Running on What?

Just last month the PM announced the appointment of a taskforce to “examine the latest scientific evidence on the impacts of ethanol and other biofuel use on human health, environmental outcomes and automotive operations” (quote not at above link).

Is Australia lagging behind the rest of the world in promotion and use of alternative fuels?

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman suggests that the answer to the US’s dependence on oil imports is powering cars with electricity and ethanol.

Friedman suggests that, “It costs only about $100 a car to make it flex-fuel ready. Brazil hopes to have all its new cars flex-fuel ready by 2008. …if you combined a plug-in hybrid system with a flex-fuel system that burns 80 percent alcohol and 20 percent gasoline, you could end up stretching each gallon of gasoline up to 500 miles.”

With grain a source of ethanol, could our wheat belt produce the energy to power Australia’s cars?

WA grain grower and 2003 Nuffield Scholar, Aaron Edmonds, has suggested that wheat will not be profitable in the future because of the vast amounts of energy required for production – referring to the energy required to produce nitrogenous fertilisers.

Edmonds has written (not at above link) that, “Given this staunch illogical opposition to transgenic crops by a vocal minority and the huge emerging problem of expensive fossil fuels, it is not surprising to hear some amongst the grains industry proclaim that the whole (GM) argument will be won over the issue of energy. After all, you don’t eat diesel. The US soybean industry, over 80% GM, is processing more and more oil to produce biodiesel. New GM soybean varieties are being bred to improve oil qualities to better fuel performance. Government mandates are being set and it is likely that as the crude oil situation unfolds, crop values will be dramatically increased if they can help satisfy our insatiable demand for energy.”

I might make this Part 4 of my ‘GM Food Crops’posts. Part 3 was posted on 14th June.


26 Responses to Running on What?

  1. Louis Hissink June 20, 2005 at 8:31 pm #

    The issue is not the fuel as so much as the inherent limitations of the internal combustion engine (ICE)

    The answer lies in finding a better machine than the ICE which means a machine which can produce more power from input than present machines.

    Let the market, ie free thinking individuals with capital to indulge their dreams, invent such machines.

    The social system of cooperation mesmerising the Greens and their fellow travellers, that of technioogical sophisticated poverty, cannot provide the resources for independent research.

  2. Ender June 20, 2005 at 9:17 pm #

    “Motor vehicles in Australia consumed 26,164 million litres of fuel in the 12 months ended 31 October 2002”

    Best practice from,%20plus%20reforestation,%20afforestation,%20and%20new%20plantations.pdf
    suggests that 5000 to 7000 litres of ethanol can be produced per hectare.

    Substituting 80% of liquid fuel would require
    and using 5000 litres/hectare, 4 186 240 hectares of land. The entire area grain growing in Australia is 11 million hectares so we would have to devote a third of all wheat area to ethanol.

    This may not be such an ask so it could be feasible I suppose. This goes to show how lucky we are with our small population and reasonably efficient cars and huge land area. Whether we could sustain this and increased fuel use is another matter. Pluggable electric hybrids would help.

    Crop data:;jsessionid=3v3t3329824s0?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=Australian+Bureau+of+Statistics&gwp=8&curtab=2222_1&sbid=lc01a

  3. Louis Hissink June 20, 2005 at 9:53 pm #


    Excellent quotations.

    Now what do you think ?

  4. Ender June 20, 2005 at 11:54 pm #

    What I think is here

  5. Louis Hissink June 21, 2005 at 9:41 pm #


    Thanks for the reference.

    The water is becoming clearer.

  6. Ender June 22, 2005 at 12:02 pm #

    Comment that was here removed at Ender’s request. He is still working on the figures. No doubt he will re-post. So watch this thread. Thanks, Jennifer (blog host)

  7. Louis Hissink June 22, 2005 at 8:52 pm #

    That is going to be interesting. Good thing I am not the type to instantly call in the lawyers from hell and sue at the slightest slight to my serious statements.

  8. Ender June 22, 2005 at 9:46 pm #

    Yeah I got them wrong alright. The figure of 5000 litres per hectare was out by a factor of 10 – sorry. My only defence it was not my figure but it was one in one of the references. Just goes to show you cannot believe all you read on the Internet.

    The correct yield is 672 Litres of Ethanol per hectare in Australia as the average yield of grain is about 2 tons per hectare. Also Ethanol has a lower energy value per litre.

    Fuel used 2002 26 400 000 000 litres
    Energy in 1 l petrol 9.5 KWHrs/litre
    Energy in 1 l Ethanol 6.5 KWHrs/litre
    equivalent ethanol 38 584 615 385 litres
    Mix of Ethanol 0.8
    Amount required 30 867 692 308
    Yield of Wheat per Hectare 2 tons/hectare
    Yield of Ethanol from Wheat 336 litres/ton
    Amount of Ethanol per Hectare 672 litres
    Amount of Land required 45.93406593 Million Ha

    The answer is 45 Million hectares. Now I am not sure that we can devote that much land, water and fertiliser to making fuel for cars.

    These figures are pretty accurate as I used Australian figures from the ABS. It does not include sugar cane of course which would probably reduce the land required.

  9. Louis Hissink June 22, 2005 at 10:40 pm #

    No, much easier to use what the earth produces naturally from the mantle, called petroleum.

    If that is not satisfactory, discovering what makes the earth rotate might lead to a new source of energy.

    But as Ender has shown, renewables are simply impracticable.

    So Ender what is then the alternative?

  10. Jennifer June 22, 2005 at 10:59 pm #

    Ender has not shown that ‘renewables are simply impractictable’. I understand that Ender has calculated that at current yields of 2 tonnes per hectare, we would need to plant 45 million hectares of wheat (current area 11 million) to produce enough ethanol from wheat to fuel Australian cars at an 80% ethanol:petrol blend? So at least wheat as a source of ethanol seems impractictable.

  11. Ender June 23, 2005 at 8:38 am #

    Loius – As Jennifer points out the the leap from “Now I am not sure that we can devote that much land, water and fertiliser to making fuel for cars.” to “renewables are simply impracticable.” is a long and difficult one that you seem to have made with ease.

    I have written a post on my blog that discusses a possible way forward that uses as real numbers as I can find and very few dodgy assumptions.

    You can read it at

    Now lets go to your other statements. Oil is not a product of the mantle. It is solar energy trapped long ago. There are some fringe people that believe that oil wells will conveniently fill up again so that their Prados will not run out of oil. Sorry that is not going to happen.

    The Earth rotates because of the momentum imparted to it from when it formed from the rubbish left over from star formation as far as I know.

  12. Louis Hissink June 23, 2005 at 8:33 pm #


    Oil, petroleum is not solar energy trapped a long time ago.

    Visit this site in which Dr Kenney can list over 4000 scientific papers published on the subject – the Russian-Ukrainian theory of Aboitic Petroleum.

    The late Tommy Gold also proposed this theory and tested it in Sweden, successfully I might add. He published a book on it.

    Your geological knowledge, as well as thermodynamic as written to Henry Thornton, needs a lot of study I am afraid. A very concerted effort of study.

  13. Ender June 24, 2005 at 10:04 am #

    Louis – I don’t get it. If the oil is Abiotic and bubbles up how is this possible when the Earth is in fact hollow. If you look at this website then this “strange book called “Etidorhpa” by John Uri Llyod written in the late 1890’s” must be true because why would anyone get a book published if it wasn’t true?

    As well if the Earth is not hollow then where are the Atlanteans? Where did they go when their city sunk so many years ago except into the hollow earth?

    Really you psuedo anti-scientists really should get together and thrash these important details out. It really sounds foolish when one group is claiming that the earth is hollow and you and Tommy Gold claim oil comes from under the crust.

  14. Ender June 24, 2005 at 12:32 pm #

    Here is the real story on the FALSE aboitic theory of Oil.

    “More to the point, Gold also claimed the existence of liquid hydrocarbons—oil—at great depths. But there is a problem with this: the temperatures at depths below about 15,000 feet are high enough (above 275 degrees F) to break hydrocarbon bonds. What remains after these molecular bonds are severed is methane, whose molecule contains only a single carbon atom. For petroleum geologists this is not just a matter of theory, but of repeated and sometimes costly experience: they speak of an oil “window” that exists from roughly 7,500 feet to 15,000 feet, within which temperatures are appropriate for oil formation; look far outside the window, and you will most likely come up with a dry hole or, at best, natural gas only. The rare exceptions serve to prove the rule: they are invariably associated with strata that are rapidly (in geological terms) migrating upward or downward. (4)”

    ” While it is true that the estimated oil reserves of Eugene have increased, the numbers are not extraordinary. The authors note that “From 1978 to 1988, these operations, activities, and natural factors [including better exploration and recovery technology] have increased ultimate recoverable reserves from 225 million bbl to 307 million bbl of hydrocarbon liquids and from 950 bcf to 1.65 tcf of gas.” Other estimates now put the estimate of total recoverable oil as high as 400 Mb.

    None of this is especially unusual for a North American oil field: most fields report reserve growth over time as a consequence of Securities and Exchange Commission reporting rules that require reserves to be booked yearly according to what portion of the resource is actually able to be extracted with current equipment in place. As more wells are drilled into the same reservoir, the reserves “grow.” Then, as they are pumped out, reserves decline and production rates dwindle. No magic there.”

    “Production from Eugene Island had achieved 20,000 barrels per day by 1989; by 1992 it had slipped to 15,000 b/d, but recovered to reach a peak of 30,000 b/d in 1996. Production from the reservoir has dropped steadily since then. ”

  15. Louis Hissink June 25, 2005 at 8:45 pm #


    you have not contradicted Kenney’s data.

    Obviously you are comfortable with violating the second law of thermodynamics.

    As for your first quoted para above, this is not scientific FACT but inference from surface data. We have no empirical temperature data from those depths (15,000 ft).

    I suggest you look at the temperature profile of the earth from space, and assume a position in, say, the troposphere and from that determine what the rest of the temperature gradient is.

  16. Louis Hissink June 25, 2005 at 9:07 pm #


    Earth is hollow?

    Your arguments are, I am afraid.

  17. Louis Hissink June 25, 2005 at 9:09 pm #

    Thirdly Ender,

    You seem unable to distinguish between published scientific papers and books describing imaginative constructs, of which I must confess, I have far less ability than you.

  18. Ender June 26, 2005 at 9:52 am #

    I don’t know Loius if you are touting psuedo-scientific ideas like abiotic oil I thought the hollow Earth ideas would be right up your alley.

    Hows the alternative to the big-bang going?

    The reference was written by a geologist so perhaps you should have a go at him not me.

    And here is some info from

    “There is some speculation that oil is abiotic in origin — generally asserting that oil is formed from magma instead of an organic origin. These ideas are really groundless. All unrefined oil carries microscopic evidence of the organisms from which it was formed. These organisms can be traced through the fossil record to specific time periods when quantities of oil were formed.”

    Good luck explaining how the organisms got there. As well even if abiotic oil was true do you imagine in your wildest dreams that there could be 80 million barrels per day bubbling up???

  19. Louis Hissink June 26, 2005 at 7:11 pm #


    Abiotic oil is not a pseudoscientific idea – obviously you have decided not to study the Russian data Dr Kenney posted on his site.

    Your reference to the hollow earth is clearly an ad hominem and ignored.

    The alternative to the Big Bang is going quite well Ender – alternatives to Creationism always go well – another area which you seem blissfully unaware.

    Your reference from Peak oil is severely in error. No one stated that oil is formed from magma. Again you have not made ths slightest effort to read the simple explanations mentioned before.

    Ender, thanks for the good wishes, but I don’t need them, the Russians have been doing it for 50 years.

    While I am on this particular topic, I recall a US energy analyst commenting this week (or week gone) that the Saudi’s are lying about their oil reserves. Their reserves seem to have magically increased without any evidence of extra production drilling or other standard reserve estimation techniques.

    This suggests to me that the Russian-Ukraininan theory of Abiotic oil and Gold’s hot deep biosphere theory are essentially correct.

    I have replied in a more detailed manner elsewhere once it gets put up on the site.

    Unfortunately Ender, you and your geological reference know nothing about the 2nd Law of thermodynamics. Most geologists these days don’t.

  20. Louis Hissink June 26, 2005 at 7:54 pm #


    Which geologist who wrote what are you referring to? Bit hard to strike a target when you have no target in the first place.

    Or is it a straw man that you have placed in front of me?

  21. Ender June 26, 2005 at 10:37 pm #

    Loius –
    Sorry Loius the quote was not from a geologist – I followed the wrong link in posting it. That link was written by Richard Heinberg a journalist, educator, editor, lecturer, and musician. He has lectured widely, appearing on national radio and television in five countries. His essays have appeared in The Futurist, Intuition, The Sun, Brain/Mind Bulletin, Magical Blend, New Dawn, and elsewhere.

    I am sorry Abiotic oil is pseudoscientific as you are totally ignoring the scientific fact that there are fossil organisms in the oil deposits. So where is the explanation. Also there is NO evidence that any oil well in the world has refilled at any time.

    If it is not created in the magma where is it created Loius??? In the crust??
    Read this reference

    “Both versions have that petroleum is formed from the reaction of carbonates with iron oxide and water in the region called “mantle,” deep in the earth. Furthermore, it is assumed (see Gold’s 1993 paper) that the mantle is such a huge reservoir that the amount of reactants consumed in the reaction hasn’t depleted it over a few billion years (this is not unreasonable, since the mantle is indeed huge).”

    Obviously you did not read my posts. Your pinup location for these crackpot theories is Eugene Island. It is depleting not refilling!!!
    The Russian scientific evidence is not supported by ANY other geologist or geophysisists or indeed by a majority of Russian scientists.

    Yes the Saudis increased their oil reserves. They magically inflated then to get higher quotas. So if you want to use this as evidence how about BP downgrading their reserves by about 30% recently.

    This is more from Richard’s article. No oil was found drilling to your favourites theories!!!!

    “Years ago Thomas Gold recognized that the best test of the abiotic theory would be to drill into the crystalline basement rock underlying later sedimentary accumulations to see if there is indeed oil there. He persuaded the government of Sweden in 1988 to drill 4.5 miles down into granite that had been fractured by a meteorite strike (the fracturing is what permitted drillers to go so deep). The borehole, which cost millions to drill, yielded 80 barrels of oil. Even though the project (briefly re-started in 1991) was a commercial failure, Gold maintained that his ideas had been vindicated. Most geologists remained skeptical, however, suggesting that the recovered oil likely came from drilling mud.

    The Russians (I must remind the reader that I am actually talking about a minority even with the community of Russian geologists) claim successes in drilling in basement rock in the Dneiper-Donets Basin in the Ukraine. Professor Vladilen A. Krayushkin, Chairman of the Department of Petroleum Exploration, Institute of Geological Sciences, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kiev, and leader of the exploration project, wrote:

    The eleven major and one giant oil and gas fields here described have been discovered in a region which had, forty years ago, been condemned as possessing no potential for petroleum production. The exploration for these fields was conducted entirely according to the perspective of the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of abyssal, abiotic petroleum origins. The drilling which resulted in these discoveries was extended purposely deep into the crystalline basement rock, and it is in that basement where the greatest part of the reserves exist. These reserves amount to at least 8,200 M metric tons [65 billion barrels] of recoverable oil and 100 B cubic meters of recoverable gas, and are thereby comparable to those of the North Slope of Alaska. (5)

    However, independent assessments of the situation do not support these claims. First, the US Geological Survey does not agree that the Dneiper-Donets reserves are that large (it cites 2.7 billion barrels for total oil endowment). Second, the appearance of oil in basement rocks is unusual but not unheard of, and there are various ways in which oil can appear in basement rock. In the process of drilling through overlying sedimentary rock, oil can be expelled downward so that it appears to come from below. Then there are situations where igneous or metamorphic rocks have migrated upward, or sedimentary rocks have migrated downward, so that basement rock covers sedimentary rock (in some cases, the overthrust may be hundreds of square kilometers in extent). In his paper “Oil Production from Basement ReservoirsóExamples from USA and Venezuela,” Tako Koning of Texaco Angola, Inc., cites source rocks such as marine shales in nearly all instances. (6) More to the point, numerous studies cite the existence of sedimentary source rocks in the Dneiper-Donets region. (7) ”

  22. Ender June 27, 2005 at 5:13 pm #

    Now here is another little titbit from

    “Vietsovpetro is facing a lot of difficulties in the year 2005, especially arising from the technical problem of oil tankers and the declining output of Bach Ho oil field (White Tiger). However, Tran Le Dong said Vietsovpetro will unite to overcome these difficulties and gain new achievements.”

    Now the White Tiger field in Vietnam was one of the fields that proved the abiotic oil theory as in this site

    “As we have already discovered, oil can be produced virtually anywhere on earth, provided the host country can afford the expensive [and sometimes classified] technology, and the massive cost of drilling a well to extreme depth through extremely hard rock formations.”


    “The Vietnamese White Tiger oil field was and is a raging success, currently producing high quality crude oil from basalt rock more than 17,000 feet below the surface of the earth, at 6,000 barrels per day per well. ”

    Now Loius it should be filling up not depleting!

    So are you going to recommend that we start drilling super deep holes anywhere.

  23. Louis Hissink June 27, 2005 at 9:44 pm #


    Oil is produced in the earth’s mantle, and experimentally can be also produced by subjecting CaCO3, Fe2O3 and triple distilled water to mantle pressure and temperature conditions.

    I leave it to you to find the “published” papers.

    As for oil in basement rock being occasionally observed, you might show which publications by the USGS that this is based on? Oil from basement? Oil drifts DOWNWARDS?

    You seem to be suffering from a flood of citationistis, whilst remaining completely baffled by the concepts of your current diatribe here.

  24. Ender (not Steve) June 28, 2005 at 11:43 am #

    Loius I have found the published papers and while they do not go as far as supporting you views that all oil is abotic they do support the view that one of the explanations for basement reserves could be abiotic. This is from

    “There are many possible sources for the oil accumulations in basement reservoirs, however, three sources are referenced most commonly:

    1. Overlying organic rock from which the oil was expelled downward during compaction.
    2. Lateral, off-the-basement but topographically lower, organic rock from which oil was squeezed into an underlying carrier bed through which it migrated updip into the basement rock.
    3. Lower, lateral reservoirs from which earlier trapped oil was spilled due to tilting or overfilling (Landes et al, 1960).

    Mechanisms have been identified that could allow the downward migration of oil into fractured basement when fracture dilation is caused during shearing in an anisotropic stress field (Pine & Batchelor, 1984). Dilatancy in the underlying reservoir rock reduces hydrostatic pressures in local areas of deformation. Pressure gradients are thereby established between the potential basement reservoir rocks and the overlying source and carrier beds containing oil, gas and water. Thus, a tendency to ‘suck in’ fluids into the basement rocks will be created; this view is supported by direct observation, McNaughton (1953) and McNaughton & Garb (1975).

    Recent work by Kitchka (1998), supports the theory of an inorganic mantle origin of petroleum. His paper introduces the concept that petroleum represents a complex derivative of the fluid inclusions saturated with hydrocarbons in crustal and mantle minerals. He concludes that the multi-stage segregation and migration of deep petroleum are realised by fracturing and faulting. He cites a total of 370 oil and gas fields with commercial productivity from crystalline basement. Other hypotheses by Kropotkin (1986), Krishna (1988), Szatmari (1989), Porfir’ev (1974), Hunt (1998), and Gold (1980 & 1985) also consider the abiogenic/ mineral origin of petroleum.”

    However Loius I ask you to think about the carbon cycle that you profess is entirely natural. CO2 from the atmosphere that is scrubbed by living things is done in part by phytoplankton and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Plants and other biomass account for the rest with the ocean dissolving CO2 in response to temperature.

    1. Now if all oil is abiotic where does the carbon go?

    2. Abiotic oil is adding carbon to the cycle so why are we not awash in carbon?

    3. Even if oil was abiotic how could the oil be replaced at the 80 million barrels per day rate we are consuming it.

    4. How do biomarkers get in the oil.
    This is from

    “It has been argued that the abiogenic theory does not explain the detection of various biomarkers in petroleum. Microbial consumption does not yet explain some trace chemicals found in deposits. Materials which suggest certain biological processes include tetracyclic diterpane and oleanane. Although extremophile microorganisms exist deep underground and some metabolize carbon, some of these biomarkers are only known so far to be created in surface plants. This evidence is consistent with the biogenic hypothesis, although it might be true that these hydrocarbons have merely been in contact with ancient plant residues. There also is evidence that low-temperature relatives of hyperthermophiles are widespread, so it is also possible for biological deposits to have been altered by low-temperature bacteria which are similar to deeper heat-loving relatives.”

  25. John July 13, 2005 at 12:30 am # Should anyone be seriuos enough to follow this up I believe it to be a follow on to Tesla’s suggestion of free electricity around 1911 Read the free electricity draft!!!!! See the demonstrations of engine modifications and fuel replacements and then ask about windfarms and oil consumption and power stations???? John

  26. HAROLD August 14, 2006 at 4:08 pm #

    Denying the existence of oilfields in igneous formations is impossible, juts aas denying that the earth is round is no longer possible. So there is a REAL possibility that Oil is a renewable resource, that requires NO farmland. Biodiesel on the other hand, like ethanol has an EVIL side. Rainforest has been clearcut, native peoples enslaved, and all in the interest of fueling Brazils cars, meanwhile all those agricultural products, go into cars, instead of the starving children of Eithiopia and Somalia. And all beacause a few dimwits dont like oil.
    Yes, Build dams, & wipe out the pacofic Salmon, Build windmills, & watch them chop up flights of Migratory birds, (Big Sierra club issue) The alternatives are MUCH WORSE than oil a lot of the time, and unneeded if oil turns out to be renewable. By teh way the discarded cadmium, lead, & lithium from solar devices battery packs are doing a great job of poisoning the water supply……….

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