Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.

These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development.

The destruction of natural ecosystems ”” whether rain forest in the tropics or grasslands in South America ”” not only releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when they are burned and plowed, but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs far less carbon than the rain forests or even scrubland that it replaces.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

17 comments on “Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat

  1. libraryjim says:

    At the risk of sounding sarcastic, please allow me to say:

    Ha ha ha ha! I knew it. Too hasty a response to a non-problem!

  2. Dave B says:

    I am reminded that the internal combustion engine and cars were considered solutions to pollution probelms. Horse waste was a major problem in cities and oil processing was primarily used to produce heating oil and oil for lights and coooking, there was this very dangerous by product that was evaporated in hugh evaporation ponds call gasoline. The auto solved all these problems! The law of unintended consequences is always out there!

  3. the snarkster says:

    The [i]Law of Unintended Consequences[/i] strikes again.

    the snarkster

  4. DonGander says:

    Of course all this worry about “greenhouse gas” may yet prove to be irrelevant anyway.

    I, personally, think that most greenhouse gasses are good. God bless them and us.

  5. Harry Edmon says:

    Solution – we need to get rid of greenhouses. Or make them less gaseous.

  6. AnglicanFirst says:

    Nuclear power and geothermal (the deeper you dig the hotter it becomes) heat transfer and power generation, they don’t generate greenhouse gases. They would also contribute to reduced dependence on foreign energy sources.

    These answers are too easy for the politicians and the general public to comprehend. Besides the NIMBYs (not-in-my-back-yard) would cry and moan.

  7. Paula Loughlin says:

    I worry more about the effect biofuels have on our food supply.

  8. AnglicanFirst says:

    “I worry more about the effect biofuels have on our food supply.”
    A very good point.

  9. Wilfred says:

    Biofuels have been promoted by an odd alliance of idealistic greenies & big agribusiness. They are counterproductive to the stated goals of the first group, but very productive to the goal of the second. There is a lot of profit to be made if you are on the right side of a government mandate.

    “Activists” should note: often doing nothing at all is better than the pet government program [i] du jour. [/i]

  10. DonGander says:

    “I worry more about the effect biofuels have on our food supply.”

    I simpathise with this concern (especially for third world buyers of day-to-day food) but please consider that food is far too inexpensive. Farmers should be the wealthy among us because they provide for a need rather than a want, but, in fact, a vast majority of farmers have been in poverty since the 1930s and no escape is in sight. People have been quiting farming in vast numbers for 2 generations now and it is excellerating. It is sad that such must be.

    Consider the additional revenue that they could have had if we had not killed off one third of our children… I have read secular studies that indicated that a 30% increase in consumption would bring prices to a reasonable level.

    Her in Wisconsin we have square mile after square mile of good land that is in non-production. It is sad.

  11. Words Matter says:

    DonGander – might that be a function of more efficient methods of production and harvest rather than population? Just wondering… heaven knows I’m not an economist.

    This is interesting, though, since I had never been aware of biofuels until last night, when I caught the tail end of a History Channel show that was trumpeting Carl’s Corner, the truck stop south of Dallas/Fort Worth, for making and selling it.

  12. Paula Loughlin says:

    Don, actually my concern was with third world buyers more than my trip to the grocery store. I appreciate that the farmer does not get the greater portion of my food dollar.

  13. Katherine says:

    The really encouraging thing about this report is that it’s in the New York Times. Some people still consider this [i]the[/i] newspaper, and this appearance may help convince some who thought it was just conservative bloggers who thought this way.

    Biofuels from waste products might make some sense. I believe that Brazil’s ethanol for autos comes from the leftover mash from sugar cane, which would otherwise be discarded.

  14. DonGander says:

    “..might that be a function of more efficient methods of production and harvest rather than population?”

    There is no doubt that the fact which you state is significant in the answer. Other significant facts include government meddling and subsidies, societal ethical changes, and changes in food consumption. But the removal of a substantual market in the midst of tremendous production increases is problematic on several levels.

    Just as an example, I do not eat hamburger any more as no human eye ever sees what goes into hamburger any more. I once got a ball bearing in some processed meat. I now have my wife visually identify and quality access each cut of meat that we buy. If I can’t identify it – I ain’t buying it. I shudder to think what some computer-run robot puts in the hamburger-grinder of some factory turning out tons and tons of production with only a few people working in the plant.

    I do buy from the local meatprocessor that has real people doing the work. I trust that they have some kind of a conscience.

    That is but one instance that indicates that bigger is not always better. But we are used to accepting the propaganda that “it tastes just like butter”, or, it sounds just like a real piano”. My response (a rare one, by the way) is, “How about just eating real butter and using a real piano?”

  15. libraryjim says:

    we have a table top hand cranked meat grinder. It’s cheaper to buy scrap pieces of meat, or even chuck roast on sale and make our own hamburger.

    At least that was the reasoning when we bought it — since it is still in the box it came in 15 years later!

  16. Irenaeus says:

    The decisive political support for ethanol subsidies doesn’t come from environmentalists. It comes from farmers and agribusiness.

  17. Irenaeus says:

    “It is still in the box it came in”

    Jim [#15]: If we lived nearby, our unopened good ideas could keep yours company.