But this system has grown steadily less beneficial for farmers over time. US corn and soybean growers achieved record-high harvests in But due to oversupply, prices for these crops have plummeted, and US farm incomes are expected to drop to their lowest levels since
Posted on August 31, by energyskeptic Alice Friedemann. Last update Oct 23,first [ Formerly titled: Shorter versions appear in the following books: But the root of the matter is whether growing biomass for fuel can be made sustainable. Since fossil fuels are finite, it certainly makes sense to turn to biomass to provide fuel to replace oil.
After all, besides water, air, and dirt, plants are the most abundant and renewable resource that could possible scale up to replace fossil fuels. But is there enough biomass? The Department of Energy lists ways biomass is already being used that will compete with its use as a fuel and for electricity generation Ruth Table 3.
Since trucks and rail are the basis of civilization as we know it, all, most of this biomass ought to be converted to 2 diesel to keep trucks and locomotives running.
Currently biodiesel is just 1 percent of total diesel production by volume, with soybeans making up 57 percent of that feedstock. Oil is a biofuel, but nonrenewable since it took Mother Nature millions of years to brew withpounds of plants per gallon, which is equivalent to cramming 40 acres of wheat into your gas tank every 20 miles Dukes.
And therein lies the rub. It takes enormous amounts of biomass to make liquid fuels. To do that would require 15 billion metric tons of plant biomass taking up billion cubic meters bcm. But only 2 billion metric tons of rice, wheat, soybeans, corn, and other grains and oil seeds with a volume of 2.
In the United States all green plants collectively produce biomass equivalent to about 53 exajoules of energy per year from sunlight, only about half of our total fossil energy use. The best, most productive land east of the Mississippi that can grow soybeans with rainfall.
This would generate million tonnes of Dried Distillers Grain DDG byproduct, 10 times more than the entire consumption of high protein commercial feeds — 51 million tonnes in Pro-ethanol scientists add DDG as a positive net energy gain, when in fact it will take a huge amount of energy to dispose of most of this environmental pollution, only a small percent of which can be eaten by lifestock, and only carried so far or the diesel fuel used to transport it is larger than the energy contained in the DDG.
Just one of many silver bullets. But people argue endlessly about EROI because of the boundaries do you include the energy to make the tractor that planted the corn or not?
The Dirt on Dirt. Ethanol is an agribusiness get-rich-quick scheme that will bankrupt our topsoil. Nineteenth century western farmers converted their corn into whiskey to make a profit Rorabaugh The energy to haul moonshine is a tiny fraction of the energy to haul corn to distant cities after all, more of a positive EROI if you will.
Archer Daniels Midland ADMa large grain processor, came up with a similar scheme in the 20th century; ethanol. But ethanol was a product in search of a market, so ADM spent three decades relentlessly lobbying for ethanol to be used in gasoline.
Today ADM makes record profits from ethanol sales and government subsidies Barrionuevo Fuels made from biomass are a lot like the nuclear powered airplanes the Air Force tried to build from tofor billions of dollars.
They never got off the ground. The idea was interesting — atomic jets could fly for months without refueling. But the lead shielding to protect the crew and several months of food and water was too heavy for the plane to take off.
Biomass fuels have equally obvious and predictable reasons for failure.
Odum says that time explains why renewable energy provides such low energy yields compared to non-renewable fossil fuels. The more work left to nature, the higher the energy yield, but the longer the time required. Although coal and oil took millions of years to form into dense, concentrated solar power, all we had to do was extract and transport them Odum With every step required to transform a fuel into energy, there is less and less energy yield.
For example, to make ethanol from corn grain, which is how all ethanol is made now, corn is first grown to develop hybrid seeds, which next season are planted, harvested, delivered, stored, and preprocessed to remove dirt. Dry-mill ethanol is milled, liquefied, heated, saccharified, fermented, evaporated, centrifuged, distilled, scrubbed, dried, stored, and transported to customers McAloon Farming always ruins soils eventually; civilizations fail after about years because of this Productivity drops off sharply when topsoil reaches 6 inches or less.
Historically, it takes most civilizations years to exhaust their soils. Then they collapse Montgomery Loss of topsoil has been a major factor in the fall of civilizations Sundquist Chapter 3, LowdermilkPerlinPonting How Diversified Farming Systems Can Help Farmers While Protecting Soil and Preventing Pollution.
Agriculture is often regarded as the human hallmark that allowed for the development of modern technologies. But recent evidence seems to suggest that it was more of a curse than a blessing. Ancient Egypt. Agriculture. A combination of favorable geographical features contributed to the success of ancient Egyptian culture, the most important of which was the rich fertile soil resulting from annual inundations of the Nile River.
Environment. Industrial agriculture pollutes air, water, and soil, reduces biodiversity, and contributes to global climate change. Find the unsavory details here. Bean Varieties. Field beans will grow on virtually any soil in Manitoba; however flat, well-drained land, free of stones, is ideal.
Beans do not tolerate standing water. Shifting Iowa's dominant two-crop farming system toward a more diverse crop mix can be a win-win for farmers and the environment.