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

Gavin Raders gavinraders at gmail.com
Thu Oct 22 03:25:07 EDT 2009


     Ok, time to jump in here!  Unfortunately, the vast, vast majority of
people (including most environmentalists and pro-sustainability people)
completely misunderstand ethanol production...it's history and its
appropriate sources.  You really should read the book...sustainably produced
ethanol (it is actually possible) absolutely has a place as a value-added
product in 21st century permaculture in my opinion, far superior to fossil
fuels, tar sands, oil shale, liquefied natural gas, coal, and nuclear power
that are poised to remain the source of our energy production for at least
another generation unless something very dramatic happens.
    In fact, energy production via ethanol used to be highly decentralized.
An incalculable number of small, pre-industrial farms in every part of the
U.S. (and across the world) produced their own ethanol fuel, and fuel for
the first couple generations of automobiles, within a system of diversified
food production as a part of a localized, poly-cultural, organic food
system.  That is, until Rockefeller undertook a massive, behind the scenes
lobbying effort to make alcohol production illegal (the real reason for
prohibition), thereby eliminating the bulk of competition facing
Rockefeller's Standard Oil company, which was using its waste from
processing oil into kerosene to run internal combustion engines in
competition with ethanol.  David Blume begins with this history in his book,
and it is fascinating.
   He then goes on to lay out, from a permaculturalist's perspective, some
research on various methods for ethanol production, including from various
wastes.  One of the most exciting ideas, to me, is using cattails.  Similar
to the incredible Arcata march in Northern California (a man-made wetland
fed by 18,000 people's blackwater, now one of the nation's largest bird
sanctuaries) a town or small city's blackwater can go through a solids
filter and be sent into a large, man-made wetland, to further filter these
excess nutrients and use them to grow cattails at a very fast rate (cleaner
water as a result).  Unlike corn, cattails produce simple sugars very
efficiently (simple sugars being what is eaten by yeast and turned into
ethanol), and can be harvested repeatedly to turn a town's human waste into
fuel.  Blume estimates (maybe on the high side) 10,000 gallons of
fuel/acre/year, or more with multiple harvesting in a calculated way.
Nonetheless, you turning poop into fuel, saving our waterways and oceans
this overload, and providing wildlife sanctuaries, green space, and for
abundant bio-diversity.  I've heard worse ideas.
   And in the book, you'd also find (contrary to what Thomas stated and
Trevor backed up), that once the sugars are turned into ethanol thanks to
yeast, you are still left with all the nutrients (proteins and minerals),
called "spent mash".  Farmer cooperatives in late 19th century germany
allowed farmers to bring in their excess potato crop, and the farmer
received back a portion of his ethanol, and most of his spent mash.  The
farmer then used the liquid portion of the mash to fertilize his land, and
raised fat, mash-fed animals.  His alcohol provided heat, light, and power
for the new machinery.  It also turned something that rots easily (potatoes)
into a value-added product with its energy preserved.

Its one of many dreams of mine to help work on one of those
cattail/waste/ethanol wetland systems...maybe it will happen one day.
Let me know if you have some ideas.

Hope this was helpful.
goodnight!
gavin raders
www.plantingjustice.org



On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 9:14 PM, trevor william johnson <john2116 at msu.edu>wrote:

> I feel there is a contextual misconception here.  What is
> permaculture and what is not permaculture.  Its all defined by the
> system in which it exists.  We must remember that sustainability/
> fully interconnected interdependence (permacultures ideal goal) is
> not a location, set goal or certain list of techniques.  It is using
> the conditions of the system to support human life while also
> supporting the earth, caring for each other and sharing the wealth
> (permaculture ethics)
>
> Given that context correction...It cant be denied that the whole
> premise of the book relies cars, tractors or other locomotive/energy
> generating machine which most likely will not be part of long term
> journey towards sustainability. But what is long term? There are
> already a lot of mined metals out there that will be useful for a
> long time. However as a stopgap measure in the meantime it is useful
> to wean us off of more polluting energy sources.
>
> Thomas is quite correct in his assertion that what the alcohol
> creation process uses as feed-stock is actually the necessary base
> for a living and evolving soil food web.  If we break that cycle we
> will only create work for ourselves.
>
> The lesson: dont throw the baby out with the bath water...and/
> or...contextual permaculture jujitsu
>
> Trevor
> On Oct 21, 2009, at 9:46 AM, Albert Johnston wrote:
>
> > I have read the book "Alcohol Can Be A Gas".
> >
> > I highly recommend this book for permaculturists. The point he makes
> > over and over in the book is that feedstock should be waste from other
> > processes or selected permaculture crops such as Jerusalem Artichoke.
> > The protein and fat coproduced  used as feed for livestock, earthworms
> > etc.  Also the possibilities of using cattails in a waste treatment
> > facility that produce large amounts of starch.
> >
> > I especially like the part about using the laws that protect petroleum
> > distrubutors to establish local ethanol producers as part of a local
> > permaculture cooperative.
> >
> > Lately I have been pondering a new definition for permaculture. One
> > way to define permaculture is ethical capitalism. Perhaps someone can
> > start a string on this thought.
> >
> > I am not a certified permaculturists so be kind on the feedback.
> >
> >
> >
> > Sent from my iPhone
> >
> > On Oct 21, 2009, at 2:32 AM, "Thomas Paul Jahn" <tpj at life.ku.dk>
> > 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.
> >> With large production of alcohol from crops we directly compete with
> >> food. Using "waste organic material" (second generation biofuel) for
> >> alcohol production is not an alternative either. After reading
> >> Fukuoka it was clear to me that straw HAS TO BE used for mulch and
> >> cannot be taken out of this direct cycling.
> >> It should always be possible to generate some minor amount of
> >> biofuel, so the methode in principle may be interesting. But not for
> >> large production. Transportation will only go as human powered or
> >> electric human powered hybrid.
> >> cheers
> >> Thomas
> >>
> >>>>> katey culver <newtribe at hughes.net> 21-10-09 2:23 >>>
> >> On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 5:29 PM, Robert Waldrop <bwaldrop at cox.net>
> >> wrote:
> >> At the Financial Permaculture summit in 2008, one of the groups
> >> worked
> >> on a concept for a farmer-owned cooperative that would make fuel from
> >> local production for use in local production...
> >>
> >> Additionally, prior to the event the hosts of the Financial
> >> Permaculture
> >> summit had brought David Blume to talk to the Chamber of Commerce of
> >> Lewis
> >> County (county where Financial Permaculture event was held) and
> >> based the
> >> Ethanol Production track of the workshop on the ideas promoted in
> >> David's
> >> book.  The people who came to lead that track are the principles in
> >> the
> >> company Pesco-Beam.  You can see work on ethanol production at
> >> http://www.pescova.com/biofuel_production/ethanol_production.shtml
> >>
> >> They have been in the ethanol production business since 1980 and
> >> have a
> >> permaculture perspective.  They were loaded with good energy and
> >> great
> >> information.  I think they are very approachable so i would
> >> recommend a
> >> phone call to them to talk if you are interested in the pursuing this
> >> avenue.
> >>
> >> Katey
> >>
> >> --
> >> Katey Culver
> >> www.earthandstraw.com
> >>
> >> On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 5:29 PM, Robert Waldrop <bwaldrop at cox.net>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >>> At the Financial Permaculture summit in 2008, one of the groups
> >>> worked
> >>> on a concept for a farmer-owned cooperative that would make fuel
> >>> from
> >>> local production for use in local production with some surplus
> >>> available
> >>> to be sold to the community, another useful product being the
> >>> "brewers
> >>> grains" which would go to dairies in the area, all of whom would be
> >>> in
> >>> the cooperative too.  I think at that level, alcohol production from
> >>> biomass makes economic, energetic and permacultural "sense".  Giant
> >>> factories using corn to make ethanol for use across a continent is
> >>> clearly not a net-energy activity.  Corn is probably one of the
> >>> worst
> >>> things to make into alcohol.
> >>>
> >>> Bob Waldrop, OKC
> >>> http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org
> >>>
> >>> Leo Brodie wrote:
> >>>> Do any of you have any thoughts or experience with David Blume and
> >>>> his
> >>> advocacy of alcohol (aka ethanol) as fuel? He touts himself as a
> >>> permaculturist (he owns the domain permaculture.com), and does
> >>> speak in
> >>> terms that make some ecological sense (local production, re-
> >>> applying the
> >>> mash back to the soil), but I'm not sure it all adds up.
> >>>>
> >>>> He makes it sound like alcohol burns completely clean, but I've
> >>>> found
> >>> academic research (e.g
> >>> http://petroleum.berkeley.edu/patzek/BiofuelQA/Materials/
> >>> ClimateHealth.pdf
> >>> )
> >>> that says otherwise.
> >>>>
> >>>> I'm asking because I have never heard any mention of his work in
> >>> Permaculture circles, but if his claims have any merit we should be
> >>> trying
> >>> this stuff.
> >>>>
> >>>> Thanks in advance,
> >>>> Leo Brodie, Seattle
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