To the People

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

New Studies Suggest that Biofuels Create Much More Carbon Than Oil/Gas

While Congress keeps increasing its biofuel mandates, scientific evidence is emerging that proports that biofuels are an environmental disaster and make oil look as innocuous as solar panels in comparison.

From the WSJ today:
A study published in the latest issue of Science finds that corn-based ethanol, a type of biofuel pushed heavily in the U.S., will nearly double the output of greenhouse-gas emissions instead of reducing them by about one-fifth by some estimates. A separate paper in Science concludes that clearing native habitats to grow crops for biofuel generally will lead to more carbon emissions.

Some earlier studies didn't account for one hard-to-measure factor: the decision by farmers world-wide to convert forest and grasslands to grow feedstock for the new biofuels.

Such land-use changes can have big and unintended consequences, such as food shortages and reduced biodiversity. For example, when forests or grasslands are converted for agricultural use, it leads to a large, quick release of carbon when the existing plant life is destroyed and the soil is tilled. Even if biofuels are grown on cropland previously used to grow food, farmers tend to then clear other forests and grasslands and grow the food elsewhere.

"Even if we're dramatically wrong, it's hard to get to a result that says you get a benefit over 50 years," said Timothy Searchinger, a researcher at Princeton University and a co-author of the paper on corn-based ethanol.
Way to go Congress for mandating a worse ecological disaster to replace the optional one. This issue alone makes me fervently support a national primary so that corn-growing Iowa loses its disproportional influence on US policy.

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