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On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

Roberts(both commenters), today there are about 80 million acres of prime US farmland used for the production of biofuels.  The largest slice of this of course is corn for ethanol at over 40 million acres.  Soy, cannola, safflower, peanuts, switch grass, etc., all are bring grown for biofuels - direct use or recycled.

Your posiition on biofuels is common and is based on the numbers and impact of 1st generation feedstock.  We lobby against corn ethanol AND soy for biodiesel.  We agree, these business models do not make sense from an environmental perspective.  What does make sense is biodiesel from 2nd generation feedstock. 

Let's do the math.  Soy generates less than 50 gallons/acre/year with 4 passes of heavy equipment while 2nd generation feedstock generates 500-850 gallons/acre/year with a single pass of heavy equipment.  First gen feedstock is grown on prime US farmlands - again, corn, soy, etc., while 2nd gen feedstock grow on marginal lands in the southwest and cannot be grown in the American heartland.  We are pushing to return those 80 million acres of farmland to food production.

You mention low energy density of biofuels - we agree - ethanol has about 1/2 the BTU/gallon of petroleum diesel, however, biodiesel contains 97% of the BTU/gallon of petroleum diesel and the cost of production is about 1/2 of petroleum diesel today and dropping with economies by scale.

Also, 1st gen feedstock has been determed to have a significant carbon footprint, however, 2nd gen feedstock offers a significant negative CO2 footprint. When analyzing the EROEI of 1st gen feedstocks we see a disappointing 1:1.27 for ethanol and 1.5 for soy, however, hardwood 2nd gen feedstocks offer a 1:24 return on energy.  This is higher than wind and NG, a factor of solar and 8x tar sands petroleum. 

We can be producing 40 billion gallons of biodiesel per year within 20 years and within 30 years replace 100% of all petroleum used for transportation fuels - all from US lands and create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.  Speaking as an Analyst and having worked for the DoD, DoE and 2 universities as a Research Engineer, it is our only replacement solution for petroleum.

My firm has 385,000 acres in managment today with a 22,000 member partner organization.  We'll get it done.  If you have additional questions - please ask - maybe it will help others to understand the future of transportaiton.

March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

I do not understand why anyone would have such a goal - electric mining of minerals needed to build wind turbines powered by wind turbines.  Parasitic energy drain is a common concept, but you guys are taking this so literally, the discussion is moot.


Mining can move to biodiesel almost immediately and cargo ships already are beginning to migrate to biodiesel blends.  Yes, we do use wind turbines to generate electricity to mill material and we do sell metals to wind turbine manufacturers.   Already there. 


How about considering the use of wind turbines to pump the water to the trees which produce the oil for the biodiesel which powered the heavy mining equipment which provides more minerals for more turbines. 

Happy to see there are discussions about these issues - they have been our business model for 5-6 years.

March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

Robert, thank you for sharing this link.  We have reviewed about 25% of the papers listed on the reference on this document, but we had not reviewed this document. 

Our EROI chart stats and those presented in this paper share some data, but there are significant differences - esp. per nuclear and 2nd generation feedstock for biodiesel.  Obviously, the author of this paper had little expertise in biofuels and only touched on ethanol/distilled fuels.

You can see by how the paper is written, just how much discussion and discern is present in the research and approach to generating a single EROI stat for each energy source model. 

Is the air travel energy of a dozen Federal inspectors flying from D.C. from 1982-2300 to the state of Washington several times per year to inspect the stored nuclear waste of a nuclear power plant part of the EROI equation of a nuclear power plant?  Yes it is.

March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

Actually, while on the surface, nuclear might seem to offer a high EROEI, in fact, per our real history, it does not once the total energy consumption per the total energy produced is understood. 

Note: We receive a great deal of communication regarding the 1:10 for nuclear power.  This ratio has been researched in-depth. Most U.S. tax payers are unaware that the DoE spent $3.2B in 2012 to manage the nuclear waste material from the Manhattan Project (WWII - 1942-1946).  Projections suggest the U.S. will continue to pay billions of dollars per year for the next 50-100 years before we might have what can be considered a low-energy management solution for this need.  There is no insurance firm in the world that now underwrites nuclear power plants - all handled by governments.  This is a major statement on the status of nuclear power plants and their future.

Here is a well researched chart - explanations can be found on our website under Products - Biofuels.

1:100.0Hydro
1:80.0Coal
1:36.0Willow
1:24.0Yellowhorn
1:18.0Wind
1:18.0Natural Gas
1:10.0Nuclear
1:10.0Petroleum - Conventional
1:9.0Palm Oil
1:8.0Petroleum - Exploration
1:6.8Photovoltaic (tracking)
1:6.2Jatropha/Tallow/Moringa
1:5.2Soy biodiesel
1:5.0Ethanol sugarcane
1:5.0Petroleum - Shale
1:3.0Petroleum - Tar sands
1:1.9Solar flat panels
1:1.6Solar collector
1:1.3Corn ethanol
March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

1:100.0Hydro
1:80.0Coal
1:36.0Willow
1:24.0Yellowhorn
1:18.0Wind
1:18.0Natural Gas
1:10.0Nuclear
1:10.0Petroleum - Conventional
1:9.0Palm Oil
1:8.0Petroleum - Exploration
1:6.8Photovoltaic (tracking)
1:6.2Jatropha/Tallow/Moringa
1:5.2Soy biodiesel
1:5.0Ethanol sugarcane
1:5.0Petroleum - Shale
1:3.0Petroleum - Tar sands
1:1.9Solar flat panels
1:1.6Solar collector
1:1.3Corn ethanol
March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

Cliff makes good points here.  We install solar panels and wind turbines and the resistence to these installations is amazing - people actually come out to picket the job sites and new project permits have a 50/50 chance at best.  The renewable energy revolution has certainly stalled. 


Petroleum is real today and will be real for 50 more years and I doubt that all the coal plants will go away in the next 50 years in some areas of our nation. 

Then again, a 5% reduction in fossil fuel use is better than nothing and the economics of renewables is an inevitibility so the migration continues.

March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

Sir Richard Branson already uses biodiesel blends in his ships and planes.  We are helping him increase the % of biodiesel over the coming years.  All quite doable.

March 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels?

The author is taking a somewhat uninformed position based on the options.  My firm has several divisions and wholly own subsidaries - including the engineering, manufacture and installation of wind turbines AND a Mining Division.  Granted, we are the poster child for mining (we have 67 mining claims today with 4 new acquisitions in the works) with our use of solar, wind turbines and biodiesel sourced from 2nd generation feedstocks and 97% recycled water with no use of holding ponds and no use of harsh chemicals.  It can be done and done profitably.

My point is simple - there are no longterm dependencies on fossil fuels for transportation or mining or the manufacture of renewable energy products - pure and simple. 

My firm is planting 2nd generation feedstock orchards on 4 contenients everyday and the volume of biodiesel that can be produced from these efforts will far exceed petroleum extraction within 2 decades.  We already use biodiesel in our heavy equipment, generators, heavy haul trucks, etc.  The rest of the world will catch up when the volume is available and the economics are motivating.  At $1/gallon for biodiesel production, that will be sooner than later.

Sincerely, we produce and sell 2nd generation feedstock sourced biodiesel simply because it is the only scalable, environmentally friendly, economically viable and truly sustainable replacement for petroleum available today.

February 28, 2014    View Comment    

On The Four Men Who Caused The Majority Of Global Warming

What an incredibly redicuously premise for an article.  These are great inventors in history who are responsible for the state of the civilization of the world.  Without these inventions, we would be riding horses with a world population in the hundreds of millions.


I hope the editor of this website reads the posts and does not make the mistake of publishing such a perspective again.

February 3, 2014    View Comment    

On Will Electric Cars Help or Hinder Climate Action?

Mr. Wilson, the author of this article, holds an odd perspective of what our future should be.

First, he references Holland as an attractive model?  Seriously?  Holland has experienced over 100,000 casualties as the result of over 1,100 failed dikes due to the desire to have a high concentration of their population in cities in the wrong geographical places. Building and maintaining dikes requires heavy haul loaders and trucks and all such vehicles burn diesel.  Moving billions of tons of dirt and rocks and pouring massive amounts of concrete for dikes for 500 years is very, very far from Green.

Also, use of bicycles do not reduce emissions nor the consumption of petroleum.  I worked in a Human Performance Lab for years and anyone who understands human metabolism can do the math (http://etcgreen.com/general/does-cycling-save-petroleum).  

To explore the author's perspective, it makes radically more sense to focus on the evacuation of the population of any nation and region that experiences tempuratures with a +/- 40 degrees F off-set from 70 degrees F.  This would save expodentially more energy and radically reduce emissions than even considering transporation.

The main problem with US transportation habits is the use of gasoline. We need to migrate to the only scalable, environmentally friendly, economically viable and truly sustainable replacement for petroleum available today.

Everyone today seems so focused on MPG, yet this unit of measure is outdated.  If the fuel is sustainable, economically viable and environmentally friendly, then MPG is not that important. Actually, if vehicles were running on B100 sourced from 2nd generation feedstock, then lower MPG is more desirable as it better supports our economy.  ETC Green Engineers are working with the EPA and DOT to establish a new unit of measure - MPPG (Miles Per Petroleum Gallon) so people have a better understanding of the performance and emissions of the vehicle. 

The required infrastructure for EV's in the US alone is an estimated $14T.  Such an effort is rediculous and will impact every other industry and our quality of life. 

Petroleum is a finite resource.  Doubling the MPPG for vehicles is wrong headed in that this direction only delays the depletion of this finite resource.  Emissions from any vehicle running on petroleum sourced fuels - including gasoline powered hybrids such as the Prius and Volt - have no life-cycle emissions off-sets.  As compared to petrodiesel, biodiesel has radically reduced emissions: use of preferred sourced B100 completely eliminates lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), it also reduces emission of particulate matter by 40-65%, unburned hydrocarbons by 68%, carbon monoxide by 44-50%, sulfates by 100%, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by 80%, and the carcinogenic nitrated PAHs by 90% on an average.  There are a list of proven biodiesel additives off-the-shelf that virtually eliminate NOx emissions. The biodiesel molecules are simple hydrocarbon chains free of the aromatic substances and sulfur associated with fossil fuels.

Since the current business plans for large scale 2nd generation feedstock in the US include the planting of 10 billion 12'-14' tall trees, this solution can also claim the air filtration benefits of those trees including the reduction of heavy metals from coal burning power plants and various particulates from petroleum burning vehicles.

January 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Will Electric Cars Help or Hinder Climate Action?

"An often-overlooked point: when transportation is largely electric, we can make it cleaner en masse by changing sources of generation from coal to gas or nuclear."

Vehicle emissions are a highly regulated industry, while electricity production is not.  This is primarily the result of the large number of power plants located in soviegn nations (Indian Reservations).  This is not going to change for the coming decades.

 

January 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Will Electric Cars Help or Hinder Climate Action?

Very true if you are running 100% petroleum diesel.  If you are running B20, your emission numbers drop and when diesel vehicles are running B100 sourced from 2nd generation feedstock, EV's cannot compete.

January 4, 2014    View Comment