production contributes as much or more to global warming than the cooling caused by fossil fuel reduction. Third, the proposed mandate would lead to greatly expanded ethanol production; consequently, more acreage would be shifted to corn--either by clearing forestland or by converting farmland previously used to grow products like soybeans or wheat. The first option would damage the environment through deforestation; the second would push food prices even higher.
  • Problems Noted by the Bali Climate Conference. The costly effects of biofuel mandates are resonating not only with consumers but also professionals in positions to influence policy. One survey presented at the Bali conference polled 1,000 respondents from 105 countries. When respondents were asked to rate the energy technologies in terms of their potential to reduce carbon levels over the subsequent 25 years, first-generation biofuels from agricultural crops finished dead last out of 19 possible choices.[6] First-generation biofuels have been disparaged even in Bali, yet Washington continues to propose higher mandates that would be detrimental to consumers and the environment.
A Second Look at Second-Generation Biofuels
Knowing that first-generation fuels are losing credibility as an efficient energy solution, advocates of biofuels are beginning to consider second-generation biofuels. Second-generation biofuels constitute fuel generated from forest and field waste, switchgrass, crop residues, and cellulosic biomass. Interestingly, second-generation biofuels were ranked seventh by respondents to the aforementioned survey.
Second-generation biofuels are far from a proven technology. Doubts abound concerning whether that they can meet energy demands and protect the environment. Foisting a new mandate before infrastructure or technology is adequately developed is misguided.
In fact, the next generation of biofuels may be as environmentally damaging as the first. A Competitive Enterprise Institute study released in June 2007 reported that no manufacturing plants exist that are capable of producing mass amounts of cellulosic ethanol. Plants can only produce enough for demonstration purposes. Additionally, distinguished agriculturalists are reluctant to endorse second-generation biofuels because of the adverse ecological effects. They claim that only a portion of crop residue can be removed from fields to produce cellulosic ethanol, because that residue is imperative to recycling organic matter, retaining moisture, and preventing soil erosion on farms. Furthermore, according to an Iowa State study, switchgrass will not have the ability to compete with corn for the production of ethanol.[8] It does not bode well for the industry that the only way for corn-produced ethanol to be competitive is through preferential treatment from Washington.
Still in its infancy, the production of second-generation biofuels remains a tentative bet. Congress should not make the same mistake it made with first-generation biofuels by hastily subsidizing the industry through mandates and other government preferences without fully measuring the costs and benefits. If biofuels are to succeed as a competitive fuel source, congressional legislation should not be necessary to mandate its production. Moreover, Congress should not force specific technologies on Americans, especially if they are unproven technologies. Instead, Congress should unleash the power of free enterprise, letting researchers and the markets discover the best new viable alternatives. Federal mandates limit choices and hinder free enterprise from finding the most efficient, cost-effective solution. The high costs of ill-conceived energy plans will simply be passed on to the consumers.
Given the past problems with the ethanol mandate and its harmful economic and environmental effects, Congress should take a cue from the Climate Change Conference in Bali and abandon its quest to expand the mandate for first-generation biofuels. Moreover, it should take a serious look at second-generation biofuels before rushing to legislate. Biofuels are hitting consumers' wallets at both the pump and the supermarket; an expansion would undoubtedly exacerbate this problem. Before impetuously rushing to mandate any biofuels, including for the next generation, Congress and the public should completely understand the costs and benefits of such a path.


Džordžijas štatā, ASV, ielikti pamati koksnes celulozes bioetanola rūpnīcai

"Broomfield, Colo.-based Range Fuels established itself as a pioneer in cellulosic ethanol production when the company broke ground on the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Treutlen County near Soperton, Ga., in early November.
Approximately 700 people attended the groundbreaking at the site of the future cellulosic facility. The event featured federal, state, city and county dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, state Sen. Jack Hill, former state Sen. Hugh Gillis and Range Fuels CEO Mitch Mandich. “There was just a tremendous spirit there,” Mandich said. “When you get state and federal support at those levels, in addition to local representation, it was a very meaningful event.”
The new plant will use wood and wood residue from Georgia’s pine forests and mills as its feedstock. Once fully operational, the facility will have a maximum capacity of 100 MMgy. As part of its $76 million Technology Investment Agreement with the U.S. DOE, Range Fuels will receive $50 million for the construction of the first 20 MMgy. The remainder of the grant will go toward construction of the next phase of the project. Construction of the first phase is expected to be complete by late 2008, according to Mandich.
The Soperton facility has been permitted as a minor source of emissions. Its proximity to both wood supplies and ethanol markets will minimize energy expended in supplying the facility with feedstock and providing ethanol to consumer markets, further demonstrating the low-impact, environmentally friendly nature of Range Fuels’ technology. “The state of Georgia has provided us with an excellent opportunity to locate our first plant using its abundant, renewable forest resources as feedstock,” Mandich said. “Our technology transforms the wood and wood waste from Georgia’s millions of acres of woodlands into ethanol, a key source of transportation fuel.”"

Par biodegvielu un tās standartizācijas nepieciešamību, šoreiz no Arkanzasas štata, ASV

"Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was signed into law Wednesday, increased the volume of renewable fuels that must be sold annually in the United States to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
For the first time, the socalled “renewable fuels standard” carves out a minimum usage requirement for biodiesel starting in 2009.
“The creation of a specific renewable requirement in the nation’s 60-billion-gallon pool of diesel fuel has been a top priority for the U. S. biodiesel industry,” said Larry Schafer, a Washington-based senior adviser with the National Biodiesel Board.
Previously, only ethanol production had been mandated — in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The new standards call for ethanol production to reach 15 billion gallons by 2015.
The fastest-growing renewable fuel will be cellulosic biofuels — fuels manufactured from a variety of organic materials such as logging debris, agricultural residues and dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass. The new mandate starts with a modest 100 million-gallon requirement in 2010, increasing to 16 billion gallons by 2022.
Cellulosic fuels have been touted as preferable to both ethanol and biodiesel because adequate supplies of raw materials or feedstock exist and are widely dispersed throughout the country. Cellulosic feedstock production also is viewed as environmentally friendly given its net energy balance, energy produced compared to energy consumed.
There is a catch, though. To date, no commercially viable method of making fuel from cellulosic biomass has been proven.
“Clearly the cellulosic biofuels represent a near-term opportunity that is really enormous,” especially for a biomass-rich state such as Arkansas, said Jim Wimberly, president of Fayetteville-based BioEnergy Systems LLC, a bioenergy consulting firm.
“We have lots of forest resources, which is an important feedstock, and we have outstanding land resources in the Delta, some of which eventually could be used for cellulosic biofuels production,” Wimberly said. “We need to take the necessary steps right now to get ready to capitalize on this opportunity.” Wimberly is optimistic the technological hurdles can be overcome.
“I think there’s enough evidence out there to give people confidence that the cellulosic conversion technologies will materialize,” he said.
Potlatch Corp., however, has retreated from its plan to build a first-of-its-kind biorefinery at the company’s Cypress Bend pulp and paperboard mill in Desha County. The company decided not to apply for federal grant money to help finance the project and then had difficulty finding investors and technical partners.
On Feb. 28, the Department of Energy said $ 385 million would be awarded to six biorefinery projects designed to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. Those projects include: Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas LLC, $ 76 million; ALICO Inc., LaBelle, Fla., $ 33 million; BlueFire Ethanol Inc., Irvine, Calif., $ 40 million; Broin Cos., Emmetsburg, Iowa, $ 80 million; Iogen Biorefinery Partners LLC, Shelley, Idaho, $ 80 million; and Range Fuels, Soperton, Ga., $ 76 million.
Currently, the only biofuel being produced in Arkansas is biodiesel. FutureFuel Chemical Co. near Batesville can produce up to 24 million gallons of biodiesel annually and Patriot BioFuels Inc. in Stuttgart can produce 3 million gallons.
The plants use soybeans — one of the state’s leading crops — for the majority of their production. Soybeans also are the leading source nationally for biodiesel.
The 2007 output by the two Arkansas companies, however, will be far below their production capacities because of the high cost of soybean oil.
The entire U. S. biodiesel industry is expected to produce approximately 400 million gallons of fuel in 2007. The new biodiesel mandate will increase the domestic use of biodiesel from 500 million gallons in 2009 to 1 billion gallons in 2012.
Beyond 2012, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the secretary of the Department of Energy will determine the exact breakdown between biomass-based diesel and all other so-called “advanced biofuels,” which are neither corn-based ethanol nor cellulosic biofuel, said Schafer, the National Biodiesel Board adviser.
The new 310-page energy act was shorn of all proposed tax policy regarding biofuels before it was finalized. A $ 21 billion package that included tax incentives for such renewable energy sources as wind energy and biodiesel production was dropped to gain support necessary for passage in Congress, Schafer said.
“We’re going to have to go find another way to get that done,” he said. “It’s going to take a big bipartisan approach.” Schafer said the biodiesel industry will continue to pursue the extension of the federal biodiesel tax incentive: a $ 1 excise tax credit for every gallon of pure biodiesel (known as B 100 ) that is produced from virgin feedstock and then blended with petroleum-diesel fuel."


Cik nozīmīga ir atjaunojamā enerģija, skats no Indijas

"Renewable Energy is energy derived from resources that are regenerative or for all practical purposes non-depleting beside environmentally benign. By these qualities, renewable energy sources are fundamentally different from fossil fuels.
Mankind’s traditional uses of wind, water, and solar energy are widespread in developed and developing countries; but the mass production of energy using renewable energy sources has become more commonplace recently, reflecting the major threats of climate change, depletion of fossil fuels, and the environmental, social and political risks of fossil fuels.
Consequently, many countries promote renewable energies through tax incentives and subsidies. The role of new and renewable energy has been assuming increasing significance in recent times with the growing concern for the country’s energy security.
During the last two and half decades there had been a vigorous pursuit of activities relating to the development, trial and induction of a variety of renewable energy technologies for use in different sectors.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been facilitating the implementation of broad-spectrum programmes covering more or less the entire range of new and renewable energy.
These programmes broadly seek to supplement conventional fossil-fuel-based power through harnessing wind, small hydro and bio power; reach renewable energy to remote rural areas for lighting, cooking and motive power; use renewable energy in urban, industrial and commercial applications; and develop alternate fuels and applications for stationary, portable and transport uses apart from supporting research, design and development of new and renewable energy technologies, products and services.
Commercialization of the renewable energy technologies started in 1993. The States were pursued to offer suitable sites and announce policies for private sector participation. Grid interactive renewable power projects are essentially private investment driven and almost all the renewable power capacity addition is coming through this route.
Eventually, since renewable power would need to compete with conventional electricity, the challenge is to align it in terms of reliability, quality and cost. Accordingly, the focus is towards reducing the capital cost of projects and increasing their capacity factors, with the eventual aim of reducing the unit cost of renewable power generation.
Wind Power
The Wind power programme in India was initiated towards the end of the Sixth Plan, in 1983-84. A market-oriented strategy was adopted from inception, which has led to the successful commercial development of the programme. The fiscal incentives that were already available have also played an important role in commercial development. The total installed capacity in India comprises of commercial projects and demonstration projects aggregating to about 7300 MW. In 2005, the country became the 4th largest producer of wind power in the world.
Solar Energy
The sun is an inexhaustible source of energy to mankind. India is ideally located for utilization of the radiant energy of the sun. The country receives solar energy in most of its parts and throughout the year except rainy days. The daily average incident energy varying between 4 and 7 KWh per sq.m. depending on the location. Solar energy can be used through thermal as well as photovoltaic routes. Solar energy utilization in India has been growing steadily over the last two and half decades. A wide variety of technologies have been developed.
The Ministry is implementing a wide range of programmes to make these systems and devices available to the common man. As a result, over one million solar PV lighting systems, solar water heating systems equivalent to a collector area of around 2 million square metres, 7000 solar pumps, 600 000 solar cookers stand installed in the country. These contribute to saving huge quantity of conventional electricity daily in the country.
Hydro Power
Hydro power is perhaps the oldest renewable energy technique known to mankind for mechanical energy version as well as electricity generation. India is amongst the countries including China where water wheels were first developed. India has a century old history of hydro power and the beginning was from small hydro.
In India, hydro projects up to 25 MW station capacity have been categorized as Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects. India has an estimated potential of about 15 000 MW with perennial flow rivers, streams, and a large irrigation canal network. Mapping of potential sites/locations on a GIS platform is receiving utmost attention.
Biomass has been one of the main energy sources for the mankind ever since the dawn of civilization, every year million tons of agriculture and forest residues are generated. These are either wasted or burnt inefficiently in their loose form causing air pollution. These wastes can provide a renewable source of energy. The sugar industry has traditionally used bagasse-based cogeneration for achieving self-sufficiency in steam and electricity as well as economy in operations.
Therefore, the Ministry has been promoting new technologies for sugar mills to operate at higher levels of energy efficiency and generate more electricity than what they require though bagasse based cogeneration projects. The Ministry is also giving a thrust to Biomass Gasifiers. A large number of installations for providing power to small-scale industries and for electrification of a village or group of villages have been undertaken as also oil replacement initiatives through thermal applications.
The Remote Village Electrification Programme has been aligned with Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana and would now be extended only to those villages/hamlets not likely to receive grid-connectivity under the said Yojana. During 2006-07, the Rural Electrification Policy, which has laid down the broad framework for rural electrification in the country, was notified.
Accordingly, provision of SPV home-lighting systems under RVEP is required to be treated as an interim solution. Supply of electricity is being made in far-flung villages through solar, biomass gasifier and small hydro power. About 2240 remote villages have been provided with electricity through renewable energy under the programme. The Ministry has also taken up Village Energy Security Test Projects which aim at meeting energy requirements of cooking, lighting and motive power and are being undertaken in remote villages and hamlets that are not likely to receive grid connectivity.
The most important and popular technology developed indigenously is the “biogas plant” for processing of cattle dung. It serves the purpose of meeting fuel as well as the manure requirement from the same quantity of cattle dung available in the rural households and institutions. Five models of biogas plants have been developed under the National Programme of Biogas Development. India’s position in the biogas development is number two in the world.
Constant efforts are being made for the development of research in new and renewable energy sources such as hydrogen energy, fuel cell, geothermal energy, ocean, tidal energy, synthetic fuel and bio-fuel. The National Hydrogen Energy Board has approved and decided to implement the hydrogen energy road map in the 11th Five Year Plan."


Par biodegvielu ražošanas veicināšanas pasākumiem Masačūsetas štatā, ASV

"Could Massachusetts become the nation's 21st century version of Texas when it comes to energy production?
It could if legislative leaders, venture capitalists and researchers have their way. But instead of black crude, the state's energy wealth may be hidden in wood chips, cranberry bogs and yard waste.
The state's efforts are part of a national competition to lead the country in the biofuel market. Among the competitors are New York, California and, of course, Texas, along with current leaders Minnesota and Iowa.
According to the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, several local businesses are preparing to compete in this arena. Three biodiesel refineries are in the planning stages in Pittsfield, Greenfield, and Quincy. The refinery in Greenfield expects to produce about 5 million gallons of biodiesel a year, primarily from waste oil.
But there's more to the push for a state biofuel industry than simple economic competition. Massachusetts consumes about 4.5 billion gallons of petroleum per year, costing roughly $10 billion. That's the third highest energy price in the country, behind only Hawaii and Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Petroleum fuels are the largest single source of energy expenditures in the state, accounting for roughly half of total annual residential and commercial energy spending. Over one-third of homes in the state (36 percent) use home heating oil, well beyond the national average of 8 percent, according to the same report.
"In a world where Massachusetts is 100 percent dependent on petroleum, they (fuel companies) can in effect hold state consumers hostage to high oil prices. In essence, they can charge whatever they want," said Brook Coleman, spokesman for the Northeast Biofuels Collaborative.
"If your oil company says, 'You're going to pay $3.25 for oil,' what are you going to do? Are you going to buy a wood-burning stove? You're stuck," said Coleman.
Massachusetts may seem an unlikely producer of biofuels. It doesn't grow large crops of corn, sugar or oil seed used to make ethanol. But the U.S. Department of Energy says those crops comprise 37 percent of biomass used in the country while forest residues, primary and secondary mill waste along with urban wood-wastes from paper mills, saw cutting and cardboard account for 39 percent.
Scientists say wood chips, algae and cranberry biomass are readily available resources for biofuels in the state. According to Coleman, there is a tremendous amount of waste from the leaves and stems of cranberries along with acres of unused cropland.
Magdalena Bezanilla, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts, just received a $625,000 grant to make a biofuel a reality. Her research uses moss to search for genes that might make other plants such as switch grass grow better.
"Five to six years from now we might be able to discover the genes that alter genetic makeup that (makes biofuel feedstock) grow faster and bigger," said Bezanilla.
The advantage to crops such as switch grass is that less energy is required to break down the plants into ethanol.
"Right now corn seems to be the most high profile, but it actually takes a lot of energy input to convert corn into ethanol. [That's] not the best solution. Cellulosic ethanol doesn't require as much energy input to get out a good amount of ethanol," Bezanilla said.
Companies aren't waiting for a research breakthrough. Berkshire Biodiesel has plans to set up a $50 million biodiesel production facility in Pittsfield and Dalton, which is expected to produce 50 million gallons of biodiesel a year from virgin feedstocks such as soy, according to Robert Keough, spokesman for the state environment office.
"We certainly think it will be a significant boon to the agricultural industry here. We think this will bear additional crops that can be raised for fields, but also that agricultural wood will be used for biofuels as well," said Keough.
The state's three top politicians are taking steps to nurture these industries by supporting mandates that diesel and home fuel providers use alternative energy sources in their blends.
Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi support a bill requiring the use of biodiesel in all blends of transportation and heating fuels, starting at 2 percent biodiesel in 2010 and increasing to 5 percent in 2013.
If that legislation passes, Massachusetts would be the first state to require a minimum amount of bio-alternatives in all fuels. The bill would also provide a gas tax exemption for cellulosic ethanol.
According to sponsors of the bill, cellulosic ethanol could create 3,000 new jobs in Massachusetts and pour $320 million into the economy. BioEnergy International, Verenium, Mascoma, Agrivida, SunEthanol, and GreenFuel Technologies are some of the leading companies in the state racing to bring this next generation fuel source to the market.
The headquarters for World Energy, one of the largest biodiesel distributors in the country, can be found in Chelsea. Mass Biofuel, another major biodiesel supplier, is located in Dedham."


Arī Brazīlijā koksnes cena pieaug

"In the last few years, investments made by lumber companies in added value products have yielded noticeable results. In the first half of 2007, exports of solid wood products from the northern state of Para reached USD404 million against USD295 million in the same period in 2006, representing a 36% growth.
At the same time, however, the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade indicated the volume of exports grew only 13%, reaching 547,000 tons compared to 482,000 tons exported in 2006. According to the Wood Exporting Companies Association of the State of Para (AIMEX), companies managed to maintain production throughout 2007 due to log stocks from 2006 harvest. The sector was able to increase exports of higher value added products despite the low supply of raw materials.
Increasing exports of products such as doors, windows, flooring, decks, wood tools, wood hangers and other wooden crafts primarily led to the growth in exports from January to June of 2007. According to the Forest Institute of Para (IDEFLOR), it is mandatory to reduce waste from wood processing. In response, some companies have utilized wood residues in harvesting and industrialization processes by manufacturing wood briquettes destined for energy production as well as office objects and decorative furniture. However, sector representatives noted that the exports in the second half of 2007 and first half of 2008 may be jeopardized by the lack of raw materials, if sustainable forest management plans continue to be delayed."


Bioetanols no pārtikas augiem, vēl viens viedoklis

"The debate about bio-fuels is getting scientists, economists, motor car designers and even political wiseacres like the aging Fidel Castro, hot under the collar. It is easy to use one line of argument to show that bio-fuels are the salvation of the future and no more difficult, using a different logic, to cast ethanol as a hopeless loser. It all depends on whether you choose energy efficiency, potential impact on food supplies, environmental concerns, farm subsidies or energy security as the king-pin of your case. With oil prices within spitting distance of $100 per barrel even the layman needs to understand the trade off between these choices. The recent acrimony about land clearing in the Uva for sugarcane planting adds urgency and relevance to the debate. This article will have a shot at presenting the case from different perspectives.
Producing ethanol
The most important liquid bio-fuel useable as a substitute for petroleum is ethanol (ethyl alcohol) whose more felicitous tinkle is in a glass – on the rocks or with a chaser. For this hallowed purpose, however, it must be free of harmful chemical companions, and matured in wooden barrels, preferably for several years. The mass produced stuff is more suited to the internal combustion engine than the gut. Ethanol is made by the fermentation of sugars followed by distillation and dehydration; at above 96% concentration (meaning 4% water) it is a substitute for petrol. Usually it is mixed with ordinary petrol (ethanol is not suitable for blending with diesel) to form a blended fuel – Brazil mandates 23% ethanol in gasoline, the US prefers 10%, and some US states are legislating a minimum 10% ethanol content; many European countries including Sweden and Germany have similar rules in place.
The blend runs smoothly in an ordinary petrol engine, no technical problem, though miles per gallon will fall a bit. The stuff can also be used straight, that is unblended (E100) but then the engine compression ratio has to be increased – or to say it non-technically, the blended stuff can go straight into your tank but if you want to use E100 then the engine has to be adjusted. Thereafter it won’t be happy with just ordinary petrol unless you adjust it back each time you change fuel.
There are a huge number of potential feedstocks for ethanol production but three are of practical significance, sugarcane, corn (maize, corn-on-the-cob, iringu in Sinhala) and cellulose. Cellulose means just about any old vegetable fibre, tree branches and woodchips, but switchgrass and poplar are attractive fast growers. Cane sugar can be fermented as quickly as you can say rum, and is the best; corn is a starch which must be first coaxed into a sugar and then allowed to ferment, hence consuming more energy in production. Turning cellulose into ethanol requires even more effort and is not yet an industrial scale mature process.
The energy debate
If one expends 100 units of energy in making ethanol from corn, the product will give you back less than 100 or up to 135 units of energy, depending on which research paper you believe. This energy balance, as it is called, for example 1.35 according to the best estimates, is not large. The point however is, that the 100 units of processing energy expended doesn’t need to come from oil based sources; process by-products (dried sludge), coal or firewood can employed. Some studies claim that only 17% of the energy used in production need come from oil based fuels. In this case even if the energy balance is a mere 1:1, meaning you get back only as much energy in the ethanol as you expend in making it, there is still the advantage that you cut oil consumption by 83% and in effect run your buses and limousines on process by-products, coal and firewood.
There is a group of scientists who go so far as to argue that it takes more energy to make ethanol than the final energy returned when you consider not just the final processing but also fertilizer, agricultural machinery and so on. Two American scientists David Pimentel and Taduez Patzek have championed this ethanol debunking argument. They claim that the energy balance is just 0.59 for corn and hence corn based ethanol is a non-starter. Most other scientists and U.S. Government studies have concluded otherwise, they say an energy balance of about 1.35 is achievable even with corn as feedstock.
The case for Brazil, where ethanol is made from sugarcane, is much stronger. The energy balance is above 2.0 since the initial feedstock is already a sugar, not a starch. As with corn, the residual pulp can be used for the process heat - the residue from corn and cane can also be used for animal feedstock. Conversely, the case for cellulose is weaker, since the energy balance with current technology is less than one, and in any case the technology is not industrially mature. Bear in mind that if reducing oil reliance, to save foreign currency (Lanka), or for strategic reasons (USA), is the main concern, then it doesn’t matter if more energy is expended in production then returned in the final product provided the raw materials are local.
The relative economics of ethanol versus petrol varies from country to country, and is affected by weather patterns and the wild swings in oil price. In Brazil, ethanol production costs have fluctuated between 40% and 65% of petroleum price (for equal amounts of usable final energy) over the last 10 years. Elsewhere in the world, however, the price advantage is probably with petroleum.
One problem with conversion of agricultural feedstock to ethanol is scale. Even if all the corn in the US is turned into ethanol it will only yield 6 billion gallons per year, while the most optimistic future US cellulosic ethanol estimates envisage no more than 3 to 6 billion gallons per annum. Compare these numbers with current US gasoline consumption of about 150 billion gallons per annum.
Food or fuel
Castro went for Bush’s juggler for a different reason; his concern was about depriving billions of people of food, not energy balance economics. As someone said, just when everyone thought they were both dead, one physically the other politically, both sprang to life. The full report of his statement can be found on the web on Digital Granma International at (saite).
Surprisingly, Castro has evoked a chorus of support all the way from the Economist, Business Week and Foreign Affairs on the right, to scholarly and scientific writers, economists and the Marxist press.
The United States produces about 40% of the world’s corn and is the largest exporter - about 70% of world corn exports. If there is large scale conversion of corn to fuel, upsetting the global food trade, prices of all food will rise and shortages of staples will mean hunger for over one billion of the worlds poorest. Prices of all food will be pushed up because a shortage of corn will be reflected in price increases of all staples, wheat and rice included, and also because corn is a basic in many types of animal feed.
As Joel Wendland summarises (saite), Castro has strongly criticised the notion that people in developing countries should give up food production to put more fuel into automobile tanks in rich countries. Apart from food shortages Castro has pointed to serious water and land problems and warned against an ethanol dependant economy inextricably tied to rich country markets with little chance for diversification. Wendland says that he has even challenged one of Cuba's largest trading partners and closest friends, Brazil, for its growing role in ethanol production.
World food prices have escalated extraordinarily in nominal terms in 2007 – the IMF nominal food price index more than doubled in 2007 (real prices though are still only half their 1974 spike which also spiked Lanka’s coalition government!), and the nominal prices of wheat and corn are at an all time high. In the past prices shot up when there were shortages but not so this time though Australia has been hit by severe drought. Food prices are rising despite record global production of cereals! So what’s up?
One reason is a change of dietary habits, the second ethanol. The Chinese, Indians and indeed people elsewhere are getting richer and stuffing themselves with more meat and dairy products – it takes more than 8 lbs of grain to get a pound of beef into the curry pot, and about half as much for pork. The Chinese for example eat three times as much meat on average than they did pre Deng Xiao Ping. In the last two decades the world’s farmers have more than doubled the amount of cereal that they feed their animals. Human consumption of cereals has not increased much since 1980 despite population increase, but demand for meat has doubled in the developing world. The tragedy is that while many may be heaping their plates, about a third of the world’s population, the poorest city dwellers and landless rural people, go to the wall when food prices rise.
America now ties with Brazil as the world’s largest producer of ethanol, but the later uses sugarcane and does not take a plate of food away from the most hungry. The US on the other hand uses corn, and now uses more corn for making ethanol than it exports. What is worse is that American farmers and mega-companies are converting land used for growing other food crops to corn production to take advantage of huge government ethanol subsidies. Brazilian ethanol is greener (environmentally less damaging) and cheaper, but an import tariff of 54 US cents per gallon keeps it out – that is, the tariff effectively subsidises local ethanol. There are also a slew of direct subsidies to farmers. American agro-companies and big farmers are getting rich on obscene subsidies - corn, cotton, meat, and you name it. The resulting global price distortions are driving poor country farmers to the wall and led to the collapse of the WTO accords in the Doha Round.
The environmental argument
I have scoured the literature and ended up feeling that the environmental debate on ethanol is still inconclusive, so if you trust my judgement I suggest you too conclude that the jury is still out. The naysayers argue, rather convincingly, that the environmental benefit is limited since the amount of CO2 released during the production and use of ethanol is similar to that of gasoline. A blogger who uses the name Fray summarises the critical viewpoint briefly thus: "Bio-fuels will be an ecological disaster. If the price of crops increases, it will not be cattle farming land that will be used to produce these crops. Instead poor farmers will burn and chop down more forests to increase available land. In addition, much of the open land is unsuitable for large scale farming and using it will result in destruction of the top soil". In any case even if large amounts of forest land and pampas are given over to feedstock crops it will only make a small dent in meeting petroleum demand, so what’s the point of the environmental damage?
The pro-ethanol environmentalists put their case mostly in terms of the use of cellulose feedstock and the prospect of new technologies for this purpose emerging in the coming years. These include the use of microbes to extract fuel from straw and wood waste, ethanol from algae and the scatological joy of using good old excrement. I think we had better let the case rest at this before the odour of the debate gets fetid."


Raksts par enerģētikas politikas attīstības iespējām ES

"(Biopact) - In a twist of irony, if the European Parliament and environmentalists have things their way, they could be banning the bulk of biofuels produced in Europe and the US, slow the fight against climate change, promote fossil fuels that pump out more emissions, and force the Union to import all its biofuels from countries like Brazil, Congo or Mozambique. The entire 10 per cent target. These are some of the consequences of a campaign not thought out all that well.
The Parliament wants biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions minimally by 50 percent compared with fossil fuels. This means that a large number of 'first generation' fuels will not qualify as biofuels, even if they reduce emissions and help in the fight against climate change. The few that do, are cellulosic biofuels, which are not produced on a large scale yet, and fuels made from efficient tropical and subtropical crops. Almost none of the European or North American biofuels would meet the target.
Of course, almost all current biofuel production systems could greatly improve their GHG emissions reduction profile with relatively low-cost interventions. To cite just one example: if corn ethanol plants in the US were to use biomass co-generation instead of coal-based electricity or natural gas to power their production processes - as is done in Brazil's cane ethanol sector - they would slash off a significant bit of their emissions and the fuel would suddenly become considerably greener. Many other of these efficiency and low carbon interventions can be readily applied; energy prices need to increase just a bit to make them commercially feasible.
Over the longer term, some biofuels - like biohydrogen - can even become carbon negative by coupling their production to carbon capture and storage (CCS). In that case, they would be taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. They would not merely be reducing emissions by 100%. They would go beyond that, yield 'negative emissions' and become the most radical tool in the fight against climate change. No other form of renewable energy - wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, hydro - can never achieve this. These energy sources remain perpetually carbon neutral.
But let's not take these exciting future prospects into account - some impatient and shortsighted environmentalists refuse to look beyond today, so let us do the same, for the sake of this exercise. Let's stick to biofuels as they are currently produced, and to the legitimate critiques leveled against them.
Absurd consequences
In that case, the EP's high and arbitrary goal could have some very strange consequences that border on the absurd. The target would imply biofuels that reduce CO2 emissions by 49.9 per cent and thus contribute in a serious way to mitigating climate change, would be banned. Imagine a fuel that would be produced in a highly environmentally friendly manner (e.g. based on herbaceous crops that slow down erosion, restore soil health, reduce nitrogen runoff and enhance biodiversity), with the fuel cutting emissions almost in half. That would be a major feat and would obviously be promoted by any rational and environmentally conscious human being. Well, for the EP and some environmentalists, such a fuel wouldn't be good enough and it would be excluded.
More logical would be to demand that a biofuel reduces emissions - plain and simple. Even if the fuel reduces CO2 by only 5%, it would still help in the fight against climate change. And all help, no matter how small, is welcome, or so we are told in other contexts.
When a low target is set - say 5%, that is, the fuel still combats climate change - a very wide range of fuels would be allowed on the market, and a flourishing biofuels industry would emerge, with many vehicles utilizing it - all contributing their bit to fighting global warming. But the EP chooses another logic: only to allow a very small number of fuels that reduce emissions radically. It is not clear which of the two strategies is the smartest, but chances are that with the EP's proposal, the EU will not see the development of a biofuels industry at all for the coming two decades, and would thus be forced to keep utilizing only fossil fuels. That would be a disastrous and absurd consequence of this high target, demanded by people who call themselves green.
This is why the European Commission is likely to propose a more rational emissions goal for biofuels - in the order of a reduction of 25 per cent. The graph shows which fuels would survive under both targets. Note that there are many different lifecycle analyses of biofuels, all coming to different conclusions with regard to the carbon balance. We took a study that is widely considered to be one of the most stringent and comprehensive ones: "A Life Cycle Assessment of Energy Products: Environmental Impact Assessment of Biofuels", authored by Rainer Zah, Heinz Böni, Marcel Gauch, Roland Hischier, Martin Lehmann, and Patrick Wäger, all working for the Technology and Society Lab of the Swiss Federal Institute for Materials Science and Technology, and published in September 2007. The graph breaks down the emissions released during each step in the production process, field-to-wheel.
European Parliament target: under the 50% reduction target allmost all conventional types of biodiesel and ethanol produced both in the EU and the US would be banned, except for cellulosic ethanol (from wood and grass) and ethanol made from sugarbeets. Corn ethanol as produced in the US, as well Europe's own grain and potato based alcohol would be banned. All types of biodiesel would fail to qualify, except for biodiesel made from palm oil when processing residues are used for the production of energy as is done in Brazil with bagasse. The other exception is methyl ester obtained from waste cooking oil. Europe's very own large rapeseed-based biodiesel industry would have to be closed down.
For biogas, the EP target would have some bizarre consequences: methane recovered from organic waste would not qualify as a biofuel for transport, even though it has lower emissions than natural gas, which is already a relatively low carbon fuel. Likewise, methane captured from sewage sludge and used for transport energy would not qualify. Only methane from wood (bio-SNG) and biogas made from manure in highly optimised systems, or from manure with an efficient energy crop co-substrate would be retained. The emerging biogas sector based on abundant, ordinary grass crops would not be allowed to sell its gas as a transport biofuel because it reduces emissions only by up to 30% compared with natural gas. 30% is not 50%.
Ironically, contrary to fuels grown in temperate climes, biofuels made in subtropical and tropical countries will definitely qualify as biofuels - at least on the emissions front. For the alcohol fuels, these are: ethanol from sweet sorghum and sugarcane; for biodiesel, certain types of palm oil fuel but only when the residual biomass is used for the production of energy and when the crop is grown in Africa or Latin America on non-forest land. Perhaps jatropha based biodiesel would make it for emissions, but harvesting the seeds of this shrub is not likely to be mechanised anywhere soon and is in fact so labor intensive that it would probably not meet the social sustainability criteria that will be included in the revised directive - jatropha requires slave-like cheap labor.
European Commission target - likely to be a 25% CO2 reduction: under this more rational goal, a wider group of biofuels that reduce emissions would be allowed onto the market as green fuels.Amongst the biodiesel crops, rapeseed would be back in business, but only under certain production schemes and in certain places. Palm oil would be in, as would U.S. soybean based diesel. Soy from Brazil results in emissions that are always too high, because the crop is grown on forest land.
Under the 25% target, ethanol would come from a wide variety of sources. Only U.S. corn ethanol would be banned, as would alcohol from potatoes and rye.
For biogas, the highly efficient grass based biogas production systems that are springing up across Europe would be retained, as would biogas from sewage sludge and from organic waste.
In short, these different targets would result in radically diverging consequences. Under the stringent goal, Europe would have to close virtually its entire existing biofuels sector and import everything from countries in Africa and Latin America, provided the fuels are produced in a socially sustainable way. It would be banning all fuels that reduce emissions by less than 50%, including those that achieve an interesting 49%.
Under the Commission's likely target, a wider range of biofuels would become available and all of them would help reduce carbon dioxide emissions substantially, but not necessarily radically. Not all of them would be as efficient as sugarcane ethanol, but at least some crops grown in Europe would be allowed to participate in the market. Efficient grass based biogas refineries would also be allowed in - which would be a rather rational thing to do.
The trick of anti-biofuels advocates will be to ask that all biofuels that do not reduce emissions by more than 50% be banned, and then to design social and environmental sustainability criteria so stringent as to ban all remaining biofuels. This is the strategy of those who could be denying developing countries one of the few historic opportunities they have to lift themselves out of poverty. This is a logic that could have the perverse effect of speeding up climate change."


Daudzgadīgie zālāji, ražojot bioetanolu, spēj dot 5 reizes vairāk enerģijas, nekā patērē ražošanas procesā

" Switchgrass grown for biofuel production produced 540 percent more energy than needed to grow, harvest and process it into cellulosic ethanol, according to estimates from a large on-farm study by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
Results from the five-year study involving fields on farms in three states highlights the prairie grass' potential as a biomass fuel source that yields significantly more energy than is consumed in production and conversion into cellulosic ethanol, said Ken Vogel, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service geneticist in UNL's agronomy and horticulture department.
The study involved switchgrass fields on farms in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is the largest study to date examining the net energy output, greenhouse gas emissions, biomass yields, agricultural inputs and estimated cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass grown and managed for biomass fuel.
"This clearly demonstrates that switchgrass is not only energy efficient, but can be used in a renewable biofuel economy to reduce reliance of fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance rural economies," Vogel said.
The joint USDA-ARS and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources study also found greenhouse gas emissions from cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass were 94 percent lower than estimated greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline production.
In a biorefinery, switchgrass biomass can be broken down into sugars including glucose and xylose that can be fermented into ethanol similar to corn. Grain from corn and other annual cereal grains, such as sorghum, are now primary sources for U.S. ethanol production.
In the future, perennial crops, such as switchgrass, as well as crop residues and forestry biomass could be developed as major cellulosic ethanol sources that could potentially displace 30 percent of current U.S. petroleum consumption, Vogel said. Technology to convert biomass into cellulosic ethanol is being developed and is now at the development stage where small commercial scale biorefineries are beginning to be built with scale-up support from the U.S. Department of Energy.
This study involved 10 fields of 15- to 20-acres each. Trials began in 2000 and 2001 and continued for five years. Farmers were paid for their work under contract with UNL and documented all production operations, agricultural inputs and biomass yields. The researchers used this information to determine the net energy estimates.
Switchgrass grown in this study yielded 93 percent more biomass per acre and an estimated 93 percent more net energy yield than previously estimated in a study done elsewhere of planted prairies in Minnesota that received low agricultural inputs, Vogel said. The study demonstrates that biomass energy from perennial bioenergy crops such as switchgrass can produce significantly more energy per acre than low input systems. Less land will be needed for energy crops if higher yields can be obtained.
Researchers point out in their study that plant biomass remaining after ethanol production could be used to provide the energy needed for the distilling process and other power requirements of the biorefinery. This results in a high net energy value for ethanol produced from switchgrass biomass. In contrast, corn grain ethanol biorefineries need to use natural gas or other sources of energy for the conversion process.
In this study, switchgrass managed as a bioenergy crop produced estimated ethanol yields per acre similar to those from corn grown in the same states and years based on statewide average grain yields.
"However, caution should be used in making direct ethanol yield comparisons with cellulosic sources and corn grains because corn grain conversion technology is mature, whereas cellulosic conversion efficiency technology is based on an estimated value," Vogel said.
Vogel said that he does not expect switchgrass to replace corn or other crops on Class 1 farm land. He and his colleagues are developing it for use on marginal, highly erodible lands similar to that currently in the Conservation Reserve Programs. All the fields in this study met the criteria that would have qualified for this program. Using a conservation cellulosic conversion value, researchers found that switchgrass grown on the marginal fields produced an average of 300 gallons of ethanol per acre compared to average ethanol yields of 350 gallons per acre for corn for the same three states.
The researchers point out that this was a base-line study. The switchgrass cultivars used in this study were developed for use in pastures. New higher yielding cultivars are under development for specific use in bioenergy production systems.
Switchgrass yields continue to improve, Vogel said. Recent yield trials of new experimental stains in the three states produced 50 percent higher yields than achieved in this study.
"Now, we really need to use an Extension effort to let farmers know about this new crop," Vogel said.
Future research will include further studies of improving management practices including work on improving establishment and harvesting methods, improving biomass yield, and improving conversion efficiency and net and total energy yields, Vogel said.
Switchgrass in this study employed UNL's best management practices for switchgrass, including no-till seeding, herbicides, weed control and adaptive cultivars. This study was also based on farm fields up to 20 acres instead of smaller research-scale plots typically less than about 100 square feet.
Six cellulosic biorefineries that are being co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy also are in the works across the U.S. that should be completed over the next few years. These plants are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy."