Biofuels are evil, part 1000

Turns out that as I keep saying again and again, biofuels are just plain pointless and may actually increase CO2 concentrations.

Forget biofuels – burn oil and plant forests instead – earth – 16 August 2007 – New Scientist Environment

It sounds counterintuitive, but burning oil and planting forests to compensate is more environmentally friendly than burning biofuel. So say scientists who have calculated the difference in net emissions between using land to produce biofuel and the alternative: fuelling cars with gasoline and replanting forests on the land instead.

They recommend governments steer away from biofuel and focus on reforestation and maximising the efficiency of fossil fuels instead.

The reason is that producing biofuel is not a “green process”. It requires tractors and fertilisers and land, all of which means burning fossil fuels to make “green” fuel. In the case of bioethanol produced from corn – an alternative to oil – “it’s essentially a zero-sums game,” says Ghislaine Kieffer, programme manager for Latin America at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France

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  1. We really need a change in mindset, where it’s not how do we find the next cheap, bountiful source of fuel, but rather modifying our ridiculously wasteful behavior and using less fuel more efficiently, regardless of its source.

  2. Not all biofuels are Evil. Technically, Biodiesel is a bio fuel. While it cannot supply the current, or even “green utopia world of the futures” need for a fuel source, it does make use of a resource that would normally be considered waste.

    But yes, corn ethanol is pointless, I agree. And I agree with Bruce that what is needed more than a new fuel source is a new mindset. But even with that new mindset, we will eventually need a new fuel source.

  3. I am very sceptical about our ability to exploit biofuels in a way that will not exacerbate global warming. After all, it is big oil and big agriculture that will drive the process. Biofuel expansion will inevitably lead to over-exploitation of tropical lands. Without accurate pricing of tropical carbon sinks, I am pretty sure that it will be more lucrative for tropical countries to clearcut forests to plant biofuel feedstock, and we know this process cannot be carbon neutral.

    It is not that biofuels are bad, but their expanded use outside a more comprehensive carbon pricing scheme will inevitably lead to disaster.

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