2008: The Year of (Un)Sustainable Biofuel

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Last year, I used a special run of AltEnergyStocks.com’s new Cleantech News (CTN) aggregator to bring you the ten stories of 2007 which bloggers found most interesting or controversial. Continuing the tradition, below are the ten stories of 2008 which Cleantech and Green Bloggers were talking about.

One of my favorite features of CTN is how it not only provides links to the original articles, but also links to the articles referencing it. Hence the list below includes links to the entire conversation.

Unsustainable Biofuels

In January, The Gaurdian kicked things off with an article saying burning biofuels may be worse than coal and oil a theme echoed by New Scientist. WSJ.com: Energy Roundup and Peak Energy took note.

In April, The Telegraph published an article linking first world driving to third world starvation. Alt Energy Investor saw it as a reason to prefer Brazillian sugarcane ethanol over the corn based variety. Climateer Investing ranted about ethanol boosting venture capitalists, Sharon Astyk at Gristmill took a more holistic view of how we use the food we have,seeing it as a call to re-examine the unfair way we distribute food.

Biofuel controversy reached a crescendo in July, when the Guardian brought us news of an internal World Bank Report which found that biofuels had increased food prices by 75%, which had apparently been kept secret since May to ‘avoid embarrassing President Bush’; Blogosphere reaction was intense, with The Oil Drum, Green Car Congress, Peak Oil News, Peak Energy, and AutoblogGreen, quoting or highlighting parts of the article. Earth2Tech, Green Tech blog, WorldChanging, and Gristmill referenced the report and explored the food-fuel connection further, while American Fuels brought us a counter-argument from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Sustainable Biofuels

With all the controversy, others were discussing better ways to do things.  In March, Worldchanging brought us the two articles on Common Sense on Biofuels and Growing Sustainable Biofuels.  Earth2Tech and Peak Energy found them compelling.

Later that month, Earth2Tech brought us a list of 15 Algae Startups Bringing Pond Scum to Fuel TanksAlternative Energy Stocks‘ Week in CleanTech, Matter Network, Next Big Future, and Dark Enough to See the Stars referenced it in articles about sustainable biofuels, while EcoGeek.org took it as a sign that Algae had reached a tipping point, but I warned people away from PetroSun, a publicly- traded algae company in the list.  

On the lighter side, TreeHugger exhorted us to Grow our Own Oil with The Diesel Tree.  The idea of Australian farmers tapping these Brazillian trees for agridiesel caught the imaginations of The Good Human  and GroovyGreen.com.


In September, the BBC told us why IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri thinks we can do more for the climate by not eating meat than we can by reducing drivingWatts Up With That? thinks Pachauri is "putting his religious views forward from his position as IPCC chair." But back in August, WorldChanging wondered if Cattle Can Save Us From Global Warming.
In November, The Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital quoted Steven Chu saying "Coal is My Worst Nightmare."  AutoblogGreen expects to be writing a lot about him in the coming years, while Joe Romm at Gristmill had five reas”avg”>ons Chu is a great pick.


In June, The Guardian told us of the massive growth of wind in China, although it’s still behind coal.  The WSJ.com: Environmental Capital and  NewEnergyNews took note.

Energy Storage

In July, ScienceDaily trumpeted a ‘Major Discovery’ Primed To Unleash Solar Revolution: Scientists Mimic Essence Of Plants’ Energy Storage System, also covered by Technology ReviewNew Energy and Fuel hope this means the Hydrogen economy might finally take off, but Clippings thinks plants still have the edge.  

Why So Much Biofuel? 

Clearly, these are not the most important stories of 2008… but they did get bloggers blogging.  Probably the most significant events in CleanTech were Obama’s election (surely that must trump his choice of Energy Secretary?) and how the Credit Crunch will change the future of CleanTech.  Rather, this is an eclectic look back at what really got our blogging juices flowing in 2008.  Since September, Cleantech bloggers have probably been wishing for that more innocent time when the biggest issue we had to blog about was the sustainability of biofuels.

If you’re looking for news from specific CleanTech industries, try AltEnergyStocks.com’s category pages, and which collect stories for each of our categories such as Solar, Energy Efficiency, Clean Transportation, Mutual Funds and ETFs, Batteries, Wind, Waste-to-Energy, and many more.  Scroll past the stock list on any of these pages, and catch up on your favorite Alternative Energy sector. 

Tom Konrad


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