energy crops

Tony Travis ajt at uk.ac.sari.rri
Mon Aug 17 07:13:52 EST 1992


In article <92712051044.MIN-LTCAa03111.bionet-news at uk.ac.daresbury> you write:
: In <1992Aug8.015147.10146 at gserv1.dl.ac.uk> ajt at uk.ac.sari.rri (Tony Travis) writes:
: 
: >I've always believed that energy crops are the ultimate renewable
: >energy source and when you consider just how much CO2 we are putting
: [...]
: Tony-
:   It is indeed amazing how the popular press has done such a good job
:   of missing one of the most important points on this topic, that is,
:   the lack of plant breeding FOR FUEL.  We keep trying to jam plant 

I agree in principle, but what I asked recently was *is* sucrose (ie.
sugar cane/beet) an efficient storage medium for energy captured by
photosynthesis.  Cellulose is by far the largest store of _carbon_ but
sucrose may be more convenient if we are considering energy crops.

Large tracts of land are already used for sucrose production and I was
wondering if the economics of building on an existing (sugar) industry
were more realistic than creating a new (exotic) energy crop.

:   materials, like grains or leaf tissue (or worse yet, wastes from
:   something else) which have been bred for feeding cattle, into a 
:   facility which is supposed to extract fuel.  (The Canadians knew 
:   they could't feed rapeseed oil to people, so they produced Canola.)
:   I suspect that if we put the same breeding effort into maximizing
:   fuel yield as we have for so many things (cosmetic qualities in
:   apples, for heaven's sake!) we would just as surely increase the 
:   yield.  Who knows, plant fuels might then be economical to produce,
:   even if we still have gasoline available by then.  We certainly 
:   won't do it by feeding the gasahol plants waste and feed grains.
:   When was the last time you put industrial waste in your gas tank
:   and made it to your destination in your car???????? -DmG

An important point to consider here is that these forms of *waste* are
available at low cost (the cost of transport mainly) and would
otherwise need to be disposed of by other means (releasing the carbon
they contain into the atmosphere).

European legislation now encourages farmers to use straw (for feeds
etc.) rather than burn it, but they have to be _paid_ a subsidy for NOT
burning the straw.

The (scientific) question I asked is how does sucrose compare with other
potential storage products (starch, oil, cellulose etc.) as a storage
medium?

Presumably natural selection has produced strategies for plants that
optimise their seed reserves, and man has further improved these
characteristics for food production - how about energy storage ?

	Tony.
--
Dr. A.J.Travis,                       |  Tony Travis
Rowett Research Institute,            |  JANET: <ajt at uk.ac.sari.rri>
Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,            |  other: <ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk>
Aberdeen, AB2 9SB. UK.                |  phone: 0224-712751



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