Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Feb 8, 2008 with 2 responses

Biofuels Aren’t Green?

At least that’s what a new study says. I think it paints with a pretty broad brush, because I do in fact think some can be green. But a new study published in Science, echoing the themes of an earlier study I highlighted, concludes that almost all biofuels in use today will increase greenhouse gas emissions. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Biofuels May Hinder Antiglobal-Warming Efforts

While the U.S. and others race to expand the use and production of biofuels, two new studies suggest these gasoline alternatives actually will increase carbon-dioxide levels.

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.

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.

Not surprisingly, the corn ethanol lobby disagrees:

“We absolutely assert that ethanol production and use is a responsible way to address the environmental, energy and economic challenges the world faces today,” spokesman Matt Hartwig said. He said the group’s researchers will study the papers and formulate a response.

Assertions are great, but I prefer science. And science is winning the war against corn ethanol. But I have my doubts that the political battle will ever be won.

  1. By Mark Beemer on March 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    All of you are highly mistaken relatvie to growing crops for food. If you knew anything about corn and soybean production agriculture, you would know that corn is NOT grown for food! It is grown to feed livestock or feed agricultural processing plants. I KNOW because I have worked in this the agricultural industry for over 23 years. All of you are highly mistaken in that the corn people eat is called “sweet corn” a genetic variety that is derived from the 1920′s. It is less than .1% of the total USA corn crop and it has horribly small yields. The 99.9% of the corn grown in the WORLD is highly genetically modified corn from Monsanto, Sygenta, or DuPont.

    And for those of you who subscribe to “food shortages” are absolutely clueless. The world produces more food than what it can ever consume, this issue is an economic shortage of money to buy the food. Did you hear that? There is is more than enough food to supply the whole world and more with food, but food is not free whether you grow it in a garden or buy it on the world markets, economics demand that you buy seed and fertilizer. And, it takes a lot of labor.

    We have more than enough food to feed the world and PRODUCE BIOFUELS so stop the bullshit propaganda and if you are going to profess to be an expert its time you take a few classes and realize this country has a much longer of history of agricultural over production than not enough agircultural supply!

  2. By Robert Rapier on March 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Mark, we have had some issues with some comments not being imported from the original post. Are your comments directed at the blog, or at someone else’s comments? If the former, I will address that, but your response appears disconnected from what I wrote.


Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!