(Disclaimer: Though the majority of the bunch here are British/Irish. I’m American. Therefore take everything written here with that knowledge- This is environmental issues with an American slant, I’m not trying to speak for the world, I’m just some chucklefuck on the internet with an opinion.)
Yeah, so gas prices are pretty goddamn high.
Far be it from me to argue for or against Global Warming. It seems it’s pretty readily accepted as truth now. But hey, I can see why people are weary, perhaps their party is telling them down the line it’s not real. Science has been wrong before! Why can’t it be wrong again?! It’s hard to be a straight ticket Republican and buy into the whole deal, I’m sure.
Of course even if you do think it’s a threat to the world, you may have a hard time swallowing Al Gore telling you “If we (do) not take action to solve this crisis, it could indeed threaten the future of human civilization.” when it’s coming from someone who flies in a private jet and lives in THIS MANSION A mansion which apparently racks up $30,000 a year in utility bills. (Here’s a thought for Celebrities and Politicians: People are willing to be led by example, not by hypocritical chastising.)
And hey, maybe you saw The Day After Tomorrow, and looked through it’s AMAZING ACTION and FANTASTIC ACTING for the propaganda piece it is. And you’re uncertain of a lot of the experts opinions on global warming because you know that some experts disagree, and others often exaggerate to get attention for a cause they feel deserves it. (For instance- criminologist James Alan Fox predicted a rise of Crime to bloodbath levels in the 90’s here in the states. Of course we never actually experienced that “bloodbath”, and later in defense Fox argued “I used strong terms like ‘bloodbath’ to get people’s attention. And it did. I don’t apologize for using alarmist terms” [Quote courtesy of Freakonomics])
So what do you do? If you’re not getting caught up in the hyperbole of one side and the sheer denial of the other you (hopefully) come to the conclusion I did. Regardless of if Global Warming is or isn’t happening, wouldn’t it be much better not to pollute the environment, and to find alternative fuel sources? If for no other reason then “Hey it’s actually a lot nicer not to live in a world that looks like Silent Hill!”.
What I can’t understand is this: Why do we need to be told that if we don’t fix the world we’re all dead in a generation? Isn’t it enough to know that our cities have smog levels? That there are days when going for a jog is tantamount to suicide because of those levels?
SO- With that in mind I present you two fuel options I’ve read about in the past month that I think both sides of the aisle can agree on. With the hope that the more exposure these projects get, the more funding. And the more funding they get the better chance they have of being implemented and changing our lives for the better:
Of all the Biofuel’s suggested, at the moment it seems the one that garners the most discussion is Ethanol Fuel. The problem with Ethanol is that it relies on Corn, a lot of friggin corn (One full gas tank of Ethanol = The supply of Corn one person would eat in a year). If the world switched over to Ethanol fuel, the amount of grain going to feed people would be hugely reduced. Further, the cost of other foods go up; as the profit for corn increases farmers will quickly drop their standard crops to replace them with Corn. (Hell if I was a farmer and I had a choice between growing tomatoes, and stalks of what’s basically money, I know what I’d pick.)
That’s the beauty of these two plans though, they take existing resources that we don’t see much use for (Agricultural Wastes, Algae), and utilize them in a new way that works within the model we’re already using. It’s not a reinvention of the wheel, it’s a refinement of the wheel. A little information on both, directly from the websites. First: LS9
LS9 DesignerBiofuels™ products are a family of fuels produced by specially-engineered microbes created via industrial synthetic biology. Starting from raw, natural sources of sugar such as sugar cane and cellulosic biomass, these renewable fuels will fundamentally change the biofuels landscape and set the stage for widespread product adoption and petroleum displacement. LS9 hydrocarbon biofuels have higher energetic content than ethanol or butanol and have fuel properties that are essentially indistinguishable from those of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
So essentially a modified microorganism that chows down on various wastes (Wood Chips, Straw, etc), and craps out crude oil. The byproduct is carbon neutral(or close to), and readily accessible for our transport systems without any modifications. And according to The Times– depending on the food source for the microbes, oil barrels could cost as little as fifty dollars a gallon. Right now at this moment Oil prices per Barrel cost $140.
Second: Sapphire Energy
Sapphire Energy has built a revolutionary platform that uses photosynthetic microorganisms to produce a renewable, high-value replacement for fossil fuel petroleum. This domestic crude oil requires only sunlight, CO2 and non-potable water – and can be produced at massive scale on non-arable land.
In a nutshell: Algae. I’ve had trouble finding what the exact process is, though I’d imagine it’s a genetic manipulation, but the basic gist is that Algae goes through it’s normal photosynthetic process and produces a form of Crude Oil. The benefits are much like LS9’s product: It’s carbon neutral, it’s made by a readily accessible product, and it works within our existing infrastructure. No need to modify our cars
Funny enough both sources have there flaws. But one’s flaw is the other’s strength.
LS9’s product is cost effective, however according to the aforementioned Times article
To substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.
Whereas the green crude oil produced by Sapphire Energy can be grown in any arable climate including water sources, it’s not cost effective yet according to this article from The wall Street Journal
While engineers can grow small batches of algae in beakers in laboratories and convert it into fuel, re-creating that process on an industrial scale has proved elusive and expensive when compared with the price of gasoline.
I’ve already heard a number of cynics in my personal life dismiss both these options offhand for the above reasons. But just because they aren’t workable YET doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future, everything takes time and money to produce.
Isn’t the benefit worth it? If for no other reason then you’re sick of paying extravagant prices to travel somewhere?
If these technologies are given the funding they need to make breakthroughs, we could be looking at a changed world. I’ll admit that it’ll seem to good to be true that Oil prices are dropping because of Algae and Microbe Shit, but who cares? If these products can be produced in a cost effective manner, everybody wins: The Right wing won’t have to worry about foreign countries having a foothold (a valid complaint). The Left wing won’t have to worry about the effects of carbon emissions on our environment (another valid complaint)
And I will be rich, because I fully plan on investing in both companies if they ever go public.
More information can be found at all the little links I so handily prepared.