Why Biofuels Are Terrible

Why Biofuels Are Terrible

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Stephanie Sammann (https://www.stephanie-sammann.com/)
Animator: Mike Ridolfi (https://www.moboxgraphics.com/)
Sound: Graham Haerther (https://haerther.net/)
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster https://twitter.com/forgottentowel


[1] https://www.agriculture.com/news/business/ethanol-market-is-disturbing-as-hell-to-american-farmers-and-now-there-s-covid-19#:~:text=Roughly%2040%20percent%20of%20the%20U.S.%20corn%20crop%20is%20refined%20into%20ethanol
[2] https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-energy/2021/01/26/biofuels-pivot-under-biden-792969
[3] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/
[4] https://www.eubia.org/cms/wiki-biomass/fermentation/ [19]
[5] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biofuels/ethanol.php#:~:text=Ethanol%20is%20a%20renewable%20biofuel,used%20to%20make%20a%20product [19a]
[6] https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=36774#:~:text=Of%20the%20top%2013%20fuel,nation’s%20total%20ethanol%20production%20capacity.&text=Actual%20U.S.%20production%20of%20fuel,b%2Fd)%20in%202017. [19b]
[7] https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/map-croplands-united-states#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20has%20166,180%20million%20hectares%20of%20croplands. [20b]
[8] https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/07/29/corn-americas-largest-crop-2019 [20d]
[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/20/its-final-corn-ethanol-is-of-no-use/?sh=a73d1eb67d35 [21b]
[10] https://www.macrotrends.net/2532/corn-prices-historical-chart-data [21c]
[11] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18045-z [21d]
[12] https://www.technologyreview.com/2011/03/23/196198/ethanol-blamed-for-record-food-prices/ [21f]
[13] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11053-005-4679-8 [19c]
[14] https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783642962837 [21a]
[15] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11053-005-4679-8
[16] https://www.circleofblue.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Gerbens-Hoekstra-VanderMeer-2008-waterfootprint-bioenergy.pdf
[17] https://hoptownchronicle.org/corn-growers-demand-biden-climate-plan-prioritize-ethanol/ [23a]
[18] https://economics.yale.edu/sites/default/files/santanna-how_green_is_sugarcane_ethanol.pdf [22b]
[19]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152439/ [21]
[20]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152439/#:~:text=The%20algal%20biofuels%20production%20chain,refining%20and%20residual%20biomass%20utilization. [21e]
[21] https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/articles/researchers-strive-reduce-cost-and-time-algal-biofuel-production [25]
[22] https://www.ge.com/gas-power/future-of-energy/hydrogen-fueled-gas-turbines
[23] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-airplane-biofuels/airlines-get-ready-for-jet-biofuel-take-off-in-norway-idUSKBN1XV1TQ
[24] https://www.neste.com/products/all-products/raw-materials/sustainably-produced-palm-oil/palm-oil-traceability#e12af6f9
[25] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-airplane-biofuels/airlines-get-ready-for-jet-biofuel-take-off-in-norway-idUSKBN1XV1TQ

Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

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  1. To wish for a LOW priced bushel of corn is like wishing for a 2$ dentist appointment or a 15$ municipal tax bill or a 5$ a week salary for elementary school teachers .

    This is not a valid model for agri-business … Unless you are a liberal leftist and worship the collective farming model of 1965 CCCP or present day communist China . By the way … Chinese financiers are buying farm land in Canada, my nation, at warp speed … Pushing the price of the best soils out of the reach of local farmers . All production from then on is … CHINA BOUND ! Is this a better future than allowing local farmers to make a profit ?

    A low priced bushel of corn is the worst outcome for local farmers in US & Canada . Try promoting pay cuts to all civil servants in the US … On the same rethoric as the one used by Real Engineering for farming .

    I see hords of teachers … Marching in the streets . Farmers are not numerous … So it could be politically feasable to crush them good . Stalin and Mao have done it … Maybe this revulsive far left Biden guy could pull it . Kill a few thousand farmers and see where this goes .

    Think I am making this up ? … Haven't you heard history ? Joseph Heller

  2. 5:26 – … And … And … You have the nerves to make a clip about farming ? Real Engineering, shame on you . Your next clip has to be on the benefits of cutting ALL civil servants pay by 25% … Because it would be a good THING !

    This video is pseudo-science . It is feelings based to appeal to plumbers and school teachers that walk against Monsanto and would NOT even be able to explain what GMOs are or their uses .

    Aren't engineers people … That are science driven ? My bad . Farmers in 2021 are all science fueled and … University level most of them ( my neighbors anyway ) .

    Go read  Архипелаг ГУЛаг and educate yourselves . I do not use Alexa or care for people who do . Good day . Note : If you are offended by my proposition … You can address some of the points I POLITELY presented in previous comments . Note part II : English is my third language , I do the best I can .

  3. Is irrational wasting land in order to grow crops for intensive farming. Biofuels should be used with solar when solar is not available( especially when people come home which is needed most)
    Battery should cost less, is not profitable in my country especially during winter

  4. Your first mistake was assuming the co2 levels we are at is the correct balance for the planet, or even people. The co2 we have now are at starvation levels for most plants. Unless we raise the co2 level's higher, the plants do not get enough co2. For the majority of earths history, co2 levels have been several times higher than they are now. ONLY 3% of earths history has had levels this low. Humans have the ability to adapt more than other animals, and they have shown they can adapt at much higher levels than they are now. So why is this level considered normal? Why is higher levels considered bad when it has never been bad in past eras?

    Your second mistake is saying that corn is only grown in the north. The third is assuming that all farmland is in production. The US government pays farmers to lay out about 10% of the farmland to keep prices higher.

    Your fourth mistake is assuming that it matters how much energy the corn takes vs what it puts out. Since it is using sunlight, it is absorbing energy that would be absorbed by the ground and eventually released into space as blackbody radiation. Along the way, 80% of this black body radiation would once again be radiated down wards at least once.

    "why cant the money go into solar wind batteries and hydrogen fuel” Translation: "why cant we send more money to china." 80% of the cost of wind solar and rare earths for batteries and hydrogen production comes from china. An estimation of how much land would be needed to produce enough electricity from solar and wind would remove about 80% of farmland from production. In addition, none of these last more than 30 years max and then we have to buy them all again. At the same time, we have to produce tons of waste materials, as most of these can not be recycled. IF the entire world went to lithium batteries, it is estimated we would run out of lithium within 60 years. Going hydrogen with current technology would run out of rare earths used in them in about 80 years. What is worse, the waste would be destroying farmland for centuries.

  5. >"Actual renewable technologies like … batteries…" Excuse me what? Lithium is COMPLETELY non-renewable. We don't even know of enough Lithium reserves ON THE PLANET to convert the US and Europe alone to battery powered cars for just 50 years!
    Biodiesel is literally the only sustainable technology we have a good grasp on which can replace gasoline cars.

  6. The Sun will release the energy regardless. So even if we can only convert 1% of that into biofuel, why not? Thats potential energy that did not exist before. The energy to create it would still have come and gone but there wouldnt be all this fuel.

  7. Nuclear powers are better for wild life since such power plants takes much less space needed for wild life and crop lands and produces less pollution created by manufacturing the technology or after words and the down side is finding way to deal with the nuclear waste and electric powered engines of course are not very reliable for travel tending to malfunction , overheat , over-cool and very expensive to buy and to repair and nobody wants to break down hundreds of miles from home creating a separations between powered homes and cars and such cars of course will put more strain on the power grid resulting in needing to build new nuclear power plants and their are effort to created safer and cleaner versions of the nuclear power plants that could giving time reduce nuclear waste or phase it out all together.

  8. Ouch.

    King, I know you're a great engineering student and all but you're not very practical. Its wonderful and all to look at it from the perspective of practicality but you also have to look at it from the human perspective. We are inherently inefficient and the only way steps towards efficiency are made is by softening the blows of the inefficient ones. Should we not have gone to space and learned all the things we did, including the wonderful new products it created, because it was inefficient? It definitely cost a lot of money that was subsidized and saw no necessary end goal economically. Yet it ended up being a long term positive in knowledge and creating a lot of economic value.

    If it were just a few scientists messing around on a stipend and a small research grant we would not have any of the technologies growing that you're talking about. Only by creating one industry and then making it competitive do you see the rapid increases in technology that create better processes and drive the cost both materially, in monetary value and in other factors down. Now that there is a secure income from it the race is on to find the next "bomb" or, more accurately historically, to be the Hittites- to be the first one to find the mass producible, abundant and cheap resource like Iron was to them that knocks all competition to the side for a time with how incredibly efficient the new system is. Only by tying a dollar to a string and pulling it along do you get people going to all this effort to catch it. Is that sad? Sure. It definitely is. But its realistic.

    Also, a lot of that corn meal that has been strained out of the broken down biofuel mixture is then used as animal feed. Which yes, eating animals is an inefficient process too that only complicates things. But its not as if we're "throwing the food away to make fuel" entirely. There's also the matter of practicality in farmland. The US is the world's largest food producer, a world that is growing unsustainably at that. By ensuring that land is farmed- which another of those hated subsidies, the land easement program, sees the development rights to anything but agriculture sold to the government in exchange for a per acre payout to offset the costs of agricultural equipment and preparation, putting the land into permanent preservation- we are working to head off the inevitable food crisis that certainly may hit in our lifetimes.

    Also the fact that photovoltaic cells are made with some very nasty chemicals that are having some negative impacts at the moment that are making people question their practicality and what do you get? A system full of inefficiencies. Ones that will continue to be solved as long as the economic impetus is there to make people want to solve them.

    Speaking of inefficiencies and unrealistic depictions, some of your imagery is misused. Showing the chemical applicators (Noted by the large booms that extend outward into great wings that have small spray nozzles on them) in relation to irrigation is sort of a misleading thing. Those use drops per plant as its sprayed as a mist. And those drops per plant drastically reduce the amount of farmland and calories to volume produced to farm that would be required if they didnt exist. Nowhere close to the same thing as irrigation on a large scale, unless me dumping a bottle of hot water I left in my car out in my yard is also industrial irrigation. And on that note, irrigation of corn on a large scale is not the usual practice. It may happen I cant say anything wont, but the fields are so vast that the network of setting up that much irrigation piping is cost prohibitive among all the other reasons not to. Irrigation is used on a large scale for fruit bearing crops that are concentrated and highly sensitive to lack of rainfall. Just like the sugarcane issue, you've got your wires crossed on things that definitely are negative issues in the same sphere, but not the same issue.

    TL;DR- your complaints definitely sound like ones that someone who cares more about numbers in a vacuum, than people on the earth, would make. Also known as the principle of "where are all the famously charismatic engineers?"

  9. BAAAAAD ENGINEERING : 1.- You have problems with other's people property
    2.- You should employ your time developping a method for individuals to produce their own energy and, consequently, to be free
    3.- You are selling nothing but CRAPPY SOCIALIST's SHIT DREAMS

  10. I grew up in corn country. FUCK CORN. IT TASTES LIKE SHIT. Also, cornmeal and that like are NOT staple US foods. Not at least for like 100 goddamn years. That shit tastes like dirt, if dirt was dirtier than dirt. Also, the US government subsidizing farmers is purely for votes. Thats it. If you pay farmers for being a failure, they'll vote republican, because they're dumb enough to believe literally A N Y T H I N G.

  11. There are a few alternatives that do need to be considered. A scientific fried of mine in the Philippines has been researching the use of sweet sorghum. The grains are used for food (EG bread) and the stalks have only slightly less sugar content than sugar cane. It's hard to compare because his methods are mainly done with manual labour. The sugar involved is high in fructose and does ferment well. Its not much good to be used as table sugar since it is hygroscopic. It is however very economical with water (although in the Philippines that's not such a big problem) and can resist destruction by floods. In addition when the cane is harvested it regrows quickly, so I understand that they can have three crops per year.
    In Australia we have another person investigating the plant "Pongamia Pinata". This is a legume that grows into a large tree. The pods from it can be milled to produce oil that can be trans-esterified into suitable diesel fuel. The production per acre has been increased dramatically by careful selective breeding and tissue culture reproduction. I cannot give you any references because this information has been obtained personally and I am not sure whether any is under patent. I will say that you should not yet give up on biofuel since there are a lot of alternatives the old idea of corn based fuel.

  12. You ignored the value of using a saltwater crop Salicornia a plant that could be grown in desert lands near seawater and removes carbon both by storing it in its roots and recreating it as high-grade oil in its seeds. This crop along with existing technology for growing, fish, shrimp, and other plants could green deserts all over the world, thus actually reduce weather change from CO2. Can be a renewable jet fuel?

  13. This is where you need to use your brain. Desalinate sea water boost and improve water ways, utilize a weir system and grow along rehabilitated water ways with a barge process for harvesting. This uses the new water system for propulsion, and the organic matter would be hemp.

  14. Why does science consistently put old sails on a new boat. Creativity is to conclude a solution that does not already exist or amalgamate existing technologies.

  15. Without wishing to wantonly dismiss the high quality, informative presentations on this channel, surely there is a large flaw in the overall argument.

    If you add up all the energy inputs required to make 1l of ethanol (which I note, are not necessarily all derived from fossil fuels), and compare them to the energy contained in that litre, you are not making the relevant comparison. The point is not to be energy neutral: it is to put less carbon in the atmosphere. When I look at that list shown at 7:04, most of the items do not appear to involve taking carbon from the ground, and putting it into the atmosphere (but noted that fossil fuels are indirectly involved in everything in some degree).

    If it took more fossil fuel energy to create that 1l of ethanol, then that would be a problem. But if it took 5x more energy to create the 1l, and it all came from photovolatic electricity, that wouldn't be a problem at all. I am guessing that the amount of additional carbon entering the atmosphere due to 1l of ethanol production and consumption, is vastly lower than that associated with 1l of gasoline.

  16. Ultrasound waves coil to knock unburned oil in exhaust to a side that has holes to a tank to be cleaned at home with centrifuge. Google ultrasound hologram.. Now google Army archives "Barrierless air ultrasonic cleaner" now coil the system to give max amount of time for smoke to pass with coil before leaving vehicle. Now imagine ultrasound vibrating engine lightly to prevent buildup inside engine and warm oil for cold starts. Now replace mindless belts with magnetic clamped gears to remove more friction.

    While you're at it? Demand a performance smartphone with mic & cam on/off to replace the thousands of versions of the estimated 50 million products that all exist as apps. One mass produced instead of 50 million with versions at expense of world. Then you people can shoot things down while actually showing a sign that majority of all human life is not a DISEASE pretending to be PEOPLE. – Atheist eugenicist

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