Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Putting the Biofuels eggs in one basket

The following quote comes from a Reuters story on a biofuels conference.
New-generation biofuels will come from a wide range of sources and no single feedstock may dominate, a conference on second generation biofuels organized by German commodity analysts F.O. Licht heard on Friday.
This makes me question why would we want one feedstock to dominate? There are good diversification reasons to want the opposite. Not being totally dependent on one crop of biomass will help stabilize supply. Suppose theoretically everything is based on corn. When the corn crop is devastated one year due to weather, disease , or insects; then the fuel supply (not to mention the US food supply) would be very hard hit. Same would hold true if the crop were jatropha, grasses, etc.

The point being that you don't want to depend on one single crop or geographical region for your biofuel any more than you want to invest only in companies named Enron or Bear Sterns. Diversification is good; hence the old saying "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Another item in this article struck me as odd.
They fuels would have to show a technical performance equivalent to fossil fuels, offer improved carbon dioxide savings and come from abundant and cheap biomass to make them sustainable and competitively-priced without subsidies, Blondy said.
That is phrased to imply that fossil fuels are sustainable and biofuels are not sustainable; when the opposite is true. I think the concern is producing enough biomass to create enough biofuels to replace fossil fuels. If we can't do that, then there is a fundamental question of are we using our fuel sources responsibly? If we use more than we can replace, then the answer is no. If that is the case then more effort needs to be placed on efficiency improvements and there is considerable room for improvement.


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