David Blume's "Alcohol Can Be a Gas! - Fueling an Ethanol Revolution
for the 21st Century", Foreword by R. Buckminster Fuller,
International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, California, 2007
When David Blume emailed me about reviewing his new book he said:
"It's destined to be considered the bible of small to medium scale
alcohol production", and I thought uh-huh, heard that a few times
But he could afford to boast: it IS the bible of small to medium
scale alcohol production.
Not only that, Blume's managed to give it such sheer sweep that it's
become a little difficult to discuss just about any biofuels
production in depth, alcohol or other, without taking some account of
his book. You might not agree with everything he says, about Peak Oil
perhaps, or maybe about subsidies and tax incentives, or the evil
antics of "MegaOilron" (Big Oil et al), or maybe vegetarianism. But
it's all pertinent - Blume isn't short on opinion, but he isn't short
on straight facts either, nor on context and background. He's pushed
the whole issue a few steps forward.
Alcohol fuel (ethanol) is supposedly for gasoline engines, not
diesels, but if you have a diesel you'll find the book very
informative. Informative too if you're a biodieseler, or if you use
SVO, or if your interest is biogas, or microturbine cogeneration.
But the main focus is on fuel ethanol as an alternative to gasoline,
and with ethanol and other biofuels right in the thick of the raging
worldwide row over soaring food prices (and oil prices), largely in
the role of scapegoat, Blume's contribution is substantial and
timely. Chapter 2 is titled "Busting the myths", and Blume does a
good job of it, including the "Food vs fuel" myth, and he gets it
The myth-busting doesn't stop there though, the book is peppered with
it. For instance, everyone knows you can't run an ordinary car on
E-85 fuel (85% ethanol 15% gasoline) without converting the engine
first unless it's a special "flexible-fuel vehicle", right? Blume
might change your mind about that, in a thorough and detailed
treatment of the real options of using alcohol as fuel.
Blume has been working with alcohol fuel for 30 years and he brings a
wealth of in-depth information and direct experience to the subject.
He wrote the first version of this book in 1983. His account of why
it wasn't published then (in spite of a contract) makes a good read,
and helps explain his very obvious lack of affection for
"MegaOilron", apart from all the usual good reasons (he has those
too, it's not just spleen).
This new version of the book is a complete rework and a major
expansion of the original. Blume raised $250,000 to finance the
project (no corporate funding) and spent four years researching it
full-time, working with many other people on the project and
travelling extensively for on-the-ground investigations, not only in
the US but also in Brazil and India.
The result is a big book, 594 big pages, with loads of photographs,
illustrations, diagrams, charts and tables, and packed with
Actually it's six books in one. Book 1, "Understanding Alcohol:
Visions and Solutions", covers the history and busts the major myths,
along with a chapter on the permaculture approach (Blume's an organic
farmer, which helps a lot, he makes essential connections that many
others fail to see), another chapter on nasties like tarsands, oil
shale, nukes and so on, and a whole chapter on developments in Brazil.
Books 2, 3 and 4 cover the nuts and bolts of making alcohol, handling
the co-products, and using the fuel - detailed coverage, good
information on all aspects of distillation, thorough treatment of
feedstocks, good on integrated systems for co-products use, detailed
information on engine conversion, including two case-study
Book 5 is "The Business of Alcohol: Hands-On Advice", Book 6 is "A
Vision for the Nation". Plus appendices, a useful 22-page glossary,
and, mercifully, a good index (21 pages).
The main focus of the book is on the US but it's not just for
Americans, it's for anyone really. There's a lot of it, but it isn't
a difficult read, Blume's a clear writer with a breezy style and the
advantage of someone who really knows his subject.
Blume describes the book at the beginning as "a complete tool kit to
revolutionize our transportation energy system, combining a broad,
sweeping vision with intricate detail", and indeed it does that.
He says: "This book is not about providing unlimited clean fuels for
SUVs. It's about shaping energy policy now with our own individual
and group actions, to make sure the energy future we get is the one
we want and not the one the Oilygarchy is planning for us. This book
... puts both the power and the responsibility for implementing the
solution in the hands of ordinary people, working together at the
We've been saying things like that here for a long time, haven't we?
And at Journey to Forever.
You'll like David Blume, he's downright good value, IMHO.
More here, at Blume's website:
Journey to Forever
KYOTO Pref., Japan
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