Thursday, April 14, 2005

Big Green Bus

Several students from Dartmouth's club ultimate frisbee team have begun work on an environmentally friendly bus powered by used vegetable oil. They have posted a video showing their efforts.

With luck, the contraption will prove more reliable than Dennis Kucinich's bio-diesel van.


Mike Lorrey said...

It's okay to mock these projects. The key to environmental goodness isn't that you are using a renewable fuel, but what the efficiency is by which that that fuel is created from solar or other energy. If you use silicon solar panels, you get 10-22% efficiency. If you use GaAs or GaAnt solar panels, you get 22-36% efficiency. Thermal solar generates energy at 50-80% efficiencies.

Photosynthesis, the natural process by which planets turn photons into fuel, is at best 3% efficienct. What does this mean? It means that you could fill less than 10% of the farmland you would otherwise use to grow bio-fuel, with high efficiency solar panels, to run an equal number of cars. This also means that the other 90% of the land that is unneeded could be used either to grow food for starving people, or turned back to wilderness for environmental restoration.

At todays technology levels, you could dedicate ALL of the US farmland to producing bio-fuel by photosynthesis (i.e. no food for people), and it would only produce enough fuel for 1/3 of America's energy needs.

Conversely, we could turn 30% of Americas farmland to installing high efficiency solar panels to satisfy all of Americas energy needs (provided it isn't a cloudy day).

The amount of fascism/socialism required to make this happen would be enormous.

Mike Lorrey said...

That is plants, not planets, sorry...

hingham said...

Thank you for your interest in the Big Green bus. I just wanted to clear up a misunderstanding.

The Big Green Bus does not advocate switching all US vehicles to run on vegetable oil. We only want to raise awareness of alternative fuels. Also, our bus will run on waste vegtable oil, which does not take up any additional farmland.