Lets talk trees for a bit. There is a growing realisation that diverting corn or other food sources into fuel is likely to have severe impacts on the world’s ability to feed itself, or at least that the price of food is likely to rise dramatically.
What does that leave, as renewable alternatives? Wood, grass, biomass and other forms of decomposing or waste vegetation.
I have decided that I need some structure to my general rambling over the web and I guess we’re all going to get pretty bored as the mainstream decides vocally in the coming weeks and months, that Corn is only any good for the short term or smaller volumes of biofuels in the future.
I’m going to try explore some of these other biofuels areas in the coming weeks. So I’m going to start with trees, I like trees, they’re big, easy to spot and some of the faster growing ones like willow have been use for as renewable energy for many years.
I recently wrote about Brazil has OK-ing the use of GM Eucalyptus trees on its territory (what happens if they out into the forests and run wild, like Rhododendrons in Snowdonia) and this lead to a response on the Australian Biofuels forum from Troy H, with a PDF of a submission to the Australian Government about oil supply from 2006 numbers about the volume of wood that Eucalypts and other fast growing antipodean trees can produce. The report says:
Wood such as E. globulus and P .radiata grown in plantations in high rainfall (>700mm) steep country currently only useful for grazing, can easily produce in the order of 15 – 30 tonnes of biomass per hectare per year from which 5,000- 10,000 litres per ha per year of alcohol should be extractable on a sustainable basis. Species such as oil mallee Eucalyptus, Casuarina and Grevillea sp have been shown by Dept CALM in WA to have sustainable wood production potential (albeit in the range 1-5 tonnes per ha per year) in the 300 – 500 mm rainfall wheat belt areas. (See press release, Appendix). Such wood production from local species has the added benefit of being sustainable in terms of reducing soil loss, being ‘drought proof, lowering saline water tables and providing ‘greenhouse sinks’.