Biodiesel Paradox

The demand for biodiesel is up so sharply that world-wide industries are ramping up non-petro oil production. Soy bean oil predominates in the U.S., but palm oil is cheaper to produce. So the last remaining vestiges of rain forests in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are being razed to make way for palm oil production. Salon:

Biodiesel activists have responded to the latest depressing news by calling for biodiesel labeling. For those of us in Berkeley, already carefully distinguishing between farm-raised and wild salmon, and searching for our free-range chickens certified to have passed away happily in their sleep, it will be one more thing to pay attention to. Biodiesel from used French fry oil: good. Biodiesel from Thailand: bad.

Better way: Use less oil.

Music: Mark Eitzel :: Auctioneer’s Song

4 Replies to “Biodiesel Paradox”

  1. I think that the greatest barrier to the promises of biodiesel fuels is the reliance of modern agriculture on fossil fuels for fertilizer — it’s very foundation.

    Unless we can transition to a perrenial polyculture, and such a system can generate the kind of energy needed to produce biodiesel in great quantity our answer — the magic bullet, if there is one — is elsewhere.

    If I had time I would like to see if anyone has done work on the wider biodiesel system. It seems to be that biodiesel answers the problems of consumer infrastructure, but what of production? Specifically, the environmental-industrial capability and its impact? What good is biodiesel if we still need fossil fuels and harmful farming practices to produce it?

  2. I think there’s quite a bit of study on this topic going on right now. I’ve heard about one study showed that a biodiesel plant couldn’t even generate enough fuel to power itself when the cost of transporting in all the source material was factored in. Then that report was rebutted… Early days for a technology, bound to be lots of people working to get good foot-holds, and controversy. But I’d venture that the 3rd world wouldn’t be ramping up so avidly for this if some big players didn’t see it being feasible. Not a magic bullet perhaps, but feasible.

  3. > Early days for a technology, bound to be lots of people working to get good foot-holds, and controversy.

    Very true. I didn’t mean to sound so critical of biodiesel: I think, and hope, that it is everything we want it to be. But, because of my lack of intimate knowledge on the subject, I’m running on the fumes of deduction and induction, and wishfully thinking out loud that someone fill me in on the debate/progress so I don’t have to devote the time to research.

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