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Exposing the sensational delusions of fuel sources

22 November 2004

Exposing the sensational delusions of fuels from iron sands, and oil sands

The big headline 'Kiwis in fuel breakthrough' (Manawatu Evening Standard, Nov 20) looks thrilling for future energy, but collapses when you look at the following vital aspects:

(a) The new process (theorized, for ten years ahead) is just a way of 'cleaning' hydrogen (created from wood waste and other biomass) for use in fuel cells. It doesn't actually create any new form of energy. It uses "iron" sands for the scrubbing process, which seems to be confusing people subliminally with "oil "sands.

(b) The article exults the hydrogen 'could eventually replace oil in both cars and electricity generation, eliminating carbon dioxide emissions that are blamed for global warming". But hold it! What about all the burning of all that wood waste or biomass? It still produce the same old greenhouse gases?

(c) Why burn the biomass to generate hydrogen (involving big losses of efficiency), when you can get much more energy by burning it directly for steam to generate precious electricity for homes as Maui runs empty?

(d) NZ's wood waste and biomass might eventually produce a total of about 50 petajoules of NZ's 773 total primary energy. Compare that with our oil imports: 226 petajoules. And don't forget to compensate for Maui's decline (another 57 petajoules declining from 2007 onward).

(e) If you hope oil sands (not iron sands) are actually our rescue as we face the global decline of petroleum oil and gas from now on, please note:

- It takes huge amounts of natural gas to roast the sands (gas is running out globally)

- With oil sand, for every barrel of oil recovered, two and a half barrels of oily liquid waste are pumped into huge toxic ponds. Millions of tons of ground (farmland?) are also disturbed.

- The oil-from-sand extraction and processing rate is slow. Alberta's immense oil sand operation, Syncrude (gas fired), produces 200,000 barrels a day while Canada consumes 2 million barrels a day. Iraq oil wells pump out about 2 million barrels a day Saudi Arabia's 9 million barrels a day.

The realistic way of facing the imminent global decline of petroleum, and the unfortunate serious insufficiency of alternative energy, is to change our use of petroleum to protect our essential services.

The choices to consider are agriculture (food supply), industry (jobs), and homes (cooking, heaters, hot showers) competing with unlimited car transportation and holiday tourism and disposable plastic made from precious crude oil.


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