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The Ayatollah Buggeri

Another Renewable Energy Miracle Cure

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National Geographic article

Executive summary: An expert on sugar palm trees claims that their vegetation is uniquely suited to biofuel production, because they occur naturally in rainforests, their energy production can be harvested non-destructively and they yield a lot more energy per given weight of biomass than the arable crops that are typically used for biofuel production. Furthermore, harvesting them is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised, meaning good news for jobs in developing countries.

Discuss.

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Executive summary: An expert on sugar palm trees claims that their vegetation is uniquely suited to biofuel production, because they occur naturally in rainforests, their energy production can be harvested non-destructively and they yield a lot more energy per given weight of biomass than the arable crops that are typically used for biofuel production. Furthermore, harvesting them is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised, meaning good news for jobs in developing countries.

Discuss.

There are some contradictions.

Give a very high yield per acre, but only as part of a diverse rainforest, so the real figure will be a fraction of that.

Take no account of EROEI. Compare to something that is a known bad idea - Corn Ethanol.

Assume the trees have no natural pests. Now, if people do this on a serious, commercial basis, we know that they will be planted at an unnatural density and stressed regularly by tapping. I'm prepared to bet that some natural pest will suddenly spring out of the woodwork under those conditions..

Oh, and Lovins likes it. That's never a good sign.

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National Geographic article

Executive summary: An expert on sugar palm trees claims that their vegetation is uniquely suited to biofuel production, because they occur naturally in rainforests, their energy production can be harvested non-destructively and they yield a lot more energy per given weight of biomass than the arable crops that are typically used for biofuel production. Furthermore, harvesting them is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised, meaning good news for jobs in developing countries.

Discuss.

Probably a non starter. My partner is a chemical engineer and did her thesis on biofuels from Algae and worked on an experiemental project for 18 months - her conclusion its a dead end.

I put her onto using surplus electricity to produce amonia which is reckons is more viable.

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A much better biofuel would be made in the sea growing algae on all the excess nitrogen etc that we let into the sea.

Use solar panels to create the energy for harvesting it and then it just needs bringing to shore. Heck you might even wind power that bit.

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A much better biofuel would be made in the sea growing algae on all the excess nitrogen etc that we let into the sea.

Use solar panels to create the energy for harvesting it and then it just needs bringing to shore. Heck you might even wind power that bit.

Indeed, the only parts of the earth's surface where biofuels are a net positive are those where you can grow something substantial and green without displacing an existing ecosystem.

Like the deserts. If we could irrigate the deserts using seawater (and the plentiful solar energy), and if bioengineering could produce green plants that could grow abundantly in an extreme dead-sea environment, then maybe we'd have something worth pursuing.

Not sure what potential algae in the ocean might have, but it might be worth pursuing as a less-bad alternative to the status quo.

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Like the deserts. If we could irrigate the deserts using seawater (and the plentiful solar energy), and if bioengineering could produce green plants that could grow abundantly in an extreme dead-sea environment, then maybe we'd have something worth pursuing.

Saw a program on the TV where a european company was growing most of the fruit and veg for Quatar in the desert in an entirely self sustaining system. They had seawater pumped by a solar pump into one end of a greenhouse which was constructed in line with the prevailing wind and this picked up fresh moisture and blew it down the greenhouse irrigating the crops. I don't think they needed much in the way of desalinated water. The microclimate the greenhouses created cooled and irrigated the surrounding desert where they could grow hardier tree varieties. They reckoned they could green the whole of the desert by extending the scheme from its core. Greenhouses surrounded by trees.

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Saw a program on the TV where a european company was growing most of the fruit and veg for Quatar in the desert in an entirely self sustaining system. They had seawater pumped by a solar pump into one end of a greenhouse which was constructed in line with the prevailing wind and this picked up fresh moisture and blew it down the greenhouse irrigating the crops. I don't think they needed much in the way of desalinated water. The microclimate the greenhouses created cooled and irrigated the surrounding desert where they could grow hardier tree varieties. They reckoned they could green the whole of the desert by extending the scheme from its core. Greenhouses surrounded by trees.

Something like this?

http://www.sundropfarms.com/

Brilliant IMO, seems odd that it's taking off so slowly.

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Indeed, the only parts of the earth's surface where biofuels are a net positive are those where you can grow something substantial and green without displacing an existing ecosystem.

Like the deserts. If we could irrigate the deserts using seawater (and the plentiful solar energy), and if bioengineering could produce green plants that could grow abundantly in an extreme dead-sea environment, then maybe we'd have something worth pursuing.

Not sure what potential algae in the ocean might have, but it might be worth pursuing as a less-bad alternative to the status quo.

Its an energy dead end with current tech - equivalent of a machine that turns gold into lead ;)

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Indeed, the only parts of the earth's surface where biofuels are a net positive are those where you can grow something substantial and green without displacing an existing ecosystem.

It's no different than any other agriculture, whether it's for fuel, clothing, or food.

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National Geographic article

Executive summary: An expert on sugar palm trees claims that their vegetation is uniquely suited to biofuel production, because they occur naturally in rainforests, their energy production can be harvested non-destructively and they yield a lot more energy per given weight of biomass than the arable crops that are typically used for biofuel production. Furthermore, harvesting them is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised, meaning good news for jobs in developing countries.

Discuss.

Local labour would be worked extremely hard for the <1% to make the profits?

Why spend so much time/effort and probably money to make this work when there are better alternatives worldwide.

Seems a good idea until it's done on a big scale and it soon runs out. Plus the other comments, change variables and intensive farming causes other problems to come to light.

A bit like if anyone with a gun and a dog can easily hunt rabbits all night for food if they so wish... If everyone done it because of food shortages how long would there be rabbits available?

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A bit like if anyone with a gun and a dog can easily hunt rabbits all night for food if they so wish... If everyone done it because of food shortages how long would there be rabbits available?

If the human population were at a sustainable level, that would work just fine.

This island could sustain several million. At a squeeze and with modern technology but without massive petrochemical inputs, maybe 10% of today's population. At least, provided we accept a high level of deaths when we get a hard winter.

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National Geographic article

Executive summary: An expert on sugar palm trees claims that their vegetation is uniquely suited to biofuel production, because they occur naturally in rainforests, their energy production can be harvested non-destructively and they yield a lot more energy per given weight of biomass than the arable crops that are typically used for biofuel production. Furthermore, harvesting them is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised, meaning good news for jobs in developing countries.

Discuss.

Am I alone in finding it weird that the fact that the process is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised is regarded by the author as a good thing?

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Am I alone in finding it weird that the fact that the process is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised is regarded by the author as a good thing?

No.

I do think that the 'green movement' does sometimes obsess with small/local/labour intensive solutions. Most of the original European forests were destroyed by small, local, labour intensive iron making..

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Am I alone in finding it weird that the fact that the process is labour-intensive and cannot be mechanised is regarded by the author as a good thing?

No here as well. It would be ok if it benefitted the local people entirely. For example I think the tobacco growers (the labourers) get peanuts whilst the final product sells in the developed world for a hundred+ times the price.

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No here as well. It would be ok if it benefitted the local people entirely. For example I think the tobacco growers (the labourers) get peanuts whilst the final product sells in the developed world for a hundred+ times the price.

That's how most of the stuff in the developed world works. In the past we had lousy wages (even by today's standards) and poor living and working conditions. We've not got rid or reduced those, we've just outsourced them.

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