Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Some suggestions for bio-fuels

The world has gone biofuel crazy. Ethanol and biodiesel are apparently going to save the planet and our effluent ways of life.

The problem beings first, that ethanol is really nasty to engines that aren't engineered to cope, and secondly that we have to produce tonnes upon tonnes of biomass to convert into biofuels, and it's a loss-making sum at the moment.

We need oily plants for biodiesel, high-starch plants for ethanol, or some really clever genetic engineering or hunting of yeasts or bacteria to convert inappropriate substances to appropriate substances.

All of which has, of course, been happening.

I, however, would like to make a couple of suggestions for plants which should be investigated as source stocks, other than labour-intensive food crops like corn or rapeseed/canola:

  • Bamboo. Grows amazingly fast in the right conditions. Would need a bit of processing, I think.
  • Kudzu vine. Grows so fast that it frightens people into introducing biological controls. This strikes me as an opportunity, rather than a problem.
  • Aloe vera. Grows bloody everywhere, where it's not wanted, and fairly quickly. It's got to be useful for something apart from hippies rubbing it on their skin. I've got several patches if any processing plant wants to buy it off me.
  • Hemp. I mean, come on: People have been arguing this since before it was first outlawed - grows insanely quickly, in all sorts of conditions. And we're already really good at growing it hydroponically, so we save on farmland!
  • Grass. If we collect an entire suburb's weekly production of grass clippings, couldn't we fuel at least one Landcruiser?

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