From the Shropshire Star we find the food versus fuel debate rages on. The debate revolves around the global dilemma between using our limited land resources for the production of arable crops and rearing of livestock to support traditional food industries, or diverting some of this land to grow biomass crops for burning or biofuel crops which can be converted into biodiesel or ethanol as fossil fuel replacements. By taking land away from food production, the demand for biofuels (eg. corn to produce ethanol in the US), has in part contributed to global food price increases during the last 10 years. This has raised concerns at the United Nations, the World Bank, the OECD and the European Union. The post looks at this issue from a UK perspective where land traditionally used for growing potatoes and forage maize is now desired by owners of anaerobic digesters to use bulk maize crops to produce biogas for the generation of electricity. This is forcing dairy, beef and sheep farmers to acquire lower quality marginal lands at higher rents to produce the food for their animals.
Energy Trends Insider explores why biofuels tend to be costly. It turns out photosynthesis is an inefficient process to create energy to begin with and is made more costly when we have to add have human inputs just to grow or collect the biomass, harvest it, and transport it for processing. The resulting biomass has very low energy density compared to fossil fuels, and thus transportation costs are higher.
This isn’t a knock on biofuels, it is the simple reality of why biofuels have a difficult time competing on cost. Whenever I hear someone claim “Renewable energy creates more jobs”, I know that they are right, because with biofuels you have to replace many of Mother Nature’s free inputs with human labor. In other words, renewable energy creates jobs because it takes more people to make a unit of energy. That ultimately translates into higher cost.
Environmental LEADER says Biofuel Industry ‘Faces Huge Slowdown’. A recent study from Lux Reseach predicts the 53 billion gallon a year global biofuel industry is poised for a “huge” slowdown in capacity growth, The industry is forecast to grow to 60.4 billion gallons a year between 2013 and 2017 representing a 3.2% annual growth rate, but far below the 19.6% growth rate achieved annually from 2005 to 2013. The rapid decline flows from the pressure to avoid the “fuel vs. fuel debate” as well as reaching limits to the amount of biofuel that can be added to fossil fuels, such as ethanol. Moreover, next generation cellulose biofuels are not yet at the commercial production stage. By 2017 Lux Research believes there will be some 1,700 biofuel production facilities in 82 countries.
South Africa will start work on a biomass to ethanol plant later this year reports Biofuels International. The plant in Jozini will use waste sugarcane to produce 1.5 million cubic litres of ethanol annually. The company will use technology currently used in Brazil. The company will also use the sugar to produce 94 MW a day of electricity which will be sold to the national grid.
Zee News tells us about a car that runs on processed sewage. Hyundai will soon begin leasing a new Tucson Fuel Cell crossover vehicle in the US state of California that runs on hydrogen gas derived from human waste. The hydrogen will be converted from waste from toilets and sinks in Southern California.
Hyundai said that the Tucson’s three-year lease – about 3,000 dollars down and then nearly 500 dollars a month – will include maintenance and unlimited hydrogen refueling at a dozen pumps around California. Its tank takes about three minutes to fill and is good for about 300 miles.
A biogas liquefaction plant in Norway will produce biofuel for city of Oslo buses according to Biomass Magazine. The facility will produce biomethane from household food waste. When fully operable the plant will treat 50,000 tons of food waste a year to produce around 14,000 m3 (cubic meters) per day of biomethane. The liquefied biogas (LBG) can be efficiently transported for use as a fuel for 135 city buses.
Energy Global writes about biofuels demand for road transportation. A new report from Navigant Research forecasts that global demand for biofuels for road transportation will grow from 32.4 billion gallons in 2013 to 51.5 billion gallons by 2022. The global biofuels industry is now on the verge of entering a new phase of development focused on advanced and drop-in biofuels. Major users such as the international airline industry and US Department of Defense are expected to benefit greatly from advances in drop-in biofuels and will continue to spur development of the technology driving the price per gallon down to competitive levels.