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Renewables & biofuels - Sept 15

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Phase out coal and burn trees instead, urges Hansen

Geoffrey Lean, Independent
Humanity must urgently embark on a massive programme to power civilisation from wood to stave off catastrophic climate change, one of the world's top scientists has told The Independent on Sunday.

Twenty years ago, Professor James Hansen was the first leading scientist to announce that global warming was taking place. Now he has issued a warning that a back-to-the-future return to one of the oldest fuels is imperative because the world has exceeded the danger level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Growing trees, which absorb the gas from the air as they grow, burning them instead of fossil fuels to generate electricity, and capturing and storing the carbon produced in the process is needed to get the greenhouse effect down to safe levels, he says.

Professor Hansen's assertion that there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will alarm governments and environmentalists, who are concentrating on the already daunting task of limiting its build-up, while allowing it to rise well above present levels.
(14 September 2008)



Hung over from the Ethanol Party

Lowell Klessig, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
he headache from the Ethanol Party hangover is getting worse. However, ethanolics (the drinkers at the Ethanol Party) are not the people who are feeling the pain.

Like drunkards on the highway, ethanolics have disrupted traffic in the world food supply by diverting corn to ethanol plants. As a result, everybody pays higher food prices. And, like alcohol-related traffic fatalities, some people in poor countries are likely to starve to death.

Like drunkards who refuse to admit their problem, ethanolics are in denial. President Bush has set a goal of 15% renewable fuels by 2017; he apparently doesn’t realize that corn ethanol is likely to still be the dominant source of ethanol in 2017 and that all the corn grown in the United States would barely provide 15% of our fuel needs. The secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture believes that corn ethanol is only responsible for a 2% to 3% rise in food prices.

Like drunkards dependent on just one more drink, ethanolics cling to the 51-cent-a-gallon federal subsidy. Now that gasoline is about $4 a gallon, corn state senators, who have hosted the Ethanol Party, can no longer claim that a subsidy is needed to get the ethanol industry established and able to compete with cheap gasoline.

... About six jobs in labor-intensive livestock farming and meat/ milk processing are lost for every job created by diverting corn from animal feed to the ethanol plant feedstock. Ethanol plants are capital intensive and create few jobs.

Ethanol hurts the rural economy and is damaging the environment of rural America. Reopening marginal land to row crop corn farming is increasing soil erosion and damaging water quality.

Lowell Klessig is professor emeritus of the human dimensions of natural resource management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He also operates a small farm.
(13 September 2008)



Europe Lowers Goals for Biofuel Use

James Kanter, New York Times
European legislators said Thursday that government goals for using biofuels should be pared back, prompting the fledgling industry to fire back with a campaign warning that alternatives may be no cleaner.

European governments pledged last year to increase the use of biofuels to 10 percent of all transport fuel by 2020, amid expectations that energy derived from crops would provide a low-carbon alternative.

On Thursday, the European Parliament’s influential Industry Committee endorsed the general 10 percent target — but added a number of modifications meant to move away from traditional biofuels made from grains or other crops toward other, renewable energy sources.
(11 September 2008)



The Corn Ethanol Juggernaut

Robert Bryce, Yale Environment 360
Oil isn't America's only fuel addiction. Inefficient and environmentally damaging, the corn-ethanol boondoggle will nonetheless be hard to stop.
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The huge corn ethanol mandates imposed by Congress a few years ago may be the single most misguided agricultural program in modern American history. That’s saying something, but consider the program’s impact: higher global food prices, increased air pollution from burning ethanol-spiked fuels, spreading dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico from a surge of fertilizer use, and strong evidence that growing a gallon of corn ethanol produces just as many greenhouse gases as burning a gallon of gas.

Why then, given these many problems, hasn’t Congress rolled back the mandates and stopped this boondoggle?

The answer can be boiled down to a few salient realities of American politics and agricultural policy.

Robert Bryce is an Austin, Texas-based journalist who has been writing about the energy sector for nearly two decades. His lastest book is Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence."
(15 September 2008)



Kickapoo Nation Sets Sights On Energy Independence

RenewableEnergyWorld
The Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas announced that it has hired The Clark Group LLC to help it achieve energy independence. The tribe said that it intends to lower its energy costs and improve energy reliability while at the same time protecting the environment.

The Clark Group and the Kickapoo Tribe have a multi-step plan for energy independence. The Kickapoo Tribe will begin by auditing its energy usage and reducing consumption while the Clark Group will create and provide site specific resource maps of the tribe's Reservation.
(10 September 2008)
Gildone writes:
Covered also at TreeHugger

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