Ethanol: The Clean Energy Scam

 

Time Magazine’s current issue on newstands features an cover story on an issue that most places are afraid to tackle: the danger of biodiesel fuel.  I have to admit that before reading this story, I didn’t know much more than the very basics on ethanol, so reading about how it actually worsens global warming was a real eye opener.  The problem with ethanol is that growing the products we’re using to turn into fuel is destroying forests that reduce carbon emissions.  Additionally, the amount of corn needed to fill a single S.U.V. gas tank could feed a single person for an entire year.  So by pursuing ethanol as a means of biodiesel, we’re actually making global warming and global hunger worse.

Deforestation accounts for 20% of all current carbon emissions. So unless the world can eliminate emissions from all other sources–cars, power plants, factories, even flatulent cows–it needs to reduce deforestation or risk an environmental catastrophe. That means limiting the expansion of agriculture, a daunting task as the world’s population keeps expanding. And saving forests is probably an impossibility so long as vast expanses of cropland are used to grow modest amounts of fuel. The biofuels boom, in short, is one that could haunt the planet for generations–and it’s only getting started.

It’s a long and in-depth story that covers the issue from a variety of angles, and it’s definitely worth 30 minutes of your life.  You’ll come away with a greater understanding of what may be one of the biggest environmental blunders we’ve been enthusiastically committing for years.  This is definitely a must read.
The Clean Energy Scam – [Time]

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4 Responses

  1. Scott posted. 🙂 Good article.

  2. The important aspect of why biofuels can cause deforestation is the use of food crops to create this portable fuels. It is important to recognize that there are technologies being developed that can actually move the biofuels industry away from food crops into other types of inputs that aren’t used as food crops or compete with land that can be used to grow food crops. Currently there is work on using municipal waste or agricultural waste to be converted to biofuels, and more advanced technologies that such as using algae to convert solar energy into portable fuels. See this article below:

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/04/01/algae.oil/index.html?iref=newssearch

    There is also the potential to plant perenial energy crops on poor, arid land that can not be used to grow food crops such as the infamous switch grass that have the added benefit of extracting CO2 from the air the same way forests do. In addition, when these crops are converted to ethanol, there is an opportunity to capture CO2 from fermentation and according to EPA models on fuel production have an 85% reduction in net green house gas emissions compared to a gallon of gasoline. This includes all steps, from growing and harvesting the crop to burning it in a fuel tank on a car.

    The point is that yes using grain as a feedstock is not sustainable long term, but this industry has a chance to grow into something that can be very beneficial overall. The public needs to be aware of what else is being developed.

  3. You’re absolutely right Chris. The Time article actually does go into the positive approaches towards biofuels that you just mentioned. However, I realize that a lot of people don’t have the time to read the entire article, so it’s good that you posted that information here in the comments.

  4. City Pages did a little blog on the TIME story http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2008/04/u_of_m_worldwid.php

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