Today I had an interesting conversation with Fabio Barone, a Master’s of Science student in Holistic Science at Schumacher College. We discussed bioproducts – biofuels, bioplastics, and others – which are one of the keys to localization and the Global Village Construction Set. He is writing his thesis on bioproducts – within the context of sustainable communities and open source development – which is much needed discussion. I look forward to seeing his conclusions.
I suggested to Fabio that perhaps evaluating the real story behind biofuels could be an interesting exploration in his thesis. By biofuels, I mean root crops or fruit – and in particular, Jerusalem artichokes – which are my favorite because they are self-seeding. When you harvest the crop, a full crop always comes up the year after from little pieces of root left behind. You can harvest with a potato harvester. This is as easy and ecological as it gets, it seems.
Point is, the calculation remains – and you should go through the math yourself – the area similar to the area of any city is required to grow all the fuel for the city’s cars. That means land requirements are not high (unlike corn alcohol). Jerusalem artichoke tuber yields are typically 15 tons per acre! This is similar to other root crops – but I know of no other suitable perennials.
Thus, why hasn’t such a means of production proliferated all over the world? Or, even more simply, why have I not heard of at least one person harvesting such Jerusalem artichoke alcohol biofuel successfully on a small scale? This is one of those questions that are pressing for me – and this should be a disturbing question for anyone interested in localization. We are going to find out in the next 2 or so years for ourselves. Any comments from anyone in the know on the topic?
I understand that the sugar in Jerusalem artichokes is not readily accessible, but that is not difficult to overcome – such as by preheating the fermentation mix with solar energy.