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A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories - Peak cooking oil? Answered

The interconnectedness of the world can sometime be striking. I noticed yesterday that Safeway, a west coast grocery store chain, has converted it trucks to biodiesel. Due to increased fuel-demand for things that were previously only considered foodstuffs, the cooking oils carried by the biodiesel-fueled trucks were probably significantly more expensive. In Malaysia, this has even idled some plants design to refine oils into biodiesel:

Here on Malaysia's eastern shore, a series of 45-foot-high green and gray storage tanks connect to a labyrinth of yellow and silver pipes. The gleaming new refinery has the capacity to turn 116,000 tons a year of palm oil into 110,000 tons of a fuel called biodiesel, as well as valuable byproducts like glycerin. Mission Biofuels, an Australian company, finished the refinery last month and is working on an even larger factory next door at the base of a jungle hillside.

But prices have spiked so much that the company cannot cover all its costs and has idled the finished refinery while looking for a new strategy, such as asking a biodiesel buyer to pay a price linked to palm oil costs, and someday switching from palm oil to jatropha, a roadside weed.

from the NYT article A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories

And there's more: as more and more baked goods eliminate trans-fats, those fats are often replaced with palm oil, so the pastries carried by the biodiesel-fueled trucks are themselves consuming more edible oil.

While this will increase the price to make and ship a snack cake in the US, it has much greater effect elsewhere. Since people in the developing world get such a large percentage of their calories from cooking oil, increased prices have caused riots:

No category of food prices has risen as quickly this winter as so-called edible oils -- with sometimes tragic results. When a Carrefour store in Chongqing, China, announced a limited-time cooking oil promotion in November, a stampede of would-be buyers left 3 people dead and 31 injured.


I watching the history channel about biofuels. There's this one plant (forget it's name) that grows with almost no water (like desertish) that produces a ton of biofuel. The people that are researching it say that if all goes well they could sell it at %1.00 a gallon. I see 2 problems: 1) because they can make it dirt cheap doesn't mean they can make a ton of it 2) where's everything going to go? Is the earth screwed and will be left dry, stripped of all of it's nutrients so that we can be lazy and drive? I want cheaper shipping though, lol. But this is not a loling matter 2

Can someone please pull up the numbers on...

-- How much food/drink you would need for a group of 4 to walk 100 miles (make sure to include the food needed to survive for that period of time, you can make assumptions on sleep/walk rate)
-- How much gas you'd need to drive 100 miles with a 4-person capacity.

Then compare the CO2 emissions from both. (It would have to be pretty complex, as there are so many food choices, and water could be bottled or tap)

I'm just guessing that food is at least 70% that of gas.
To whomever is reading this: don't feel compelled to do this, I might, eventually. It was just an interesting question to ponder...

I'll have to dig it up (I did this analysis awhile back).... But walking is a horribly inefficient method of travel for a human due to the low speeds and the fact that humans are very inefficient as is (a trained cyclist, for example, is around 25% efficient max). Now short distances is a completely different story ;) When I find it again, I did it for cycling, walking and driving my car.

Why can't they just make fuel from unused plant parts (leaves, stalks, husks)? Why don't they use depleted nuclear waste to make batteries to power buses and trucks? No mater what people do they always screw themselves.

Heh, my dad's actually working on a project designing something that makes some enzyme that converts cellulose, from waste plant matter, into ethanol.

Actually, that's one of the things I'm working on as well. If you can't wait another decade or so before cellulosic ethanol becomes mainstream, you could always pimp your car with a wood stove fueling a steam engine... :-D

Would it be plausible to use nuclear waste to heat a steam engine? If it could it would solve 2 main environmental issues.

Well, that's essentially how nuclear power plants work, except that a controlled nuclear chain reaction gives off enormously more heat than depleted fuel rods. Nuclear waste is still "hot", but recovering that residual heat is far less profitable, and it would only contribute a minuscule fraction to to our energy needs. The cooling towers of the nuclear power plant put out far more heat than the spent fuel rods. Plus, in order to recover this waste heat, you'd have to bring the nuclear waste in close proximity with a circulating fluid. I bet that would increase the chances of leaks etc. All in all, I'd say that geothermal energy, or recovering waste heat from conventional power plants to heat surrounding buildings, is probably a better solution.

True, but I meant for transportation uses. It is much more effective to use geothermal or wind than nuclear, but you can't put a wind turmine or geothermal heat exchanger on your car

So what - you're proposing to have millions of cars driving around, each with a chunk of nuclear waste built-in? Well, at least that will save terrorists a good amount of time and effort - now every car bomb is instantly a dirty bomb...

No, I meant for semis and buses. I don't think it's a good idea for cars. Like you pointed out there needs to some way to keep it out of the wrong hands.