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Fields of Fuel

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Jun. 12th, 2008 | 07:45 am

Last night I hit the Seattle International Film Festival to go see Fields of Fuel. The film has a nice evolution to it, starting off with the "get off the grid" attitude evolving to the "lets do the patriotic thing". There is a strong environmental message that runs through the entire film.

What I was left wondering was what the current perception is for bio-fuels. Nuclear has went back and forth over time, and even windmills have gotten a bad wrap for screwing up bird sanctuaries.

So what is your perception?

Poll time!

I believe that biofuels...

are starving the world
2(5.3%)
could be awesome if they were switchgrass or algae based
6(15.8%)
nuclear baby, skip the CO2 problem entirely
4(10.5%)
will never significantly be in use to make a difference
0(0.0%)
are an excuse to starve cows in order to support the veggie conspiracy
2(5.3%)
are an excuse for Brian to make use of polls!
2(5.3%)

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Comments {48}

Jonathan Korman

(no subject)

from: jonathankorman
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
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I was a biofuels enthusiast for quite some time (closed carbon loop!) until I saw the math that demonstrated the impossibility of getting anywhere close to global energy needs. There's room to expand the use of biofuels, in the places where it makes sense --- consider the example of Brazil's use of alcohol from sugar cane --- just as there are places where hydroelectric power makes sense.

Reluctantly, I've come around to nuclear as the best available general solution. Too bad a good solution to fusion just doesn't seem to be in the cards.

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
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To me biofuels are one piece of the solution. I am a lot more positive about algae and grasses then I am about any the sources I see us using today.

More nuclear would be a good thing at this point.

The one thing I know... I won't be buying any more gas powered cars.

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michelle

(no subject)

from: delyth
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
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I had a student last fall write his research paper on switchgrass as an energy alternative.

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
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Was the paper convincing?

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Basil Sviridoff

(no subject)

from: vsviridov
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
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I suggest you take a loot at this...

Show media Loading...

if the video doesn't work - http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/258

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Chrisb

(no subject)

from: suddenlynaked
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
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That was AWESOME! Stamets has some "fringy" ideas, but if the guy is even half right then we ought to be persuing the use the lowley shroom.

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nuclear

from: axehind
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
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I've always been a big fan of nuclear energy. Of course the problem with it is being able to do it safely and what to do with the spent fuel after. Nuclear energy is making a comeback in the U.S. after a couple of decades of staleness. There are a number of plants being planned now after about 30 years of none being built. I'm hoping it proves to be the future.

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"spent" fuel

from: dmarti
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
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What makes "spent" fuel dangerous? It releases energy. Don't we want energy?

The French reprocess their spent fuel chemically, and there's also research on a particle-accelerator-based "accelerator-driven system" that would fission some of the nasty stuff.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subcritical_reactor

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Kytty

(no subject)

from: kytty
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
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I'd like to find out more about hydrogen based solutions.

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Brian "Krow" Aker

(no subject)

from: krow
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
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Hydrogen is a storage means, not a primary fuel source.

AKA it is a battery.

As batteries go it is useful in that the infrastructure has no negatives unlike current battery technologies. Problem is... density. It takes up a lot of space to keep it around.

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Jamz

(no subject)

from: woggie
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
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My problem with nuclear power has always been the radioactive waste. Yeah, plant designs are safer, and that's a good thing, but no-one has ever explained what to do with the waste that doesn't end up poisoning the planet against us.

We can't keep burying it, and nobody seems sufficiently interested in firing it into the Sun.

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Menolly

(no subject)

from: nolly
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
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That's my problem with nuclear, too.

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awfief

(no subject)

from: awfief
date: Jun. 12th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
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I honestly know so very little about them....I think, as has been said, they're one part of the solution. I believe solar power and wind energy can go a long way towards powering homes, particularly if folks in sunnier climes can give back to the grid (perhaps for credits). As for cars, different fuel sources are important, but also different usage patterns. So many people drive when they could carpool, so many people don't have good options, and yet others work in an urban area but don't want the stigma/cost of living in one.

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entilzah

(no subject)

from: garybaldy
date: Jul. 3rd, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
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Every electrical utility in the country will put a two way meter on your house. If you request one. You get credit from the utility when you use less energy than you are producing. As your energy generation feed back into the grid.

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dude

(no subject)

from: jayp39
date: Jun. 13th, 2008 09:07 am (UTC)
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Which problem are we actually interested in solving?

The supply problem? Nuclear is a stop-gap solution in this case. We are replacing one finite resource (fossil fuels) with another (radioactive material). The latter is of course, significantly less abundant than the former, but you can make more energy with less so it evens out. Either way, eventually that will run out too, especially if demand starts ramping way up.

The CO2 problem? I have read but cannot back up at the moment (would have to research again to find the links) that nuclear reduces CO2 output somewhat, but through the entire life cycle of nuclear energy you are still producing a significant amount of CO2, I don't remember the exact ratio but it is not insignificant.

Nuclear also rightly has a lot of safety concerns along with it. Yes, we have better containment systems now than ever before, but complex systems fail in unpredictable ways, and it's impossible to completely eliminate human error, whether it's errors in calculations done by engineers, errors in construction, or errors by operators, things can and will go wrong at some point.

Algae and grass based biofuels have a lot of promise (I'm especially interested in the algae ones myself) but I think we still have a long way to go before we can start using them. I'm also very interested in solar, in the last few years technologies have come out that make solar much more efficient and much less expensive, some of them able to produce energy even when not in direct sunlight, some of them made out of cheap materials, some of them printed. Down here in sunny florida, if we could all put high energy producing solar on our roofs and cheap stuff that deals with ambient light on our siding, I think we could move a long ways towards getting off of coal.

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Biofields of Fuel

from: solarphile
date: Aug. 13th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
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I have had my share of doubts about the wisdom of promoting biofuels for the usual reasons. But, like any other alternative fuel source, the technology and methodologies seem to be advancing and improving in our relentless drive to meet ever-increasing energy demand. According to the recently passed Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) all new biofuels production must meet stringent greenhouse gas reduction targets. Apparently, in many cases, biotechnology to increase yields, no till practices, technologies reducing fossil fuel inputs and more effective land management are having a positive impact in reducing the GHG profile of biofuels. I still prefer the switchgrass and algae options though.

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