How can plants solve the energy crisis

Questions and answers on biofuel and agricultural energy

The word “biofuel” has been on everyone's lips for some time. “Biofuels” are invoked as the savior of mankind's energy problems and the world's climate. Companies promise enormous profits and developing countries should bring them economic upswing.

Has the golden age now dawned and has the world climate been saved? Can we now safely step on the gas pedals in our cars?

The answer is clearly NO!

Electric power and heating from palm oil as well as "bioethanol" and "biodiesel" for traffic are nothing more than clear-cutting energy, climate swindle and mean hunger for millions of people. Below are answers to some burning questions about biofuels:

Questions and answers about biofuels

Definition: what are biofuels?

Biofuels are generally understood to be energy sources obtained from renewable plant and animal biomass. "Biofuels" can be divided into 4 groups:

  • Alcohols such as ethanol, e.g. B. be produced from sugar cane, corn and grain.
  • "Biodiesel" vegetable oils from rapeseed, palm oil, soy, sunflower etc.
  • Biogas from organic matter including crop residues and manure.
  • Solid and liquid biomass such as vegetable oils, vegetable fibers, waste and wood pellets, which are used in their pure form or together with fossil fuels in combined thermal and electricity power plants.

Why do biofuels affect me?

“Biofuels” are now widespread. They are used to drive cars and buses as well as electricity generators and to heat houses. The European Union (EU) has introduced increasing admixture obligations for fossil fuels in traffic. The diesel, petrol and super fuel at the petrol station always contain biofuel. Currently (2012) it is 6.25%, by 2020 it should be 10%. E10 even consists of 10% ethanol from wheat and sugar beet. 3.8 million tons of biofuel were used in Germany in 2010. The federal government and the EU promote the production and use of biofuels with taxpayers' money and regulations.

Why are biofuels not biological and environmentally friendly?

No, they are grown on agro-industrial monocultures. Large quantities of synthetic fertilizers and agricultural toxins are used on these. The chemicals put a strain on people and the environment. Genetically modified plants are increasingly being used. These harbor incalculable dangers for people and the environment. Furthermore, in dry areas such as the Midwest of the USA, the groundwater tapped for irrigation threatens to dry up, which endangers the drinking water supply for the population.

Why are biofuels not climate or CO2-neutral?

No, that is impossible, the opposite is the case. With tricks and incomplete calculations, “biofuels” are calculated nicely by industry and politicians. But in reality, "biofuels" accelerate global warming for the following reasons:
The basic rule is that the carbon dioxide CO absorbed from the atmosphere by plants as they grow2 is completely released again when the biofuel is burned. Plants that will be replaced had already grown on the areas used for "biofuel production". The CO stored in the biomass of these plants2 is released in the process. In Southeast Asia, for example, rainforests and peat forests are burned down for palm oil plantations.

The destruction of forests is responsible for around 18 percent of the world's climate-damaging emissions, and agriculture for a further 14 percent. Every tonne of palm oil produced on former peat forest areas results in the emission of 10-30 tons of CO2. The rainforests are also an important regulator of the global climate. Their destruction leads to further heating and dehydration. If their clearing exceeds a certain area, the entire biological system can suddenly collapse, including the climate.

Furthermore, large amounts of fossil fuels are used for the cultivation of plants and for the production of "biofuels" for the operation of machines and vehicles, for plowing the fields, sowing the plants, producing and applying fertilizers and agricultural toxins, harvesting and transport , Storage, pressing, distilling, etc. are used. Fertilizers release large amounts of nitrogen oxides N2O. N2O is almost 300 times more effective greenhouse gas than CO2.

Will biofuels solve the looming energy crisis?

No, definitely not. The biofuel that can be produced per unit area and year contains less than 0.4 percent of the solar energy that this area received in the same time, according to Harmut Michel, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research on photosynthesis. Plants are ineffective in that a modern solar panel converts 15-20 percent of the sun's energy into electricity. The biomass formed by plants contains a maximum of 2 percent of the irradiated solar energy (in the case of sugar cane, rape, soy, maize and grain this is significantly less), and the efficiency of converting the biomass into biofuel is around 0.15 percent 0.3 percent.
This also explains the enormous space required for biofuels. In order to meet the current energy needs of mankind, the entire surface of the earth would have to be cultivated with energy crops. The energy crisis is exacerbated by the increasing energy consumption worldwide.
Oil, natural gas and coal are fossil biomass from dead plants and animals. In a century, mankind blew up a significant portion of the fossil fuels that took 700 million years to form. The biologist Jeffrey Dukes has calculated that the fossil fuels burned each year correspond to the equivalent of the biomass that will grow on earth and oceans worldwide in 400 years.

Is it no longer necessary to save energy by using biofuels?

No, our energy supply remains dependent on fossil fuels. Although entire areas of the world have already been converted into "biofuel fields", their share in global transport energy is just one percent. Even if the production of biofuels continues to increase, they can only replace a small part of fossil fuels. For this to be possible at all, research has to be carried out for decades. The efficient use of energy is therefore more important than ever. Oil companies and industry are keen that consumers continue to consume a lot of energy. You earn on fuel from both fossil and "renewable" sources.

Do biofuels help poor people in developing countries?

No, most farmers in developing countries only own small areas of land. The production on small areas to cover the world market is not profitable. Whole areas of land are therefore being converted into industrial monocultures for “biofuels” as well. The business is done by corporations and large landowners.
In order to expand the plantation area, the local population is being driven out in many places and deprived of their land. Violence, serious human rights violations and impoverishment are the consequences. Examples of this are the palm oil plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Colombia and Ecuador or the soybean cultivation in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Entire indigenous peoples have already been brought to the brink of extinction.
Furthermore, the wages paid are usually very low, the working conditions are poor and there are no long-term employment contracts. In Brazil, 200,000 people work under slave-like conditions in the sugar cane fields.

Are Biofuels Breaking the Power of the Oil, Electricity, and Auto Industries?

No, these companies have long since jumped on the bandwagon and are behind the current global biofuel boom. There is a gold rush atmosphere like in Rockefeller's time. A new ominous alliance of politicians, international organizations and industrial companies from the oil, chemical, agricultural, genetic engineering and automotive sectors has formed: These include Shell, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Repsol-YPF, Petrobras, ADM, Cargill , Bunge, Bayer, DuPont, BASF, Monsanto, VW, General Motors, Ford.

Do biofuels have an impact on food production?

The biofuel boom has already led to a global shortage and increase in the price of important staple foods. Poor people cannot compete financially with cars. Worldwide there are 800 million starving and 3.6 billion people living below the poverty line. Many of them have to get by on 1 euro per day. The poor in developing countries are much harder hit by price increases than we are in the industrialized countries. So that we can fill the car tanks with “biofuel”, people elsewhere have to starve. The United Nations World Food Program must already reduce food deliveries to hunger areas. The grain that is converted into ethanol to fill the tank of a luxury vehicle can feed a person for a whole year. If the car is refueled every 2 weeks, the required amount of grain could feed the equivalent of 26 people for a year. In Mexico, for example, the prices for corn tortilla, the staple food of the poor population, have more than doubled within a few months. Mass demonstrations were the result. But also in the EU the prices for vegetable fats, for example, have risen considerably.

But palm oil plantations are also a kind of forest, aren't they?

Many trees do not make a forest for a long time. A palm oil plantation is an industrial monoculture, a biological desert that does not provide a habitat for animals and plants. For palm oil plantations, ancient rainforests and other important ecosystems are being cleared and destroyed. Calling the cultivation of oil palms afforestation is a shoddy ploy used by politicians and industry to deceive unsuspecting consumers.

What are second generation “biofuels”?

Well-known scientists and research institutions have proven that the energy balance of today's biofuels is very poor. Under certain circumstances, more energy has to be put into it than comes out in the end. This is made possible by state subsidies.
Companies and researchers are now trying to optimize the yield and energy efficiency of plants and processes for producing biofuels and have them patented. In this way, more biofuel should be produced on the same area and from the same amount of biomass.
So far, biofuels have been made from vegetable sugars and oils. However, these ingredients only make up a small part of the plant biomass. The largest part is cellulose and lignin. In the future, ethanol is to be produced from the cellulose of plant stems and wood. Risky genetic manipulations of trees, other plants and microbes are considered to play a major role here.
It is completely uncertain whether and when this will succeed. So far, that's just a dream of the future. There are technical, physical and biological limits to increasing energy efficiency. The intended use of all biomass for biofuels would result in the expansion of production to the remaining ecosystems and fertile soils.

Are there independently certified biofuels?

No, although some have tried to reach agreements between the biofuel industry and the plantation owners via so-called round tables, nothing more than fine words and expressions of intent could not be achieved.
In practice, certification would also be a deception, because biofuel production, as an intensive industrial agriculture, is associated with serious social and ecological problems. This includes the eviction of smallholders, the use of large quantities of fertilizers and agricultural toxins, and the expansion of cultivated areas at the expense of food production and rainforests.
There are natural limits to the amount of energy that can be extracted from the biosphere without causing serious environmental damage. Certification cannot remove these limits or prevent the expansion of arable land for biofuel production.

Then why is there so much talk about biofuels?

The energy supply is of strategic importance. So far, fossil fuels such as crude oil, natural gas and coal have been mined, but their deposits are limited and the development of the deposits is associated with constantly increasing costs. Now biofuels are also to be grown in the fields. Biofuels are big business.
The tropical and subtropical developing countries should play a special role here. Year-round high temperatures and solar radiation enable large harvests. Patented genetically modified plants create monopolies. The purchase of cheap land, low wages and the lack of laws or their inadequate application to protect people and the environment guarantee fantastic profits.

Politicians, international organizations and companies are already forging strategic "biofuel alliances" around the world. They offer the possibility of not changing anything in the existing economic and power system. Fossil fuels are to be replaced by "biofuels" and, as before, natural resources are to be ruthlessly exploited and energy wasted. At the expense of people and the environment.

It is a scandal that the German government has allowed German power plant operators to gild this environmental and social crime through the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). An immediate stop to this policy and a moratorium on “biofuels” are necessary.

What can I do myself?

The possibilities are very diverse:

  1. Enlightenment and protest: Copy the information sheet and pass it on to friends and acquaintances, initiate or organize discussions on the subject of biofuels, inform the public about the problems, write to politicians and companies and demand that they not prescribe any laws on the use of biofuels, subsidize them and heating and electricity power plants operate with it, support affected people in developing countries, participate in the actions of Save the Rainforest.
  2. Change your lifestyle and use energy sparingly and efficiently: If possible, use the bicycle or public transport, if necessary buy economical small cars instead of gas-guzzling off-road and sports cars, avoid unnecessary trips and flights, turn down the heating temperature in the apartment, insulate apartments against heat loss, buy energy-saving devices and lamps if new purchases are necessary, devices do not run in standby mode, save raw materials and recycle them.
  3. Switching to environmentally friendly energy sources such as wind and solar energy: Obtain electricity from eco-providers who offer electricity from wind or solar energy.