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Forums > Social Discussion > Alternate Fuels Chart: Ethanol and Biodiesel

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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted:So, as a course of action alot of different substances are being looked at to create ethanol and biodiesel.

Most of these have reprocussions.

For example, strained fryer oil from McD's can be put in cars that have the appropriate adaptors. However, this is not effecient since there is not enough fryers to fuel all the cars.



Corn is the big push now, because the technology is available. However, the effect on food production and agricultural diversity would be devistating.



clicky clicky



(you might have to scroll down a bit)

So here's a chart that breaks down the potential alternate fuels, their footprint and the pros and cons.



For a comparitive measure the green house gas emissions of regular gas is about 94 and the green house gas emissions of diesel is about 83, which is about the same as corn.



I was shocked and impressed by the algea.



Thought some of you might be interested. smile

EDITED_BY: Pele (1210872705)


Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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Mucky
SILVER Member since Apr 2008

Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA

Total posts: 227
Posted:Yep, unfortunately there's so much travel no one source of fuel will be optimal in the future. Even taking personal transportation - cars, city buses - out of the equation, commercial travel makes most new fuels prohibitive. What may wind up happening is that different localities will come to rely on different fuels depending on what the local resources can supply.

The ethanol scare is big news these days, but they saw it coming years ago.... Right now it's just the big trend to start planting, 'cause that's where the money is. For now, anyway. Coffee went through the same kind of thing not too long ago, caused huge problems for these farmers. Hopefully we won't see worldwide deforestation like what's happening in now South America because of fuel crops...

I wonder if farmers will start doing like the Native Americans and rely on the Three Sisters model... Corn, beans, and pumpkins (maybe not those necessarily)... the idea of shared farmland.


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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted:The algae is the way of the future. We simply can't make enough fuel based on crops to make it profitable.

The technology isn't ready, but it isn't far off. We just need to invest in it.

And ultimately...it's solar. =)


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Mucky
SILVER Member since Apr 2008

Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA

Total posts: 227
Posted:I agree that algal fuel has a lot of potential... But a couple years ago everybody was saying crop fuelswere the way of the future. I really think it's going to come down to making a lot of solutions work together, rather than trying to find one big super-solution. Not as glitzy or attractive to the media that way, but it's the most likely to A) work globally and B) have manageable repercussions.

The big problem with solar energy is the area needed to harvest significant amounts of power.


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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted: Written by :Mucky


The big problem with solar energy is the area needed to harvest significant amounts of power.



Apparently 1-3% of current U.S. farmland


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted:Thing with algae is that it takes up less than 5% of current farmlands to "grow", it has a rapid growth rate and can be growin in plastic tubes anywhere, given enough light (so, arizona is a major contestant in it). It's part of what makes it so palatable.

Farmers here have no choice but to do crop rotations in order to get state funding.
I also know that it is not just a NY thing.

The rotations happen in quarters based on property area but also yearly as well.
It helps with soil replenishment but mostly for soil conservation to help with erosion. Strip cropping does this as well depending on the slope.

Sorry...geeked out for a moment there (did an internship with Soil and Water Conservation in the Agricultural division).

So anyway, many rural areas have that type of production value in place already in the NE.


Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted:http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/04/01/algae.oil/

-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted: Written by :Doc Lightning


And ultimately...it's solar. =)



Second that.

Fuels all have a nasty side effect, from CO2 emission to possible food shortage.


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Gnor
BRONZE Member since Mar 2003

Gnor

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Perth, Australia

Total posts: 5814
Posted:The algae can be grown on non arable land as well I thought. Theres heaps of pilot studies on it which is grand!

Is it the Truth?
Is it Fair to all concerned?
Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?

Im in a lonely battle with the world with a fish to match the chip on my shoulder. Gnu in Binnu in a cnu

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Pele
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Pele

the henna lady
Location: WNY, USA

Total posts: 6193
Posted: Written by :FireTom


Second that.

Fuels all have a nasty side effect, from CO2 emission to possible food shortage.



Hey Tom, didja read the article on Algae, and look at the chart?
Your reasons actually don't apply to it, and it takes less space to produce than solar, which means less ecological impact (have you seen solar fields?) and more reliability for those of us who don't live in sunny places.

Then again, here most of our "building" electric is hydro, and we have wind turbines as well.


Pele
Higher, higher burning fire...making music like a choir
"Oooh look! A pub!" -exclaimed after recovering from a stupid fall
"And for the decadence of art, nothing beats a roaring fire." -TMK

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faith enfire
BRONZE Member since Jan 2006

faith enfire

wandering thru the woods of WI
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Total posts: 3556
Posted:I want to second the rotation. It helps the nutrient content of the soil. Certain plants drain certain nutrients while other plants put nutrients back in. So in order to keep the soil from being drained and turned useless and avoid a dustbowl, farmers rotate their crops

Faith
Nay, whatever comes one hour was sunlit and the most high gods may not make boast of any better thing than to have watched that hour as it passed

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UCOF
SILVER Member since Apr 2002

UCOF

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: , United Kingdom

Total posts: 15414
Posted:Supermarkets in the UK are already putting up the price of the vegetable oils after noticing how many people are buying it in large quantities frown
Currently "Pura" is 80p per litre.

In the UK, you can only do a certain amount of miles on vege oil before you have to declare it and then get taxed on it frown angry

 Written by : A man from another forum I frequent

My Brother in Law is running a Nissan Serena on waste from the local chippy just filtered with a seive. The problem with the waste oil is animal fats that are solid at low temperatures but in the current weather its fine. When his filter gets blocked he boils it in water and the animal fats float to the surface. Not sure if I fancy this in the tranny though and I'm sticking to nice clean new oil.



Have a read here on this forum about Vege oil

smile


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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted:Yes I have, Pele. smile

For one, biofuels are still emitting CO2 and as long as these plantations are not located next to industrial zones in China or India (where loads of CO2 will be produced over the next years) it's not going to significantly diminish the CO2 emission. And this is what we currently need to see in these countries.

Second: one strong reason for this to become economical is the current price for a gallon of oil.

Third: it sounds to me like another hype. Let's see how much consistency is really there.

The use of fossil fuels (be it oil or any other "bio"fuel) needs to shift to alternatives, such as hydrogen or solar in order to effectively diminish greenhouse gases. Possibly the algae-fuel is not going to put a lot of pressure on the current market price for oil.

And these two factors: CO2 emission and price for fuel might be the only things of real interest for the average Joe, the production and the distribution of food.


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Stout
SILVER Member since May 2004

Stout

Pooh-Bah
Location: Canada

Total posts: 1872
Posted:The big, and I mean BIG difference between the carbon we're spewing into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and the carbon we spew into the environment using "alternative" fuels like the algae and bio diesel, is the source of that carbon.

FF carbon has been locked away in the earth's crust for millions of years, and if we want to keep the climate we all know and love, then it's better for all concerned if we leave that previously sequestered carbon just where it is and not introduce it into the ecosystem.

The carbon ( or CO2 ) actually, "generated" by burning alternative fuels is carbon that's recently been in the ecosystem so technically, it doesn't contribute to our current situation re global warming.

What do plants use as a carbon source to create their constituent molecules ?


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GeoffonTour04
SILVER Member since Nov 2005

enthusiast
Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

Total posts: 360
Posted:Algae is by far the best solution, as the chart shows it eats more co2 than other fuels, the water it grows in can be salty (unlike most other crops), takes no arable land, and being a very simple organism can be engineered to be easy to refine, making that process more efficient.

I think that will be the fuel of the future, if we can develop the technology to put it into full production quickly enough.


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fanged_angel
BRONZE Member since Jul 2007

fanged_angel

poiromaniac
Location: liverpool, uk

Total posts: 162
Posted:i like the looks of this stuff, it should produce a lot of fuel and ease the food crisis but im with doc and fire tom. in the long term i think the only viable sources of energy will be solar and hydrogen but its gonna take a helluva lot of research to get the full effect from them

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Mucky
SILVER Member since Apr 2008

Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA

Total posts: 227
Posted: Written by :Stout



The big, and I mean BIG difference between the carbon we're spewing into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and the carbon we spew into the environment using "alternative" fuels like the algae and bio diesel, is the source of that carbon.



FF carbon has been locked away in the earth's crust for millions of years, and if we want to keep the climate we all know and love, then it's better for all concerned if we leave that previously sequestered carbon just where it is and not introduce it into the ecosystem.



The carbon ( or CO2 ) actually, "generated" by burning alternative fuels is carbon that's recently been in the ecosystem so technically, it doesn't contribute to our current situation re global warming.



What do plants use as a carbon source to create their constituent molecules ?





The thing is that algae, to use that example, is being harvested specifically to be used as fuel... On a commercial scale, much more is produced than would naturally grow, and so, even while total emissions may be somewhat lower (and figures for this are still somewhat lacking, given the enormous scale on which fossil fuels are currently in use), it may not entail a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Since algae grows on the surface of bodies of water, only so much can exist naturally at one time, whereas with commercial production, it can be grown in vertical tanks that will greatly increase the amount there.



I'm all for alternative fuels and renewable energy sources, but I also hesitate to back any new wonder-fuel 100%. Partly because I'm not 100% in-the-know, and partly because right now viable alternatives really aren't *that* much better than fossil fuels, given current technology. Very few current studies of the more experimental fuels are holistic enough to present a realistic model. We're on the right track and I really don't think there's much of an argument that we *should* continue to use fossil fuels for as long as possible, but like FireTom suggested, beware of hype. And believe me, environmentalists can sling hype like the best of 'em.



Stout, plants and other organisms derive carbon from organic compounds - sugars, fats, alcohols, and other common compounds are all carbon-based. These do not contribute to global warming because they do not collect in the atmosphere. When they are burnt the carbon atoms bond with oxygen to form CO2, which does collect in the atmosphere.

EDITED_BY: Mucky (1210973365)


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Stout
SILVER Member since May 2004

Stout

Pooh-Bah
Location: Canada

Total posts: 1872
Posted:I can't say I'm 100% behind the algae idea either, mostly because i don't really know all that much about it. One thing's for sure though, when it comes to bio fuels, burning a product that's specifically designed to be burned as fuel is a lot more appealing than burning food.

Algae also has the advantage of being produced on non arable farmland, like desert.

I'm unsure of what sort of scale we'd have to enter into if we want to make a significant impact on the amount of fossil fuels we use. Might we have to sacrifice the whole Sonora desert to meet out energy needs?

The thing that's attractive about algae is it's compatibility with our existing transportation technology ( unlike hydrogen ) and there'll be a lot less *growing pains* introducing, and eventually converting to this technology.

It's an interesting topic(s), peak oil and global warming. When the IPCC released their report 15 months ago, I took a rather callous "who cares" stance, curious as to who would challenge me on it ( this is an IRL thing, not online ) and so far, very few people have challenged me. I'm getting things like.

Not my problem, other people use way more fossil fuels than me.
It's the governments problem, they should make industry "fix it"
It's a hoax
The scientists don't know what they're talking about.
Yada Yada.

I've got one guy saying he figures peak/global is "unsupported" because he didn't like Al Gore's style in an Inconvenient Truth, another guy trying to convince me that zero point energy is the way to go and it's being suppressed by big oil and gas ( now there's a hoax ) and a whole host of other denialist babble based on ignorance ( feigned or real, I can't tell, but given the amount of accessible information, I do have to say it's willful )

In short, out of all the "alternative" fuel ideas out there, I think algae holds the most promise. as a fuel that will realistically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.


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Mucky
SILVER Member since Apr 2008

Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA

Total posts: 227
Posted: Written by :Stout



I'm unsure of what sort of scale we'd have to enter into if we want to make a significant impact on the amount of fossil fuels we use. Might we have to sacrifice the whole Sonora desert to meet out energy needs?





And that's what's most likely going to be the cause of a problem. People often say it is advantageous because it can be harvested in the desert, but the attitude that "the desert is useless to us so it must be useless" is a little antiquated. I don't think anybody's out to make the argument that we should populate the Gobi, but I also wonder whether in the push for change the governments may decide to subsidize desert land for fuel production and eventually eradicate what is otherwise an important and flourishing (though sparsely inhabited in places) ecology.

Again, I don't say this because I'm against alternative energy research, it's just a pitfall that seems very possible to fall into. Most people understand that the environment is hugely more complex than we can really fully know, but I think a lot of old attitudes still prevail. The desert may not be arable on a commercial scale, but it isn't an unimportant part of the global ecology as a whole. If I'm not mistaken, desert land makes up about 1/6 of the land surface of Earth.... Off the top of my head I can't recall any research that's been done demonstrating the potential effects of large-scale desert industrialization, but that, to me, is something that has to be done *well* before people start saying that algae should be grown commercially in deserts because they aren't arable.

Fact is, like Stout and others have mentioned, right now algae is the closest thing we have to a solution, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed... But I wanted to point out that we're still not *that* close. Still a lot of research has to go into making it both viable and sustainable. Otherwise in sixty years we'll be scrambling for something new to avert another catastrophe.


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Eera
BRONZE Member since May 2003

old hand
Location: In a test pit, Mackay, Austral...

Total posts: 1107
Posted:I remember seeing a segment on algae as fuel in deisel engines on Tomorrow's World more than 20 years ago, they pointed out then that it can be used with very little alteration to the mechanism; if you take the four stages of the deisel combustion as being "suck, squeeze, bang, blow" (insert comments at will, I know you want to), they needed a stronger suck and blow to clear the burned material, and otherwise it worked.

But the was *20* years ago, and so far basically bugger all has happened.

Can I just put in a couple of words of warning here. While running your vehicle on chippy rejects might sound like a good thing to do, if you don't get a conversion done you will screw your engine; the mechanisms might work OK, they do bung up though, but the seals are designed to take petrol and deisel, not Maccas gloop, and they degrade astonishingly fast.

Here you can buy ethanol/petrol mixes at a discount rate over strigth ULP, but they don't tell you that the seals in some cars, notably European ones cannot cope with ethanol at even low concentrations, the local car hire mobs even stick "Do not use biodeisel" signs on their vehicles as they have such problems. (I thought maybe they were in cahoots with the bowser owners, but the other half is a diesel fitter and says they get about 2 trucks a week come in for refits as biofuels have knackered them, using biofuels voids the warrenty too).

So, if there's a future here, it's got to come not only from research into fuels, but the manufacturers coming up with materials that can actually deal with alternative fuels.


There is a slight possibility that I am not actually right all of the time.

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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted:Stout I guess you're (partly) right on the CO2, the CO2 is absorbed - not stored over the past... hence:

 Written by : newscientist

Food prices hit record levels this year. A third of the increase, estimates the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC, is due to increasing demand in the US for maize to make ethanol for fuel.

The IFPRI says this should stop. There should be a moratorium on using food for fuel, it says, as world food production is already barely enough to feed us all. There are just not enough crops to make our fuel as well.



Deserts - as in "non arable land" might play a more significant role in the planets eco system as we currently predict. Yet: deserts are expanding annually and the 'newly acquired land' could be used to generate this kind of fuel without much interference.

I feel there is no 'one' solution to the fuel problem. I'm just a bit upset that the problem was predicted 20 years ago already (as Eera indicates and from my own memories) and nobody really bothered too much about it.

But other than education in energy conservation I can't really see much possible contribution from the average Joe and side him that it's the bl**dy governments job to enforce some change into the 'right' direction. After all its the industry that has to come up with the according developments.

As to the algae thingy once more: I just doubt that its a charity project that will reasonably reduce the price of fuel... wink


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dream
SILVER Member since Jul 2003

dream

currently mending
Location: Bristol, New Zealand

Total posts: 493
Posted: Written by :wikipedia

Currently most research into efficient algal-oil production is being done in the private sector, but if predictions from small scale production experiments bear out then using algae to produce biodiesel, bioethanol and biobutanol may be the only viable method by which to produce enough automotive fuel to displace current world gasoline usage.[17]

Microalgae have much faster growth-rates than terrestrial crops. The oil yield per unit area of algae is estimated to be 5,000 to 20,000 gallons per acre, per year (4.6 to 18.4 l/m2 per year); this is 7 to 30 times greater than the next best crop, Chinese tallow (699 gallons).[18]

The difficulties in efficient biodiesel production from algae lie in finding an algal strain with a high lipid content and fast growth rate that isn't too difficult to harvest, and a cost-effective cultivation system (ie, type of photobioreactor) that is best suited to that strain. Additionally, a cost-effective way to extract the oil must be found.

Open-pond methods have largely been abandoned for the cultivation of algae with high-oil content. Many believe that a major flaw of the Aquatic Species Program was the decision to focus their efforts exclusively on open-ponds. Algae in an open-pond environment are subject to wide swings in temperature and pH, and competition from invasive algae and bacteria. Open systems using a monoculture are also vulnerable to viral infection. The open-pond method makes the entire effort dependent upon the hardiness of the strain chosen, requiring it to be unnecessarily resilient (compared to a closed system) in order to withstand the environmental conditions. For a given amount of photosynthetic energy, an algae strain producing relatively high levels of oil will produce relatively less protein and/or carbohydrate, usually resulting in the species being less hardy, or having a slower growth rate. Algal species with a lower oil content, not having to divert their energies away from growth, have an easier time in the harsher conditions of an open system.

Some open sewage ponds trial production has been done in Marlborough, New Zealand.[19]

A feasibility study using marine microalgae in a photobioreactor is being done by The International Research Consortium on Continental Margins at the International University Bremen.[20]

Research into algae for the mass-production of oil is mainly focused on microalgae; organisms capable of photosynthesis that are less than 2 mm in diameter, including the diatoms and cyanobacteria; as opposed to macroalgae, e.g. seaweed. This preference towards microalgae is due largely to its less complex structure, fast growth rate, and high oil content (for some species). Some commercial interests into large scale algal-cultivation systems are looking to tie in to existing infrastructures, such as coal power plants or sewage treatment facilities. This approach not only provides the raw materials for the system, such as CO2 and nutrients; but it changes those wastes into resources.

The corporations Chevron, Honeywell, and Boeing are starting algae businesses. According to Boeing's technology leader for energy and emissions, Dave Daggett, 'In the past two years, we have changed from algae skeptics to proponents'. [21] The development challenge is to reduce the cost of producing algae oil in commercial volumes, i.e. billions of gallons.

"'In Europe, refiners are producing 1.4 billion gallons a year from rapeseed, soy, and other plants. In all, the world consumed $1.7 billion worth of biodiesel last year. That should grow to $26 billion by 2020, says market researcher Global Insight.'" [21] These figures project an average growth of over 20% per year.



So while biofuels from algae are not currently a viable proposition they may be in the future. Or they may not...

However there is still a huge amount we can do to reduce our ecological footprint... over the weekend i went to a party in a straw bale/tyre based eco-build. Because of the way the building is built, the building heats and cools itself. It will stay a more or less constant 17 degrees throughout the year with no central heating or air conditioning. Yet we still insist on 99% of our new buildings require fossil fuel powered central heating... Similar eco friendly builds can also collect rainwater, filter it so as to make it drinkable, and then utilise the waste water for flushing a toilet or growing crops.

Equally I went to a compelling presentation last week by a group of academics and architects who make up Carfree Cities... Some of the ideas and plans they have for more ecologically sustainable, yet functional, indeed enjoyable social spaces was really inspiring.

http://www.carfree.com/intro_cfc.html

Adapting to the threats posed by anthropogenic climate change and resource depletion requires far more action than just finding a different fuel to put in your car...


He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Nietzsche

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Mucky
SILVER Member since Apr 2008

Mucky

Rum-Swilling Combustioneer
Location: Macungie, PA, USA

Total posts: 227
Posted: Written by :FireTom


Deserts - as in "non arable land" might play a more significant role in the planets eco system as we currently predict. Yet: deserts are expanding annually and the 'newly acquired land' could be used to generate this kind of fuel without much interference.



Tom, I agree with the rest of your post, but this doesn't really constitute "newly acquired land". Desert expansion is essentially the result of abused land to begin with; saying that we may as well use desert land that has been created out of fertile land through human overuse is akin to saying that we may as well set up some summer communities on Kilimanjaro now that there's no snow.

Not to come off as harsh of course, I just think that even well-educated and environmentally conscious people tend to misunderstand just *how* complex finding a "solution" really is. I'm just as guilty of it myself...


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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted:Mucky, I didn't try to indicate that the (man-made) expansion of deserts should not be policed and reduced (if not reversed)... Just tried to be pragmatic and in the rest sided your opinion on the global eco system which we have terribly little understanding of... wink

Dream, it's ridiculous just how slow legislation reacts to changing circumstances... that's soo dinosaur...


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simta
BRONZE Member since Apr 2006

simta

compfuzzled
Location: hastings, England (UK)

Total posts: 1182
Posted: Written by :Doc Lightning


 Written by :Mucky


The big problem with solar energy is the area needed to harvest significant amounts of power.



Apparently 1-3% of current U.S. farmland



would you even need to go near the farmland? isnt there vast area's of desert in the u.s? and across the rest of the world huge areas of desertland which are pretty barren.


"the geeks have got you" - Gayle

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hamamelis
BRONZE Member since Jan 2006

hamamelis

nut.
Location: Bouncing off the walls., Engla...

Total posts: 756
Posted:Not *that* barren.. Deserts aren't exactly dead areas, and we don't exactly know what would be the effects of covering vast areas of land with solar panels.. It could potentially increase heat uptake and cause a significant warming effect of its own..

We should start by using rooftops and other already artificial but underused areas to minimise impact, and only *then* move on to damaging more land..


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FireTom


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Total posts: 6650
Posted:Second that.

the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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