Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sustainable Fuel for the Transportation Sector

There is a paper in the March 20 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences with the above title. In it the authors present a new method (patent pending) of producing fuel for vehicles. In addition to discussion of their system they give a quick overview of just how challenging it is going to be to make any meaningful reductions in oil consumption by using corn as the feedstock for ethanol or soybeans for biodiesel.

Some factoids: Diverting the entire U.S. corn crop to ethanol production replaces 12% of current gasoline consumption. What's that got to do with the price of tortillas in Mexico?
Just under 20% of the entire U.S. landmass is under cultivation. To run our planes, trains and automobiles (and trucks) using biomass would require harvesting an area equal to 58% of the whole country at current rates of production, which can't happen because the most productive land is already being farmed, so figure 75-80% of the whole country being farmed just to supply our energy needs. With no land devoted to food crops the obesity epidemic takes care of itself.