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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Waste Reduction and Turning Waste into Biofuel

Researchers are needed in Greece and especially in Athens to turn garbage into fuels because our garbage is plenty but our gasoline is very expensive (at least 1.60 Euro per liter these days and still going up).  I do my part to reduce waste by burying vegetable waste, and I hope more Athenians do the same.

By the way, Taiwanese researchers are considered valuable partners by European scientists and the EU is very supportive of their involvement in FP7 projects. Taiwanese scientists shouldn’t miss this opportunity as there is still room for further R&D cooperation.

According to the wikipedia info I searched:

France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States governments have supported biofuels with tax credits / tax breaks, mandated use, and subsidies. These policies have the unintended consequence of diverting resources from food production and leading to surging food prices and the potential destruction of natural habitats.  Current government policies cause distortions of supply and demand.

Fuel for agricultural use often does not have fuel taxes (farmers get duty-free petrol or diesel fuel). Biofuels may have subsidies and low / no retail fuel taxes.  Biofuels compete with retail gasoline and diesel prices which have substantial taxes included. The net result is that it is possible for a farmer to use more than a gallon of fuel to make a gallon of biofuel and still make a profit.  So instead of reducing the use of gasoline, it may turn out to use more gasoline in producing biofuel and still make money due to government subsidies.

Some argue that this is a bad distortion of the market. There have been thousands of scholarly papers analyzing how much energy goes into making ethanol from corn and how that compares to the energy in the ethanol. Government distortions can make things happen that would not make sense in a free market. 

So, I hope developed countries consider stop using tax credit / subsidies to entice profit-minded farmers to grow crops for biofuels because they may distort the original purpose of developing biofuels. Using waste to generate energy is more meaningful because it is simply unethical to dump waste (and especially nuclear waste) to places that are poor and less developed even with some payment.  Besides, land should be used for growing crops for food to feed the hunger of the world instead of satisfying the unnecessary lavish consumption of energy by the developed nations.  Farmers who had already engaged in biofuel production should be assisted by their governments and not abandoned if some of them wish to turn back to producing food.

While rising food prices does not cause hardship for the rich, it hit hrad on the poorest people of the world.

Besides, I am wondering if the developed nations’ geo-engineering has contributed further to extreme weather conditions last year in many parts of the world, for example Australia.

I believe the right way to cope with climate warming is to reduce the use of burning fossil fuels through change of life style.  Manipulating the weather in hope for a quick-fix may actually lead to a bad cycle of worsening weather and which in turn will affect our crop production cycle or destroy it all together.

It is dangerous to perform weather-related experiments with our limited knowledge of the universe.

Some suggestions on changing our life style:

If we have sunny days, we can dry our clothes in our balconies or backyards instead of using the drying machine which consumes electricity.  This is especially the case for the N. American readers because here in Greece most people do dry their clothes under the sun.

If we can reduce our biodegradable garbage by burying them, we should bury them in our yard.  This is especially the case for our readers in Athens.

If we can walk or bike, we should not drive, and if our city has good public transit system, we can use the public transit to reach places that are too far for biking or walking.

Changing our life style is the best way to cope with the problems caused by our lavish life style.   

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