Could biomass help solve the Y2K energy crunch? : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

Could not biomass be used to replace some of the shortages of petroleum products and natural gas? Methane can be made from manure, sludge, and industrial waste to replace some of the natural gas. Methanol (from wood) and ethanol (from corn) can replace gasoline with some modifications in the engine. Cooking oil and ethanol can be combined to make a diesel fuel. In addition to fuel applications, canola oil can be used in place of petroleum-based motor oil. Currently, these alternatives are nvironmentally friendly but expensive relative to petroleum-based products and atural gas; in 2000, they may be considerably cheaper (cow chips and wood chips will perform better than embedded chips!) If our farmers and food distributors can get enough methane to run gas-powered refrigeration units and enough ethanol and canola oil to keep trucks running, they might be able to continue moving food into towns and cities in 2000. Any thoughts on this?

For those who are interested, websites relevant to biomass:

-- Darryl Rideout (, December 01, 1998


Hi Darryl,

A friend of mine who lived on and ran a hog farm for 50 years, and an engineering friend of his, got interested in the methane thing in the early/mid-80s. They got way into it: huge water-bed "balloons" full of methane made from hog manure. He heated his shop with it, had the potential to generate electricity, etc. He told me one time (when he was showing me the Bunson burner-like flame tube he kept handy for demo purposes work) that they were generating enough methane to provide all the power the nearby small town of 300 (or so) would need.

It got too expensive for them to continue their experiments, and seeing's how there was no market for the stuff, they just folded up their tent.

But to me, the general answer to your question is, "Yes indeed!" It's likely that all forms of "alternative energy" could really make some inroads over the next few years. Unfortunately, or so it seems, the knowledge gap, the lack of "normal distribution channels" (and many other "big business-type" things), common technical expertise ("How dooya hook this sucker up?"), and the myriad other things that go into the "abstract sub-infrastructure" that supports the current physical monopoly, are not in place.

The nuts and bolts of the alternative way of doing things are mysterious as can be to the average person. The educational process alone required to bring 100 million people (or so - in just America) up to the speed where they'd be willing to go through the "agony" of converting the taken-for-granted core of their lifestyle to biomass, solar, wind, and mystifying processes like organic farming, is next to unfathomable, given the current level of ingrained complacency. Especially when a person tries to imagine it somehow taking place in the next 12 months and 30 days.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," has been one of the top 5 practical maxims I've heard regarding any practical situation of my adult life. I think that one, combined with "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," pretty much sums up "mainstream practical thought."

But to get back to your original points: There's no doubt and no denying (by anyone capable of taking a clear look at things, who can be honest for 10 minutes) that all the alternative ways to go are superior to what's in place now (for every reason but King Cost), y2k or no y2k. As with everything else connected to the dilemma, Time is the critical factor. There USED to be plenty of time to convert the infrastructure from the petro/powerplant arrangement, but unfortunately again, the primary proponents of going in that direction were ridiculed, laughed at, gagged, and mostly run out of town by those who "knew better."

Should y2k prove to be the practical hydrogen bomb many are anticipating, I have this feeling the "staunch conservatives" are going to be surprised (in strange and basic ways) to find out the Hippies, the types of people behind the Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening, and all those other uppity, radical, nogoodnics were, in a word, right. That those warnings should have been heeded.

But that won't prove much of a consolation prize if the world gets plunged into a cold darkness and hungry chaos that, many of us would lament, could've all been avoided if those boneheads at Standard Oil, and Cosmodemonic Heat and Light, Inc., had just had enough brain power to realize the (even corporate) wisdom of encouraging everyone to install a simple solar panel on their roof, a converter on their wall, and maybe think about getting into a (second) electric car, somewhere down the road, in something like 1984 or 1985.

But no. That would've been too much. That would've made the share- holders uneasy. And we all know we just cannot have that.

Well. Even though no one knows for sure, it looks like those same share-holders are about to be made about as uneasy as they could be, and it looks like their trusted managers are about to be asked some really tough questions...

But most of all (in regards to your points again), it looks as if y2k could be some kind of big evolutionary catalyst for biomass, solar panels, and all their relatives. It would've been much nicer of course if we'd all been plugging away at it for the past 20 or 30 years so we had a lot more of the gear installed, a stronger industry, a broader distribution and support system in place, etc.. But mostly, we haven't. The Big Boys continued to have had their way with the world, and that way hasn't included things like rounding up and messing with distasteful things like hog manure and pete moss. Nuclear energy is so much more efficient, doncha know. It's so clean, quiet, compact, and odorless. Sure. It's a little HOT, but hey... We're the Thermos Kings, we can handle it, and we are NOT adverse to a little risk. We are not afraid to gamble everyone's future on our ability to keep it contained until the boys in the Ultimate Disposal Department come up with the Technology we can just drop into the thermoses like Tidy Bowl bisquits. "Don't worry. Crack another Bud and get back to the game. We're on it. Your future's secure. You've put your eggs in the right basket. You're smart."

Anyway... Here's what I'd recommend (as if I know something):

All you global financiers, masters of the universe, Big Time/Big League Players who happen to stumble on this obscure little BioWhat? thread: Never mind. Just do this:

  • Check the URLs Darryl so conscientiously left behind;

  • Think about the very real implications and opportunities y2k presents in those areas for an hour or two;

  • Then call up George Soros, pool as much money as you can, and go into the Alternative Energy/Stuff business next week. Invest, gear up, pretend it's the beginning of world war 2, and that what the world needs is "new," independent, alternative energy sources.

  • While you're phoophooing the idea, think about how many freaked out, desperate, clamoring-for-comfort, potential customers there could be banging on your door in about 10 minutes.

  • And think about this: If y2k's as rough as some say it's going to be, where are you going to shift your money? Tires? Lumber? Corn futures? United Airlines? A hole in your back yard? Think about what people would be ready for (now and in the mid-future) in terms of "personal power" and such, should there be big trouble.

  • And this: If you have doubts as to "middle America's" likelihood of buying alternative products, go to Geri Guidetti's web site, take a look at what she has to offer, find her email link, and drop her a note that asks her who most of her (substantial number of) customers are. That's right. Mr. and Mrs. Average As Can Be. Do the same with just about any "alternative lifestyle" product purveyor, see what you come up with, and then...

  • Go for it! Gather up all your Big Time Player Buddies and Guts and put your money on the big, foreign, obscure AS (for Alternative Stuff). Forget buying utility stocks. Check Darryl's URLs, think about the heart of y2k (and that whacko fantasy called "global warming" and its alledged enviromental relatives), and see if you don't wind up wondering if the status quo modus operandi really might be getting just a hair obsolete; turning into some kind of surprising stale dead end. Forget all that "conservative" crap (underneath it all that's a misnomer, bye the way), and get back into some Genuine Risk! Where you belong!

For the rest of us (we true conservatives who tend to shy away from the Big Financial Crapshoot - BFC - and stick closer to the cash-based, low-overhead approach), I keep thinking what we need when it comes to topics such as this are "Small Is Beautiful," simple as possible plans. (As in "Popular Mechanics"/how to build a birhouse type plans.)

And that thought made me create a thread to accomodate some of those kinds of things. It's located here, and I'll let this go at that...

(Thanks for those URLs Darryl.)


-- Bill (, December 01, 1998.


In regards to your comment on Y2K as a catalyst--it has already begun. I'm installing solar (although I'm not in a remote location), but will probably have to wait until January--the installer is booked solid. Like all of the solar energy people I have spoken to, he said that business is very strong, almost entirely due to Y2K. The way I see if, if Y2K turns out to be a minor thing (nice fantasy, that), my system will still pay for itself in 10-12 years, and I'll help the planet a bit.

Thanks for your input,


-- Darryl Rideout (, December 03, 1998.

Very Important Notice:

A new product to add to your on-line y2k supplies store:

Most candles are made with a carcinogenic toxic substance: paraffin. Paraffin is the left over residue from gasoline refining. Candleworks offers a clean-burning, 100% natural solution: Long burning candles made from soybean oil grown in America's Heartland. Each candle burns 60 hours $44 for one dozen (shipping is included in price): one dozen provides 720 hours of emergency light. These candles are safe, non-toxic and burn clean without the black soot created by paraffin.

We will pay your company a commision. Phone Mike Richards at 319-337-6316

-- Mike Richards (, April 17, 1999.

Hello, Darryl I work for Southwest Photovoltaic Systems, Inc. We sell solar panels/inverters/batteries, complete home power systems. We have been helping a lot of people out with home power system. Not only for Y2K but also natural disasters, and if any of your reads need any solar power products please do not hesitate to contact me at: We have just about everything in stock at this time, do not wait until the last minute. Best Regards Alex Berg Southwest Photovoltaic Systems, Inc 212 E. Main St Tomball, TX 77375 Phone (281) 351-0031 Fax (281) 351-8356 Email: Web Site:

-- Alex Berg (, June 09, 1999.

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