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DIY Energy Saving Home Improvements

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Not everyone is a DIY king and I am most certainly not one of them. I do fix things around the house, but they are usually simple little things. About 6 months ago I picked up a DIY book that came recommended as I wanted to broaden my knowledge and see where I could save some money rather than calling out trades people when I faced a job I felt insecure about. The book has been amazing and today I want to share something I learned and have implemented myself on my own home.

My house is relatively new having been built in the mid-90s and I know that the previous owner had done some improvements to the insulation. I honestly never really thought the house was cold or that my energy bills were particularly high. But then my last heating bill arrived which was the first one with some cold weather and after I made some upgrades to the insulation.

The first thing I did was to explore the attic and take some measurements of the insulation that was there. It was pretty decent actually but things have dramatically changed since the 90s. Materials are now much better and the recommended amounts of insulation are much higher.

As it turns out, adding insulation to your attic is quite a simple job and all I really needed to do was hire an insulation blower and get my brother to help me out on the day. I first calculated the cost of the blown in insulation material I would need and I quickly realized that is would end up costing me less than $800 including the rental of the machinery.

I could have gone for spray foam insulation material but it is considerably more expensive and at the end of the day it has the same results. As I do not use the attic I really wasn’t worried too much about how thick the layer of insulation would be.

The great thing about this project was that it was incredibly simple, reasonably cheap and now that the cold weather has arrived I have noticed a huge improvement in heat being retained. When I get up in the mornings I no longer need to have the heating on as the temperature in all the rooms is still high enough. At this stage I think my heating bills are down about 15%, but I will keep track of this over the winter and make some more detailed calculations and comparisons to previous years once the spring arrives.

The project was so simple that we actually were finished within 3 hours and then back to Home Depot to get more insulation material to do my brother’s house on the same day. This saved us money by not needing to rent the blowing machine for another day.

As I mentioned above, I’m not the most proficient DIY guy, but this was a really simple solutions that has saved me considerable amounts of energy already. I would highly recommend doing this, as the payoff will come within just a few years and you don’t need to hire expert help.

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What Is Bioenergy?

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This is a question that is often not correctly answered or the answer is often not fully complete. While crude oil was created from biological material of thousands and even millions of years, it is not what is classed as bioenergy, because it is not from a renewable source. There really is no shortage of different materials that are today used as biomass for the production of energy, but here are some examples:

  • Wood
  • Wood production waste
  • Manure
  • Corn
  • Sugar beet and cane
  • Straw and grass

In some instances the source is of biomass is specifically grown for the production of bioenergy, but what has happened in recent years to ever larger degrees is that waste products from other industries are used. These industries include food production, paper mills and many others. The great thing is that waste products are taken from these industries, which would otherwise have cost them to adequately dispose of.

fieldWhile energy production from biomass is still far behind non-renewable sources, the US has increased it output to over 7 GW which is a substantial base to build on. At this stage we should highlight that bioenergy production alone will never be able to fully offset fossil fuels because of the amounts of arable land required. There simply would not be enough scope to produce all the food needed and energy.

One of the main areas for improvement is still the accumulation of waste products from other industries. As this waste would ultimately just end up on land fill sites it literally is a waste from an energy point of view. One of the leaders in this area has been Brazil where sugarcane and waste from that industry has been increasingly used in the production of electricity and now becoming the world leader in this area.

The main benefit of bioenergy is that it comes from renewable sources and essentially is carbon neutral. This means that the carbon released from burring the biomass is the same as was absorbed from the atmosphere during the growth period. But there still is an environmental impact when not executed correctly. What has happened in many places is that forest areas have been cut down to make way for land used for the production of biomass.

This has a very negative effect as the forest would have absorbed far more carbon than any crop could, and there have been some pretty bad mistakes made throughout the world.

That is why we are such ardent supporters of using biomass sourced from industry and household waste rather than growing crops. It also has a negative impact on the price of food where now the food industry has to compete with large energy corporations for the same resource which has been driving prices up.

Finding the balance is going to be difficult but it will be essential to solving the energy problem of the world. We simply cannot afford to continue to be reliant on fossil fuels that are doing so much damage. Biomass is only one piece in the puzzle that will span numerous industries.

Biofuel: Definition and Categories

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A biofuel is a liquid or gaseous fuel created from the processing of non-fossil organic materials derived from biomass, eg vegetable materials produced by agriculture (beet, wheat, maize, rapeseed, sunflower, potato, etc.). .).

Although the English language has only one biofuel name, several names coexist in the French language: biofuel (term chosen by the European Parliament), agrofuel or vegetable fuel.

Biofuels are assimilated to a renewable energy source. Their combustion produces only CO2 and water vapor and little or no nitrogen and sulfur oxides (NOx, SOx).

There are three generations of biofuels:

First-generation biofuels

They are mainly two types:

Bioethanol: it is produced from sugar cane, cereals and sugar beet. It is used in gasoline engines;

Biodiesel: it is derived from different sources of fatty acids, including soybean, rapeseed, palm and other vegetable oils. It is used in diesel engines.

First generation biofuels compete directly with the food chain. They are produced from raw materials that can be used in an animal or human food chain. Today, only this generation is produced on an industrial scale.

Second Generation Biofuels

Technologies are being developed to exploit cellulosic materials such as wood, leaves and stems of plants, or waste.

These materials are referred to as lignocellulosic biomass because they come from woody or carbon-based components that are not directly used in food production. These characteristics have a higher availability and non-competitive advantage compared to the first generation of biofuels.

This technology allows the production of second-generation bioethanol, biodiesel, bio-hydrogen or biogas.

It is not yet deployed at the industrial stage but prospects for implementation in the medium term are emerging. Their large-scale production is planned for 2020-2030.

Third Generation Biofuels

The processes still under study rely mainly on the use of microorganisms such as microalgae.

These can accumulate fatty acids that allow for per hectare yields that are higher by a factor of 30 than terrestrial oilseeds. From these fatty acids, it is possible to generate biodiesel. Some species of microalgae can contain sugars and thus be fermented in bioethanol. Finally, microalgae can be methanated to produce biogas. Some of them can also produce biohydrogen.

The main production techniques for first generation fuels are as follows:

Bioethanol: the manufacturing process transforms the sugar of the vegetable matter into alcohol (ethanol) by fermentation. It is mixed with gasoline either directly or in a different chemical form;

Biodiesel: it is made from the reaction between a semi-refined vegetable oil, obtained mainly from vegetable oils (rapeseed, sunflower) with an alcohol. The process is called “transesterification”: vegetable oils are cold mixed with an alcohol in the presence of a catalyst (sodium or potassium hydroxide). Biodiesel is mixed only with diesel fuel.

Second generation Biofuel

Third generation biofuels are still only at the research stage and pilot projects. One of the main lines of reflection is based on the fact that some microorganisms can provide hydrogen or lipids (fatty acids) under the effect of light and other chemical substances.

Challenges to energy

Economic issues

Biofuels represent an additional source of fuel and a new agro-industrial activity. They enable the countries that produce them to reduce their energy dependence on fossil fuels. However, the use of first-generation biofuels may lead to increased demand and higher prices for agricultural products. This can create social instability in poor countries. Indeed, it should be noted that in Haiti and other African countries like Senegal have already erupted riots of hunger.

Environmental issues

The combustion of fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For biofuels, the carbon emitted during their combustion in the atmosphere was previously fixed by the plants during the photosynthesis. Thus, the carbon balance seems a priori neutral. However, the ideal situation has not yet been reached in practice because the production of these biofuels requires human, agricultural, transport, industrial process work and therefore consumption of fuels and possibly other substances whose use produces Also GHGs.

On the other hand, the sustainability of agrofuel production can be undermined if it is carried out in an unsustainable way: soil depletion, water pollution and the destruction of natural environments for this production.

Evolution of European legislation

The European Directive 2009/28 / EC (1) sets a target for the integration of renewable sources in the transport sector by at least 10% for each Member State by 2020.

The Directive also establishes sustainability criteria for biofuels (in Articles 17 to 19), in keeping with the objective of reducing greenhouse gases, to preserve biodiversity-rich land.

Among the criteria set, biofuels must emit at least 35% less greenhouse gases than traditional fuels to be considered “sustainable”. In January 2017, this reduction in greenhouse gases resulting from the use of biofuels will have to reach at least 50% and 60% by January 2018.

On 11 September 2013, the European Parliament also decided to limit the share of 1st generation biofuels to 6% of the final energy consumed in the transport sector. This ceiling aims to reduce the impact of the development of this category of biofuels on food production. A target of 2.5% is also set for 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels.

Top Career Prospects In Bio-energy Sector

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In the past 6 to 12 months we have been repeatedly asked what we believe the best career options are in the energy sector. To a large extent we believe this is down to some pretty heavy job losses in the oil boom states like North Dakota.

Because there has been such a significant drop in oil and natural gas prices this has resulted in a lot of fracking projects no longer being viable. Ultimately this has led to thousands of job losses. The same is very much happening in the Mexican Gulf States, especially Texas being hit hard.

From a bio energy point of view the impact has been nowhere near as significant, because it is a much steadier niche energy sub sector. What I mean by that is that while we are impacted by overall movements in energy prices, which hit our bottom line, demand for our products is relatively stable.

Yes, we are taking hits on the profit side, but we are still producing more or less the same, meaning that we do not have to lay off workers at present. As matter of fact, there are countless opportunities and I would like to highlight some of those here.



Because our plants are constantly being expanded and new machinery is being added we have a huge demand for industrial welders. One of our latest hires was very unfortunate, in that he was half way through a course offered at Texas underwater welding schools. He had invested 9 months of his time and almost $20,000 only to find that all the job opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico had completely vanished.

The good thing was that John was not just specialized in underwater welding, but rather had started with regular welding classes and then decided to expand his education. This meant that was able to immediately adapt to his situation and apply for jobs in the Bio sector and he has been a fantastic addition to our team.

A lot of the welding jobs we have at the moment involve the expansion of industrial machinery and plants. It seems like we have a constant backlog of different teams requesting work for our welders.


Heavy Machine Operators

Most people just think of operators for the construction and mining industry, but truth is that we are very dependent on good machine operators. We do not require as many or even the types of operators as the regular oil industry, but a significant part of our workforce is involved in keeping the plant running and fed.

Both input and output products of the plant need to be moved and kept moving. This requires a very flexible and hardworking team that are constantly adapting to changing speeds of operation and ever more technical machinery. If you are familiar with heavy machinery and get excited about new technologies then you should be very suitable for our industry.


Truck Drivers

The carbon oil and gas refining industry enjoys one significant advantage on the supply chain side. There are huge networks of pipelines that directly transport natural gas and oil to industrial plants that then refine it for sale onto the market.

With bio energy refining this is not possible. Most of our input products are agricultural in nature and have to be transported on large trucks. These arrive in at many plants on a 24/7 basis to keep the plants running at maximum capacity. If you have been recently laid off from an energy sector transportation job then I highly recommend you seek for opportunities in bio energy. We are heavily dependent on reliable drivers and there are quite a few transport companies that work almost exclusively with bioenergy companies.


These are just three of the most heavily sought after job opportunities. I will be expanding this list in the coming months as we expand our operation and our recruitment drive gets into full swing. Stay posted!

Energy Efficient Travelling

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Walking is of course the most carbon efficient way to get from A to B, but there are not many people that are able to get everywhere they need to by walking. In this article I want to highlight a way that I think about travelling in order to keep my carbon output to a minimum.



cyclingAny time I want to get somewhere a bit faster than by walking or if the distance is a bit further than a short walk, I get on my bicycle. It is extremely efficient, I don’t have to search or pay for parking and I stay fit at the same time. Some cities are better set up for cycling than others, but in most cases you can get around very easily and in many cases a lot faster than by all other modes of transport.


Public Transport

I will be the first to point out that not all distances are viable for cycling and there are times of the year where snow and ice would make it very dangerous to cycle. My first option in these instances is utilize public transport as this is a far less carbon intensive form of transport. Of course public transport varies from city to city, with many rural areas having very limited services.


Electric Car

When public transport is not viable or in some cases not available then a car really is the most convenient way to get around. But you should not be getting into a gas guzzler with plumes of smoke and carbon coming out the tail pipe. At this stage there are loads of electric and hybrid cars available that will provide over 100 miles to the gallon or the equivalent thereof. For shorter distances they are ideal and in recent years the range has drastically increased making them ideal for commuting.



AmtrakFor long distances especially across state lines I prefer to use the railway network. For some reason it is not hugely popular mainly because it is seen as taking longer than flying. But this is seldom the case. Yes, you live in NY and want to go to LA, the rail network will take a lot longer than the flight. But if you are in NY and want to go to Washington DC, then rail is a pretty good option. The main advantage is that you leave from the center of NY and arrive in the center of Washington. No need to factor in the time and cost of getting to and from the airport!



If you have to fly somewhere then one thing you can do to offset the carbon output associated with the journey is by buying carbon credits. Your money will be used to deliver finance to things like forestry, renewable energy and conservation projects and there are very convenient calculators available that will tell you how much carbon you are responsible for and how many credits would offset this. I do this for my entire energy usage several times a year, which means that between using less energy and buying carbon credits I am essentially living a carbon neutral life.