Monday, March 20, 2006


Wired News has an article today about converting organic material into a petroleum substitute.

Bio-oil can be made from almost any organic material, including agricultural and forest waste like corn stalks and scraps of bark. Converting the raw biomass into bio-oil yields a product that is easy to transport and can be processed into higher-value fuels and chemicals.

"It is technically feasible to use biomass for the production of all the materials that we currently produce from petroleum," said professor Robert C. Brown, director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs at Iowa State University.

The United States can grow enough fresh biomass -- more than a billion tons each year -- to supplant at least a third of its annual petroleum use, according to an April 2005 study (.pdf) by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Energy.

Note to average American consumer: that's one third of current use. Even if the fantastic effort was made to fuel our country via biomass, we'd still have to import oil. More has to be done. Like, say, conserve? Unless you like countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to yank our chain?


miriam said...

We don't actually purchase much oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Our major suppliers are Canada and Mexico.

Energy policy is a very complex matter. For instance: why don't we build more refineries? More nuclear facilities? Windfarms?

Bruce Geerdes said...

Yes, America gets less than 20% of our oil from the Persian Gulf. We get 11% from Venezuela, 13% from Mexico, 17% from Canada.

Thing is, the oil market is so tight it really doesn't matter where you get your oil from -- it's all getting sold. So even if we reduced our oil purchases from Venezuela and the Persian Gulf to 0, other purchasers would just shift to buying more from those areas. And even if we didn't purchase from Saudi Arabia, if it reduced its output any amount, the world market would be roiled and we'd be affected big time.

The only way to cut the link is to stop importing oil, period. I'm all for nuclear and wind farms. We still, however, have to reduce our consumption.