Growing biofuels in the way of industrial agriculture does not work because it takes water a lot of chemicals and uses prime land which takes away from food production. If the total costs require many times the energy you get back it is not worth it. So we have to evaluate the value of growing fuel for energy by knowing the hidden energy costs to all production.
Since going to India I have learned of systems which have been practiced there for thousands of years which can regenerate wastelands, and grow plants without irrigation with outside inputs of only microbe and mycorhizzal inoculations (with very small cost).
These practices, though used for thousands of years in traditional Indian agriculture, were abandoned by most farmers in their desire to embrace modern methods (the green revolution).
Toby Hemenway describes in his video “Why Agriculture Can Never be Sustainable” the paradigm our agricultural system is based on. One of the things he says is that when a person in an agriculture paradigm looks at this type of system which he calls a horticulture paradigm, “we” do not understand it. in the case of india, when “we” saw all the vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains,and legumes growing together we did not see a food production system, we say chaos. we did not measure how much grain, how much fruit, how many nuts, how many vegetables and recognize that it was several times the productivity “we” were getting with our monocropping systems.
Applying these systems is a revolutionary concept in an agriculture paradigm. what most people believe, that you need chemicals or at least large amounts of organic material to grow food or biofuels is not true. Besides the traditional indian systems, forests are our model for growing without outside nutrients or irrigation.. These practices make growing biofuels possible, especially in a system like the one described where the soil is regenerated, and the ground water recharged.
We propose to grow biofuels on a village scale. There is a lot of documentation that small farmers using small tracts can produce much higher yields per acre, and hence feed the world, one such example being the results of small farmers in Cuba to feed her population after the loss of Russian oil. we would add to that that small farmers can fuel the world.
We suggest starting with biogas systems to include human manure, animal manures, azola or another plant that grows well in water in the local environment, many fast growing trees and plants for mulch, and any residuals from the harvest. (The system requires that the plant residues from the harvest are neither burned nor taken off the land where they are grown. This system requires keeping the crop residues on the land as mulch.) The biogas produced can be used to power cooking and lighting for the farmer as well as any farm equipment. This could be expanded to oil crops and if the problems with ethanol can be worked out, crops to produce ethanol. Ethanol could be used for motor cycles without any changes. In fact ethanol burns cleaner and hence allows longer engine life with good speed than gasoline allows.