Eco-hype    

By: psr | 2007-10-02

Eco-friendly cars have arrived in the market with much fanfare. The global warming fashion is used as the selling point for these new cars which consume bio fuel, and produce fewer CO2 emissions than diesel or gasoline engines.

Yet, these cars are falsely eco-friendly. While their emissions may be lower, their fuel is more energy-consuming to produce than traditional diesel or gasoline.

The amount of energy required to produce 1 horsepower out of a bio-diesel car engine is greater, and more pollutant, than the energy required to produce 1 horsepower out of a regular diesel or gasoline car engine.

Bio-fuels (whether ethanol or bio-diesel) themselves require more energy to produce than the energy obtained out of them. These types of fuel are obtained from vegetable oils, which in turn come from crops, which require more energy to plant, grow, collect and process.

On the other hand, fossil fuels yield much more energy than they require to obtain, extract and process.

In summary, using bio-fuels is more harmful for the environment than using fossil fuels, because it is necessary to consume more energy (from the environment) to produce bio-fuels than they yield.

Of course, bio-fuels are viable only thanks to government subsidies. In other words, governments around the world are wasting public money to sustain a new industry (bio-fuels and related technologies) with the hope that bio fuel will help reduce global warming.

On the other hand, real innovation in eco-friendliness has come only from gasoline-electric hybrid cars: They can re-utilize part of the energy they produce to feed it back to the engine. Real energy savings can be achieved in this way, as the car reuses part of the energy it consumes, instead of requiring a continuous intake of external energy, as regular gasoline/diesel, or bio fuel cars do.

Bio-fuel cars are the latest hype in the climate-change doctrine, provide no advantage, and represent a waste of tax payers’ money, to benefit a few companies while providing governments with great propaganda to present themselves as Earth-saviors.

The problem is: Earth does not really have a problem, and needs no lying guardian.

[EDITED 2007-10-20: Sources and more data added in comments. See below]

5 Responses to “Eco-hype” »»

  1. Comment by Erik | 2007-10-18 at 17:12

    This is FUD. First: You present no data nor calculate the actual energy efficiency or link to any such study, such as to conclude that biofuel is bad for the environment. Biofuels does not cost more energy to produce than is used in production. Second, it does makes sense to develop hybrid biofuel/gasoline/electric cars.

    It is well known that current biofuel is comparable with traditional gasoline with respect to eco-unfriendliness, everyone is waiting for second generation biofuel which is produced not from crops but from biowaste. This will yield better production efficiency and make biofuels a great and eco-friendly choice, and this is where subsidies are going now: To develop next generation biofuels.

    Developing biofuel/hybrid cars becomes attractive if manufacturers knows that fuel will be available at competitive prices, and investors will invest in developing biofuels as they see demand rise. Subsidizing development and production of biofuels is about getting the ball rolling.

    Finally, biofuel can be produced without dependence on dangerous states such as Iran or Iraq. It will earn the west independence from oil and hence security. Most cars can run on a mix of gasoline and ethanol of up to 15% without modification, I have no numbers for EU, but for US, 50% of gasoline is imported. Introducing ethanol in the gasoline you can gain much independence.

  2. psr
    Comment by psr | 2007-10-20 at 20:05

    I have to disagree with the “FUD” part. This is not FUD. It is true I failed to include supporting data in my article. The data is here:

    http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html

    and here:

    http://petroleum.berkeley.edu/papers/patzek/thermodynmaics%20of%20cornethanol.htm

    Doing a little Google, it is easy to find also claims to the contrary (i.e., that biofuels have a positive energy balance in their production process). However, I believe those are motivated only to counter the research by Pimentel and Patzek.

    If you have any sources confirming that the second generation will be better in some way, it’d be good to provide them, too.

    In your comment, you mix biofuel and hybrid cars, but this is not appropriate: one type merely consumes fuel provided externally (biofuel, fossil fuel cars), and the other type consumes some external energy source, but it also produces internally energy for itself (hybrid).

    The competitive price will come with mass production.

    I don’t believe investors will invest in biofuels, as you say, when they see the demand rise. Look at fossil fuels. Demand is higher than ever, and subsidies are still there for fossil fuels. Subsidies are wrong. It surely will be very hard to get rid of them, but one can hope.

    The fact that fossil fuels are still receiving subsidies is sufficient proof that it’s not likely that the subsidies for biofuels are just to get the ball rolling, but instead they will be there to stay.

    Fossil fuels will run out one day, but energy demand is unlikely to drop. Surely we need alternatives. However, biofuels are not the answer.

    It is much better to have cars reuse part of the energy they consume (like hybrid cars do, for instance), than to have cars use exclusively outside energy input.

    Subsidies for hybrid cars don’t seem to work either: This type of vehicles were subsidized for some time in some U.S. states, but demand for these cars did not rise.

    The main reason behind the promotion of biofuels is the hype about man-made climate change. This is also a lie, but it’s a convenient lie to easily justify loads and loads of money to be given out in subsidies to new industries (biofuel and others). It may be that governments just want to create lots of jobs, doing work on something that is not needed and not energy efficient (biofuels, wind mills, etc…).

    Governments would do much better if they would reduce taxes instead of wasting their left over money to subsidize fossil fuels, biofuels, agriculture and so many other things.

    Another reason why biofuels are attractive: If hybrid cars take over the market, this means less fuel consumption, and less tax income for governments (let us not forget that some 75% of the price of gasoline and diesel is all tax). Of course, governments could tax the hybrid car itself, but this would be a one-time tax per car, while the fuel tax means lots more income, since cars need to refuel over and over.

    About your comment on dependence on dangerous states: I agree with you on this, but we are very far from a significant reduction in our dependance on fossil fuels. This is a topic for another, lengthy discussion :) But…. hybrid cars will also help reduce demand for fossil fuels.

    In the end, take-up of new technologies (hybrid cars or biofuel) will be gradual. A recent report from Lexus (Toyota’s luxury line) indicated that the demand for their hybrid cars was far greater than estimated. This is good news. Let us hope we see more hybrid cars in the market. Unfortunatelly they will face the unfair competition of subsidized biofuels.

  3. psr
    Comment by psr | 2007-10-20 at 20:18

    Aside from the enegy inefficiency of biofuels (with respect to fossil fuels), bio-fuels also have other harmful side-effects, as the following article very well shows:

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/30/business/biofuel.php

    I am happy to see that this article claims that:
    “The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation fueled by biofuel in 2010, is now under review.”

  4. Comment by Erik | 2007-10-21 at 12:07

    First: Claiming that global warming is a lie is plain ignorance. 10.000 of the worlds leading scientists all agree that global warming is here and that it is man made. Even George W. Bush has finally accepted that global warming is a real problem – although he still declines it is his problem.

    Scientists disagree about one thing: How big the consequences are, locally and globally. Politicians disagree about one thing: Should the problem be solved by government policy or will capitalistic market bring the technological advances needed.

    Businesses don’t like long term investments, they want to see profit in 3-5 years, the only exception possibly is pharmaceutics, they have grown used to 10+ years. This means that capitalism will not solve problems more than 5 years ahead of us. We may have a lucky strike, some brilliant person discovers the trick. Global warming and the shortage of fossil fuels are both problems that come further into the future. That is why subsidising development of alternatives is needed. I agree that subsidies should be avoided, but they have their use to boost development. They are abused when they are used to sustain the unsustainable in long term.

    Hybrid cars will not solve the problem of fossil fuel inasmuch as they still run on fossil fuel. They can only buy time before we need an alternative fuel. Certainly, the technological innovations can later be used in next generation cars.

    There is a number of competing technologies under way. One is biofuel. Biofuel is convenient because it preserves most of the existing infrastructure so it is easy to adopt. Liquid fuel is convenient because it is easy to handle – compared to gas – and fast to fill up – compare to electricity – and gives a decent autonomy – compare again to electricity.

    Electric cars are too slow to recharge and the battery is heavy. Things like nano capacitors may solve the energy storage for electric cars but make them very dangerous: If a cell breaks in a crash all energy is released at once! Further, electric cars are less energy efficient than gasoline, the main benefit is to get air pollution out of the cities.

    Hydrogen fuel cells are being developed but handling and storing hydrogen is difficult, and they are yet far from efficient alternatives. Hydrogen may be the solution for the future, but distant future.

    Looking at this, biofuel is the immediate alternative. It doesn’t suffer these problems and is easy to roll out. The problem is producing the fuel, and this is of course being investigated. The second generation biofuel will be more energy efficient because it requires no additional energy to produce the biomass, since biomass is waste products from other production such as agriculture. The problem is that the fibers are more difficult to process and research is going into enzymes that can break down the cellulose fast and efficiently.

    Investing into such research is more attractive if you know there is a market building up for the product. This makes the investment less risky and attracts more investors to develop the sustainable alternative we need.

  5. psr
    Comment by psr | 2007-10-22 at 22:25

    New related article, on this very blog:

    http://www.megaspora.net/en/2007/10/22/climate-change-inc/

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