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This Week at Physics

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Event Number 2861

  Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Chaos & Complex Systems Seminar
Is there a path to renewable fuels, and why would we want to go there?
Time: 12:05 pm
Place: 4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Tom Jeffries, UW Department of Bacteriology
Abstract: Woody biomass has been used as a source of fuel since before the emergence of civilization. Starting in the 17th century, the coal-fired industrial revolution greatly increased the capacity for power generation. By the 20th century, the convenience of petroleum-derived liquid fuels ushered in easy, rapid personal transportation. The resulting increases in agricultural productivity spurred rapid population growth and unprecedented prosperity to a significant fraction of the worldaEuroTMs inhabitants. The question before us today is whether such lifestyles can be maintained in the face of rapid climate change and dwindling resources.<br>
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Contemporary biofuels made from sugars, starches and plant oils are incorporated into gasoline and diesel supply systems. Is this the best use of potential food resources, or should we look to other feedstocks? Is it desirable to use wood? What biomass is available? Is its use sustainable? What are current domestic policies and are they working? Why are we concerned about biofuels anyway? What about electrical vehicles? How much can be gained from efficiency? Which conversion technologies work? How much do they cost? These questions have been researched through large government-sponsored programs and actively debated for at least the past 35 years. Conceptually, the approach is even older.<br>
If we are serious about environmental sustainability, feeding our population and renewing a hope for future society, we must think realistically about feasible alternatives to present practices.
Host: Sprott
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