[permaculture] The Biofuel Illusion

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Sat Jul 8 18:41:53 EDT 2006


Charles de Matas wrote:

>    Having said that, let me also say that biofuels offer a great opportunity 
> for permaculturists.  Every permaculture project should consider 
> incorporation plants for biofuel production, to make itself more 
> self-sufficient in fuel, and as a cash crop. Permaculturists can produce 
> biofuels in a sustainable way.  If only the biofuel is exported, all the 
> organic matter can be recycled and a closed system reached which will keep 
> producing without much external inputs. There are many possibilities:

> - Use land that has been abandoned or degraded by agriculture, mining, etc. 
> or cannot otherwise be used for food production.

Exactly.

> - Use inputs like sewage sludge that are prohibited by organic farming 
> certifiers for food production.

Excellent use for municipal sludge; add to that difficult to process agricultural waste
from livestock and byproducts of sme production process.
Plantations of biofuel plants; consolidate runoff on these tracts to flow into greenhouse covered lagoons where you grow 
water hyacinths and other harvestable-for-compost aquatic plants. Use this water to to grow hay and forage crops like 
kudzu and Johnson grass (very nutritous) - these invasive plants can be controlled and contained through timely harvest 
and tillage. Runoff from these croplands can go to agroforestry tracts where economically useful timber, wild plants and 
nursery stock can be grown. By the time effluent/leachate/runoff from the sludge has reached this last stage of plant 
production it will have been purified to a reasonable degree.

I hear that millions of pounds of potatoes are dumped to rot each year in Canada's potato belt region, all of which 
could be turned into ethanol. Name for dewatered ethanol burning micro-mini automobile: VodWagen.

>     Biodiesel production can be done on a small scale. In the tropics, oil 
> palms produce more oil per hectare than most other oilseed plants.  I'm not 
> sure about ethanol production, I don't think it is economical on a small 
> scale.  Conventional sugar cane production is very destructive to the soil.  
> I think there are ways to grow sugar cane organically, in rotation with 
> legumes like pigeon peas, but I think such practices have disappeared almost 
> completely from the tropics.
>     While I agree that biofuels will not provide a complete replacement for 
> fossil fuels, I think biofuel technology should be developed as much as 
> possible and permaculturists should develop sustainable ways to grow crops 
> for biofuel production.

I hear there are people fueling their diesel powered cars and trucks with pure vegetable oil. Can this really be done?

LL




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