Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Biofuels and starvation

Corn prices are being buoyed by the confluence of higher ethanol demand, China moving solidly into first world status, and drought conditions worldwide. US prices for corn have risen due to increased demand for ethanol. China's demand for corn has risen due to its population being able to afford higher quantities of pork (China has the world's second highest per capita consumption of pork, and the pork comes from hogs which eat corn). Drought conditions the world over are making grain production more difficult.

Is it ethical that the US pursues corn based ethanol production in light of the fact that corn could be used elsewhere for food?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Recycling and the coal industry

From the April Blue Haven Capital newsletter quiz:

The answer is C) 72mm tons....

Fly Ash is a recyclable byproduct of coal combustion. According to the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA), ash has been used as a strengthening ingredient in concrete since Roman times. Volcanic ash, similar to fly ash, was used in the construction of the Roman aqueducts as early as 312 BC.

The ACAA reported that in 2006, U.S. coal-fired power plants produced over 72mm tons of fly ash. Of the 72mm tons, approximately 36mm tons were recycled, the most common product being concrete and concrete related items. That still leaves over 36mm tons of fly ash that was "landfilled", which equates to a volume of almost 24,000 acre feet. In laymen's terms: 36 square miles covered one foot deep with ash.
Coal powered energy production is making great strides in recycling some of its waste byproducts, but there is still room for improvement. Like any power production method, there are negatives associated with coal, but many of those negatives are being addressed by the industry.