SOLUTION TO OUR IMMINENT ENERGY AND FOOD SUPPLY CRISIS IS TIED TO GLOBAL WARMING
These two have risen just above the horizon. All technologies can help and we should stop all stand offs and get the valuable projects moving at highest possible speed. The cost today is nothing compared to what that will be tomorrow if we keep on waiting too long.
The time is the most rare commodity in the universe.
The pipers have started telling that we can save the world from the energy crisis and global warming by utilizing our forest. A nice thought but unfortunately fundamentally faulty as explained below.
First the utilization of any bio fuels will have no positive impact to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - the math tells that the opposite is too often the end result. However, the pipers are right in one point: we should try even more alternatives over those that we already have.
Methanol, a lower heat value cousin of ethanol has been produced from pulp wood for almost a century. The dissolved part of the wood in pulping process is first evaporated to high solids and then burned. With this a modern pulp mill has actually excess power to sell to the power grid. On real bio fuels' side during the WW II, the whole German army run by diesel oil generated from coal and wood. Gas fro wood itself was used also to run the cars. When the fuel run out you stepped out took your ax and brought in some wood. Ethanol is energy poor like this wood gas and it makes very little sense especially when we can go directly to ultra clean diesels for our airplanes, ocean going ships, trains and trucks.
We can always continue and do nothing. Just remember that the Nature has no patience nor mercy for fools - She also makes all rules to this game, and our only job is to keep on discovering more and more of these rules or perish.
The media bombards us with fabels of our ability to get rid of fossil fuels by going green. They used to check the facts of their messges but no more. The meat in these stories is often as rare as the snowmen in the middle of the Sahara desert. Unfortunately, repeated carefully crafted sentences with selective omissions will change the public opinion to whatever direction the wishes of the highest bidders want them move.
The viewers at large as well as our decision makers have by far too little knowledge to judge such issue like our energy resources and availability. We will pay dearly for this. History just rpeats itself and we just follow the steps of Germany some 75 years ago with new masters in charge.
How come we have independent experts in Congress advising us on the monetary policy every month? Money is actually an easy logical subject though it has been made to sound extremely complex with theories of supply and demand by Keynes and others. Development of computers added complexity to the issues with online gambling on never seen scale using every financial derivative we had ever invented. The bankers got what they wanted but the engineers and scientists who developed these new tools would never risk their own money in this speculation as clients.
We got our financial crisis as it was only a question of time to have it. Now we have a game of US$ 700-1,200 trillion depending what numbers you believe (BIS data is at the low end). This is a game that must be ended but nobody knows how to do it.
The facts of the Nature are like they are and they can not be altered or manipulated - they just are!
Ethanol has been made for thousands of years. Anything worth knowing about ethanol as a drink or as a fuel has been known already for centuries and used as needed. This was so obvious to our scientists and engineers that they could ever believe that politicians suddenly wanted ethanol from food. Of course we know a myriad ways to make ethanol but to make it to fuel to run factories does not make sense.
The ethanol production from corn is shows up in raising food prices and increasing food riots in the poorest of the Nations exactly as one could expect. Why were the opinions of the educated silenced?
Of course we should study any new ideas around bio fuels to learn their merits and negatives. There is always room for new catalysts and process conditions that may increase operating efficiencies and production speeds. The engineering community at large has been familiar with most of these issues already since the WW II - there is no need to re-invent the wheels, like the US Congress did at the expense of the tax payers.
However, there are several opportunities and directions that we must siege or develop further. These new products are all non-alcohols as carry a much higher energy density:
We should use ultra clean fuels in our airplanes, not the variety of hydrocarbons that we call jet fuel. The residues of the jet fuel started showing up in ice core samples from Antarctica immediately when they were introduced. The technology to do it right exists and can do it from almost anything organic between chicken blubber and coal.
The process could also use our forests but if you check how much they grow on globals basis and how much energy we use you forget the forests.
Green algae growns much faster than any wood species can ever do and this can be done efficiently in algae farms that can be located in sunny desert lands and can recycle all the water to grow this biomass resource.
This step in our democracy is not working. Those in power do not want to share their power and that means these new entrants will not get the financial support that accompanies these technologies to the markets. Nothing new here, as those in power do still not get the meaning of shared wealth and knowledge even if this concept was used already around the first camp fires that kept our ancestors alive through the night. Their problem was much deeper, the survival of them all and at that time even the most powerful needed all the others that could hunt or bear children. One tiny accident and the power was gone and only help from others could secure the survival.
This forgotten principle remains unchanged, the more options and technologies we all have available the faster and stronger our societies will become. This point is well worth your time, whoever you are, just listen the following presentation by Mr. Rishab Aiyer Ghosh: Apache and Steam Engines- the Magic of Collaborative Innovation.
We have plenty of great new technologies out there but our systems are built the way that prevents these technologies from getting the support they need and they remain "jailed" in their respective "laboratories". The owners of these technologies know what they have, and rather stall it all than give it for "free" to the establishment. After all, they have toiled for years without pay on ideas that nobody wanted to touch at the time while the inventor already had an idea of the final solution. With time and effort it all will materialize and multiple patents may exist by now to protect what was discovered. Unfortunately, it happens far too often that these patents run out of protection. When the protective clock stops the industry suddenly "discovers" a new technology and jumps in - a technology that could have been benefiting us all a decade earlier.