Sunday, October 25, 2009


Biofuels and Fossil Fuels

Are the same. It’s obvious when you think about it. We make biofuels by growing biomass feedstock, such as corn or trees, then harvesting it, transporting it to a manufacturing facility, processing the feedstock, and then treating the product to obtain fuel. In the case of fossil fuels, nature did most of the work for us over millions of years by growing biomass, gathering it up in huge quantities, putting it in giant pressure cookers for processing, and then storing it. All we have to do is extract this bonanza (as with oil, we sometimes need some final treatment).

Now it’s easier to see why biofuels cannot just pick up where fossil fuels leave off: We have to do all of the work ourselves. Much energy has to be expended in cultivation, logistics, and processing, and instead of waiting millions of years for nature to do it for us, we have to do it, and right away. And that’s why the energy return (EROEI) on biofuels is so pitifully low. Not only that, we are heavily dependent on fossil fuels to make biofuels.

Just recall that the next time someone starts talking enthusiastically about how biofuels will save the day.

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