Biofuels are viable.

I apologize for the lack of posting; I’m frantically trying to get my projects done in time for the end of the semester. After that, I’ll have a good deal to say. In the meantime, you can get a snapshot by checking out my comment on Glen Barry’s post where he rightfully dismisses current biofuel production approaches. Unfortunately he has little to offer beyond the “keep the darkies from breeding and turn out the lights” theme that has been unwisely promulgated for the last thirty years by ecologists.

While I understand that extremely serious problems lead people to propose drastic solutions, every time I hear this argument it sounds like a sanctimonious relative hectoring people for their scandalous enjoyment (energy consumption) and filthy minds (reproduction).

When are people going to realize that telling people to stop fucking and raising children is a sure-fire way to be ignored, or worse, have your very real concerns dismissed?

And can we please knock off this more-eco-than-thou crap where we try to convince people they need to stop [insert energy-using-activity here]? The problem is not energy. You would think that ecologists, of all people, would realize that (practically) all power comes from the Sun, and that it’s going to keep pumping out billions of times more watts than we can possibly use for the next five billion years.

Yes, we currently utilize the Sun’s energy in the most catastrophically stupid manner imaginable, but the problem is the means, not the end. Drive around in your HumScalade all you want- just don’t fuel it with the bones of our ancestors. Sheesh.

3 thoughts on “Biofuels are viable.

  1. The first thing to note is that he is only talking about terrestrial plants. As I indicated in the linked comment, terrestrial plants are actually quite inefficient in their conversion of light to biomass; estimates I’ve seen range from 2% for trees to about 10% for grasses. So 70% of 2-10% represents less than 3% of the incoming light onto a given land surface area.

    He’s also not paying attention to the fact that most photosynthesis on earth is a.) not done by plants, b.) not done on land, and c.) not done by eukaryotes at all. As I’m sure you’re aware, the massive size of eukaryotic cells, the segmentation of transcription and translation, and the complexity imposed by all those membrane-bound organelles means that plants have to expend a good deal of energy just on shuttling things about; if you’ve ever seen the chloroplasts running around inside a plant cell, it gives a feel for the energy expendiatures that eukaryotes spend on non-fixation activities.

    By contrast, a prokaryote like Nostoc (closely related to Anabaena, but freshwater, and the current target of my research) is something like a free-living chloroplast – in fact, it’s been shown that chloroplasts evolved from them. Their primary structural feature is stacked thylakoid membranes underneath the cell wall. They rely on their boyancy from their mucilage sheath to keep them close to sunlight.

    This is why, when conditions are right, a bloom of cyanobacteria can absorb – and fix – almost 80% of the incoming solar energy that impinges upon the surface of water. It is the combination of radical increase in efficiency, incredibly rapid growth rate (doubling every hour or so under optimal conditions), and lack of energy expendiature on just about anything other than fixation either into sugars or lipids that lead me to think that Mr Diamond’s contention is incorrect.

  2. Just to clarify, it’s been shown that chloroplasts evolved from Cyanobacteria, of which Nostoc is a member.

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