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Growing Fuel Crops. Ethical?  RSS feed

 
Jeff Hodgins
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I personaly feel that it is better to get our energy from the wind, water or sun rather than burning anything. I think that solar power is the least practical of these because it uses more space which could be made into green space, still producing energy from the sun but in a more natural form.
I think that the idea of growing bio-fule so we can drive around like ants to the sugar pile is rediculus and it acctualy generates more CO2 emitions than oil based fules.
Take ethanol for example. Ok so first we take natural gas and burn it in order to extract nitrogen out of more natural gas, it's called natural gas reformation. Then we mine some potassium (a non renewable). Oh and we'll need phosphourous and sulfur too. Then we put some diesel in a tractor and till the soil. Now we need ROUNDUP, more oil products. Ok now we just harvest(oil) ship it to the plant (oil) where they use hydro to grind it and make alcohol. They probably gas off some hydrocarbons in this prosesss too. Now that its ready when we burn it it will be slightly cleaner burning than oil products, and we'll be able to fool people into thinking that this B.S. will reduce carbon emissions. It's a good thing the general public is so dumbed down. 

Perennial fule is at least a bit better but unless we look at the whole picture as an intracate system we can't even beggin to understand the pros and cons of fule crops.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Yes, I think it's perfectly fine, so long as the following conditions are met:

1. Crops used are generally not food crops or viable food stuff and do not compete with or deplete food reserves.
2. Residues and their nutrients are conserved on site or returned to the soil to maintain soil nutrient cycles and humus.
3. Crops are grown and harvested in a sustainable manner, without destroying soil, water, air, etc.
4. All that is extracted is *energy*.

If you're doing something other than that and taking residues or nutrients offsite and not returning them, then that's another form of soil mining.

Biofuels and renewable energies can meet many of our energy needs, but not *all* of our energy wants. (Note I'm distinguishing between *needs* and *wants*. Our needs are relatively basic, our wants theoretically infinite.) Cars and cheap biodiesel/ethanol may gradually be phased out as a thing of the past, but we should keep in mind that much current technology and thinking is driven more by waste and inefficiency than efficiency and conservation. ICE has been around for a long time, very flexible, could be much improved, should be much improved. To live a permaculture lifestyle, I don't believe it's necessary to give up all technology or machinery, but it is very important to consider the most necessary, least impact, and most efficient forms of machinery and technology and weigh their impacts on the land, the people, and the environment. It's good to simplify. Cars and a million miles of road gobbling up farmland so suburbia and strip malls can stretch out in the middle of nowhere don't stack up well in the current estimation.

Plants are the very definition of solar energy, just in a slightly different form. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Growing enough corn to turn into corn ethanol to meet our car energy needs is ridiculous. Just requires 2-3 times the size of the continental US to acquire enough farmland to produce that corn.
 
John Polk
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When Brazil decided to convert all automobiles to ethanol, they stripped millions of acres of rain forest in order to plant sugar cane.  Their ecology was changed forever because of short sighted greed.
 
                                              
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John Polk wrote:
When Brazil decided to convert all automobiles to ethanol, they stripped millions of acres of rain forest in order to plant sugar cane.  Their ecology was changed forever because of short sighted greed.



true but they were doing slash an burn and moving on. they could of done much better then they did.....

Personally Id much prefer to see such things be sea based.... OR.... growing biomass in dry areas as a means to block desertification while harvesting fuels.... for that to work youd need to leave some biomass behind...
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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John Polk wrote:
When Brazil decided to convert all automobiles to ethanol, they stripped millions of acres of rain forest in order to plant sugar cane.  Their ecology was changed forever because of short sighted greed.



True, but they are also the only country in the world to declare energy independence. 

Sadly though, it took the military forcing that change and the rape of the forest to do so... forever altering no just their ecology, but our entire worlds.  Who knows what ramifications it, and the lake behind the dam in china will do besides altering our axis of orbit.
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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I'm with maikeru: it can be done responsibly if care is taken.  cattails grown for grey water treatment could be used for ethanol feedstock, for example.  most of the starch is in the rhizomes, so the leaves could be dried and burned to fire a rocket stove still.  most of the nutrients remain in the leftovers from distillation and can be spread to fertilize crops or more cattails.  alternately, they can be dried and fed to livestock, or used as a substrate for mushroom cultivation then fed to livestock.  the nutrients remain in a closed loop, only the carbon and hydrogen would cycle more widely.  and even the CO[sub]2[/sub] from fermentation and firing a still could be routed to enrich greenhouses or outdoor plants.

I believe this sort of production would be best accomplished by small-scale, widely-distributed operations instead of giant plants that would require shipment of the product to where it would be used.  produce it where it will be used.  keep control of the fuel out of the hands of centralized power.  let the communities that use it observe directly both the positive and negative impacts and decide with full knowledge whether to use it or find alternatives.  waiting on governments or corporations to step up is waiting for those powers to once again usurp our rights to care and provide for each other.

the trouble, though, is that fuel-related problems are not the only drawback of our energy-intensive lifestyles.  driving automobiles, to use an obvious example, is responsible for a lengthy list of nastiness that is almost completely independent of the fuel used.  so an automobile that used no fuel whatsoever would still cause all manner of mischief.  the same could be said of the other ways we use energy.  creating more sane fuels is a good idea, but that won't mean much if habits and culture aren't changed as well.
 
John Polk
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I honestly believe that we should put more effort into fuel crops, but that we should not be utilizing existing crop lands to do so.  As it stands now, over one half of all crops grown in the US are raised as animal feeds!  That is ONE of the reasons that a hungry world looks at us with disdain.  Since we started growing more corn for fuel, the dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River has expanded greatly due to the added chemicals washing off of our croplands.

Our country needs to take a hard look at our destructive farming methods, and come up with some answers soon.  We now depend on foreign trade for most of our manufactured goods.  If we continue raping the land, future generations will depend on foreign trade to feed us.
 
Shawn Bell
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It is not only ethical, it is mandatory!  Maybe not on an industrial level, but certainly on an individual or community basis.

Here are the methods that I am thinking of using to produce enough "fuel" for our farm and transportation:

1. Use less energy. Passive solar design built into every building, includes hot water.

2. wood gas and firewood from a coppiced wood lot.

3. Crap gas from farm animal manure (think Beyond Thunderdome, smaller scale though).

4. Biodiesel from our own field crops, residue feeds the animals and fertilizes the fields.

5. Solar panels set about 3 feet above the roof to keep sunlight from heating up the roof in summer.

6. Wind power if we end up in a windy location.

7. Hydroelectricity if we end up in a watery location.

8. And I would love to build an animal electric generator, where a horse or cow or dog or boy could
   run around in circles hooked to a wind turbine (or something similar) mounted horizontally.

I don't believe any one of these ideas is going to meet all of our energy needs, but together they should produce enough for our genuine needs....which is very ethical.
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
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Location: Vancouver Island
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Yes, man has grown fuel crops ever since they started to use fire.... well not quite, the first fuel shortage was wood... coppicing, or fuel crops, was the answer... or part of it, the other half was reducing need by designing better heaters.

I don't have solid numbers, but with the miles a lot of our food (and other goods) travels, we could cut maybe 90% of our fuel use just by growing and buying locally. So fuel crops whether transport or heating are an ethical choice, but not to spend fuel as we are doing now.... this means that if we dropped our fuel use to what we need now (by 90% or so) then what is coming out of the ground might last a lot longer too.

Solar is part of the solution, but most houses would need to be rebuilt from the ground up to make the best use of that. Our whole of society would need to change to get rid of fuel hungry automation and travel.... even public transit uses a lot of fuel, it only seems like little when compared to person transport. but do we really need to travel 1 to 2 hours a day to work? What is this "work" we are doing? Is it really something that is making this a better place to be?
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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What about geothermal energy? Fusion power? All energy production forms have their cons but a wider mix grants more stability. Even solar power panels lose efficency when it is too hot outside.

Growing fuel crops is not per se unethical. Growing fuel crops when people are starving in the same country is unethical. All the cheap food shipments to the s.c. third world are unethical. It is better to make bio fuel out it instead.
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
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Dunkelheit wrote:
What about geothermal energy?

That means living in a cold place or on top of a volcano. If you happen to like Iceland or the instability of living close to a volcano... though some seem to be pretty placid.

Fusion power?

That would be my main source of power and heat... probably yours too. The power plant is about the right distance away... 14 minutes or so... as light flies.

All kidding aside though...One has to be careful about saying never.
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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Len wrote:
That means living in a cold place or on top of a volcano. If you happen to like Iceland or the instability of living close to a volcano... though some seem to be pretty placid.That would be my main source of power and heat... probably yours too. The power plant is about the right distance away... 14 minutes or so... as light flies.


You don't need a volcano for geothermal energy, e.g. the river Rhine/Germany is a place with a very thin crust and that means higher temperatures in lower depth. Ever read about the Hot-dry-rock method? Read about it! Temperature rises when you dig down deep enough.

Actually thermonuclear fusion reactors are far hotter than the sun. Read about ITER (=International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), too. ITER is a fusion reactor which is being built in France right now.
 
                    
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Some of the most promising geothermal does not require very hot rock, but uses ambient temperatures underground (~50 degrees F, or ~10 C).  This is similar to earth bermed construction. Water or some other fluid (even air) is pumped down into the ground in pipes, in summer, that flow removes heat and provides cooling, in winter, it adds heat which makes it possible to warm a building with a small heat pump.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Personally I prefer small-scale, manageable energy sources, or those which run themselves millions of miles away without needing maintenance.  Not too into the nukes, personally, especially lately. 

I think fuel crops such as trees can be grown, harvested, and used in a way which I can agree with ethically.  But our modern industrial way of life isn't based on ethics I can agree with and that's why I'm trying to be part of these communities which are working on different ways to live. 

So far our only home-produced fuel here on my place is wood, which we have plenty of.  We also have a bit of passive solar for cooking and heating but want to improve on that.  Planning to have a small amount of photovoltaic.  But realistically our home and business is likely to still be running on coal for the foreseeable future. 
 
Thomas Hawk
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I havent heard any body mention re-char? or bio char I suggest checking it out.

Lets just say the average person uses 288 gallons of gas a year thats 12 gallons every two weeks. the say that a ten acre plot of sunflower can produce 1000 gallons of fuel. assume more people switched to diesal based engines. Then we started planting sunflowers in open grasses, abandoned lots, ext.... Im sure we could produce enough fuel to make a small inpact.

What bio char does is takes bio mass and turns it into bio fuel while leaving a sort of charcole left over which could be put back from the crops that were harvested.

In China everywhere you look there are grape seed plants that they use for cooking oil if we did something like this we could start to reduce how much oil we use.

also with something like rechar we could begin to clean up forrests and make fuel. also take normal debree where most people will throw away and turn into fuel.
 
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