Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Melissa Lafsky is the latest to sound the alarm on biofuels

Very important posting:
A worldwide movement to cut emissions and halt what a growing number of scientists call a massive global crisis. Except it all hit a roadblock last week, when two newly-released studies reported that the net environmental effect of using biofuels may be even more harmful than burning the gasoline they were created to replace.

The first study, led by Princeton University environment and economics researcher Timothy Searchinger, found that replacing fossil fuels with corn-based ethanol could actually double greenhouse gas emissions for the next thirty years.

The second study, led by Joseph Fargione, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy, found that by switching to biofuels, we could essentially be worsening climate change for the next 93 years, in that “[t]he clearance of grassland releases 93 times the amount of greenhouse gas that would be saved by the fuel made annually on that land,” according to the Times. Not to mention the fact that, by switching to growing corn, U.S. farmers have turned away from growing other crops, such as soy. As a result, Fargione told the Times, “‘Brazilian farmers are planting more of the world’s soybeans — and they’re deforesting the Amazon to do it.’”

So in a matter of days, biofuels go from a celebrated fossil fuels alternative to a rainforest-killing disaster, with scientists already calling for government reform on biofuel policies. If anything, this provides a window into how little we actually know about this issue, and the wide lengths left to go in reaching a viable solution.

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