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Monday message board

August 20th, 2007

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

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  1. gandhi
    August 20th, 2007 at 14:28 | #1

    Hey, Arthur Chrenkoff is still alive (unlike a million Iraqis he helped to slaughter) and chatting with his Liberal Party friends on Facebook.

  2. BilB
    August 20th, 2007 at 14:39 | #2

    I am going to paste into this blog a blob of information and links that I have collected recently regarding bio energy. There are a few things to note.
    President Lula de Silva as a guest of the G8 pointed out that ethanol production in Brazil uses just one percent of the available farm land for cane for ethanol production at 4 million hectares. Other higher figures I believe include cane for sugar production. This statement has been backed up by a statement from US officials.
    The US does not currently use any of its quite considerable cane growing capacity for the production of ethanol. And therefore its farmers have not had the doubling of income that our Queensland farmers have enjoyed. The US is only now starting to reconsider that position. Parrallel with that the Mexican government have just passed some legislation that will enable Mexican farmers of sugar cane to produce cane for ethanol production. There are 2.5 million people in Mexico whose livelyhoods have been diminished by market access issues for their sugar. These people are now in for a dramatic boost to their fortunes. The combination of these forces may very well be the catalyst that causes a major rethink of the future for biofuels in the US and the world. Even without that rethink it should be recognised that the E85 fuel blend is both legal and available in the US, in contrast to Australia where anything above E10 is actually illegal. Refer to JW Howard, the great facilitator (not), for an explanation.
    Another emerging reality is that vegetation that is cycled once or even twice a year for bio fuel production is many times more valuable to the environment, GW wise, than natural vegetation which takes longer to grow then falls and decomposes to CO2 and methane or is “recycled” with periodic bushfires. Far from causing food famine using land for bioenergy production is enabling third world countries to tap in to the worlds wealth via the energy economy which is not mined with agricultural barriers. This is giving many dozens of marginal economies new hope for their people.

  3. BilB
    August 20th, 2007 at 14:49 | #3

    The blob of inforamtion does not want to post. Trying again:
    “http://www.cleanhouston.org/energy/features/ethanol2.htm”
    “http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/04/mexico_approves.php”
    “http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=19061″
    “http://lugar.senate.gov/energy/hearings/pdf/060622/Carvalho_slides1.pdf”
    “http://naamic.tamu.edu/calgary/shwedelpres.pdf”
    “http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38051″
    “President Lula, meanwhile, denied that his plans to make Brazil an even bigger ethanol producer would undermine food sovereignty or further fuel deforestation in the Amazon jungle region as a result of the expansion of the agricultural frontier driven by crops like sugar cane.”
    “According to the president, Brazil dedicates 440 million hectares to agriculture, of which sugar cane accounts for a mere one percent.
    Brazilian Vice President José Alencar, meanwhile, said at UNICA’s ethanol conference that rather than causing environmental damage, investment in biofuels will contribute to economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection in poor countries. (END/2007)”
    “http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=D07E5B9D-0A60-EDC8-6971CD5AE18893F5″
    “U.S. energy officials on Brazil ethanol productionMonday, July 16, 2007, 2:26 PM”
    “by Julie Harker”
    “U.S. energy officials on Friday said the ethanol production in Brazil is not devastating the Amazon rain forest or driving up food prices. The Deprtment of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab tells Reuters News there’s no cutting down of the rain forest to make fuels, a common misconception. ”
    “Venezuela and Bolivia, strong oil and natural gas producing countries, have criticized U.S. and Brazilian ethanol production, saying they’re increasing food prices and world hunger.”
    “The U.S. is the largest producer of ethanol derived from corn while Brazil is the largest exporter of ethanol which it makes from sugar cane.”
    “Brazil and the U.S. signed an accord in March to promote global ethanol marketing and production in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
    “http://www.cei.org/pdf/5774.pdf”
    “http://cgse.epfl.ch/webdav/site/cgse/shared/Biofuels/White%20Paper_ForWebsite.pdf”
    “http://www.birrenbach.com/GSE/EtReportMain.pdf”
    “http://www.aspeninstitute.org/atf/cf/%7BDEB6F227-659B-4EC8-8F84-8DF23CA704F5%7D/EEEethanol1.pdf”

  4. BilB
    August 20th, 2007 at 14:53 | #4

    The blob of links and quotes will have to wait. John’s spam filter has blown it up 5 times now and I have given up.

  5. BilB
    August 20th, 2007 at 14:56 | #5

    Dropping off the links:

    “President Lula, meanwhile, denied that his plans to make Brazil an even bigger ethanol producer would undermine food sovereignty or further fuel deforestation in the Amazon jungle region as a result of the expansion of the agricultural frontier driven by crops like sugar cane.”

    “According to the president, Brazil dedicates 440 million hectares to agriculture, of which sugar cane accounts for a mere one percent.
    Brazilian Vice President José Alencar, meanwhile, said at UNICA’s ethanol conference that rather than causing environmental damage, investment in biofuels will contribute to economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection in poor countries. (END/2007)”

  6. BilB
    August 20th, 2007 at 14:58 | #6

    And from the US:

    U.S. energy officials on Brazil ethanol productionMonday, July 16, 2007, 2:26 PM

    by Julie Harker

    U.S. energy officials on Friday said the ethanol production in Brazil is not devastating the Amazon rain forest or driving up food prices. The Deprtment of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab tells Reuters News there’s no cutting down of the rain forest to make fuels, a common misconception.

    Venezuela and Bolivia, strong oil and natural gas producing countries, have criticized U.S. and Brazilian ethanol production, saying they’re increasing food prices and world hunger.

    The U.S. is the largest producer of ethanol derived from corn while Brazil is the largest exporter of ethanol which it makes from sugar cane.

    Brazil and the U.S. signed an accord in March to promote global ethanol marketing and production in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  7. Hermit
    August 20th, 2007 at 15:07 | #7

    BilB from what I read Florida sugarcane won’t be enough and since Mexico’s main oilfield Cantarell is in steep decline the Mexicans will battle to supply their own biofuels. Even with the corn ethanol tax credit returns appear to be diminishing in the US. I doubt whether North America in total can supply enough ethanol to meet E10 for the US let alone E85. NAFTA is turning out to be a regret for the Canadians with obligatory cheap sales of gas to the US so no doubt copycat Australia will make the same mistakes with Asia. It’s great if Qld sugar growers can get good returns but following the Brazilian example there should be no need for subsidies.

    As for carbon storage by plants it depends upon whether leaf litter and roots are absorbed by the soil in relatively inert form, the age of the plants and rainfall as well as harvesting and burning. The idea of a steady recycling of CO2 via biofuels sounds good but it will require huge discipline to achieve a closed loop eg no superphosphate, no mineral diesel in trucks.

  8. BilB
    August 20th, 2007 at 16:45 | #8

    Gosh Hermit, it doesn’t take long for the knives to come out. Are you trying to protect your BP oil shares? If you track down the whole of Lulo de Silva’s speech to the G8 you will see that he goes on to say that if Brazil multiplied its current production seven fold it would still only produce E10 for all of the worlds vehicles. In that he was not including the improvements from cellulose production, so taking it at face value with Brazil committing 7 percent of its land at current projections then Brazil could produce up to 10 percent of the fuel for cars globally. Now that is ignoring all of the efforts of all other countries. But in the so saying he also said by inference that if Brazil increased their land commitment to 28 percent (not that that is necessarily possible) then Brazil could supply the E in E40 to the world.

    There is a problem with your arguments. Simply, ethanol makes good commercial sense. It is working, and it will continue to expand exponentially as more countries equip for bio fuel production for the parts of their agriculture that are suitable. And the wealth that flows from this production will feed positively into general food production in many impoverished nations.

    Leaf litter becomes substantially decomposed by bacteria which release CO2 in the process. This came as a shock to European greenies a few years ago when the warm and extended summer dramatically increased bacterial activity in their soil and their natural carbon sequestration went backwards. The only way to preserve the carbon capture of plants is for the fallen vegetation to become immersed in an oxygen shielding bog or be progressively buried as, in a river delta.

    On the phosphate thing, I think that the Brazillians are improving their performance with mixed crop planting. This also helps to reduce the mono crop effects.

  9. observa
    August 20th, 2007 at 21:06 | #9

    BilB, I understood the reason the US uses corn over sugar cane for ethanol production is directly related to the land area it has available to grow corn. The US subsidises ethanol production from corn, although I’m not sure if it necessarily has to be produced from corn. As far as I was aware it paid a per litre subsidy for ethanol produced and left it to producers to decide the most profitable way.

  10. observa
    August 20th, 2007 at 21:15 | #10

    It would be remiss of this South Australian, not to mention a certain milestone. As of today the Baxter, illegal immigrant detention centre has been closed due to a distinct lack of patronage. The remaining dozen detainees will be transferred to other centres and the overflow facilities returned to El Alemain Army base. Whilst the good citizens of Port Augusta might miss the boost to their economy, they will probably not miss the feral rentacrowd at Easter. It’s nice to know that as a result of determined Govt policy to turn away hijacked ships and the like, as well as offshoring, that children are no longer overboard in the sea, irrespective of how you might think they got there in the first place.

  11. joe2
    August 20th, 2007 at 22:01 | #11

    Yes, a “milestone”, observa. And a ‘millstone’ for the taxpayer.

    We have been paying over 30 Million a year to keep this nasty detention facilty running. 120 staff have been employed to guard just 12 poor souls. Apart from the cruelty involved, it has been a large waste of funds by a government that claims to carefully manage the economy.

    The squandering of money and human potential will continue on Christmas Island, but on a much larger scale.

  12. Chris O’Neill
    August 21st, 2007 at 01:51 | #12

    “children are no longer overboard in the sea”

    Not that they ever were, of course.

  13. BilB
    August 21st, 2007 at 06:05 | #13

    Thanks for that Observa, I must have missed the Prime Ministers announcement of that one. Unusual for him to not take the credit for a cost cutting measure.

    On the ethanol cane thing I am suggesting that the US may have a lot of land that was not cosidered useful that may be put to sugar cane. One thing about biomass production is that when a hurricane comes through and lays your crop down flat, you still have a crop. Fruit is destroyed but biomass just needs scraping up and earlier than planned processing. US cane for sugar farmers are in the same boat as the Australian farmers with their end product squeezed down in price to where the whole process is marginal. I would suggest that the studies that have been performed on the viability of cane ethanol have been done on false information about the potential yields. Reading between the lines of the various statements I sense that they are currently re evaluating these studies.
    If all of the current cane farmers converted all of their crop to ethanol, then there would be 10% less sugar in America. Now that would be a shame in a country full of obese people.

  14. August 21st, 2007 at 13:04 | #14

    Hey BilB, when are you going to realise that biofuels will do more harm than good?!
    Biofuels switch a mistake, say researchers

    Dr Righelato’s study, with Dominick Spracklen from the University of Leeds, is the first to calculate the impact of biofuel carbon emissions across the whole cycle of planting, extraction and conversion into fuel. They report in the journal Science that between two and nine times more carbon emissions are avoided by trapping carbon in trees and forest soil than by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels.

    Around 40% of Europe’s agricultural land would be needed to grow biofuel crops to meet the 10% fossil fuel substitution target. That demand on arable land cannot be met in the EU or the US, say the scientists, so is likely to shift the burden on land in developing countries.

    More here:
    Forget biofuels – burn oil and plant forests instead

    Righelato and Dominick Spracklen of the University of Leeds, UK, calculated how long it would take to compensate for those initial emissions by burning biofuel instead of gasoline. The answer is between 50 and 100 years. “We cannot afford that, in terms of climate change,” says Righelato.

    The researchers also compared how much carbon would be stored by replanting forests with how much is saved by burning biofuel grown on the land instead of gasoline.

    They found that reforestation would sequester between two and nine times as much carbon over 30 years than would be saved by burning biofuels instead of gasoline (see bar chart, right). “You get far more carbon sequestered by planting forests than you avoid emissions by producing biofuels on the same land,” says Righelato.

  15. frankis
    August 21st, 2007 at 18:58 | #15

    Seems unnecessarily pessimistic carbon sink. Removing forests in order to plant biofuels (apparently what those researchers are on about) is fairly obviously a woeful idea, but so I think is their notion that we ought to continue burning fossil fuels while planting forests. Forests where, on land currently being used for what, and what fraction of emissions would realistically be able to be offset in this way for how long?

    Growing algae in warm ponds near power stations and sewage treatment plants is one of many better ideas that sound nice to me. The yield of fuel from algaculture should prove to be more than ten times the yield from terrestrial fuel crops taking up an equivalent land area, and using the CO2 emissions of a power station to grow an algal biofuel sounds to me like a “co-generation” scheme with real prospects. There are plenty of other good ideas for biofuels I think, none of them a panacea in and of itself but many with perhaps something good to add to our energy future. I can’t believe that any study would ever be able to plausibly write off biofuels, in fact there should always be a time and a place for almost any fuel we could think of – it’s just that fossil fuels’ time has now passed.

  16. BilB
    August 22nd, 2007 at 10:18 | #16

    Carbonsink,

    There are a couple of fundamental flaws in the arguments put forward by the leeds researchers.

    What they suggest is true that growing a forest from bare soil absorbs large amounts of CO2. I t must be done from bare land to achieve the results claimed. There is not a uniform CO2 absorption, in the initail 10 years absorption is small. Once the forest is fully developed then the CO2 absorption drops back to near zero. Along the way Methane starts to be released in large quantities at various times.

    The other more serious failing of the suggestion is that there is no commercial value in growing a forrest as a CO2 sink. There can be carbon offsets applied but that comes with the risk that the offsets would have to be returned if the forest burned or was harvested. Both high probability outcomes. It must be recognised that forests have a one hit effect on global CO2 levels, once they are up they have had their effect and that is it, unles they are buldozed and buried in a way that prevents decomposition.

    There is one other serious problem with long lived forests, and that is that the survivability of forest in a changing environment is entirely uncertain. Changing rain fall patterns can kill huge areas of vegetation, and where that happens then the carbonsbsorbing effect is nulled and reversed.

    The Leeds researcher’s arguments are very simplistic to the point of being false.

  17. August 22nd, 2007 at 14:37 | #17

    The Leeds researcher’s arguments are very simplistic to the point of being false

    Oh that must be why their paper was published in Science. Honestly you talk some nonsense!

    Biofuels are a dead end. We need to electrify transportation.

  18. BilB
    August 22nd, 2007 at 17:59 | #18

    Carbonsink,

    Publication? As did the Korean stem cell researcher who falsified his reseach results.

    I do not have to prove anything about bio fuels, their is an entire economy of 185 million people who believe other wise. If it came to a vote I know what the result would be.

    I do not disagree with you about electric vehicles. I had a ride in a Prius yesterday. What an amazing piece of technology. Quiet, smooth, a true pleasure. The Prius is a hybride solution, a transition from petrol performance expectations to the electric dream. As with the Prius the economy needs a transition medium simply because there is not sufficient time to fully develop the ideal electric car in time to avoid climate shift. Bio fuels are a robust stepping stone from the fossil carbon world to the what ever it is that you have in mind. I really cannot fathom your objection. Biofuels do not in anyway threaten an electric car future. If anything they make the transition more probable and more robust. Ethanol fuel cells are already powering laptop computers and recharging cellphones. Ethanol fuel cell/battery powered cars and light aircraft are not far away.

    Youtube link: electric trike

    If you want to test the probabilities then do a comparison of the number of electrically powered vehicles that there are in the world to the number of biofuelled vehicles in the world.

  19. August 22nd, 2007 at 22:56 | #19

    Biofuels do not in anyway threaten an electric car future

    No they threaten tropical forests and food production.

    My objection is that like the “hydrogen economy” biofuels are a dead end technology and will never replace a significant proportion of our liquid fuel needs. Sure it will fill a niche and biodiesel is a great way to recycle cooking oil, but that’s about it. Once you start destroying natural eco-systems to grow fuel crops (and that is happening already) or fuel crops start driving up the price of food (which is also happening) we have gone as far as we should down the biofuel path.

    All the money that is currently invested in biofuels would be much better spent on developing PHEVs and BEVs.

  20. BilB
    August 23rd, 2007 at 01:15 | #20

    Carbonsink,

    I think that you are cherry picking your information. Brazil uses 1 percent of their farmable land for the huge amount of ethanol that they currently produce. That means that 99 percent of their farmable land is for everything else. That cannot be said to be driving up food prices or chopping down huge swathes of tropical forest for biofuel production. Many thirdworld countries are desperate to gain access into developed nation markets for their agricultural output, if they succeeded at this then their food prices will certainly go up. Their incomes will also go up. It does not matter whether their exports are bananas or ethanol, their aim is to increase the incomes of the people. The detractors cannot have it both ways. This is a non argument.

    And as for PHEV’s http://www.hymotion.com/products.htm the H part run on E85 makes this a 92% low CO2 emission vehicle. You seem to not be able to see the cynergy here. If plug in electric vehicles were available economically and on mass today our power system would collapse. You might think that there is capacity to charge them but you are mistaken. And on the investment side from what I can see all of the money being spent on biofuels is private money. Money being spent to expand production of a product that makes commercial sense. The money that I can see being wasted in huge chunks is that being thrown at carbon sequestration, a guaranteed dead end.

  21. BilB
    August 23rd, 2007 at 03:08 | #21

    Carbonsink,

    An afterthought, one thing that you might not be aware of, is that there are currently hundreds if not thousands of research programmes under way in the world at the moment with daily reportings of significant technology advances in battery, fuel cell, electric motor, control system, structural material and manufacturing technique areas, together offering a confusion of possibilities for end product developments. This is perhaps the biggest deterent to volume manufacture of the next generation vehicles. The dust hasn’t settled. There is a significant risk to any vehicle manufacturer that a production model may be superceded by technology advances before the investment return is realised. No doubt there could be more money pumped into the research and development for electric vehicles, but it does also take time for optimal technologies to become proven. many of the new advances involve science breakthroughs that are only recent. Very specifically the nano technologies which are turning battery possibilities on their ear. So while it is tempting to say that all of this research into electric vehicles could have been done years ago, that is not a fully supportable argument.

  22. cacofonix
    August 24th, 2007 at 12:36 | #22

    Cost of Government “Work Choices” propaganda now over $120 million

    Last week Labor Senator John Faulkner gave a speech in which the costs to the taxpayers of the successive “Work Choices” propaganda blitzes, beginning with the initial saturation level AU$55 million campaign of 2005 up to and including the current equally deceptive “Know where you stand” campaigns were listed. The cost now stands at ‘AU$120 million and counting’. Total costs for all Howard government self-promotion advertisng campaigns since they were re-elected in 2004 are estimated at between AU$800million and AU$1billion.

    Much of this taxpayers money has found its way into the pockets of the Liberal party’s own ad man, Ted Horton.

    John Faulkner’s speech can be found at http://candobetter.org/node/152 which is linked to from http://candobetter.org/ThrowHowardOut

  23. BilB
    August 24th, 2007 at 13:00 | #23

    Howard may not be as brutal as Mugabe, but he has all of the same traits. One billion dollars? wasted? I think that his passport should be confiscated so that he cannot skip the country when he is chucked out.

  24. Ian Gould
    August 24th, 2007 at 19:54 | #24

    Bilb,

    A quick observations

    If sugar cane currently uses 1% of Brazil’s agricultural land and expanding output 7-fold would let Brazil supply 10% of world petrol demand, then expanding to 70% (assuming that much of the agricultural land is suitable for sugar production) would let Brazil supply the entire world’s liquid fuel needs.

  25. BilB
    August 25th, 2007 at 07:30 | #25

    Ian,

    The seven fold claim was a comment that I thought Lula Da Silva made, but it may not have been him, any way I was trying to track down the statement again to look at its context, and I haven’t found it yet. I am pretty sure that it is in one of those links above. That is the trouble with skimming articles, you pick up on little bits of information and the location is easily lost.

    Most of the bio fuel comment has been on just 2 countries. It is easy to forget that there are 195 countries in the world and nearly all of them will be producing some biofuel where it is easy and applicable. So the global ethanol production will be quite substantial once ethanol production equipment is as available as beer making equipment. And even if there is never enough ethanol to give the world E85 it will still be E something more than E10. E50 would be enough. Along the way vehicles will be becoming more efficient and many more of them will be electric hybrides and all electric.

    What absolutely will not happen is that one day all petrol vehicles will disappear and the next day all vehicles will be plug in electrics. That is a very biblical type transformation that Carbonsink seems to hold dear. And whereas it would be nice, it is just not the way things work.

    Assuming the 70% of Brazil’s land could produce all of the worlds motor spirits (and now that I think about it I did have this volley with Robert Merkel some time ago and that is something like the out come), and that would be a pivotal change that would certainly stop global weather change from occuring then it would be a worthwhile thing to do. Because according to most of the information that I have seen the amazon rain forests are doomed once the full impact of warming has set in and rainfall patterns have left that area desert dry. But nobody can prove conclusively what actually will happen.

  26. Ian Gould
    August 25th, 2007 at 13:38 | #26

    BilB

    Mate, I’m on your side here – and it isn;t 70% of Brazil’s and area it’s 70% of its current agricultural land – much of which is currently used to grow soybeans for export to the US to be converted into Big Macs.

    I tend to be a technological agnostic in these matters – get the carbon price right and let markets sort out the solution.

    That means not deciding up front that hybrids or biofuels or electric vehicles or conservation is THE answer.

    Maybe there is no single answer. Twenty years from now the average first world urbanite might be using an all-electric car; bio-fueled diesels might be in use in the developing world and the huge legacy fleet of IC vehicles on the roads might be using E85.

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