Sustainable energy for public transport: A Breakdown of the Alternatives

I believe the anthropocentric view that has long been held in the  world, unnecessarily pits humans against the environment. I believe that the view of Henry Ford clearly illustrates this view:

“I foresee the time when industry shall no longer denude the forests which require generations to mature, nor use up the mines which were ages in the making, but shall draw its raw material largely from the annual products of the fields,” he declared.

“I am convinced that we shall be able to get out of the yearly crops most of the basic materials which we now get from forest and mine. We shall grow annually many if not most of the substances needed in manufacturing.”

“When that day comes, and it is surely on the way, the farmer will not lack a market and the worker will not lack a job. More people will live in the country. The present unnatural condition will be naturally balanced again. Chemistry will reunite agriculture and industry. They were allowed to get too far apart and the world has suffered by the separation.”

Clearly this cannot continue, fuel for our life is depleting our natural capital, furthermore it illustrates  a negative global ecological economic efficiency ratio as it illustrates that the amount of natural capital lost, with negative output. Surprisingly fossil fuels are not only inefficient fuels, biofuels can also be inefficient. This inefficiency is a result of inefficient crops and farming practices.
Especially when taken into consideration that one full tank of first generation bio-ethanol in a Range Rover could feed a person for a year (McNeely, 2006). Hiighlighting the threats on food supply highlighted in earlier blogs.

An evolved view of bio-fuels indicate three distinct stages, first generation bio-fuels, good bio-fuels and second generation bio-fuels (Murphy, 2008). The first generation bio-fuels are made from feedstocks such as rapeseed in the production of bio-diesel and sugar and starch containing crops as sugar beet are used in the production of bio-ethanol. Good bio-fuels are integrated energy efficient first generation systems using all of crop in production. Second generation bio-fuels are produced from residues and non-food crops (lingo-cellulosic material) to produce bio-diesel, bio-ethanol and bio-methane.

The use of second generation bio-fuel, bio-methane has been overlooked as a possible sustainable bio-fuel. It does not impact on the environment. It can be produced through grass cuttings. Take for instance; that there is 300 hectares of parkland in Cork City Ireland, this would be sufficient to power the Cork bus fleet of 89 buses (Murphy, 2008).

If Irish Government is to implement a bio-fuel strategy for Ireland, the following is a breakdown of the effectiveness of each bio-fuel power each bus.

Bio-fuels Breakdown

Clearly bio-gas/bio-methane is the best solution for  the powering of the bus service. Calculations can be easily done to evaluate whether it is suitable for your region, by dividing the land requirement into the available grassland. It takes a cradle-to-cradle approach making it completely sustainable.

On a final note, another sustainable cheap approach for bio-methane is in slaughter waste/sewage. This waste is free. It requires no land, no diversion of feedstock and it only costs €0.66/m3 to produce.

McNeely, J. A. (2006, September 22). Biofuels: Green energy or grim reaper? Retrieved March 27, 2008 from BBC News:

Murphy, Jerry D. (2008, January 30). “Biofuels: Are they good.. or bad?”. 10. Cork, Ireland.


Completing a masters in Strategic Management and Planning

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Posted in sustainable development, sustainable living, sustainable technologies
One comment on “Sustainable energy for public transport: A Breakdown of the Alternatives
  1. jeremy says:

    Slaughter waste is a new one on me.

    Came across this today which i thought you might find interesting. It focuses on the use of algae as a biofuel:

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