Biofuel’s New Black Look

by trebuchet03 on January 23, 2008

Alas, the ebb and flow of change towards renewable and so-called “green” biofuels has taken black marks. Globally, foodstuff prices increased 37% last year (over the 14% increase in 2006). Food tensions, shortages and riots have taken their toll in Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Yemen and the list goes on… A stampede of cooking oil buyers, in China, left three people dead and thirty-one injured.

Enter palm oil… It takes 8 acres of soybeans to produce an equivalent amount of oil that palm oil trees can. It’s highly efficient – it’s only major competitor/rival for biofuel is sugar cane. The industry is exploding and supply can’t keep up. Add to that – it takes eight years for a palm oil tree to mature into an oil producing tree.

Palm Oil

In recent years, the “zero trans fat” wave has hit America. And palm oil to the rescue. We, Earthacians, are straining the global food supply as we try to grow quickly. The United States has a long history of engineering itself out of disasters – but this time, it’s not just an engineering feet as there’s environmental consideration to consider.

It gets worse…

Last year, conversion of palm oil into fuel was a fast-growing source of demand, but in recent weeks, rising prices have thrown that business into turmoil.

Here on Malaysia’s eastern shore, a series of 45-foot-high green and gray storage tanks connect to a labyrinth of yellow and silver pipes. The gleaming new refinery has the capacity to turn 116,000 tons a year of palm oil into 110,000 tons of a fuel called biodiesel, as well as valuable byproducts like glycerin. Mission Biofuels, an Australian company, finished the refinery last month and is working on an even larger factory next door at the base of a jungle hillside.

But prices have spiked so much that the company cannot cover all its costs and has idled the finished refinery while looking for a new strategy, such as asking a biodiesel buyer to pay a price linked to palm oil costs, and someday switching from palm oil to jatropha, a roadside weed.

This, I fear, is the beginning of what’s to come. For me, it’s a personal choice to eat less meat, use less edible oil, drive economically, etc. But for some in other countries, it’s no longer a choice. Black markets for edible oil have already shown up and families are cutting back on weekly food consumption. Don’t get me wrong, change needs to happen. If we don’t regulate ourselves, mother nature is more than happy to do so for us (although, that is the more painful option).

This is not a case against alternative fuels – this is a clear example of the care and planning necessary for future fuels. A hint: ensure global infratructure can handle the demand of a hungry global economy.

Read more here.

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1 CommonSenseGuy February 2, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Don’t blame biofuel. Blame Ronald Reagan. Blame big oil. Blame the republicans and their fat cat lobbyist who since the 1970s have bribed, obfuscated and manipulated our (apparently moronic) leaders so that they either dropped, derailed or prevented any plan to get off of our dependence on foreign oil. We’ve had NO PLANNING to get off of oil because there was BILLIONS being made and still are. Now we’re scrambling to fix the problem that has been brewing for at least 30 years. Research President James Earl Carter’s plan to make our own fuel (syn-fuels) and the backlash against all of his ideas. Practically ALL of his ideas have since been proven right. Solar power, synthetic fuels (what we are now calling biofuel), energy conservation, (I believe) even recycling. Now who’s the idiot? (PS, I voted for Carter in 1980 but he lost because the republican candidate basically lied and denied any problems would come of our use of oil as a basis of our economy. Lies, lies, lies from a republican??? Who woulda thought it?)

Never forget that Republicans are (almost solely) responsible for our economic, political and environmental problems today.

2 Legalize February 8, 2008 at 4:28 am

The answer to the bio-fuel issue is simple. The governments of the world need to completely legalize cannabis. Hemp would provide a source of bio-fuels, fabric, food, and building material. Marijuana would provide safe non-toxic medicine.

3 ARareBrightness February 13, 2008 at 9:25 am

Under President Carter, the US experienced double digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rate burden. Talk about malaise!!!! What a moron, Carter appeared to be, over the years since then.

Never forget, that Carter was (almost solely) responsible for your economic, political, and environmental problems today.

4 Anne September 2, 2008 at 6:35 am

>>Never forget, that Carter was (almost solely) responsible for your economic, political, and environmental problems today.<<

Did I stumble in on opposites day? There isn’t one point in this that is true.

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