[permaculture] what about lubrication?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Mar 28 22:58:17 EDT 2008

So Brazil imports about 62 million bbls a year of oil; that's hardly "no 
oil." And a little googling shows that Brazil produced about about 700 
million barrels of oil in 2007, so they are as oil-dependent as the rest 
of us. They produced 21.3 billion liters of ethanol, or, I think, 133 
million bbl for the year, which means they are using five times as much 
oil as ethanol. I assume they use petroleum for lubricants.

Dave Blume's book, people tell me, is great on how to make ethanol (I'm 
not qualified to judge), but he does exaggerate (polite word) in his 
numerical arguments. As one example, he argues that demand for ethanol 
isn't the reason corn prices are going up, using some suspect numbers. 
Blume wrote that "only 7.5 % of US prime cropland is used for growing 
corn," out "1.5 billion acres."  But the whole US is only 2.3 billion 
acres. To arrive at his 1.5 billion acres of "prime cropland," you have 
to include ALL farmland, all rangeland, and all forests, leaving out 
only desert (700 million acres) and cities. To say that parched 
rangeland and mountainous forest is "prime cropland" is, well, 
stretching things. In truth, corn uses 92 million acres, or about 25% of 
the 380 million acres of all qualities, not just prime, that the USDA 
says is planted to crops. So although oil costs are boosting corn 
prices, demand for corn ethanol is a huge factor too. Similar 
statistical stretches can be found elsewhere in the book.

So I'd be very careful about quoting Dave's arguments without doing some 
checking. As a manual on small-scale ethanol, people say his book is 
outstanding. I'm sorry to see an otherwise excellent book marred by 
dubious arguments that are easily exposed.


Scott Pittman wrote:
> Before one accepts such hyperbole it is an easy matter to check out the
> source and other sources.  
> Blumes book has considerable hyperbole, and the statement that "Brazil
> imports no oil what-so-ever" is another example of that tendency.
> Brazil's imports of crude oil in 2008 averages 169,000 barrels per day, and
> petroleum is 225,000 barrels per day according to the Energy Information
> Administration a U.S. government tracking office.  While that is a
> considerable reduction from the past it certainly isn't importing "no oil
> what-so-ever". That's not to say that they don't use more oil than that but
> the rest is from their off shore oil fields.
> The cost to the ecology of Brazil is enormous as they slash and burn primary
> rain forest to grow more ethanol.  Brazil now is the worlds largest exporter
> of ethanol putting even more pressure on their forests.  Ethanol does not
> seem to curb rapacious greed.
> Nothing comes without cost and it is wistful thinking to presume that
> ethanol is the magic bullet that lets us go our merry, two car family, way.
> We are destroying the planet with our profligate use of oil products and we
> will continue to do so with ethanol anyone who says otherwise is delusional.
> Scott Pittman
> Director
> Permaculture Institute
> www.permaculture.org
> trevor william johnson wrote:
>> i just saw david bloom speak on a youtube video and he said that  
>> brazil imports no oil what so ever.  what about lubrication oil for  
>> the engine?  how can we make this out of renewable resources?
>     There are a lot of synthetic oils on the market today, and, in fact,
> if you love your engine, you should be using them rather than petro oils
> as they are much superior, reducing friction and heat. That's not to say
> they are made from all renewable sources, but it's a start.
>     Also, biodiesel works great for two-stroke lubrication -- the gas
> mix in chainsaws, etc. Canola oil works great for the bar/chain lube in
> chainsaws, except when it gets too cold.

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