News of a biofuels pilot project to determine how much ethanol could be squeezed out of Hawaii crops got me thinking about our islands' footprint (via starbulletin).
Under the best of circumstances, I wondered, how much biofuel could we produce?
I quickly realized we're not even in the right ballpark.
Let's do the math for Kauai, my home island, using statistics readily available from the Hawaii Databook on oil consumption and land use.
Right off the top, we notice that Kauai currently uses roughly 70 million gallons of petroleum products annually (40% for driving, and 60% for electricity).
At the same time, the news reports that most crops under consideration could produce around 400 gallons per acre.
Thus, our island's 350,000 acres could maximally produce 140 million gallons of fuel...or twice what we need.
So, yes, we could be self-sufficient in fuel...as long as we needed not much else.
Let's break this down a bit further.
Our island has roughly 350,000 acres, of which 140,000 is ag land, and 16,000 acres is urban/rural (where we live). The rest is conservation land (mostly mountains).
Using a conservative estimate of 0.6 acres per capita for food production, we would need 48,000 acres for food.
This leaves less than 100,000 acres for other crops.
If all this were put into biofuels, we could produce 37 million gallons of fuel.
So, say we switched all our electric energy away from petroleum, and reduced our auto mileage by 20%. Then, we could be self sufficient.
But, again, this is true only if we needed nothing else...like housing, healthcare, consumer goods and services.
Hmmm...wot's da clue?
This gives a whole new meaning to the calls for dramatic reduction in our use of fuels and electricity. It's not just about their emissions, but also their footprint in acres.
We gotta reduce, both because we don't have enough land to grow this stuff AND because our atmosphere can't handle the emissions.
Oh, and, I notice that Tom Deluca (ecologist with the Wilderness Society) is saying essentially the same thing about Montana (via NewWest).