Re: [asa] energy from cellulose [was: UN Downgrades Man's Impact On The Climate]

From: Bill Hamilton <>
Date: Fri Dec 15 2006 - 20:06:16 EST

A few months ago I ran across a statement that I took to be from someone in the
ethanol industry, which claimed that Pimentel failed to take into account
advances in technology, so his energy budget was way too conservative.
Unfortunately I lost track of the source...
--- Don Winterstein <> wrote:

> "I do think Patzek and Pimentel have been too pessimistic...."
> I'd say so. Several of Patzek's comments are unreasonable. Let's ignore the
> DOE/USDA report (that's transitory) and focus on what might be possible. If
> we use prairie grasses for biomass instead of waste from intensively
> cultivated corn and soybeans, we sidestep some of Patzek's main criticisms.
> For example, there'd be no need for herbicides or pesticides, and there'd be
> no erosion from wind and water. The 34 million acres in reserve would not be
> nearly enough to solve the country's entire energy problem, but they'd be
> enough to make a goodly contribution. Furthermore, use of corn for ethanol
> is barely economical now, so if cellulose usage became efficient, acreage
> devoted to corn would no doubt go into prairie grass or some such thing.
> Conclusion: the cellulose possibility is one that should be pursued
> vigorously, even if there's no hope it can meet all our needs.
> Patzek jibes, "Today it is commonly believed that burning freshly cut plants
> is morally superior to burning old fossil plants." And why shouldn't it be?
> Using freshly cut plants circulates carbon, while burning fossil "plants"
> emits new carbon.
> As for transportation, the factories now making ethanol from corn are
> sprouting close to where the corn is grown, so transportation needn't be an
> insuperable problem. These factories could be converted to process cellulose
> in the future. Rail systems efficiently haul massive cargoes overland.
> Don
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Al Koop<>
> To:<>
> Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 12:20 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] UN Downgrades Man's Impact On The Climate
> The question about ethanol production coming to save us was recently
> raised. I guess it time for another one of my intermittent energy
> posts.
> There is indeed a debate going on about the efficiency of alternative
> energy sources, especially ethanol. Tad Patzek and David Pimental
> are on the doomer side, while the business community puts out its
> rosy scenarios. But from my reading, the optimistic forecasts are
> not really all that positive for ethanol use even if all the "ifs"
> materialize. I do think Patcek and Pimentel have been too
> pessimistic, but I don't see the world using significant amounts of
> biomass to replace gasoline or diesel. Here is a recent article
> written by Tad Patzek:
> ethanol-will-not-save-us/
> I also think that the question of getting the biomass to processing
> plants is not an insignificant factor in the process. Oil is a
> liquid that is taken from highly localized points and transported
> through pipelines, while the cellulose has to be collected from
> scattered areas all over the place and delivered by ??? to the
> plants. Do you have smaller more inefficient plants all over the
> place to minimize transportation costs or more efficient large plants
> where the transportation costs of raw material are higher? I would
> bet against biomass except for obvious botique uses like rrecycling
> restaurant cooking oil and various types of waste on farms; I think
> its use right now is mostly a political gambit.
> For anyone who wishes to follow energy related issues I think the
> best internet site today (by far) is The Oil Drum:
> There is more material there every day than almost any normal person
> can read. The site is dominated by those who think that oil
> production will peak sometime between 2005 and 2012, with a few
> optimists suggesing we might last until 2020. Right now there is a
> pretty intense argument about whether we have peaked already or
> whether it will be a few years down the road. For sure there is more
> data there than you will find anywhere else, and many of the authors
> of the articles have experience in the oil industry.
> Al Koop
> >>> "Don Winterstein" <<>>
> 12/11/06 9:03 AM
> >>> >>>writes:
> Don't forget too, that there are other looming issues such as energy.
> The current issue of Business Week (Dec. 18) states in an article
> entitled
> Put a Termite In Your Tank, "If efforts [involving 'bio
> breakthroughs' for
> digesting cellulose] can be scaled up efficiently, America's forests,
> agricultural waste, and 40 to 60 million acres of prairie grass could
> supply
> 100 billion gallons or more of fuel per year--while slashing
> greenhouse gas
> emissions. That would replace more than half the 150 billion gallons of
> gasoline now used [by the US] annually...."
> Lots of "ifs" there, but still a rather remarkable statement. Pilot
> facilities are already being built.
> Ted responds:
> A couple of months ago, I heard a lecture by David Pimentel that all but
> rejected this approach as unrealistic, both economically and in terms of
> energy production. Advance publicity is here:
> Ted
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Bill Hamilton
William E. Hamilton, Jr., Ph.D.
248.652.4148 (home) 248.821.8156 (mobile)
"...If God is for us, who is against us?" Rom 8:31

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Received on Fri Dec 15 20:06:59 2006

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