The topic of Biofuels has been met with controversy in the mainstream media. Mostly due to the same problems facing all good information in today’s blogified, speed of light paced news cycle; poor research on sources credibility, misinformation campaigns by parties with political or their own economic agendas mascarading as news, editorial pressure to slant original news to appease the readership, and in general a lack of time to look at the long history of a subject.
There is evidence of this all around us on the internet. In fact, for each article that says a specific biofuel is of benefit for one quality, you can almost always find another that points out a negative aspect to the same quality. For example, Corn Ethanol puts farmers to work and reduces dependence on foreign oil vs. Corn Ethanol is responsible for global corn price increase which raises the price of basic food stocks for the poor and the process is also responsible for polluting ground water. This type of polarization of the issue leads people to generally “choose sides” rather than address the issues with a current solution while suggesting solutions to the downsides of the current process. We are missing constructive debate.
This polarization of media and the “with us or against us” mentality should not surprise you as it has been a sort of trickle down effect from the current struggle our two party system has been engaged in to win control over policy making at both the federal and state level. The supporters of either side attempt to, and in many cases are successful at, setting the media agendas as Chairmen or CEO of major media empires, or if not inside such an organization then paying for advertising to, or using capital to indirectly but effectively influence the stories we consume daily in the mainstream media. Also let me be clear on what I mean by mainstream media, basically it is anything you get “for free” as in radio, network television, newspapers like USA Today, and many of the related internet sites.
Due to this current model for information and issue campaigning, it is more important than ever to do the due diligence before you decide on your position on an issue. Certainly this is true for Biofuels. For example, many people I meet are not aware that the Diesel engine was built by a man named Rudolph Diesel, based on a unique fire-starting technique he observed while traveling abroad which used a bamboo tube and plunger to generate compression which ignited small organic tinder with the heat of compressing gas. We call it a fire piston now, and it is a similar but rather different way to create heat than the Native American creating friction with a bow and staff as we in the US have learned about.
This discovery led him to build a reciprocating metal version which debuted at the worlds fair in 1900 and was to be the first “compression ignition” engine for use with plant oil fuel. Diesel designed the engine so that smaller companies and artisans could harness the mechanical power of an engine and use plant oils which were readily available world wide to fue’ it. This would eliminate having to invest in a large scale steam plant to industrialize processes and empower the less wealthy. It was later that it was marketed as the “Diesel engine”. Much like “Diesel fuel” which was named for the engine to help Standard Oil Market their new petroleum fuel to Diesel engine owners much later.
While we are all too busy to research to exhaustion each decision we make, and good CEO’s and leaders are forced to make decisions regularly on less than all the information, my goal with this blog is to point out the good, bad, and ugly of our beloved Biofuel industry and the challenges we face as both producers and consumers of more sustainable energy.
There is no rational argument to not attempt living more efficiently with our resources. As we innovate new solutions in each market from energy, to housing, to food production, to medicine, there will be mistakes, blow back, and failures. But a path to a more economically and ecologically sustainable marketplace is a worthy technological and political expedition. We need to keep the conversation constructive and offer our consumers and partners the facts to make their decisions, both the risks and the benefits.
I hope to help illuminate these for our industry and related technologies which are on this expedition with us and that are struggling to solve some of the biggest problems we face today as an economy based on scarcity transitions to an economy of infinite supply.
We are glad you have joined us and hope to start a conversation with you and the industry.