[permaculture] David Blume and "Alcohol Can Be A Gas"

Thomas Paul Jahn tpj at life.ku.dk
Fri Dec 11 08:34:43 EST 2009


Hey,
finally I got the book from David Blume and watched the DVD. I must admit that David has a very good story here. And from all he says about alcohol as a solar liquid energy and the surplus of assimilates contributing to carbon sequestration when growing crops for alcohol production makes great sense to me.
Also with regard to the ecological economics he has a very strong case, because he tells from his own experience (at low scale) and a fair lot about history, were alcohol in fact did serve as fuel such as USA, Brazil, Germany prior 1945 etc. And he makes the point that we definitely have to use less fuel in the future!!! That is good. And here I come back to my former concern that our cars, which David says could simply keep running on ethanol, are far too heavy and do use too much energy. Anyway….

The other very useful thing about David's book is, that he makes a clear distinction between sugar and starch on the on hand and cellulose on the other. That is the key point for me. As long as we use sugar and starch (or: water soluble carbohydrates) for alcohol production, we really do not interfere with ecology but rather promote growth (as long as we do it in a permaculture type system and at low scale). The nice thing is (and I don't mean to be ironic), that by using sugar and starch, alcohol production will simply compete with production for our food. And doing this at small scale, say directly at the permaculture farm, it is up to everybody's personal ecological economy and ability to practice permaculture and consequently achieve proper harvests to either eat or heat or drive. There will be no need for speculations, calculations and legislations. Rather everybody has the freedom to judge himself what is feasible and is responsible.

Finally, however, when David goes further to suggest, that we could use e.g. lawn clippings and other cellulose residues for alcohol production to boost the production, I am very skeptical. And in fact, here David is entering foreign territory. That is, that this has not been tested in a permaculture way of production. And in fact, it does not quite fit, because we need our residues for green manure. This is the lesson from amany permaculturists.
Whenever David in his book advocates large-scale cooperation type of productions, I become rather cautious.


Otherwise the book is great!
cheers
Thomas


>>> "Thomas Paul Jahn" <tpj at life.ku.dk> 21-10-09 22:38 >>>
It's true. I didn't read the book and should probably do so before I judge. Though I think it is remarkable that he - in his video just as on the frontpage of his book - tries to please us regarding our biggest concern: the car.
The more rational approach towards a sustainable transport system in my eyes would be first to shave off 98% of the weight of our cars. Why would we carry tons of steel and a sofa around every morning when going to work, ... or to the fitness centre.
But enough of that, Dave may be a real expert in alcohol production. Fair enough.

>>> Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com> 21-10-09 20:28 >>>


Thomas Paul Jahn wrote:
> Sorry, but in my eyes this is not permaculture at all. As long as he 
> wants us make believe that we will be driving our cars and lorries on 
> alcohol in substitution for oil this is insane.
It doesn't sound like you've read the book, as he is generally not 
advocating large scale use, and suggests that we won't continue to drive 
cars en masse much longer. The book is primarily about on-farm and 
small-scale ethanol production for very specific uses.

Dave sometimes overstates his case and uses more best-case numbers than 
I like, but he definitely knows his stuff when it comes to ethanol. I 
don't think he sees it as "the" solution, just part of a multi-fold set 
of solutions. He grasps permaculture pretty well.

Toby
http://patternliteracy.com

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