Monday, August 20, 2007

The Biofuel Illusion

The statistics are showing that Europe and America do not have the land to grow enough corn to meet their fuel consumption demands, so that explains why they are all investing in palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. China is 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 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.

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.