I agree, Scott. At long as a barrel of oil remains above $100, we'll likely see a lot of experimenting. I can understand Saudi Arabia's interest in keeping oil bellow $80 a barrel. Their view is that if oil is below $80, we won't bother to develop alternatives.
Thanks for the feedback. Clearly, some engineers who post comments on this site do think that political barriers to engineers' ability to do their jobs is worth mentioning and even discussing, as they keep bringing it up :)
What's at least as interesting to me as this study of Americans in general is that survey we did last year about what engineers thought about bioplastics, and the positive response to at least being willing to try them out in the next five years.
Thanks for finding that survey. So, this exposes the fundamental problem with regards to sustainability, such as the use of biofuels in the article, and that is our corrupt political system. I understand that certain engineers dont' feel that this issue belongs on this site, but I totally disagree as engineering is about finding solutions, and that includes minimizing our negative effects. It seems that most Americans agree but certain special interests don't and they carry mroe weight than the voters.
I just ran across an interesting study that seems germane to some of this discussion. That is, a supposed leftist orientation of those desiring sustainable energy alternatives doesn't exist, at least among Americans in general:
I don't think that I accused you of offering a "silver bullet", but I do think that the goal must be to be energy neutral, that we do not waste any finite energy resource such as oil, coal, natural gase, etc. So, I think that a "siver bullet" should be the goal, although that will not be any one thing but an array of neutral sources, as in non-depletable, carbon-neutral, and wildlife habitat and agricultural land loss neutral.
The fact is that we need a new sustainable operational paradigm to drive reasearch and development. Currently, the "free market" paradigm has failed to ever solve a problem and until we recognize that fact we will continue to delude ourselves into thinking that it can while we crash and burn.
So, while algae may be used, so will solar derived hydrogen for use in better fuel cells, human powered technology, etc. But, we need to have a goal and currently that goal is to allow the market, which is more concerned with profit and money, the figment of the human mind, than sustainability precisely because humans are more concerned with fulfilling their desires now than ensuring a sustainable future.
Any solution to the ongoing energy conundrum will require multiple approaches. I don't think that any thoughtful individual would argue that conservation, increases in design efficiency, alternatives to fossil-fuel, point-source generation, green buildings, etc. etc. etc. should all be part of our arsenal.
No where in my posts was it my intent to offer a silver bullet.
I personally believe that burning petroleum is terribly wasteful - it's so much more useful as a raw material than as a fuel. Sad, really. The more we can replace petroleum with renewable alternatives, the better off we'll be. It's really hard to make something like ABS or Polycarbonate from plants.
But it's hardly fair or reasonable to say that simply using algae is going to eliminate this problem - we must use everything we can come up with. No single solution can supplant the current system - coal and oil will probably be a part of the solution for a while, regardless of how much we may decry it's wasteful burning.
My argument is simply that we should include algae, since it is likely the most reasonable biofuel source at this time. If we can, and I suspect we will, come up with better ways of generating chemically convertible fuel, I'll support them also - but that's a few years off.
I am not arguing with your assertion. I still say we should use algae for now. At least no one can accuse us of depleting the food supply to garner energy.
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
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