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Biofuels: Harmful or Helpful?
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26 / M / New York City, NY
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Posted 7/22/08 , edited 7/22/08
Off-topic: We as a nation have been ignoring the possibility of nuclear power for many years. Despite its success in France and other countries, our insecurities about the dangers of radiation are limiting us and the possibilities of other sources of alternative energy. Solar power is not efficient enough considering the cost; wind power is notoriously unreliable as well. A slow conversion from traditional dependency on oil and coal to other energy sources is the safest and best path. Off-shore drilling in the Gulf and the ANWR are short-term solutions that should be encouraged to prepare for long-term ones.

In 100-200 years: a possible Dyson sphere constructed to harness the power of the Sun?

Great post, by the way.
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27 / F / it's all in your...
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Posted 7/23/08
Your friend's research paper is very enlightening. Considering that Biofuel has more adverse effects as opposed to its benefits, I'm pretty certain that many researchers and manufacturers of today are thinking twice about this seemingly environment-friendly project.

I also believe that Hydrogen-powered cars of today are more cost-effective and environment-friendly than this. The vision and aim for Biofuel isn't bad knowing that what we all hope for was a cheaper fuel that would have no detrimental effects to the Earth, but then again those studies you cited would be enough to render useless the Biofuel's perks. Thus, Biofuel should be researched and probed further to reduce its harmful effects, if not totally eradicate them.

Scientist Moderator
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26 / M
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Posted 7/23/08
I agree, hydrogen powered cars would be better. One thing I want to research on is all these new fuels that emit water vapor. If everyone's cars emit water vapor what kind of impact would that have? Would there be more rain? Would the humidity skyrocket? Would the water vapor act as a green house gas?
Posted 7/23/08
What about cars that are powered with solar energy, or basically said with electricity? I think that would be the most cleanest solution, now just have to find good ways of how to gain electricity in a non-polluting way, wind energy, hydro energy, solar energy, all of those combined would make the perfect way of how to gain energy, without polluting the world. Nuclear energy fails, and all the other ways of making fuel less poisonous/polluting fail. ~.~
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23 / F / somewhere out there
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Posted 7/24/08 , edited 7/24/08
yes... I think researchers should find a source of bio diesels that can not be used as food.
I think they already made something out of Jatropha curcas seeds?
It can't be eaten yet it's abundant, can grow in almost all types of land and climate and can produce a lot
I think it's better to use useless, inedible but organic plants as biofuel.
But I wouldn't want biofuels to be eradicated.
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Posted 7/24/08
Three cheers for E85! No it's not the perfect replacement for gas, but it does offer a race gas octane level(sweet!) at half the cost(SWEET!!). Although my car gets less milage with E85 than race gas, it's still cheaper in the long run.
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23 / F / in my computer
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Posted 7/25/08 , edited 7/25/08
everyone already told wat i feel. i think it is helpful.
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27 / F / Philippines
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Posted 7/26/08
I agree about using biofuels....It will not contribute to food shortage if there is only proper planning and with the fact that some of the plants that are to be used are also non-edible. I also believe that biofuels are both economical and environmental friendly. I hope that my country would approve the law that will enable the production of biofuels. The place I live in will be one place that will make use of such since sugarcane are abundant and a primary commodity. I hope they would soon realize the promise of biofuels (Brazil is now reaping the seeds of such).
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Posted 7/26/08
This is very informative thank you for posting this>



zendude wrote:

Okay, ever since I read my friend's paper on biofuels, I have been doubting the environmental stances on some alternative fuels. I really feel that we should reconsider some aspects of future energy technology.

Tell me what you think.

Here is his essay:
Warning this is a long read!!!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Feeding Our Hungry Fuel Tanks

Lately, there has been much growth and development in alternative fuels and energy, such as hybrid cars, biodiesel, and hydrogen fuel cells. These sources of energy, by scientific studies, can help reduce carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, and usage and cost of regular petroleum. Biodiesel, in particular, has been around for a long time, and it is showing some promises that suffices the environment, creates less air pollution, and feeds society’s hunger for fuel. Biodiesel is also a tool for politics to fill in the gaps for the United States’ energy needs to become more energy independent. It also helps out the environment by preventing certain areas, such as wildlife refuges, from being drilled for oil. Although biodiesel looks very promising, it is proving to be more troublesome than fossil fuel, in more ways than one.

The arguments for biodiesel fuel are that it is renewable source of energy because it is grown and that it is environmentally safe: “Going Green.” According to the National Biodiesel Board website, biodiesel, also known as biofuel or bioethanol, is made from a variety of vegetation from common farming stocks, such as corn, sugar cane, peanut oil, and as well as used cooking oil and some green garbage. The plant-base of biodiesel makes it a renewable source for fuel and energy, and it is also biodegradable and recyclable. These farm stocks are transformed into oils, like corn oil, and go through a process called transesterfication, a refinery process consisting of catalysts and enzymes. This refined material, most likely ethanol, can be either used as a pure fuel source, or it can be blended, by a percentage, with petroleum. The substance that is mixed with petroleum is safe to use with any current car, with almost no equipment damage to the machine, meaning little or no modifications needed. Passing the Clean Air Act and tests by the Environmental Protection Agency, biodiesel, mixed with petroleum, has provided a reduction in exhaust emissions over conventional fuel, meaning less damage to the environment and human health.

In the U.S., biodiesel has grown from 65 million gallons from 2005 to 250 million gallons in 2006, according to the National Biodiesel Board; this number will continue to grow in the years ahead. This step of making biodiesel more mainstream is making the U.S. more energy independent, according to President Bush’s 2007 proposition to double the alternative fuel by 2022. There is also less damage to the Artic National Wildlife Refuge since it is not being drilled for oil because the U.S. is planting its own fuel. With the U.S. planting its own fuel, there is a reduction of carbon emissions because more plants are going to absorb the carbon from the air for photosynthesis, helping to reduce global warming. With biodiesel, we are helping the earth one plant, in this case one gallon, at a time.

Despite the public service announcements and the environmental fad of “Going Green,” biodiesel is not green nor at all more environmentally friendly, nor does it help out the economy. This fuel source, in a sense, just looks good on the surface; even environmentalists are getting suspicious about this wonder fuel. Biodiesel barely fills in some of the gaps for the fuel need, less than three percent based on the 2005 statistics from an article of Geographical (Rowe, “Fuelling the Debate”). Also, since it is created in excess, it seems that supplies and resources, such as land, water, and regular diesel fuel, would be depleted more rapidly. Society will still waste fuel and energy, and replacing them with our food supply, the thing that makes biodiesel “bio-,” does not do well with the world’s problem of scarcity. Converting to or even giving a minuscule percentage, like 5%, of fuel demands to biodiesel would be dire to the society and environment.

The problems that biodiesel pose are the prior processes that are taken before it is made. Farming biodiesel vegetation takes the same steps as any farming development. It requires top soil by the thousands of hectare, megatons of fertilizers, the ones designed for biodiesel crops for maximum efficiency, and water, of course. An ample amount of arable land that is already in use by food productions needs to be compromised with the manufacturing of biodiesel plants. This means the same amount of labor and care needs to be taken when making these biodiesel plants. The harmful effects of the fertilizer are still present, such as pollutant emission and by-product contamination, and probably more due to the high nitrogen levels in the specially made fertilizers. There are also the after effects of arid landscape and farm related pollution after land farming. Instead of a gain, there is an immense loss due to the considerable amount of land that is forfeited for fuel instead of food.

Along with farm usages, there are some serious consequences when farm stocks are used for both food and fuel. According to an internet post by Lester R. Brown, an environmental analyst, from his book Plan B 2.0, “The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol [would] feed one person for a year.” There is a fear by other food producers, like ketchup companies, that making products or feeding farm animals would become more expensive, raising the price for commodities, such as eggs and meat. Importers and exporters of such stocks and products would also be anxious. For example, in 2007, reported by Time magazine, a protest broke out in Mexico because of the rising cost of tortilla, which links to the use of their corn for biodiesel (Graff, “The tortilla effect” par.1). The fuel and energy companies have control of the movement of food commodities if biodiesels would become more of a basis for fuel. The damages of biodiesels would be two, maybe three, fold in developing nations, which are already in a pinch.

The production of biodiesel, based on a 2006 statistics by the Energy Information Administration, was only three percent of the energy use in the United States. This three percent, according to Plan B 2.0, is more than fifty-five million tons, one sixth of the U.S.’s corn production. Not surprisingly, the price of corn and other biodiesel vegetations have already sky rocketed. Data from USA Today says that corn in the U.S., per bushel, went from $2.55 in 2005 to $4.04 in 2007, and this is due by the usage of corn for biodiesel, which is stated later in the article (Hagenbaugh, “Corn has deep economic roots as high prices create ripple effect”).

Land usage and the need for more it for biodiesel are other issues that cause controversy for biodiesel production. Countries such as Brazil, second best to the U.S in producing biodiesel, and Indonesia are deforesting in order to create for land biodiesel vegetation (Rowe, “Fuelling the debate” par.2, 6). Deforesting thousands of hectares, when compared to drilling Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil, has more consequences to the damaging the environment. According to geological studies reported by Newsweek, the ANWR has fifty years worth of oil for the U.S., while deforesting for biodiesel has only provided a miniscule amount of fuel (Will, “The Biofuel Follies” par.9). As previously stated, lots of man power, fuel to power machinery, land, fertilizers, and water are needed to produce biodiesel vegetation. The trees that are already absorbing the carbon emissions are cut down, which seems less help to the environment; there is more foliage life in the rainforest than in the desolate ANWR. The forest life that could be used for study and research is destroyed: do not forget about the extinction factor. The Bush administration proposition in 2007 for double the renewable energy by 2022 does not seem to help the environment because the renewable source that is most likely to be used is biodiesel.

Though not as well-known as the other issues about biodiesel, water wasting is another problem that biodiesel creates. “Don’t mix”, an article from Economist, states, “A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biodiesels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute.” That is only what the factory needs to refine materials into biodiesel; just imagine how much more water is needed in thousands of hectares of biodiesel farm land. Fresh clean water is already scarce, and wasting it on something that barely makes dent on the fuel consumption sounds really unreasonable. This water waste problem would be difficult in states that have frequent droughts and desert like areas, which need the water to drink not to waste.

The trendiest of the biodiesel arguments is how it is helping with the greenhouse gases problem, global warming. Deforestation, mass farming, high nitrogen concentrated fertilizers, machinery operations, additional supplies are just some of the variables that contribute to greenhouse gas emission. The carbon emission would not be easily disappearing because of the deforested land; trees absorb carbon for energy. Comparing that to the good benefits of biodiesel with cars having less carbon emission, the process that goes into making biodiesel nullifies the gain. The middle processes of the production of biodiesel makes it less efficient than regular gasoline.

Biodiesel, in its short life, has proven to be more harmful to the environment and economy than petroleum in the long run; it was too good to be true. “Going Green” with biodiesel does not really help because the production that goes into it wastes precious resources such as water, land, and food. The wasting of these resources drives up the prices for food, especially in developing nations. Deforestation of thousands of hectare is more of a wasteful and harmful method than just drilling the ANWR. The processes that go into making this renewable source of energy are just adding to the global warming problem. There is almost no gain when using biodiesel when compare to regular gasoline, and using it is just another to way to cook our God given green planet.

Works Cited
Brown, Lester. Plan B 2.0. 2006. The Globalist. 2 August 2006. 18 March 2008. <http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=5518>.

“Don’t mix.” Economist 1 March 2008: 36. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. San Bernardino Valley Coll. Lib. 19 March 2008. <http://search.epnet.com>.

FAQS Page of The Official Site of the Biodiesel Board. 2008. 20 March 2008. <http://www.biodiesel.org/resources/faqs/>.

Graff, James. “The tortilla effect.” Time 9 April 2007: 97. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. San Bernardino Valley Coll. Lib. 21 March 2008. <http://search.epnet.com>.

Hagenbaugh, Barbara. “Corn has deep economic roots as high prices create ripple effect.”
USA Today 24 January 2007. 22 March 2008. <http://www.usatoday.com/ money/industries/food/2007-01-24-corn_x.htm>.

Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity Preliminary 2006 Statistics. 20 August 2008. 21 March 2008. <http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/prelim_trends/
rea_prereport.html>.

Rowe, Jack. “Fuelling the Debate.” Geographical February 2008: 44-51. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. San Bernardino Valley Coll. Lib. 19 March 2008. <http://search.epnet.com>.

Will, George. “The Biofuel Follies.” Newsweek 11 February 2008: 64. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. San Bernardino Valley Coll. Lib. 19 March 2008. <http://search.epnet.com>.



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31 / M / Delirium
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Posted 7/27/08
Well, this report is made by scientist hired by oil companies so it's naturally a bit onesided... the real reason for porly developed biofuel lies more in govermental blocking, proper biofuel made from waste product such as straw and manuer, is possible but the price is higher, and when the goverment then adds the standart fuel taxes, the bio fuel becomes too expensive... plus current food shortage is more a result of polution from oil and coal, than what is used for bio fuel...
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26 / M / New York City, NY
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Posted 7/27/08 , edited 7/27/08

Heimdallr wrote:

Well, this report is made by scientist hired by oil companies so it's naturally a bit onesided... the real reason for porly developed biofuel lies more in govermental blocking, proper biofuel made from waste product such as straw and manuer, is possible but the price is higher, and when the goverment then adds the standart fuel taxes, the bio fuel becomes too expensive... plus current food shortage is more a result of polution from oil and coal, than what is used for bio fuel...


I am unaware of what "food shortage" you're talking about, but food prices have been drastically affected by the use of corn for biofuel.
Posted 7/31/08 , edited 7/31/08
Well, I must say that it is a joke to make fuel for cars out of food, food that we human beings need, food which is necessary for us to live, we don't really need cars to survive, but food yes.
I am really shocked at the retarded ideas the scientists are coming up these days. Obviously they never think enough far into the future to see that their project/idea is a failure. That's like playing with food around, and that just to enhance our cars. -_- Instead of investing more money into researches of how to make faster and better cars that are enhanced by electricity, they prefer to stick to the retarded idea of making a biofuel which 'should' be less polluting. My ass. Everything that is burnt is polluting the air. Bio or not.
The world of science should set some new priorities instead of only caring about their personal profit they should more care about the future that is awaiting their children. I mean, gawd, there are people starving to death in certain areas of this world, so why the heck is someone thinking that making fuel of food is a good idea? It's not really reducing the pollution, nor is it helping the world to get rid of hungry people.
Obviously this world cares more about how to enhance their cars for cheaper money instead of caring about the real issues that are concerning us. Playing with lives in such an ignorant way, shame on them. Biofuel was meant to fail. And all the other fuels such as hydrogen, etc. fail too.

Floetry~
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Posted 7/31/08

I-Killerbee-I wrote:

Well, I must say that it is a joke to make fuel for cars out of food, food that we human beings need, food which is necessary for us to live, we don't really need cars to survive, but food yes.
I am really shocked at the retarded ideas the scientists are coming up these days. Obviously they never think enough far into the future to see that their project/idea is a failure. That's like playing with food around, and that just to enhance our cars. -_- Instead of investing more money into researches of how to make faster and better cars that are enhanced by electricity, they prefer to stick to the retarded idea of making a biofuel which 'should' be less polluting. My ass. Everything that is burnt is polluting the air. Bio or not.
The world of science should set some new priorities instead of only caring about their personal profit they should more care about the future that is awaiting their children. I mean, gawd, there are people starving to death in certain areas of this world, so why the heck is someone thinking that making fuel of food is a good idea? It's not really reducing the pollution, nor is it helping the world to get rid of hungry people.
Obviously this world cares more about how to enhance their cars for cheaper money instead of caring about the real issues that are concerning us. Playing with lives in such an ignorant way, shame on them. Biofuel was meant to fail. And all the other fuels such as hydrogen, etc. fail too.

Floetry~


Okay? You're wrong on many points?
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24 / M / You'll never guess!
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Posted 7/31/08
Yeah, I really don't like the idea of biofuel. Hell, the price of crops is rising because of the damn studies and it's not helping out those who already sacrifice all they have to scrap together meager portions of food for their kids. We really need to turn towards different, less consuming sources of energy. The whole concept of biofuel will never work, not matter what. Solar power, wind power, those are going in the right direction at least. Anything's better than gasoline, I guess, though.
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26 / M / New York City, NY
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Posted 7/31/08

SephirothXIII wrote:

Yeah, I really don't like the idea of biofuel. Hell, the price of crops is rising because of the damn studies and it's not helping out those who already sacrifice all they have to scrap together meager portions of food for their kids. We really need to turn towards different, less consuming sources of energy. The whole concept of biofuel will never work, not matter what. Solar power, wind power, those are going in the right direction at least. Anything's better than gasoline, I guess, though.


Nuclear is the most logical and beneficial at this point, but we as a country are not very enthusiastic about this concept.
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