Friday, February 08, 2008

Biofuels More Harm Than Good?

According to a new study in the journal Science, crop production for biofuels is actually increasing greenhouse gas emissions which, of course completely defeats the purpose of biofuels.

Clearing productive agricultural land which involves turning over dirt, burning or rotting plant material, releases so much carbon into the atmosphere, that in some cases, the land would have to be farmed for hundreds of years before a net benefit from the use of the biofuel end-product could be realized.

Some specific examples cited by the Los Angeles Times:
  • "The analysis calculated that a U.S. cornfield devoted to producing ethanol would have to be farmed for 167 years before it would begin to achieve a net reduction in emissions."

  • "The study found that clearing an Indonesian peatland rain forest to make way for a biofuel plantation -- a conversion that is occurring rapidly to satisfy Europe's rising demand for biodiesel -- releases so much carbon that a net reduction in emissions would not begin for 423 years."

  • "Cutting down a tropical rain forest in Brazil to grow soybeans for biodiesel increases emissions for 319 years, the researchers found."
The rush to biofuels is most apparent here in the United States in increased ethanol producion. Since 2000, annual ethanol production has increased by almost 5 billion gallons.