9 Unusual Alternative Energy Options – the Potential of Biomass

Biomass Can Come from a Great Variety of Interesting Sources
Biomass Can Come from a Great Variety of Interesting Sources

Biomass energy and biomass fuel are becoming more and more viable options for a sustainable future. But Biomass is a lot more fascinating than most people realize, with fuel sources ranging from chicken excrement to human fat and even stranger substances you might never have guessed. The many, many different possibilities for biomass materials makes it one of the most fascinating forms of alternative energy – especially when you consider these unusual methods of biomass production:

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The Tyranny of King Corn (part 1)

We’ve all heard by now that corn-based ethanol has turned out to be a bad idea.

  • Corn is energy intensive to grow, gobbling up fossil-fuels at every stage of production, from transporting seeds to fertilizing the fields (with petrochemical fertilizers) to final harvest.
  • Corn is also a spectacularly water-intensive crop.
  • The ethanol production stage consumes more fossil fuels and water.
  • Once it finally reaches your gas tank, ethanol burns around 30% less efficiently than gasoline (meaning your per-mile cost is actually 30% more than you think it is).
  • Estimates of how much actual energy we get out of the process range from barely breaking even to around 20 percent more than the input energy.
  • And of course, every step of the process spews CO2 into the atmosphere.

It’s been almost a year since The New York Times editorialized on the subject:

The economics of corn ethanol have never made much sense. Rather than importing cheap Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane, the United States slaps a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on ethanol from Brazil. Then the government provides a tax break of 51 cents a gallon to American ethanol producers — on top of the generous subsidies that corn growers already receive under the farm program.

And unlike our inefficient corn-based ethanol, that Brazilian product actually yields 370% of the energy put into it.

So, why are we doing this? What possible calculus could convince us to even consider corn ethanol?

Corn is big business – and big agribusiness hires the best lobbyists.

Here, the return on investment is spectacular: plant a few tens of millions of dollars in seed money in the form of campaign contributions to senators and members of Congress, and reap billions of dollars in federal farm subsidies.

And for agribusiness, corn is king.

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Drill, Nancy, Drill?

Oil RigOffshore Oil Platform Under Construction --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

You may well be wondering – why the heck is Nancy Pelosi pushing through a bill that allows for offshore drilling? Isn’t that against everything we’re supposed to stand for? Is this another example of business-as-usual betraying core Democratic principles?

Alas, sometimes green areas fall in grey areas. Here’s the scoop:

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Solar Energy – The Only True Source of Power

Author’s note:
It is beyond the scope and space available in this blog to fully explain how important solar energy has always been.  For this reason, much of the information here is meant to be a LINK to other information, and is connected to it through hyperlinks to other web pages.  To better understand how important solar energy is, it is strongly advised that you click on some or all of these links.  Each one will open a new window, so you will be able to return easily to this article, and continue along the train of thought it offers.  — Roger

Deep field image of many galaxies. Courtesy of NASA

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GYM: Concept Car for Physical Fitness

Sporting and sporty, combining fitness and transportation

If being an electric car isn’t enough to make you look at this concept vehicle with an appreciative eye, would it help to say that it incorporates personal workout into it’s operation?  That’s right, it is flashy, sporty, and helps keep you healthy.  The car could be charged up using a connection to a conventional electric outlet, but it can also be charged by another, rarely tapped form of power: the human body engaged in physical exercise.  It has a stepping machine, a bench press, a rowing machine, and you can even do some pull-ups, keeping you physically fit at the same time as you put that aerobic energy to a practical use.

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Wind Power Generated From Kites

Wind power from kites

Wind Power From Kites

The world over, experiments are under way to generate wind power from kites.  Wind power from kites or other objects suspended in air are not new, but have been mostly ignored for decades.  The first U.S. patent for such a device was filed in 1966, and similar patents in the States were filed throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.  But these precursors to wind power generators such as KiteGen were simple affairs that generated small amounts of power.  Today, prompted by climate change and the need for cheap, clean electricity, they can generate upwards of 10 Megawatts per kite, with larger wind power kite farms projected to generate 100 Megawatts or more.  In fact, current projects claim that a single farm, or array of wind power kites, could generate the same electrical output as a Nuclear power plant.

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