The Biodiesel Cop-Out

As our market totalitarian society careens between serial boondoggles and disasters on its way to imperial collapse, the signs of how well-propagandized and hence ill-informed we Americans are are becoming even more flamboyant and egregious.

Consider this smug car-back I spied this morning while waiting to pick my son up from an appointment.

Beneath the “Got Hope?”/Obama sticker (good luck with that!), this tail-end sneers “Yes, it’s a diesel.” Still lower, it touts the biodiesel industry’s bogus claims that their snake-oil is “clean,” “renewable,” and “domestic.”

The truth is that biodiesel, like all other biofuels, is none of the above. More energy goes into making it than comes out as biodiesel. Making biodiesel produces huge amounts of agricultural waste products. Making biodiesel eats up valuable water and farmland.

The “domestic” claim is particularly ignorant and galling. Like hydrocarbons, food is bought and sold on world markets, so even if it were true (which it isn’t) that all biofuels used in the USA were going to be produced within the USA, that would still have immense effects on the price of food around the world, hurting the 1/2 of the human race that exists in scandalous, abject poverty today, 500+ years after the launch of the supposedly history-ending capitalist system. In fact, even at this early date in the unfolding overclass drive to keep cars-first transport alive by running scams like biofuels on the comfortably numb and under-informed, there is already a major problem in this area.

So what we see in the above photo is not a brave soul educating others, but merely somebody who’s feeling high and mighty and clean while being used as a vector of serious evil and disinformation.

The simple truth is that the corporate capitalist project of selling automobiles in perpetuity was and is a huge pipe-dream. Earth simply cannot accommodate it for much longer, whatever the fuel source. Using finite energy to move two tons of highly-processed metal and plastic for almost every mundane trip around town is like slicing bread with a chainsaw. Technology is not going to change that. Neither is pipe-dreaming.

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redcatbikerRCfireflyMichael DawsonAmy Seigel Recent comment authors

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Amy Seigel
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Amy Seigel

Sorry to say, you are seriously misinformed. Most of us who run biodiesel in our vehicles use WASTE veggie oil (already been used for food once) in the reaction. Only SVO (that’s Straight Veggie Oil) systems and, I suppose, some commercially produced biodiesel, are using oil from crops that could otherwise be used as food. The oil I use comes from the fry vats at a local burger joint…now, tell me, just how am I adding to the global hunger problem by using that? I am not suggesting that biodiesel is a magic bullet (it isn’t), but as far as… Read more »

Michael Dawson
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I’m not seriously misinformed. Producing vegetable matter to power automobiles is a disastrous idea. You yourself admit that if biodiesel ever gets beyond what it is now — a tiny liberal pseudo-green gesture — it will not work. You don’t get to congratulate yourself for meaningless gestures. This isn’t a game. In fact, by continuing to tell yourself that you can be both ecologically aware and also happy with cars-first transportation, you are abandoning your responsibility to help teach your feloow citizens about our actual problems. Every day greens spend feeling good about biofuels is one more day we squander,… Read more »

RCfirefly
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RCfirefly

I see several problems occuring with this vat of fat that people put into thier cars. One is that with the increase in obesity in our nation there is going to be less and less ( perhaps)of the fat from the vat at the local burger joint. Another is that with people eating less and less fat it will be just like the corn fuel( ethanol) we will be paying higher prices to buy corn just to feed ourselves. the cause of this new source of fuel is passed onto the consumer as in higher prices at that supermarket for… Read more »

redcatbiker
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Okay, them’s fightin’ words, Amy Seigel! What the heck do you mean when you say that “we’re no where near as bad as cyclists”?

I’ve never owned a car; don’t even know how to drive one. If the distance is too great to travel by walking, then I bicycle there. If I biking is inconvenient, then I take public transportation. And the last time I got in an airplane was about four years ago! So tell me how are you, in your biodiesel car, better than I, a walker/bicycliste/public transportation ser/non-car owning/non-car owning, non-driver?

Amy Seigel
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Amy Seigel

I meant in terms of smugness, redcatbiker. And darn if you didn’t prove me right! 🙂 No, I totally respect your dedication to car-free transport. I too use my bike far more than I drive in the summer and shoulder seasons (the winter here in Madison sometimes makes winter biking a tad tough). Now, just another quick comment…I never suggested that biodiesel is the answer to our problems, but it is available right now and will serve–for some of us–as a good stepping stone until other, better, viable alternatives become more widely avaiable and affordable. I do not believe that… Read more »

Michael Dawson
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I totally sympathize with that sentiment, Amy, but how is serving as a stepping stone in this area a good thing? What you’re saying is that you assume/hope that we’ll find an ecologically sustainable way to keep cars-first transport alive. But we simply won’t. The expense of cars is inherent in their mass, which is far too large to ever be sustainable by any fuel source. We live in a universe with unalterable physical laws, so it’s always going to be hella expensive in energy terms to manufacture, maintain, and move several hundred pounds of metal and plastic for each… Read more »

RCfirefly
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RCfirefly

After reading these comments I started to think of how will a rail system help our over society. What are the rail systems ran on? I know it will help with commuting and getting from point A- B but these seem to really only be benificial to the masses of people that live and have available a transportation system in place like Portland, Seattle. How are the smaller cities and rural areas going to adapt if at all? i do see why people look to the other alternative to keep driving their cars. I also think that cars for the… Read more »

Amy Seigel
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Amy Seigel

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one, Michael. I think that individual as opposed to purely mass transit is here to stay, though the exact details of what it will look like in the future is still up for debate. I do not believe for one second that rail systems–no matter how expansive–have any hope of meeting the transportation needs of an American populace spread out over such enormous geographic distances. For many years, I worked on a cattle ranch in a small town in Northern Colorado. I had to drive 30 minutes to the… Read more »

Michael Dawson
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You are quite right, Amy, that the sprawling construction of our cities is a huge part of the problem we face. Suburbs are now home to more than half the US population, as you probably know. If we ever face our transportation problems, radical urban reconstruction in favor of rail, bikes, and buses is absolutely urgent. As to small towns and rural folks — that is hardly at the heart of the problem as you know. And nobody says there should be zero cars in operation. Clearly, we want to use automobiles for some things like emergency medicine, deliveries, and… Read more »