Thursday, January 24, 2008

Biofuels BAD for the environment

I had heard about the possibility of biofuels being bad before, but this is the first report I've seen that has actually come out and said that the rush to biofuels could actually be a bad thing. There are three basic theories that are at work here. First by using corn and other food products for fuel you are depriving people of food - particularly poor people. When the amount of food supply goes down the demand goes up along with the price - thus also depriving poor people of their corn/food. The second theory is that biofuels are now becoming a cash crop, so people are going to use up as much usable land as possible to grow those crops - including valuable rain forest land. The last theory is that because biofuels require a lot of water, much of the usable water in developing countries will be used and thus there will be less usable water for those who actually need to use it. If anything this is a wakeup call to be mindful of the side effects of the rush to save the planet.

11 comments:

Nomad said...

This is going to be an increasingly important issue as we go forward. Biofuels are great renewable resources, but farmland is finite resource (at least until practical hydroponics are a reality). It is unlikely to be a huge issue in the USA - we have enough farmland to both feed and fuel. But it is likely to be especially huge in Africa, where the choice will be between riches and feeding your neighbor. Feeding your neighbor rarely wins out voluntarily.

Anonymous said...

Everybody is expecting a transition to biofuel use to be easy! Is any major transition ever easy. People are worried about drought affecting biofuel crop prices and causing shortages. What about when there is a hurricane and price of oil sky rockets, or when an official in the Middle East says something unfriendly...the price of oil doubles. Let us not forget when a supertanker clips an iceberg and dumps millions of barrels of oil into the environment. Do we just accept things like this now? Let us not forget, a lot of the cost of food crops is the transportation cost from trains, trucks, and ships that burn fossil fuels!! Biofuels will get there, but they're still green (no pun intended), just give them time.

The Saj said...

Biofuels are NOT the problem. Simply how we're manufacturing them.

Currently we use corn, cause it's readily available, subsidized, and we know how to do it. That does NOT mean it's the best way, nor the way we'll be doing it in 10-20 yrs. This is just the start of an industry...it hasn't reached maturity yet.

A little bit of ingenuity and intelligence can lead to biofuel production that not only reduces dependence on fossil fuels and the middle-east, but can in fact help clean the environment and reduce CO2 emissions.

Already, researchers are experimenting with biofuels manufactured from the harvesting of algae and pond scum. Currently, we have thousands of waste water treatment facilities which release over-fertilized water into our rivers & oceans. This water often causes large algae blooms leading to hypoxic events.

We could instead build large shallow lakes in sunny places like Arizona. Then use this highly fertilized nutrient rich waste water to spawn large algae growth, which would in turn be harvested and processed into biofuel. Furthermore, all this algae growth would reclaim vast amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere during the photosynthesis process.

The end result is a renewable fuel source that also leads to a cleaner environment by eliminating waste water hypoxia and reducing CO2 levels.

***

So are biofuels bad? No...we just need time to progress the manufacturing process. But that won't happen if we destroy the infrastructure. For years we criticized American auto manufacturers for not implementing technology. Their argument was "There's no infrastructure for it." We said, build it and an infrastructure will be built. So now, they've built it. They've converted much of their fleet to biofuel capable vehicles. And now we're griping about the disadvantages of a fledgling infrastructure. We can't have it both ways - or we'll see no progress in environmentalism. We need to be smarter...not whinier!

BowHunter said...

Wow, this is a very misguided article. The problem with biofuels is not the fuel, but the laws that are mandating biofuel before the technology is viable yet. Some biofuels are better than others. Ethonol (corn alcohol) is a joke, but bio diesel is heating my home right now. Switch Grass maw is another great option but the industry is still working on it. The government needs to back off with the laws, use incentives lightly, and let the free market decide that bio is cheaper and better than middle east oil.

Ward said...

I also have issues with their implications of what will happen. For instance, the idea that the use of crops for biofuels will starve anyone. In a country where farmers are paid to leave the fields barren to limit the amount of crops out there, I can't see anyone starving because of biofuels in the US. Now in other parts of the world...Maybe. But with the global economy, they can afford to export their wealthy goods for what they need anyway.

"Nick" said...

The real answer is the latest way they are experimenting. Right now we basically throw out the cellulose in corn stalks, wheat, and other things that we grow for consumption because our bodies, and those of most animals, can't process the cellulose (a sugar complex). Cows (and other animals that chew cud) have a bacteria that can separate the sugar from whatever it is that keeps that stuff from being edible (or at least from allowing humans and other animals to harvest the sugar from it).

If they can get a process to work that does something similar, we can manufacture bio-fuels that use a portion of crops that we currently don't use (which would answer many of the problems).

"Nick" said...

Oh, and they have been getting it to work...

Anonymous said...

It is not a myth!!!

Bush wouldn't lie!!!!he is not smart enough....

Corn ethanol is totally sustainable, dude!!!! and american cars use it!!! aren't you a patriot?????? meaning Big Oil can still make record profits at all of our expense??? There is no way we could have foreseen that??? What else can I veto that might help the American people????
Oh yeah, make sure any stimulus package mainly helps big business!!!!heee.....there is no global warming, only more sun=beaches=chicks...party on, dude!!

Anonymous said...

Farm Bill is flawed and every neocon knows it!!!

It only supports ADM and midwestern farmers in "staple" crops, which include wheat, corn, etc...it does not support "alternative" crops which include most vegetables or fruits....so it mostly helps Red States in the South and Midwest....

We don't export for the same reason OPEC won't open the spigot...to keep prices artificially high...of course, that prevents any developing country from modernizing...which is what we want...we need cheap labor....we meaning our "government" to bolster our GDP, who cares that most of our economy is now in the "service" sector and we are all beholden to rich money interests....

look at who controls the election, most of Hillary's funds are from PACs and special money interests....when she wins, she wil owe a lot of people in the big industries, ie. oil, media, auto!!!!! how in &(%# is she going to promote "change"??????

Sam said...

The price of ethanol is something that we really can't afford. Using anything for an energy source that is also a food source for people and the animals we eat is a really bad idea. People might not starve in the US but I'm already getting sticker shock at the grocery store.

Nomad said...

Welcome to all the folks who are new to Mod-Blog! Glad to have you here.