Why does the subject matter of using plants and plant waste for fuel seem to go in and out of fashion? Recently, Durability + Design posted a news article, “Polyurethane Sprouts from Plant Oils”. Plant oil is being developing to make polyurethane building products. Making fuel out of plants and plant waste requires a refinery, which requires significant investment costs as well as continuing operational costs. This is no different than what an oil refinery or a nuclear power plant require. Corporations like Novozymes are making significant research investments into plant basic products as energy sources. In order to implement change effectively, the building industry needs alternatives to fossil fuel-based products; they can’t create them by themselves. We also need to be thinking about using plant-based fuels to make plant-based products. Since cost always seems to be the most important factor, we need support from our local communities and government in order to educate the public about alternatives to fossil fuels across the spectrum and not just in obvious ones, like hybrid cars.
Traditional renewable energy sources are not always available. For instance, solar and wind applications are limited by geographic locations. The key is in using the plant waste. A few years back corn was given a bad rap, because using the corn for fuel was going to take away from feeding humans or animals. The corncob, cornstalks and corn leaves can be refined into renewable energy and renewable materials to make items like diapers and cloths.
Why can’t we look at some of the thinking in India, where biofuels are being used to fuel their trains? Five percent of their fuel budget this year will be using biofuels. This does not seem like a huge number, but maybe next year it will be 15%. Slowly rolling out biofuel as an energy source will also decrease India’s reliance on foreign fuel imports.