[permaculture] The Food Crunch

Harmon Seaver hseaver at gmail.com
Mon Apr 28 07:19:57 EDT 2008

Marimike6 at cs.com wrote:
> Harmon, I see one problem in our discussion right now. I've been talking 
> narrowly about the US program for subsidised corn ethanol production. And you have 
> been talking about the whole world of plant-based vehicle fuels. Two 
> different subjects.
> Okay, let's try your subject. I would agree that so long as you have time 
> apart from your other labors to grow cattails on your vacant land, harvest them, 
> distill them into fuel and run your truck, your tractor and your generator on 
> them, it makes a lot of sense... it really does. It would enable you to live 
> off the grid, albeit with some labor and some land being involved.
> I'm not sure this approach scales up to the human race though. Let's look at 
> the world our kids will be living in. Whether the population is our current 
> nearly seven billion or our expected nine billion, most will become affluent 
> enough to require a personal vehicle in order to navigate our car-based modern 
> life style. So let's say there will be a billion autos. And each will be driven 
> 12,000 miles a year. That's twelve trillion MPY.

     Yes, well, first off, I don't think there will be anywhere near
that population level. The world simply cannot possibly grow enough food
without the fossil fuel based agri-chemicals to feed even half of the
population we have now. So I'm quite sure that we'll be seeing a very
rapid population drop in the fairly near future thru starvation and
fighting over food. And canabalism.
     It's unfortunate that so many will have to suffer, but rest of
Nature is suffering pretty badly right now because of the heavy boot of
the oppressor humans on their neck, and so when a large share of the
humans die out, I'm sure the bear people, the salmon people, they coyote
people, the prairie dog people, the tree people, and all the others,
will breathe a huge collective sigh of relief.
     And truly, the world would be a great place if it weren't for the
humans -- in fact it would be a paradise.
     Nope, I'm only concerned about biofuels as a permaculture solution,
done locally, and to hell with the rest. There's really no other way --
the politicians and other so-called leaders are either too stupid, or
too venal, or both, to every get it together to deal with the situation
and work out real, sustainable, solutions. The answers are already there
-- we could easily grow enough fuel just from cattails growing on
sewage, but I know that will never happen. Humans are just too stupid.

> Now let's suppose mileage is pretty good, fifty mpg on whatever their fuel of 
> choice is. Their annual fuel requirement will then be 240 billion gallons.
> Where will it come from? Here's a pretty good source site for biofuel info:
> http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_yield.html

   Journey To Forever is an excellent site, but biodiesel yields are
just far to small to use it except for lubricants and additives to
ethanol. The diesels can be easily converted to run on ethanol, in fact
are the preferred building block for ethanol engines, so the real
solution is ethanol.

> Let's further suppose that we depart pretty largely from other biofuels and 
> concentrate on the most efficient one-- palm oil. I see where annual production 
> of palm oil fuel can be 635 gallons per acre.

   That's not even remotely the most efficient solution. For one, it can
only be grown in the tropics, but that's a pretty low yield compared to
ethanol crops.


> But they never have. More probable is worldwide resource wars-- convulsions 
> that radically reduce the total world population and the level of civilization 
> required to provide global resource distribution to everyone.

    And mass starvation. And hopefully this will come about sooner --
before all the wilderness is destroyed, rather than later.

> So the horizon, 
> for many people, will once again become local.

   And that's a very good thing. And with a much lower technology level.
You might enjoy reading James Kunstler's latest "World Made By Hand"
about how life will be after the peak oil, peak everything crash.

> After the wars there would be a different scale to life. And there, a farmer 
> with some basic permacultural knowledge could mash up his corn or his cattails 
> to make his own fuel. And even feed his chickens, whose litter enriches the 
> land, on the spent mash. Plus, everyone's manure could help out a little by 
> powering his biogas electrical generator.
> So I guess I'm with you. It could be done. The transition sounds unpleasant, 
> but I guess that's where we're headed.   
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Harmon Seaver

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