Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Biofuel Illusion

Europe and America do not have the land to grow enough corn to meet their fuel consumption demands, and then comes the question of where do they grow their food? That explains why they are investing in palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. China is also investing heavily in removing the virgin forest in Malaysia and Indonesia for their palm oil plantations, and as a result are making a killing through selling the timber they are removing.

In a few years from now there is going to be some disaster in which scientists will report that if these countries had not cut down the forests the disaster would not have had such a terrible effect. The mono-plantations will either have been washed away or destroyed, or even better! An alternative is discovered through which the world does not need palm oil... That will happen. Meanwhile, they have totally destroyed their forests and as a result the bio-diversity crashes, and the effect it has on the human population in Asia will be as equally devastating as the current effect human behaviour is having on the Urangutan.

Why is Palm Oil Replacing Rainforests?
Surveys of the region commissioned by WWF found that much of the land is poorly suited for oil palm. Mountainous terrain combined with inappropriate altitude and climate for oil palm means that only 10 percent at most can be considered adequate for cultivation and lends credibility to claims by environmental groups that the entire plan may be a cover for a massive logging scheme to harvest the area’s rich timber resources.

Greenomics, an Indonesian forestry non-governmental organization, has calculated the timber value in the border region at $26 billion. Logging the area set aside for oil-palm plantations would net substantial amounts of revenue for logging firms and considerable tax income for the Indonesian government.

At some point these countries are going to be left high and dry, no one will want the oil from their plantations. The potential for political swing back from this is such that the plantation oil products may even be banned. People wont want this product. Would you tank with blood? This turnaround will come eventually, maybe faster than one can imagine. The current destruction of the land and the forests, and the way the animals are being treated will backfire on the people who are doing it.

Even worse, no one knows the effect this is going to have in the region when the forests are gone. It could have potentially catastrophic effects for the people in that part of the world stretching back all the way to China. I am not talking about CO2. The air currents could be altered, the precipitation and rainfall could be drastically altered. The winds could change increasing the periods of drought in China and other regions. I also consider that if Spain, Italy, France and Britain had a greater percentage of forest cover that they would be better off now and in the future. The problem is that most of the trees are long gone.

We cross over to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil... and the same is happening there. Canada is no different, they are also happily hacking away: Canada's forests are vast carbon reservoirs that store 12 times more carbon than the entire world emits annually from fossil fuels, says a report that calls for a new green business model for the Canadian forest industry.

The report, released Wednesday by the environmental group ForestEthics, says the carbon stored in Canadian forests totals 84.4 billion tons. Of that, 47.5 billion tons is stored in the country's boreal forests alone, which stretch from Yukon to Labrador in a band almost 1,000 kilometres wide.

Forest protection crucial to counter climate change
The report says natural, intact forests store up to 50 per cent more carbon than managed forests planted after logging. And old forests can store significantly more carbon than young forests, it says.

Protecting Canada's intact forests is an essential part of a national strategy to counter the impact of climate change, ForestEthics says. Yet at present, Canadian logging removes 33.4 million megatons of forest carbon stores every year - more than is emitted annually by all passenger vehicles in the country.

People are not taking into consideration that the forests are protecting them. Only once the forests are gone will people begin to understand this in the negative, because they will suffer from the removal of these virgin forests. No one knows what the effect will be to Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India once those trees are gone. The nature of the climate in those regions could be such that they really cannot afford to lose those forests. Later, humans will suffer the same fate that the animals, birds and trees suffered. Where they go we follow. A good maxim for taking care of our bio-sphere and surrounding habitat.

AlterNet July 7, 2006
There's been a lot of talk lately about the promise of biofuels -- liquid fuels like ethanol and biodiesel made from plants -- to reduce our dependence on oil. Even President Bush beat the biofuel drum in his last State of the Union speech.

Fuel from plants? Sounds pretty good. But before you rush out to buy an E-85 pickup, consider:

-- The United States annually consumes more fossil and nuclear energy than all the energy produced in a year by the country's plant life, including forests and that used for food and fiber, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy and David Pimentel, a Cornell University researcher.

-- To produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet current U.S. demand for automotive gasoline, we would need to nearly double the amount of land used for harvested crops, plant all of it in corn, year after year, and not eat any of it. Even a greener fuel source like the switchgrass President Bush mentioned, which requires fewer petroleum-based inputs than corn and reduces topsoil losses by growing back each year, could provide only a small fraction of the energy we demand.

-- The corn and soybeans that make ethanol and biodiesel take huge quantities of fossil fuel for farm machinery, pesticides and fertilizer. Much of it comes from foreign sources, including some that may not be dependable, such as Russia and countries in the Middle East.

-- Corn and soybean production as practiced in the Midwest is ecologically unsustainable. Its effects include massive topsoil erosion, pollution of surface and groundwater with pesticides, and fertilizer runoff that travels down the Mississippi River to deplete oxygen and life from a New Jersey-size portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

-- Improving fuel efficiency in cars by just 1 mile per gallon -- a gain possible with proper tire inflation -- would cut fuel consumption equal to the total amount of ethanol federally mandated for production in 2012.

Rather than chase phantom substitutes for fossil fuels, we should focus on what can immediately both slow our contribution to global climate change and reduce our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels: cutting energy use.