Friday, September 24, 2010


While relentlessly pursuing efforts to find suitable alternative options in meeting the contingency arising out of the impending drying of world's oil wells that supply the current energy needs, bio-fuels lend themselves as a viable replacement source. How ever diversion of food crops like corn and sugar cane for production of alcohol is putting pressure on food availability especially in third world countries where majority of the poor live and eke out an existence. Alcohol which is admixed with gasoline at varying proportions has been found to be compatible with modern designs of automobiles and a country like Brazil has even automobiles running on 100% ethanol. In the US mandatory use of alcohol, programmed over several years, depends heavily on corn grains which are under a subsidy regime making the corn derived alcohol cheaper. Corn is also a major source of HFCS, the fructose containing sweeteners which find applications in thousands of processed foods. Is it not a pity that Corn, the much valued food providing energy and nutrition for millions of Africans is diverted for non-food use depriving the human beings of the daily food? If future EU plans for producing ethanol from agricultural wastes in the farms materialize, food crops may not be needed to produce Bio-fuels any more.

Biofuels made from plant waste and municipal trash rather than food crops could replace more than half of gasoline used in the European Union by 2020, industry analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today. The 27-nation bloc could make 90 billion liters (24 billion gallons) of so-called next-generation ethanol in 2020, about 65 percent of predicted fossil gasoline use, the London-based group said in a study. At least 100 refineries a year could be built in the bloc from 2013, it said. The EU currently has no commercial factories that refine biofuels from plant waste. European agriculture "can benefit from a new bioenergy industry as farmers will have an extra revenue source, increasing the euros-per-hectare ratio for every piece of land," said Roberto Rodriguez Labastida, a co-author of the study. While the EU industry may be worth an annual 31 billion euros ($40 billion) by 2020, the bloc has no target for making next-generation biofuels, and a business-as-usual approach would see revenue of 522 million euros, 1.7 percent of the potential, Rodriguez said. European companies making ethanol include Spain's Abengoa SA and CropEnergies AG of Germany.

Once energy generation becomes a standard feature of agricultural farm activities, there could be substantial net reduction in energy consumption for agricultural operations, considered substantial compared to food processing activities in the organized sector of industry. It is also touted that farmers will have additional sources of income by trading the farm generated energy though what consequences such a change will have on traditional composting and soil repletion practices is a Grey area requiring the attention of the planners. An integrated approach can only bring about harmonious changes in the farm sector that will serve the interests of both the basic farming and the energy sector.


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