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    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2007.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2007.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2007.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2007.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2007.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2007.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2007.

    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Surging interest in Fischer-Tropsch fuels signals end to "food versus fuel" debate

Those not familiar with the technological complexity of the bioenergy sector and the vast number of pathways through which biomass can be turned into biofuels, sometimes fail to see the bigger picture of the bioeconomy. Uninformed biofuel critics often get stuck in legitimate but simplistic food-versus-fuel debates or base their ideas on what's happening with old first-generation biofuels. They do not grasp the fact that there is a truly impressive, explicitly sustainable non-food biomass potential (1550 EJ by 2050) that can be converted efficiently into fuels via other techniques. And these techniques have now become competitive.

When plants grow, they invest most of their energy in growing lignin and cellulose - the most abundant organic polymers on Earth. Oils, starches and sugars in fruits which we as humans can digest, and which are currently used for problematic biofuels, make up only a tiny fraction of plant production. With record oil prices and increasing first-generation biofuel feedstock prices, it has now become more attractive to turn this abundant residual lignocellulosic biomass resource into fuels. The techniques to do so have become competitive which is why they are witnessing a worldwide surge in interest.

One of the most promising pathways is the thermochemical conversion of biomass into syngas which is then converted into liquid fuels via the Fischer-Tropsch process (biomass-to-liquids; biogas-to-liquids). This process can utilize any type of biomass as its feedstock - from desert shrubs to wood waste, from farm residues to municipal waste, from dedicated energy crops to forest thinnings, or even biogas - thus ending the 'food versus fuel' debate in one stroke. Fischer-Tropsch fuels from biomass are ultra-clean 'synthetic biofuels' that reduce emissions by up to 90% and burn cleaner than any other type of fuel.

Record oil prices as well as record corn prices have boosted interest in this technology, which, according to detailed analyses in the German context, is competitive with oil at US$65 per barrel. The Fischer-Tropsch process was invented in Germany in the 1930s when oil was scarce, and last year, the world's first dedicated BTL plant came online once more in that country. The concept as it is being developed there is supported by Volkswagen and Daimler, and draws on a two-step process: biomass is first transformed into bio-oil via fast pyrolysis, after which the oil is gasified and synthesised via the FT process (previous post). In principle, FT fuels do not need the pyrolysis step (which is introduced out of logistical reasons), as gasification and synthesis are the only processes needed to turn biomass into fuels.

Syntec Biofuel Inc., a leading developer of FT-catalysts, announces that it is indeed experiencing an unusual level of inquiries into its BTL catalyst technology (schematic, click to enlarge). The company attributes this to the rapidly growing interest in thermo-chemical biomass conversion technologies as a result of the rapidly changing economics of corn as a feedstock for ethanol.
Record corn prices are creating worldwide debate over the use of food stock as feedstock for fuel. From cost comparison models based on USDA data with the price at $4.98 a bushel - well below current prices - Syntec’s process has edged firmly ahead in competitiveness over corn fermentation methods.

The cost of corn today at $5.20 a bushel is making corn ethanol production only marginally profitable at their estimated production levels of 92 gpt. That is a conservative figure for us as we have already achieved 105 gallons with the potential for us to further increase yields up to 150 gpt. The equivalent cost of biomass feedstock based on a bushel of wood waste is approx. $1.00. We have therefore concluded that the cost of corn feedstock per gallon of alcohol is $1.89 whereas cost of biomass feedstock per gallon of alcohol is $0.33. - Syntec Biofuel statement
With its patented catalysts, Syntec Biofuel recently achieved a yield of 105 gallons (397.5 liters) of alcohols (ethanol, methanol, n-butanol and n-propanol) per ton of lignocellulosic biomass - an important milestone (previous post). In 2006, the company had targeted a yield of approximately 113 gallons (42.8 liters) per ton, and achieved 73 gallons (27.6 liters) last October. With the new yield achievement and Syntec's projections showing high commercial feasibility for its process, it is receiving interest from a rapidly growing number of interested parties.
Next-generation production techniques like those developed by Syntec Biofuel unlock the potential to turn virtually any type of biomass into fuels, thus ending the pressures on food markets. Biomass-to-liquids offers vast opportunities for hundreds of millions of farmers in poorer countries, where they can easily grow dedicated energy crops - grasses, shrubs, fast-growing trees - on low value, degraded land. By doing so, the world's poorest rural communities can lift themselves out of poverty and help end countries' reliance on catastrophically expensive oil. What is more, the substantial amount of agricultural and forestry residues that is currently burned or left to decay all over the world - a process responsible for large GHG emissions - has now become an attractive biofuel feedstock. Using it to produce ultra-clean synthetic biofuels greatly helps in the climate fight.

Scientists who developed the leading assessment model to analyse bioenergy potentials in countries and regions, have found that by 2050 around 1550 Exajoules of biomass will be available for use in the bioeconomy, under a highly efficient scenario. This potential is explicitly sustainable, as it is calculated by taking into account a strict zero deforestation rule, and by first allocating land to meet all food, fiber, feed and forest products needs of populations. 1550 EJ of sustainable bioenergy is roughly 6 times as much oil as is currently consumed by the entire world. The UN's Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has taken this projection model - known as QUICKSCAN - as the basis for its own analyses which focus explicitly on food security:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The QUICKSCAN model, widely recognised as being the most robust and complete analytical framework, takes a bottom-up approach to estimate the sustainable bioenergy production potential. It first calculates and projects all food, fiber, fodder and forest product needs of growing populations, under different population growth scenarios. It then looks at the amount of land left for biofuels and bioenergy. This land base is explicitly taken to be non-forest land (no deforestation allowed) and sets aside land that is protected (conservation areas, natural parks, etc...). It then allocates different crops to different types of land after which a scenario component is introduced reflecting potential yield and land availability increases resulting from agronomical changes.

The end result of the projections is an amount of bioenergy that a given region can produce sustainably over time, while meeting all needs of growing local populations and without damaging the environment. Maximum potential for sub-Saharan Africa is 347 EJ per year by 2050; for South America and the Caribbean 279 EJ, for the C.I.S. and Baltic States 269 EJ (map, click to enlarge). Biopact has consistently based its discussion of the regional and global biofuels opportunity on these assessments and the research papers developed from it.

The scientists who developed QUICKSCAN have written several case studies about the medium to long-term future biofuels potential of countries like Mozambique and the Ukraine, or regions like the Baltics and West Africa. Interestingly, when they analyse the exportable potential, they consistently use Fischer-Tropsch as the base-line technology for their computations.

This is no coincidence. The medium to long-term future of biofuels is not in turning food into fuels. That is a primitive and inefficient process. When a crop grows, the plants spend most of their energy in growing non-food biomass. Grains, sugars or starches make up only a fraction of their production. Instead, plants invest their energy in growing ligno-cellulosic biomass, which we humans cannot digest. And it is this resource that can now be turned into fuels efficiently. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. Lignin is the second most abundant.

Syntec Biofuel: Syntec Biofuel says near record corn prices boosting interest in its waste biomass to ethanol process - February 27, 2008.

Biopact: Syntec Biofuel achieves yield of 105 gallons of synthetic alcohol per ton of biomass - February 15, 2008

Biopact: FAO unveils important bioenergy assessment tool to ensure food security, shows global biofuels potential - February 11, 2008

Biopact: Report: synthetic biofuels (BtL) and bioenergy efficient, competitive and sustainable in Germany - September 22, 2007

Biopact: German consortium starts production of ultra-clean synthetic biofuels -
June 23, 2007

Biopact: German Energy Agency: biomass-to-liquids can meet up to 35% of Germany's fuel needs by 2030 - December 15, 2006


Blogger Roy said...

There is light! I must be near the end of the tunnel!!

This is a great treatise. No food for biofuel! We can fuel the world with biomass and leave the food on the table. Terrific! I am sooo impressed! Truly. I personally, have made it my duty to try and debunk all those that think we need fossil fuels or that we should take food off the table to make biofuel. I am like the little train chugging up the hill, saying to myself, "I think I can, I know I can, I think...". This article tells me I am near the top and totally re-energizes me to now say, " I know I can, I know....!

I would like to humbly add, Valcent Products, www.valcent.net. Valcent, says they have proven data, they can grow algae in a closed loop vertical system, using recycled carbon, lots of sunshine, a little water, arid land, and, produce 33,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Plus, an additional 25% carbohydrates and 25% protein. Not bad! Check them out.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

The figure of 1550 exajoules (1.55e21 joules) of biomass production is impressive, but I find it marginally credible at best.  At 17.4 GJ/tonne, that much energy would require production of 89 billion tons of biomass per year.  Compare this to a mere 700 million tons of non-food biomass byproducts currently being produced in the USA from activities such as agriculture and forestry; such would require nearly 130 times as much.

Second, the aforementioned figure appears to be used as an excuse to continue Business As Usual (BAU).  The claims imply no need to switch away from liquid fuels or even make systems compatible with liquids other than hydrocarbons.  How very convenient, if true.  It implies that just sitting and waiting will bring us what we want.

But we should ask ourselves:  what if it is not true?

If it is not true, sitting and waiting brings disaster.  Oil prices rise, standards of living fall, economies contract, atmospheric CO2 continues its relentless increase.  Resources needed to create non-biomass RE systems are wasted on current consumption, largely fed to the petroleum and coal interests.  And partial success may be worst of all; if the conversion systems work but the biological productivity targets aren't met, humanity may feed much of our remaining flora into the machines, losing the biodiversity forever.

Even if this scheme may work, relying on it is extremely risky.  We would be much better off hedging our bets, starting with electrification of transport to both maximize its efficiency and achieve the greatest possible diversity of energy supplies.  If we rely on the internal combustion engine and we can only achieve 10% of today's fuel production, we are screwed; if we triple efficiency via electrification and get 10% of today's consumption from biomass, another 10% from wind and 10% from solar, we'll make it with little pain.

"Biopact" is the wrong model.  We need an electropact.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

Engineer-poet, fair points, which, I think we at Biopact have address one for one.

1. About the biomass estimae being on the high side.

It's the most optimistic scenario of the 4 described, and implies that the developing world will rely on the same intensive farming practises as the West (it has 43 years to become more efficient; Africa still has to undergo its Green Revolution). If that happens, 1550EJ is not that unrealistic.

However, the model doesn't take into account possible yield decline as a result of climate change.

On the other hand, it does not account for biotechnology breakthroughs (e.g. it does not look at the potential of GM crops or at plants with improved photosynthesis; it does explicitly state that if such breakthroughs are made, the potential could be much higher still; theoretically, photosynthetic efficiency can be engineered to be several times higher than that of normal crops today).

2. We mainly use this optimistic scenario as a rhetorical device, to counter neo-Malthusianists.

3. The biodiversity argument is important, but we think the best way to guarantee that the environment is protected in the South, is the rapid transition to modernity.

Take the forests in the DRCongo, one of the last true biodiversity hotspots on the planet. They're being razed very rapidely.

The main causes? Obscene poverty and high population pressure (fertility rate: 7 children per women).

Agriculture and access to markets are the best guarantee for this large population to become wealthier, have population growth slow down and lessen stress on the environment.

Also, you know we discussed the by now infamous research which shows that *lack* of this kind of opportunities is the true cause of wars and social instability; the researchers of the Swedish Peace Institute (you know thé big famous institute) said: "working for the environment" in the "green peace" sense, is actually bad for the environment because it results in misery.

The best environmental protection method by far, is: modernity. That is: wealth, mobility, migration, efficient agriculture, etc...

4. Our idea of a pact between North and South is merely pragmatic: biomass can be produced most efficiently in the South, and there it can yield most social benefits. With fair markets, free bioenergy trade could lift literally millions out of poverty.

Congo should be a major net food and bioenergy exporter; not dependent on food handouts of European and American maize, distributed by the WFP.

5. we have repeatedly said that we favor a mass transition to electric vehicle infrastructures.

And precisely because biomass can be best used to generate electricity (you can even generate carbon-negative electricity and drive a car that takes CO2 out of the atmosphere.

So Biopact is an electro-pact.

Only, it's an electro-pact that aims to yield *negative emissions* (only possible with bioenergy).

You do this by growing efficient biomass in the South, and by turning it into bio-oil that is transported to the North. It's a quite efficient approach.

In the North, you use the pyrolysis oil in power plants that are coupled to CCS, so you obtain negative emissions.

Biopact readers know that this is the approach we favor.

6. Last but not least: if you have ever visited a developing country, you will know that the ICE is there to stay for many decades to come.

We would prefer those country to develop; high oil prices are catastrophic and will not allow them to. So on that front, for poor countries with large agricultural resources, we are not at all against liquid biofuels, even though there are more efficient ways of using biomass.

You know very well that least developed countries cannot afford a $100,000 EV. They can afford a $1000 second hand ICE car from Europe.

The Brazilian model is very feasible in many countries of the tropics and the subtropics.

Unless an EV is invented that works and costs below $1000, we think the ethanol/biodiesel model is the best bet for these countries to transit to modern mobility, which plays a key role in sustainable social and economic development.


1:27 PM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

"2. We mainly use this optimistic scenario as a rhetorical device, to counter neo-Malthusianists. "

Which makes you appear somewhere between Pollyannas and denialists.  I know appearances can be deceiving, but some caveats are in order.

"you know we discussed the by now infamous research which shows that *lack* of this kind of opportunities is the true cause of wars and social instability"

I know no such thing.  I have been reluctant to spend much time going through this site in part because every last page has the same title, making it painful to index with bookmarks.  Not even the Blogger software (which forbids such common HTML elements as blockquotes in comments) requires this; it had to have been a deliberate act.  (The anchors on comment links don't work either.)

"precisely because biomass can be best used to generate electricity (you can even generate carbon-negative electricity and drive a car that takes CO2 out of the atmosphere."

A fact that I've noted before and expanded upon at length.  But this post goes on about ~1500 quads of biomass-derived hydrocarbons.  I think this undermines your position.

"You know very well that least developed countries cannot afford a $100,000 EV."

Neither can 90% of the American public.  However, PV electricity is already cheaper in much the world than light from kerosene.  EVs are often cheaper to buy and much simpler to maintain than ICEVs.  The time to get EVs onto the road is now, and promotion of synthetic hydrocarbons from biomass is a huge step backward.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

//"2. We mainly use this optimistic scenario as a rhetorical device, to counter neo-Malthusianists. "

Which makes you appear somewhere between Pollyannas and denialists. I know appearances can be deceiving, but some caveats are in order.///

Not really. There is no scientific basis for neo-Malthusianism whatsoever.

The history of demographics, agriculture, science and technology show exactly the contrary.

What we do know is that there have been successive neo-Malthusian outbursts, which have all proved to be wrong. The last major eruption was in the 1970s, when the Club of Rome predicted we would all be dead by the year 2000. We predict that the current neo-Malthusian upsurge will be wrong too.

It's not difficult to see why we will be right.

The UNPOP has revised its population projections downwards for the fourth consecutive time. We max out at 8.9bn in 2075, after which population stagnates and then declines.

The crucial demographic transition we went through in Europe and the US centuries ago (and which continues to this day, with Europe's population decline), is gradually emerging in the developing countries (China's will be declining pretty soon too); Africa's will of course happen much later. In India we are seeing a gradual stagnation in the growth rate, which was predicted.

On these bases, all projections by the FAO show we can clearly meet all food, fiber, fodder and forest products needs by then, with enough capacity to spare for bioenergy.

What's more, bioenergy and all the major socio-economic benefits it brings, is a key role in helping to bring about this transition. This is so because the transition is based on modernity, which thrives in large part on cheap and abundant energy.

High energy prices would be catastrophic in that they are a barrier to development. Underdevelopment and lack of energy would indeed keep fertility rates high and thus make neo-Malthusianist perspectives more credible.

So even though there is no real scientific basis for neo-Malthusianism, we take population pressures in the South serious. But we also think that they will be overcome, because these countries will go through the demographic transition soon; bio-based economic development can be a key to help relieve these population pressures and speed up the transition.

///"you know we discussed the by now infamous research which shows that *lack* of this kind of opportunities is the true cause of wars and social instability"

I know no such thing.///

Please check these two sources:

2. AlphaGalileo: Does working for a better environment really lead to peace? 12 December 2007

Helga Malmin Binningsbø, Indra de Soysa, Nils Petter Gleditsch, "Green giant or straw man? Environmental pressure and civil conflict, 1961–99", Population and Environment, Volume 28, Number 6 / July, 2007, DOI: 10.1007/s11111-007-0053-6

Authors are of the Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway.

1. Biopact: Researchers: lack of farming opportunities, Western subsidies key causes of conflict in third world - January 20, 2008

Thomas Demuynck and Arne Schollaert, "Agricultural commodity prices and civil conflict", January 18, 2008, [in press as a Ghent University Working Paper]. Of which we have a hard copy that can be sent upon request.

///I have been reluctant to spend much time going through this site in part because every last page has the same title, making it painful to index with bookmarks. Not even the Blogger software (which forbids such common HTML elements as blockquotes in comments) requires this; it had to have been a deliberate act. (The anchors on comment links don't work either.)///

This is a blog on the old blogger platform, which we kept because a transition to the new system would have caused much trouble. It's primitive, we know, but we've been reluctant to make the switch.

About the bookmarks: isn't it possible to rename the title of a bookmark?

///"precisely because biomass can be best used to generate electricity (you can even generate carbon-negative electricity and drive a car that takes CO2 out of the atmosphere."

A fact that I've noted before and expanded upon at length.///

Mmm, interesting texts, will certainly check it out. Our approach to biochar is mainly as a way to improve food security in the tropics.

After all, biochar's real potential is in the acidic problem soils of the tropics, where most scientific research and trials have been conducted. There they yield most social and environmental advantages (reduced deforestation, improved soil fertility, access to modern carbon-negative energy, etc...).

It's possible that biochar could work elsewhere and outside of these oxisols and ferralsols.

///But this post goes on about ~1500 quads of biomass-derived hydrocarbons. I think this undermines your position.///

Well, the research on which it is based is the best there is, so it's not unreasonable to use its data. The model on which the projections are based, QUICKSCAN, is now also used by the FAO. Its the most robust bottom-up assessment method, based on the best data available.

Of course, it's also the most optimistic of the 4 scenarios. So we consistently pick that scenario, because the QUICKSCAN model excludes biotech advances. Given the fact that there are huge advances every few months (weeks?), and that the time horizon is 2050, we think 1550Ej will be possible.

A lot can happen in 43 years... Tomorrow scientists could announce they have developed a technique with which to double the photosynthetic efficiency of plants. That's not unlikely. Many of these advancements are made increasingly rapidly.

Yes, we're techno-optimists.

On the other hand, we're also realists, and in other posts we've referred to the fact that the high scenarios are not impossible to reach, but that more likely estimates put realistic potential at 200-400EJ.

For example:
Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007

We've oftened discussed internally whether we should continue to stress the 1500Ej estimate. Some are for, because, like you say, it "undermines our position"; others say we should stick to it, in order to counter the increasing trend of denying *any* substantial potential for bioenergy.

For the time being, we stick to the latter position, also simply because this allows us to point readers to the best projections about bioenergy (IEA Bioenergy Task 40 / Copernicus Institute), so that they don't get trapped in amateur assessments.

///"You know very well that least developed countries cannot afford a $100,000 EV."

Neither can 90% of the American public. However, PV electricity is already cheaper in much the world than light from kerosene.///

Household energy is a totally different matter. There we're tech-neutral and all renewables are interesting. However, solar is *by far* the most expensive way to achieve universal rural electrification in the developing world - the real challenge for the 21st century. Biomass gasification and small hydro are the key for most countries; wind could play a role; solar is far more problematic.

In any case, peak oil and coal's problems will make all renewables competitive with fossil energy.

///EVs are often cheaper to buy and much simpler to maintain than ICEVs.///

I'm not sure about that. A normal EV costs $100,000 and there's no servicing infrastructure. In the developing world it will take many decades, if not half a century before EVs begin to penetrate the market in any significant way.

In the meantime, the ICE is here to stay for them (Tata's "Nano" - which we predict to be made ethanol capable soon).

But I understand your point: it would be ideal if dev. countries were to "leapfrog" us and transit to more sustainable mobility rightaway.

However, we all know this is one big fantasy. Everyone who has ever visited a poor country knows this instinctively; it would take trillions to pull this off. It won't happen in countries with populations that make $500 per year per capita. These people use motorbikes and old ICEs, or Nanos.

So let's first try to get EVs off the ground chez nous.

For the coming 5 decades, I predict that the trucks carrying food from rural Africa's populations over dirt roads to urban markets will be ICEs.

///The time to get EVs onto the road is now, and promotion of synthetic hydrocarbons from biomass is a huge step backward.///
Absolutely, in the highly developed world this is feasible. As said, we favor electric transport.

Preferrably powered by carbon-negative electricity. That is: electricity from biomass.

Other renewables can certainly play a role, but they are expensive, need subsidies, can't offer base-loads and can't go negative. Biomass is competitive with coal today (in fact it's 30% cheaper in the EU, because coal pumpers need expensive certificates here to fire coal; biomass is being increasingly used for co-firing, for a reason; coal prices are skyrocketing too - check the trend).

Our deal is: the South produces biomass efficiently on terra preta soils (carbon negative that is); this will boost rural development, halt deforestation and end poverty in the developing countries; the biomass is pyrolysed and traded internationally; and then in wealthy countries it is burned in biomass plants coupled to CCS (carbon-negative once more), to power EVs.

I don' see what's wrong with this concept.


1:55 AM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

By the way, Engineer-poet, tomorrow (Sunday, March 02) we publish an interview with Prof. dr. ir. Rudy Rabbinge, chairman of the Science Council of the CGIAR (that's the consortium of the world's leading agricultural science and research institutions), professor at Wageningen University (the leading tropical ag uni of the world) and candidate-chief of the FAO... ok, enough authority argument...

You know what he has repeatedly said? That the planet has a carrying capacity to produce food not for 10 or 12 billion people or so, but for 40 billion!

Not us saying that, Prof. Dr. Ir. chief of CGIAR science...

Enough said. Everyone who knows the basic data about carrying capacity and the enormous potential in the developing world (where productivity can be quintupled easily, and then increased further like in the EU), knows that our estimates about food and fuel are pretty average, at times even conservative.

But then, if we, a small volunteer group were too stress too often what the scientists say, then nobody would take us seriously.

So we leave it to Prof. Dr. Ir. Chief Science Man.

Check out the interview tomorrow, it's being translated as I write this.


Not us saying that. Ra

5:09 AM  

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