Enviro Shocker: Biofuels Production Contributes to Warming, Studies Say

     Two scientific studies have suggested clearing land to produce biofuel ingredients will actually contribute more to “global warming” than simply sticking with fossil fuels. The shocking part is that someone in the media actually reported it!

     The findings “could force policymakers in the United States and Europe to reevaluate incentives they have adopted to spur production of ethanol-based fuels,” The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reported February 8. “President Bush and many members of Congress have touted expanding biofuel use as an integral element of the nation’s battle against climate change, but these studies suggest that this strategy will damage the planet rather than help protect it.”

     We’re talking about big differences, too. One study out of Princeton found that “over 30 years, use of traditional corn-based ethanol would produce twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as regular gasoline” in part due to the removal of trees that help reduce carbon.

     Researcher Tim Searchinger estimated “it would take 167 years before biofuel would stop contributing to climate change.”

     The studies aren’t the first indication that biofuels aren’t the silver bullet the media often made them out to be. In 2005 The New York Times reported some of the shortcomings of biofuel, including its ozone-smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions.

     British columnist George Monbiot also criticized biofuel in The Guardian in December 2005. He called it “worse than the fossil-fuel burning it replaces.”

     Other experts point out that increasing the demand for corn by mandating the use of corn-based ethanol will have an effect on grocery prices – everything from fresh corn to meat from animals fed with corn that is now more expensive to farmers.

     But even 167 years isn’t too daunting for supporters of biofuel – people who will profit from it. Eilperin cited the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Executive Vice President Brent Erickson, who said “even if it’s 167 years, you’re still better off than burning oil that can never be paid off.”