Bio-diesel has a strong feeling in part in the Northwest because it is locally made. Locally made means overall less cost and environmental impact (the cost of transporting fuel only increases the cost to our environment). The other bio-fuel, Ethanol, is not produced in quantities rivaling bio-diesel in the Northwest.
Over dinner I began to wonder about what the cost per acre is for fuel generation. Cost in soil, water, and required photo energy is all important, but it boils down to a cost in acres of soil. This made me go a little further in my thoughts to other fuel sources.
Take methane production for instance. Methane can be extracted from land fills. Smart land fills have begun to convert it over into sellable energy instead of just putting a torch in the ground and burning it off.
How much electricity is being produced per-acre of land fill?
What about other fuel sources?
How many acres of air field does it take for wind generators to power your car across town?
How many acres of land does a solar field need to produce the electricity to run the mixer for the bread I bake?
All of these energy sources are measurement based on acres of land.
I could extrapolate this argument out to the cost of dams as well. We use land to create them. In the LA basin there are 51 dams which were created from available land.
Different fuels carry different densities. Methane production per acre generates a fraction of the possible bio-fuel, or bio-mass energy, that an acre of soy beans can produce.
It should be possible to create cost calculations. In graduate school my research group was able to create energy calculations from a fire we started in Canada that was good enough to calibrate sensors on the Shuttle for measuring CO production in forest fires.
We have the technology to get at the heart of what fuel really costs us.
In a post oil economy we need to rethink our ideas on power consumption and how we measure it. Mile per gallon no longer answers that questions, we need to look at the broader cost of power generation.
We need to think in Miles per Acre.