Fields of Dreams: It’s tempting to believe in the dangerous illusion of biomass energy

You may have read articles—perhaps even in Grid—touting biofuels as a viable source to meet our energy needs. However, the science of biofuels points to one conclusion: They just don’t work.

The key concept is energy return on investment. Agrifuels—fuels derived from monocrops like corn or sugar—barely produce more energy than it takes to develop them. It takes at least three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a gallon of corn ethanol, reports the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute in their Energy Bulletin. This margin of energy is far too small to enable us to substitute agrifuels for nonrenewable fossil fuels. Without Congressional subsidies, largely going to corporate giants such as ADM and ConAgra to support their profits by boosting the price of corn, ethanol as fuel falls on its face. The petroleum needed to produce ethanol precludes independence from imported oil.

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Guest Column: Farm Tour

In February, I joined the band Hoots and Hellmouth at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) annual conference. More than once, I was asked if I was the group’s new bass player, or maybe their roadie. In fact, I’m the band’s farmer. It’s not a common title, but, when you work with a band that supports local, sustainable agriculture, things can get a bit unconventional.
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Energy: US Carbon Emissions Are Down--Now It's Time to Get to Work

When we look back on 2009, we might realize that this was the year America started on the path to a sustainable future. There are finally a number of positive developments, and every week brings more good news. Carbon emissions are declining in the US—in fact, they’re down 9 percent since 2007! Electricity sales are down 1.1 percent since 2008, coal is down 11 percent since 2007, oil is down 10 percent. Relatively low prices for natural gas have electric power generators switching from coal to the cleaner fossil fuel. Vehicle miles traveled are off 4.3 percent.
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