Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Biofuels: A Bit More Sense of Proportion

by afew Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:45:30 AM EST

UPDATE It's been pointed out in comments that I misunderstood Luis's point. This seems to be the case, and I apologise to Luis. What follows is therefore to be read as further corroboration of his argument!

This is one of those comments that got too long. It's in response to Luis de Souza's diary, Adris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion. Reading that diary is essential for what follows, but, to resume, Luis argued in it that a back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that the EU could very easily produce [NOT - Update] the biofuels needed for the EU target of 10% by 2020. He concludes:

Luis de Souza - Adris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion

the EU needs to allocate thirty five million (35 000 000) hectares to bio-fuels production.

I live in state that has an area of less than 9 million hectares. Germany has an area just over 35 million hectares. <...>

Good or evil? Friend or foe? This kind of wording doesn't fit in my Engeneering/Architecture dictionaries. Bio-fuels are not an option, it's all a matter of numbers.

Here goes with my reply:


The figures given here for ethanol and biodiesel production per hectare are optimistic re European yields.  We don't have the production capacities of the US Corn Belt, and our maize ethanol output/ha is likely to be at the lower end of the spread, ie about 3,100-3,200 litres/ha. Vegetable oil production is also high in the estimates given in the diary: Wikipedia (article linked in diary) cites just over 1,000 litres/ha average for rapeseed, for example. (Annual production).

So the number of hectares needed would have to rise. By how much? No way of knowing, because we don't have a breakdown here of petrol/diesel and therefore of ethanol/biodiesel. But we'd be talking, on the basis of Luis's calculations, at least 40 Mha. (40 million hectares)

But that's a minor point. What really matters is: hectares of what? If it's some mix (unexplained above) of maize and rapeseed/sunflower, then here are EU 27 areas for these crops, average 2005-2007 (all figures Eurostat):

Grain maize8.6 Mha
Rapeseed5 Mha
Sunflower3.6 Mha
Total17.2 Mha

We're a long way from 40 Mha.

These crops can't be grown on just any land. They require prime arable. They also respond to heat: maize and sunflower like the warmer South, rapeseed the more temperate regions. Current land surface allocation corresponds to these requirements. Yet a look at average yields (in tonnes per hectare) is not encouraging:

Grain maize (1)6.8 t/ha
Rapeseed3.1 t/ha
Sunflower (2)---

(1) To produce industrial-level yields, maize needs irrigation. 6.8 t/ha is an average of irrigated surface and non-irrigated. To produce over 3,000 litres of ethanol per hectare would call for yields of 10 t/ha and more. Therefore, very considerable expansion of agricultural irrigation at a time when water resources are more and more at a premium and agricultural use is increasingly criticised as wasteful and unsustainable.

(Note concerning the map of Europe posted by Luis: Germany currently plants only 0.4 Mha of grain maize... The climate is, you know, a vital limiting factor.)

(2) Sunflower has suffered of late from summer over-heat and drought, so that it's often left in the field because harvesting costs > product. This may explain the absence of yield data (though I'm not sure of that). Yields are however generally lower than rapeseed. Imo, sunflower is unlikely to be promoted as a major industrial feedstock, though it may be locally useful (farmers using the oil to run farm equipment).

At this point, a reminder: current production of these crops goes almost entirely to other uses than biofuel. Grain maize, for example, goes for 80% to animal feed. Rapeseed and sunflower make oil for human consumption. Switching from these uses to biofuel production would mean finding replacements.

Even were we to find them (where? imports?), we would still fall far short of the area needed to produce the 10% biofuels target. And it's not simply a matter of decreeing that all we have to do is plough up some more land and get on with it. Once again prime arable is needed, in suitable regions climatewise; it must be industrially exploitable (ie easy mechanisation and transport, close enough to industrial facilities); in the case of maize, irrigation is necessary.

So will we find another 22 million hectares of prime arable (with a very major tranche of new irrigation facilities)? Will we find replacements for all the crops the use of which we displace in doing so? And all this in only twelve years?

Or will we settle for importing large volumes of sugar-cane ethanol and palm oil in order to reach the Commission's 10% target? In other words, supporting deforestation and unsustainable monocultures in tropical regions, while maintaining our own fuel dependence on outside sources at world energy prices?

Luis de Souza: Adris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion

...it's all a matter of numbers.

Not in my view. It's a matter of the soil, the lie of the land, water, climate, energy from the sun. Real things.

Display:
This was European Tribune's contribution to the Public Consultation on Biofuels held by the Transport and Energy Directorate two years ago:

ET Contribution (pdf).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:06:31 AM EST
Biofuels: A Bit More Sense of Proportion
Luis argued in it that a back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that the EU could very easily produce the biofuels needed for the EU target of 10% by 2020. He concludes:

Luis de Souza - Adris Piebalgs : getting a sense of proportion

the EU needs to allocate thirty five million (35 000 000) hectares to bio-fuels production.

I live in state that has an area of less than 9 million hectares. Germany has an area just over 35 million hectares. <...>

Good or evil? Friend or foe? This kind of wording doesn't fit in my Engeneering/Architecture dictionaries. Bio-fuels are not an option, it's all a matter of numbers.

You know, I understood Luis' diary as arguing in the opposite direction: "biofuels are not an option" (unless he means "biofuels is not a matter of choice but a matter of numbers"). IMHO, if you need to set aside the area of Germany just to produce biofuels for 20% of current liquid fuel demand, it's just not a sensible proposition.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:55:33 AM EST
If that's what he was arguing, I certainly sailed past it. I found the comments thread, in some ways, fairly uncertain, discussing the general subject mostly without agreeing or disagreeing with Luis.

Well, if he was dismissing biofuels, I apologise to Luis for misunderstanding him. What I say above then comes as further reflection and corroboration...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 07:17:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You even linked to the comments thread only. From the diary:




All that dark green area producing ethanol in 2020?


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 07:26:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Even"?

I used Tribext for the links.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 07:32:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The links now point to the diary as they should.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 09:59:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This comment from the Oil Drum posting of Luis's diary does in fact indicate you're right.

So Luis thinks, as we all do, that biofuels as charted by the EU is nonsense. Sorry, Luis, for getting that backwards.

What I present above stands, all the same. Yet more, and more precise, reasons why the 10% target will only produce negative effects.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 07:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now added to the new Biofuels "table of contents".

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 09:02:35 AM EST
I recall that my back of the envelope calcualtion was that 5 % was achievable, 10% was borderline with a lot of side problems and that reaching 20-25% with only first geenration was almsot impossible... well I guess you made the correct numbers, "almost impossible" means "using all german soil".

I am afraid that the only option for biofuels are second-generation and recicling .. that's all...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 09:28:41 AM EST
"Using all German soil" (supposing it was appropriate to the crops in question) would barely cover 10%.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:04:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That means all German land surface, too. Let the autobahns flower, let Berlin green...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:15:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
which I extend to all german soil for 20% using the best ever crop with the best ever yield, with most efficient structure in place.

Again, another "from my a_s" calculation.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:46:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was under the impression that vast tracts of land in Russia and other eastern European states was currently lying fallow since the collapse of collectivised agriculture and that some was gradually being brought back into production as world food prices rose.  I think Europe is a long way from optimising the output and product mix of our agricultural resources mainly because high input and low output prices have made agriculture uneconomic without Government/EU subsidy.  The issue is (not yet) the availability of land, but the return on investment available which should improve as oil/food prices rise.  However concerted EU/national supports will probably also be required to accelerate the process and overcome the capital investment required.  Anyone for CAP2 to help meet the energy deficit?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:12:02 AM EST
I too have heard that there is land that could come back into production in Russia, Ukraine, but how much, and what it's good for, remain moot. And I don't think we can assume that Russia (even if Ukraine ultimately joins the EU) might wish to supply us with biofuels on any other conditions than those of world markets (which, if oil prices rise, will see a concomitant rise in biofuels).

Within the EU 27, I would argue that availability of land is a problem. Official fallow land stood at 10.8 Mha in 2006 (Eurostat). The EU put it back into use (if farmers wish) for this year, because of wheat shortages in particular.

Could there be "vast tracts" available in Central European countries, that are not classified as fallow? Possibly, but let's look at the largest of these countries from the agricultural point of view, Poland.

Poland has a total area of 31 million hectares. More than 9 million are forest. The Usable Agricultural Area (UAA) stands at 16 Mha. Within that, arable land is at 12 Mha. Official fallow was at about 1 million hectares but dropped last year to 440,000 ha. (So here's some land coming back into use).

There are about 5 million hectares unaccounted for there, but from that have to be taken unusable lands (wetlands, uplands, barrens, shores) and all the built land of cities, towns, villages, roads, etc. I don't have numbers for those, but I can't imagine there are all that many hectares free.

And don't let's forget that, when making the choice to  abandon farming because it doesn't pay, it's the least good land that is dropped first. What is now under culture is the best.

So: is there all that much land available, and how good is it?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 11:52:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only thing I am saying is that we are as yet far from "peak land" use as far as agriculture is concerned, and so far relatively cheap oil has made biofuel largely uneconomic.  That will change as oil becomes scarcer and prices rise - which from a conservation and climate change point of view is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are also newer crops being developed which can produce more oil equivalent per acre and with less input and conversion costs.  There will also be strategic benefits from the point of view of sustainability, employment creation, import substitution and lesser dependence on oil from unreliable trading partners.

However all of this is tinkering at the edges because bio-fuel will never be able to replace oil at current usage levels and so will probably be used more in Jet fuel and high end applications where battery/fuel cell power/weight ratios and storage requirements make other non-oil solutions unviable.

The biggest strategic waste of oil is probably now in home heating where better insulation/zero carbon frontprint housing/workplaces should have been made mandatory for all old/new houses a long time ago.  That in itself would probably save more oil than bio-fuels ever will.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 12:56:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bio-fuel won't become jet fuel. I believe we had a diary on this, at the time of Branson's publicity stunt. Energy yield.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:02:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the alternative when oil runs out?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Synthetic hydrocarbons, blended wing aircraft designs and lower flight speeds.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:53:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... from wind and solar power?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:55:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It will be very expensive, but you can do it from CO2 and water.

Synthetic fuels, just like hydrogen fuel cells, are not an energy source but an energy storage and transportation medium.

Liquid fuels are very useful because of their energy density (per volume or per weight), their stability, and their portability. I don't think they're going away. But they may become expensive and suitable only for niche uses such as off-road vehicles or where autonomy is paramount over fuel efficiency.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:00:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have a claim that dimethyl ether "is the perfect fuel". There are various ways to produce Dimethyl ether from simple molecules.

Wikipedia: Dimethyl ether

Conventional DME production uses the methanol dehydration method.[1] For mass production of DME as a fuel other methods are being considered, the main one being DME synthesis from hydrogen and CO gas, also known as syngas.[2]

DME can be produced from methanol by combining two methanol molecules to produce a DME molecule and a water molecule.[3] This is a reversible reaction.[3] This can be shown in the following equation:

methanol → dimethyl ether + water
2CH3OH → CH3OCH3 + H2O

There are various companies developing this method of DME production, the most active one being JFE Holding in Japan.[citation needed] The DME-synthesis method has a better overall efficiency because with methanol dehydration,[citation needed] the methanol is firstly produced from a base source such as LPG, NG or coal via synthesis and then this is converted into DME.[citation needed] This method attempts to cut out the intermediate methanol production and produce DME from LPG, NG, coal or even biomass in one process.[citation needed]



When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:13:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a matter of how much energy you can store for a given mass of carbon.

On a HHV basis per kg carbon:








Methane  74.23 MJ
Propane  61.64 MJ
Butane    59.95 MJ
DME      60.85 MJ
Diesel    56.16 MJ (n-dodecane)
Biomass  ~40 MJ (with 20MJ/kg dry and 50% carbon content)

DME is indeed a decent contender as an energy carrier, not as good as methane but on par with LPG. The real upsides are:

  • Its handling is similar to LPG and it can be stored as a liquid in low pressure tanks. Big difference with methane (very high pressures or cryo).
  • It works as a nearly straight fuel for HDI diesel engines, contrary to LPG. It just requires a lubricant additive for high pressure injectors.
  • Its thermochemical synthesis can be very selective, compared to, say, a straight-chain alkane synthesis by Fischer-Tropsch, which yields a little bit of everything from methane to heavy waxes.
by Francois in Paris on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:14:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mmm, dummkopf.

Auto-format doesn't like my tables.

by Francois in Paris on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:16:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I right in presuming that if it starts with bio-coal, it would be less energy intensive than starting from CO2?

The increasing cost of both aviation gasoline and jet fuel will be a worry for the Eastern Caribbean states ... I was always intrigued by the possibilities for Ground Effect aircraft to provide more fuel efficient inter-island connections. But in any event, that is a transport task where autonomy is fairly crucial.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:23:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plants are a way to use solar energy to produce bio-coal from CO2.

CO2 is an end-product of combustion while coal is not, so it obviously takes more energy to make fuel from CO2 than from coal.

That Ground Effect aircrat is just cool.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:33:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I couldn't see any way of getting around the thermodynamics that some form of bio-coal process is the most direct conversion of biomass to combustible fuel, and therefore if done efficiently the process with the best potential EROI, but then I'm not an engineer.

And there is also the question of what is the most effective co-generation with the exhaust gas, after catalytic conversion of pollutants. If that is a useful input into a synthetic hydrocarbon process, that might be very appealing, since the bio-coal itself is such an appealing complement to sustainable "use them or lose them" renewable sources of electricity.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:00:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... cool. After taking the local mailboat between Grenada and Cariacou, and the inter-island mailboat between Grenada and St. Vincent, with the wonderful seas over the channel between Grenada and Cariacou (Cariacou is really the southernmost of the Grenadines, even if it is politically a dependency of Grenada) that the locals call "Kick 'em Jenny", I always thought that a Ground Effect plane would be a more effective way of providing a bus service between the islands.

And that was just from pictures and articles in the press. When I went looking for an article on the concept and stumbled on that PR clip, I knew I had my link.

Of course, in terms of the Midnight Thought on the Arc of the Sun (8 April 08), the main relevance in Africa is for express transport along major rivers and lakes, focusing the express travel on the same route that the much slower barges take and actually connecting the cities and central river ports of the countryside together, rather than having the cities connected by airports and the countryside simply as fly-over country.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:52:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And land transport and ships, which can be lived with if one must, even if addicts of this latest civilisation drug would have withdrawal effects.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:15:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we are as yet far from "peak land" use as far as agriculture is concerned

In the EU 27, I don't think you've made a case for this. We don't have that much spare land.

20-25 million hectares (DoDo) of Russian land of unspecified quality  may provide some biofuels. But you can't just count it all in immediately as half the EU's 10% needs -- as I said above, for biofuel production it needs to be prime arable with the right climate (plus irrigation for maize), to be easily mechanisable (ie flat) and with easy transport infrastructure, and land possessing these qualities needs to be grouped together in the same region to justify industrial investment and to facilitate export of the finished product. There are constraints here that mean it will provide far from 5% of the EU's current consumption, without adding Russia's own consumption in there (since we're envisaging an end-game scenario with little or no liquid fossile fuels).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:38:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The article also quotes the Russian minister with an exorbitant price tag needed to develop those lands (In which I presume rising oil prices weren't even factored in), but I don't know past ruble-Forint-€ exchange rates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:19:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The numbers are: tripling the annual agriculture budget to 600 billion rubles = 4500 billion Ft, the latter must have been around €18 billion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:42:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Biofuel from algae is still not proven to not work.

But the real question is, since when did humans have a fundamental right to jump in a car and drive for hundreds of miles? The whole "personal transportation" concept is really a post-war idea, and not necessary. How far from home did your great-grandfather roam?

by asdf on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 08:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To supplement you: there were no wast areas of fallow in Central Europe. The co-ops didn't collapse here, their land was distributed, and when taken over by single-family farmers, yields typically fell. I don't know about Russia & Ukraine, but given some periods of grain shortages in Soviet times that even led to accepting US help, I doubt somehow that thatmuch land became fallow.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:07:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found a number of 23 million hectares withdrawn from agricultural production in the last 10 years - as a total for Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:12:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine: An Agricultural Overview
Of Ukraine's total land area of 60 million hectares, roughly 42 million is classified as agricultural land... Between 1991 and 2000, sown area dropped by about 5 percent, from 32.0 million hectares to 30.4 million


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:23:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia: I found a report from May 2007 in which the Russian minister declares that Russia has 20-25 million hectares of uncultivated/fallow land suitable for cultivation, if there is money invested.

All in all, CIS doesn't seem to be able to offer surplus production for much more than 5% of European consumption, even in the best-case scenario...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:53:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But given we're only trying to reach 10% ethanol content doesn't this mean that Russia alone could provide over half the land required - without affecting food production?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:48:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No. We're talking about the EU's consumption. If Russia's population were to be added to the EU you'd have a different calculation.

Plus, why should Russia provide the EU's biofuels? Who is the EU to decide what Russia should do with its fallow land? Why should Russia consume its topsoil to then burn the product?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... in order to reduce the windfall gains from Russian oil ...

... a wait a minute, there might be a different set of motivations for net producers and net consumers.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:57:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the magic of the markets" will decide who grows what in what quantities for what markets - subject to available land.  Why wouldn't Russia supply biofuel in the same way as it supplies oil and gas if the price paid is attractive enough to justify production?

As AMcF has noted - and increase in bio-fuels has resulted in increased prices for foodstuffs which has made farming in Sub S.saharan Africa more economic and resulted in growing output.  Agriculture has long been the neglected legacy industry of post-industrial and even third world economies and now it is becoming centre stage again.  The problem is when this impacts on wild-life habitats and Rainforests etc. - but presumably this doesn't apply to the same extent in the east European steppes.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:00:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's no such thing as "East European steppes". Siberia and Central Asia are, well, in Asia.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:04:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If my memory of geography serves me correctly, there are considerable steppes in Eastern Europe (though the natural ecosystems have been heavily modified by human exploitation) as well as the even greater areas east of the Urals.  Either way - there is still considerable potential for Russia to become a significant net exporter of bio-fuels if that becomes economically viable and political policy..

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:15:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia's potential for net exports of biofuels is considerable compared to its own total of agricultural production. It is miniscule compared to the total European fuel demand.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:26:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of the undeveloped land is in all likelihood in Asia. At any rate, it makes little sense to call fuel that has to be transported thousands of kilometres "bio". It is also problematic that to develop this much land, at least under the assumption that the Russian Ministry of Agriculture doesn't convert to orgsanic farming, a lot of fossil oil is needed: for the tractors that plow up the virgin land, for other tractors building irrigation, to run the irrigation itself, and fertilizers.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine used to be the Western end of contiguous steppe, and as such served as the end of the Nomad Alley into Europe during the big migration/invasion waves from Huns to Mongols.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:23:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... prairie in Argentina and no pampas in Iowa.

I thought the extension of the steppe / prairie / pampas / plains into the Ukraine was what that short lass that won Eurovision a couple years back was stomping around about.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:04:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... that is, if there is a family resemblance between BruceMcF and this AMcF fellow ... part of the African Revolution discussed in the most recent Midnight Thought on the Arc of the Sun can be protrayed as "letting the market do its work", but a lot of it also involves building new institutions.

The markets that small scale farmers in Africa need are not the fictitious markets in fictitious commodities, but real, actual, markets, with regulated weights and measures and protection of contracts, and secure access to a transport route to ship out a crop surplus to customers outside the local district.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 12:09:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally, I'm only interested in solutions capable of reaching 100%.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:37:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All we need to do is cut our liquid fuel demand by 95%...

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:44:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think anybody here, and increasingly in mainstream discourse, sees biofuels as anything more than a very problematic and marginal "solution" to  the issues created by peak oil.  100% efficient energy solutions are physically impossible, as everything has a production/transmission/utilisation/efficiency cost.  Beyond the obvious solar/wind/wave solutions it gets more problematical with fission and yet to be proven fusion sources.  The biggest contribution will probably be made by demand reduction - due to policy and price pressures - which will tend to impact on the poorest most.  We will probably come to be known as the most profligate generation ever, who presided over a planet wide devastation/exploitation/looting of non renewable resources with irreversible ecological consequences - unprecedented in 65 million years.  Probably at some point there will be world-wide resource wars with Malthussian extinctions of populations in most effected areas.  

A sad commentary on the joys of human "rationality" and our religious devotion to magical market thinking without somehow managed to factor out the ecological impact of our depredations.  Ancient civilisations made a God out of nature and we decry their barbarity, but have we been that much wiser when we ourselves became the masters of nature and proclaimed our subjugation of those Gods?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:56:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I heard that one of the best things the EU could do would be to build grain silos in Ukraine - the implication being that Ukraine's problem is more irregular yield rather than insufficient average yield over the long term.

That is, if they needed US help it may have been they had a bad year, not that there was a lot of land laying fallow.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:21:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From articles from recent years in a Hungarian agriculture magazine, I find both Ukraine and Russia have fluctuating production of grains, but all the fluctuation is export -- say for Ukraine, between exporting 13 million tons out of 40 million and 3 million out of 30 million.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But that would have a big impact on global grain prices.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:51:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Droughts and over-hot spells have produced fluctuations in wheat harvests, not just in Ukraine, but in Canada, the EU, and above all Australia, over the last few years. This is the main single reason for high wheat prices.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 03:42:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could we say, Afew, that the numbers on available adequate soils demonstrate that a choice for raising bio-fuels means a reduction on other crops, meaning a large set of numbers, which when painfully added will eventually mean an increase in the imports of food?

Perhaps instead you were considering an effective decrease in EU independence on raising its own food, or the decrease of number of jobs in agriculture, or a decrease in the culture of cooking. After all, cooking is a traditional thing; where we live each family keeps a record of antique recipes (unless they have become culturally uprooted, live in suburbia and eat fast food and deserve to be ironically hinted for their ignorance at every occasion - after all this is a war).

I felt very distressed when you said that numbers don't matter. Of course, you must have been fighting their numbers with your numbers a large portion  of your adult life, and certainly nearly almost every day here at ET.
By the n-th time, my conclusion - reflecting as i write - is that  the fight against the contemporary exploration of man, by reducing its autonomy, moving him away of its environment, virtualisation of its experience, and de-localising its activities [1] - requires to use the simplest numbers. But What May Those Numbers Be About?

Scarcity evaluation, which you used, is a nice solution. What do we have that is more scarce? Time (fractions of the 24-hour cycle)? How much hours per day take to properly educate a child for him to develop an adequate social network which allows exchange (multiplication) of knowledge? Just thinking.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:16:26 AM EST
[1] and yet human activity generates another realm - cultural evolution. Were are creatures of the Artificial.
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:30:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
an increase in the imports of food?

I'm saying that, if we pursue the 10% biofuels target, we must either increase our imports of food, or import biofuels.

you were considering an effective decrease in EU independence on raising its own food, or the decrease of number of jobs in agriculture, or a decrease in the culture of cooking.

Not me, never! I am staunchly in favour of food self-sufficiency coupled with respect for good nutrition, high quality, culinary traditions, flavour: Europe, damn it!!!

I felt very distressed when you said that numbers don't matter.

That was a rhetorical flourish. I thought I was arguing against Luis (when I wasn't, duh). So I said that to underline the nitty-gritty aspects of real land use. I do think numbers matter. I also put quite a few in my diary.

How much hours per day take to properly educate a child for him to develop an adequate social network which allows exchange (multiplication) of knowledge?

And to become an autonomous, critically aware individual? Now that's a huge question and one that matters more than biofuels. It's the most important time we can spend, out of our time that is farmed and mined, because it's perhaps the most important thing we can leave behind us.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 11:18:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
an increase in the imports of food?

I'm saying that, if we pursue the 10% biofuels target, we must either increase our imports of food, or import biofuels.

And that means that, as peak oil hits, we have to do something more radical about our transport policy than substitute biofuels for fossil fuels.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 12:27:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like a proper canal transportation system? There used to be a large such system in France and Germany, did it not? Canals should be built among major rivers.

Is the Danube being fully explored?

Also notice that in Europe transportation of cargo by train is smaller than in the US; much more is done by road. In fact, i think it was Matthew Simmons who pointed out that turned Europe as vulnerable to peak oil as much as the US.
A correction is probably not simple. Requires coordination of policies and some scheduling technology. Is there political will for the first? It is perhaps a question of showing how big can be the benefits.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 04:43:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When comparing US and EU railfreight numbers, three differences I always remind of:
  1. much of that high US traffic volume comes from long-range transport bewtween distant areas of high population density (especially transcontinental), while EU has a more throughout high population density;
  2. the ideal distance for rail freight transport would typically cross borders, and still a lot of technical and bureaucratic differences constrain fluid cross-border traffic (but this is changing);
  3. US railfreight has track priority above US rail passenger transport, in every sense (including savings on track maintenance that would be intolerable to maintain our fast and smooth-riding passenger trains).


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 05:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
American rail freight is also skewed from the European situation by the huge amount of containerized traffic, coal, and agricultural products shipped in bulk. Typical freight trains here are unit trains with 100+ cars carrying the same thing for thousands of miles without interruption.

Re whether Europe or the U.S. is more vulnerable to a liquid energy supply shortage, one thing to keep in mind is the "hardening of demand" effect that goes along with conservation. Since we waste so much over here, we could implement a substantial degree of conservation with relatively small economic effect. But if you're already taking a bus, or carpooling in a small diesel car, or riding a bike or walking to work, how do you further reduce your personal need for fuel?

by asdf on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 08:10:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just enumerating possible factors which would make the use of numbers (on usually referred variables) difficult to express the impact on society of the change of usage of soil to accommodate bio-fuel production. Was just wondering what would be the chief reasons in your mind.
I apologise if my post suggested something wrong about your position on the issue.
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 04:54:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't apologise, I didn't read your comment that way. Sorry in return if my response suggested I did!

The impact on society of a step towards yet greater industrialisation of farm land use (biofuels, GMOs) is an important subject I'll try to come back to another time.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 02:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Grains Gone Wild - New York Times

The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a "scam."

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly "good" biofuel policies, like Brazil's use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

Krugman agrees with both of you.  I think.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 11:28:38 AM EST
... argument from the UN famine bureaucracies is nonsense ... for the actual famine relief programs, people are starving in Africa because politicians, often in the US, are playing games with meeting the budgetary costs of the programs.

However, in terms of creating famine, subsidized US and EU grains exported to African nations that are not currently experiencing famine certainly create more famine than they relieve ... its arguable that they stand third in line, behind post-colonial policies in African nations squeezing the agrarian sector for the benefit of urban elites, and the misguided (and, fortunately, now fading) World Bank / IMF consensus on promoting manufacturing as the primary development path for Africa.

For the large number of Sub-Saharan Africa nations where agricultural output is rising faster than population growth rates, the increase in commodity grain prices due to US and EU switching their farmer subsidy focus away from 3rd world dumping programs and toward using bogus biofuels to greenwash fossil fuel energy has been a substantial benefit.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:36:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... simply cut liquid fuel use to 1/4 of present levels, and produce liquid biofuels equal to 5% of current consumption.

I don't follow the logic of using maize, though ... a lot of effort goes into producing that vegetable protein (and, yes, substantially off ratio for our needs, but then corn is normally intercropped with squash and beans in traditional cultivation, and beans fills in the holes in the corn protein ratios) ... in Northern European conditions, why wouldn't potatoes be used to provide the starch for ethanol?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:30:19 PM EST
BruceMcF:
simply cut liquid fuel use to 1/4 of present levels
That's the bit that our politicians refuse to countenance.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:35:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but gravity tends to have the last word on that.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:37:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree with gravity myself.  I think it is bending the rules.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 04:55:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, but gravity still wins.

Life is a b....

by Francois in Paris on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 11:10:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nah - I've been on a different planet for a long time.  We don't do gravity here...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:38:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... exceed 5% of current liquid fuel consumption is to import, that means that 5% is the highest reasonable target ... imported biofuel, or biofuel made with imported feedstocks, should quite simply not be counted toward meeting whatever target is set.

A "sustainable" energy economy, no matter the technology, can not be sustainable adopted worldwide if it requires imports, since there is no place to import from if adopted worldwide. So "without counting imports" is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for sustainability.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:43:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BruceMcF:
In any event, if the only way to reasonably ... (none / 0) ... exceed 5% of current liquid fuel consumption is to import, that means that 5% is the highest reasonable target
Right! Up to 2007 the EU had a 6% market share target for biofuels as transport fuels. There was a consultation in 2006 about biofuels which prompted us to dig up the numbers for hectares of arable land, feedstock production, feedstock net exports, biofuel yields, fuel consumption and biofuel energy content. We concluded that the entire EU net exports of grain were needed to meet the 6% ethanol target, and the entire EU oil crop production was needed to meet the 6% biodiesel target. We submitted that to Piebalgs' consultation, and in 2007 the EU decided to increase its target to 10%.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 02:57:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Potatoes can be used for ethanol, but they demand good deep soil and water (irrigation often needed), and a lot of manpower plus investment in machinery. But they rot easily and must be stored well out of frost, so, for industrial purposes, are not as handy as maize.

Again, the problem is that you can't just count hectares and say: let's grow this or that. You can only produce industrial quantities of industrially usable crops on land that is fit for them and served by the requisite infrastructure.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 04:07:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland used to make all its own sugar requirements from sugar beet.  The last sugar beet factory was only closed down very recently and the operator (Greencore) was paid a large amount of compensation (c. €100M????)for the loss of access to EU sugar markets because of changes in the EU sugar regime agreed with sugar cane exporting countries. Greencore als stands to make many millions from the development of the site of the sugar beet factory in Carlow.

I wrote a LTE to the Irish Times at the time saying the compensation should be made conditional on the factory being converted to bio-ethanol use - thus preserving the livelihoods of farmers and factory workers - and reducing our dependence on imported oil.  (Ireland has one of the highest per capita imported energy footprints in the world)

Needless to say the letter wasn't published.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 04:40:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Madam, - Your Senior Business Correspondent, Arthur Beesley, reported (13th. March, 2006) that Greencore are seeking the lion's share of a €145 million  EU compensation package for the reform of the sugar industry.  They are also seeking the creation of a Local Action Plan which would increase the value of their Carlow factory site to many multiples of its current  €40 million valuation on Greencore's books.

Surely it would be a more effective use of public funds and planning initiatives if the site was redesignated for the production of biofuels and the €145 million was made available to fund the conversion of the plant for this purpose.   Farmers could continue to grow feedstock crops and the production of biofuel would lesson Ireland's dependency on imported oil and help us achieve our Kyoto targets for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Or is helping Greencore make a short-term financial killing a more important public policy objective?"


"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:00:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... of industrially useful crops is normally the last thing in my list of priorities, since it so often leads low-income nations into an agricultural development cul-de-sac.

Are potatoes as effective as maize (maize mono-culture, that is) at turning good soil into bad soil, burning through massive amounts of nitrogen fertilizer in the process?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and with vast quantities of waste product as part of the conversion to energy process

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 06:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it so often leads low-income nations into an agricultural development cul-de-sac.

Absolutely, hence my repugnance for the usual comparative advantage argument put forward by those who have a Groundnut or other "colonial crop" scheme to sell. Ploughing up virgin Asian steppe for biofuels sounds a bit like that to me.

From the agronomic point of view, I'm not sure about potatoes v maize. Monocultures are bad. Lighter soils are preferred for potatoes because tilling and harvesting are thus easier. The same soils dry faster, so may call for irrigation. Potatoes need considerable amounts of nitrogen, and in these soils + irrigation, that means N will leach down into the aquifer with pesticides. That's off the top of my head, however, no source.

Eurostat gives 2006 EU 27 potato production as 2.25 Mha at an average yield of 25 t/ha.

Wikipedia gives the energy content of the two, per 100 g, as Potato 320 kJ, Maize 360 kJ. So, roughly, maize = (potato x 0.9).

25 x 0.9 = 22.5 t/ha  compared to 6.8 t/ha grain maize!

But I think soil requirements are more stringent than for maize, and maize is much easier to store and handle, making it already industry's favourite. Oh, and is there a potato lobby with any clout?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 02:39:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking of the EROI. To grow enough maize to make a massive amount of ethanol, you have to grow it in the unsustainable mono-cropped fields, instead of intercropping it with beans and squash, with means putting energy into the fertilizer. I was under the impression that where maize really sags in terms of EROI is when the energy input into the fertilizer is added in.

And without that energy input, there's no way that get 6+t/h. Either you intercrop with a nitrogen fixing legume, and then you are growing the maize in hills rather than flat rows, and the productivity per plant can be good, but the spacing kills the 6+t/h. Or you deplete the nitrogen, and the yield per plant plummets.

Meanwhile, intercropping potatoes in hilled rows with truck gardening crops you can get more than 10 t/h with a rotation.

Certainly, competing in oil-fed agriculture, potatoes are at a disadvantage to maize, but that may be a temporary state of affairs that will pass.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 09:23:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're taking petrochemicals out of the equation, then potatoes would certainly come into their own. Though the Native American hill culture of maize with beans and squash is a good and attractive one. (They used to put down fish offal and build the hills over it).

In petro-farming, maize does call for more nitrogen fertiliser than potatoes. (On the order of, roughly, 300-400 kg/ha N for maize with yields above 10t/ha, while 200 kg/ha N is "enough" for potatoes). While tilling/harvesting will call for more energy in potato culture than maize, particularly with the advent of low- or no-till methods for sowing maize.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:05:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See, there you go. My main focus is in areas where petrochemicals were never put into the equation ... the African definition of a farmer is a person with a hoe.

In petro-farming, maize does call for more nitrogen fertiliser than potatoes. (On the order of, roughly, 300-400 kg/ha N for maize with yields above 10t/ha, while 200 kg/ha N is "enough" for potatoes)

And then translate that to energy yield per hectare over energy cost of nitrogen fertiliser per hectare ... on the above:

22.5 t/ha  compared to 6.8 t/ha grain maize!

that is:
44 kg N-fertilizer / ton maize yield for maize
9 kg N-fertilizer / ton maize-equivalent yield for potatoes

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:27:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NB, rounding maize down, rounding potatoes up.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just confirming your point about nitrogen fertiliser being the big energy soak in industrial maize (though note my numbers were for >10t/ha).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:33:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I just working it out in round numbers, rounded conservatively regarding the working hypothesis that N-fertilizer is a big energy cost of maize.

The numbers were the industrial farming ones above, not the kind of hand-worked fields that lie behind in the latest Arc of the Sun diary ... for discussion of targets in the medium term time-frame in the EU or US, industrial farming has to be assumed, though possibly with marginal movement in the direction of sustainability.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 11:42:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]