Uncharted Territory

June 16, 2008

The Biofuel Papers

Filed under: Biofuels, Global warming — Tim Joslin @ 6:23 pm

This entry is intended to serve as an index to the three papers I’ve written on the topic of biofuels, and in particular how to derive a payback period for a biofuel crop. Such a consideration inevitably suggests that growing biofuels on a given plot of land is a bad idea. It’s just a question of how long there’s going to more global warming for if you grow biofuels than if you don’t – centuries in many cases.

A few months ago I outlined the argument in a systematic step-by-step manner in Biofuel Payback Periods (pdf) (5 sides plus footnotes).

My somewhat longer initial essay treatment a year ago, Biofuels Are Not the Answer (pdf) (6 sides plus footnotes), takes a slightly broader view.

I also last year produced a slightly more elaborate critique of the idea that biofuels displace fossil fuel use – The Displacement Fallacy (pdf) (just 1 side).

PS (26/6/08): Updated Biofuels Are Not the Answer after noticing some broken links in the footnotes. Version 1.1.1, rather than version 1.1, is now referenced.

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6 Comments »

  1. [...] this point I realised that my arguments about biofuels may be going over people’s heads.  Not because it’s such a high-falutin’ line of [...]

    Pingback by The Biofuel Blues, or, it’s the Opportunity Costs, Stupid! « Uncharted Territory — July 28, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  2. [...] to more GHG emissions if it is then grown in areas of virgin forest. At this point I realised that my arguments about biofuels may be going over people’s heads. Not because it’s such a high-falutin’ line of reasoning. [...]

    Pingback by Zero Carbon » The Biofuel Blues, or, it’s the Opportunity Cost, Stupid! — August 10, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  3. [...] though they’re worse than burning fossil fuels. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Busy months ahead for [...]

    Pingback by EU Energy Policy: Good in Parts « Uncharted Territory — November 11, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

  4. [...] terms of how long it would take to pay off the carbon debt from clearing the land.  As I argued in the Biofuel Papers – sigh! – this is only part of the story.  The Beeb notes that: “On a positive note, the [...]

    Pingback by Biofuel Payback Periods - Update « Uncharted Territory — December 8, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

  5. [...] This is rather as I pointed out as long ago as 2007 when I started calculating carbon emission payback periods for biofuels in my essay Biofuels Are Not the Answer. [...]

    Pingback by Tantric Biofuel “Science” « Uncharted Territory — July 5, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

  6. [...] But what stuck in my notebook from Deepak’s talk was a point he made about biofuel from Indonesian palm oil.  A peer-reviewed paper, he said, had determined that clearing the land to grow the oil palms would incur a “carbon debt” that would take up to 840 years to pay off.  My ears pricked up.  This sounded very like the “pay-back period” concept I came up with in 2007, and documented in three papers. [...]

    Pingback by Biofuel Payback Periods Revisited « Uncharted Territory — November 3, 2010 @ 7:00 pm


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