Synfuel

  • Synthetic fuels (synfuel): usually coal to liquid (CTL) or (natural) gas to liquid (GTL) but also sometimes based on biomass (biofuel). A way to achieve energy security– e.g. the U.S. has massive natural gas reserves and even more massive coal reserves. If we want to cut our oil dependency, synfuel is one answer Muller, 107
  • Synfuel from coal and natural gas doesn't make economic sense– CTL is about $60/barrel, and though oil can get that high, it's not dependable (oil price fluctuation can be enormous and is not dependent on true supply/demand but more on supply chain and OPEC) so building infrastructure for synfuel is too risky when Saudi Arabian oil can be drilled for around $3/barrel Muller, 107

Biofuel

Corn and sugar cane

  • Brazil weaned themselves off of global oil dependency via the National Alcohol Program (1975). Required oil company to blend at least 22% ethanol (made from local sugarcane) into its fuel, while offering low-interest loans. Lovins, 160
  • Ethanol is not an efficient energy source. The energy content of ethanol is 65% that of gasoline Smil, 98
  • Corn-based ethanol requires more land than we can use. If all of America’s gasoline were from corn derived ethanol, the growing of corn to cover American fuel use would require 220mil hectares, 20% more than American arable land Smil, 101
  • Ethanol-providing crops can contribute to environmental degradation. In corn crops, nitrogen fertilizer runoff is a key negative effect (p103). In other crops, such as sugar cane, expanding need for arable land can contribute to deforestation Smil, 101
  • Sugar cane is better than corn for ethanol production because it requires minimal fertilizer and has a higher power yield per hectare of planting Smil, 104
  • The United States has high tariffs on Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, so it is not commonly imported into the United States Smil, 105

Cellulosic ethanol

Challenges of biofuel

  • Since energy density is lower in biofuel than in gas (and we have inefficient vehicles) miles per gallon would be low and fuel weight could be significant in a biofueled car Smil, 114
  • Issues with upstream emissions (e.g. deforestation for plantation of fuel-source plants) crimp spread of biofuel as savior Lovins, 161

Further learning

  • Learn more about: landfill gas (LFG). This is an RPS qualifying renewable in some states

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