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Posts Tagged ‘global sustainability’

0 Sep 14 2011 @ 9:41am by Matt Smith in Biofuels, Global Energy

Tamales and Tacos With YERT Producer / Director

Alrightee, so we move onto the main course with YERT producer / director Ben Evans, getting to the questions that really matter:

Who is your favorite super hero? » read more

3 Feb 17 2010 @ 10:45am by Matt Smith in Biofuels, Global Energy, Technology

Topic #153 that I find fascinating but need to know more about: Algae

There is something about algae that I find absolutely fascinating. I don’t know if it’s because I find it so incredulous, but producing biofuel from squeezing seaweed really hard (presumably that’s how they do it) is mind-boggling to me. Hence its charm.   

algaeAlgae, or Oilgae as those in-the-know like to call it (ie – not me), is taking over the mantle as the potential savior of biofuels, as the energy world scrambles to find a way to meet the renewable fuels standard, a law requiring the US (stipulated by,erm, the US) to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022. 

The US government, having passed the law five years ago, are obviously getting a little tetchy about achieving the goals they have outlined. The data aren’t fully in yet, but preliminary results indicate that the US has fallen short of their mandated level for 2009 of 11.1 billion gallons, and are keen to find a solution to such a behemoth of a problem. Hence, their interest in algae has been piqued, with $80 million in stimulus money recently paid out to research algae-based biofuels.

To add (bio)fuel to the fire, the cause is also not without the support of ‘big oil’. Exxon Mobil’s first ever venture into the green arena has been to team up with algae research company, Synthetic Genomics, in an initial $300 million joint venture. Admittedly, this is spare change (almost a gesture?) when compared to Exxon’s annual capital and exploration spend of approximately $30bln (= more than the US government’s renewable energy budget) . However, as an affirmation of algae’s potential, there doesn’t come any higher endorsement. 

...not to be confused with the DARPA Initiative...

...not to be confused with the DARPA Initiative...

Last April the Pentagon tasked DARPA, who helped to develop some of the most revolutionary technology used today (from the internet to a propane-powered GPS system), to develop algae as a biofuel on a large enough scale to supply the entire US military. All becomes clear when it’s realized the US military is the largest single consumer of energy in the world (60 – 75 million barrels of oil a year); oil dependence on the countries you could potentially be at conflict with is not ideal.
 
As for the recent ripples of excitement, these were caused by an article in the newspaper, The Guardian, last weekend. It claims that DARPA’s research shows they are already producing biofuel from algae ponds at a cost of $2/gallon, and are months away from developing the technology to produce biofuel for $1/gallon – similar to gasoline costs. And we are not talking niche quantities here; a 50 million barrel-per-year refining operation could be up to speed within the next two years. 

This revelation has taken the biofuel industry by surprise – even algae producers. This has also followed hot on the heels of a backlash against algae in a study released last month, which stated algae required much more water and energy to produce than originally projected. This claim was vehemently refuted by market players.

36 beeellion gallons

36 beellion gallons

So in a bizarre twist, in a world where technological advancement is making madcap biofuel visions a reality, algae looks well positioned to lead, or at least be a part in this effort. In similarly interesting news this week, British Airways announced they will be producing their own biofuel from London garbage. Who would have believed even five years ago that jet fuel would be being produced from seaweed and trash? Modern life is indeed rubbish.

As with its predecessors, algae has been placed on a pedestal, which is set to wobble and topple under the weight of its own expectations. Other fuels have received similar treatment – jatropha (=topic #137 I found fascinating but needed to know more about) and corn-based ethanol, to name but two. If only expectations could be tempered somewhat, algae could be perceived for what it is – another paving stone on the path to oil independence, but not the path itself.
3 Oct 4 2009 @ 12:30pm by Matt Smith in Biofuels, Global Energy

Topic #137 that I find fascinating but need to know more about: Jatropha

boba_fett

Boba Fett

When cheap jerseys countries such as Zimbabwe announce that they aim to achieve 10% of their fuel needs by 2017 cheap jerseys from biodiesel processed from the weed-like plant, Jatropha, you realize ETF something wacky is going on. While I think that Jatropha sounds like a character from Star Communist Wars – Jabba the Hut’s second-string bounty hunter when Boba Fett is on vacation (I wonder where wholesale jerseys he’d go?) – it has been making headlines across the globe for a number of years now. This is because jatropha is a plant that is apparently environmentally sustainable; it can grow in desolate conditions on land cheap mlb jerseys not suitable for the majority of crops, it wholesale mlb jerseys can survive on limited rain and does not require irrigation, and, the kicker: it yields a vegetable oil from seed pods which can be processed into biodiesel. Indeed, Zimbabwe is not the Drupal. only country to be pursuing this potential opportunity. Air New Zealand tested a Jumbo Jet late last year on fuel partly derived from jatropha biodiesel. India is the current leading global producer of jatropha, with 4.5 million acres earmarked for growing the crop, providing a prime example of how such a crop can thrive in extreme weather conditions.

jatropha_curcas

Jatropha

All is not rosy, however, with jatropha currently enduring a bit of a demand backlash. Not only has BP recently exited a partnership in a jatropha biofuel project to focus Age on ethanol instead, but a recent scientific study by Envirocare also concluded that jatropha requires more water than previously thought. There are also concerns that expanding the farming of jatropha could displace farmers and replace food crops. 

Jatropha may not be a household name yet, but if it can overcome current headwinds and live up to some of its potential, part of the solution to global sustainability With could sound strangely similar to a  vacation-bound Star Wars bounty hunter….